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Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 26, 2011 by  



“Donnie Darko” is a film that is creative, unique, simple and complex and a film that no matter how many times you watch it, you will probably have a different interpretation of what the storyline is actually about.  Not easily accessible for most movie audiences but for those with an open mind and those who appreciate unique, creative, artistic films…you may find Richard Kelly’s “Donnie Darko” to be a complex but wonderful film or even a true masterpiece.  Definitely recommended!

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TITLE: Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2001

DURATION: 113 Minutes/134 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

RATED: R (Language, Some Drug and Alcohol Use and Violence)

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2011

Written and Directed by Richard Kelly

Produced by Adam Fields, Nancy Juvonen, Sean McKittrick

Executive Producer: Christopher Ball, Drew Barrymore, Casey La Scala, Hunt Lowry, Aaron Ryder, William Tyrer

Music by Michael Andrews

Cinematography by Steven Poster

Edited by Sam Bauer, Eric Strand

Casting by Joseph Middleton, Michelle Morris

Production Design by Alec Hammond

Set Decoration by Jennie Harris

Costume Design by April Ferry

Starring:

Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko

Holmes Osborne as Eddie Darko

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth Darko

Daveigh Chase as Samantha Darko

Mary McDonnell as Rose Darko

James Duval as Frank

Arthur Taxier as Dr. Fisher

Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham

Donnie Darko is a disturbed adolescent from a dysfunctional upper middle class family who narrowly escapes death when a jet engine crashes in his bedroom. He has visions of a giant rabbit, Frank, who instructs him to make violent acts and informs him that the world will end in 28 days.

It has been ten years since “Donnie Darko” appeared in theaters and in within those ten years, fans of the film, people who watched and have appreciated the film continue to watch it over and over  and many still give their interpretations of what they think “Donnie Darko” is all about.  Many who have had differing opinions of the film especially with the release of the Director’s Cut version of the film.

But “Donne Darko” has a pretty considerable following and yes, has achieved cult status.

Not surprising as “Donnie Darko” is one of those films that tends to mix reality, non-reality, time-travel and possibly a parallel universe to give a surreal film that people need to watch this film more than once.  And sure enough, with each viewing of the film, people tend to find certain things that they have never seen before.  And I have to agree because each time I watch this film, I always discover something different, something new.

So, what is “Donnie Darko”?

“Donnie Darko” is a film written and directed by Richard Kelly (“Domino”, “The Box”, “Southland Tales”) and while it was not successful in the box office (the film was budgeted at $4.5 million and took home $4.1 million), the film has done much better in home video release.

In 2002, a DVD for the film was released.  Followed by the “Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut” 2004 DVD featuring 21 additional minutes of extra footage and new special features and in 2009, “Donnie Darko” was released on Blu-ray with both the Director’s Cut and theatrical version of the film.

And here we are with a 2011 Blu-ray release titled “Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition”.  While pretty much the same release as what was released back in 2009, this edition includes the Blu-ray with both theatrical and Director’s Cut release and the special features DVD from the popular 2005 Deluxe Edition release but also includes the original 2002 DVD that came with special features (which were not included on the Deluxe Edition or the 2009 Blu-ray release) and a digital copy of the film.

“Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” takes place in 1988 and a teenager named Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) meets with a therapist (which alludes to Donnie possibly being schizophrenic).

Donnie is a blunt individual who should be taking his medication but he hasn’t and has a habit of sleepwalking and ending up waking up someplace outdoors.

Donnie also has a hard time getting along with his sister Elizabeth (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and his mother Rose (played by Mary McDonnell) and stuck in the middle of the sibling squabbles is his little sister Sam (played by Daveigh Chase) who really has no idea why everyone in her family is constantly arguing.

But what makes Donnie’s life so interesting of latest is that he is having visions of a demonic looking rabbit named Frank who tells him that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds, the world will end.

While Donnie has sleepwalked and left to another location, a jet engine out of nowhere falls from the sky and crashes right through his bedroom ceiling.  Because Donnie had left his room, he was spared from a miserable death.

He eventually is found at a golf course by Dr. Fisher (played by Arthur Taxier) and Jim Cunningham (played by Patrick Swayze), a popular motivational speaker.  When Donnie goes home, he sees a crowd plus a police and firemen and all they know is that no one knows where this engine may have come from as there were no reported planes flying in that vicinity and there are no reports of any planes missing its engine.

The next day at school, a new student named Gretchen Ross (played by Jena Malone) who befriends Donnie and both become very close to each other. Meanwhile, as Donnie and his father Eddie (played by Holmes Osborne) takes Donnie to his therapist Dr. Lillian Thurman (played by Katharine Ross).  While driving , his father nearly runs over an old woman named Roberta Sparrow (played by Patience Cleveland).

Roberta is a senile woman who is called “Grandma Death” but she whispers something into Donnie’s ears which causes him concern.  Meanwhile, Frank continues to appear in Donnie’s subconscious and tells him to do things that are illegal.  He then tells Donnie about time travel and sure enough, things start happening.

A school is flooded and the home of Jim Cunningham, the motivational speaker is burned down.  Is Donnie the person responsible for all these crimes?

Meanwhile 28 days have passed and 6 days remain until it is the end of the world.    And that day, Donnie’s life as well as others around him, will never be the same again.

VIDEO:

“Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” is the same Blu-ray release from 2009.  Presented in 1080p High Definition (2:#5:1 aspect ratio), the picture quality is quite soft.  The film is not actually vibrant but there is clarity over the previous DVD release.  There is a good amount of grain and black levels are good.  But maybe its the original film elements but I did notice a good amount of noise as well.

Overall, “Donnie Darko” (theatrical or Director’s Cut) has good PQ and while not as vibrant or very detailed compared to modern releases on Blu-ray, the PQ for the film is good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  While dialogue and music is what comprises this film’s lossless soundtrack, there are times where you hear immersive sound.  From the fall of the airplane engine on Donnie’s bedroom, the sound of the worlmhole, the brooding sound of Frank or the sound of 80’s music from Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears or INXS, the audio quality for the film is good but don’t expect full immersion via the surround channels.  The film is primarily central and front channel driven!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special features:

Blu-ray:

  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Richard Kelly and Director Kevin Smith (Director’s Cut) – Actually, a very enjoyable commentary to hear these two filmmakers discuss the film.  And also discussing the differences between both the Director’s Cut and theatrical version.
  • Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew (Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary with Richard Kelly and Actor Jake Gyllenhaal (Theatrical Version)

DVD DISC TWO:

  • Production Diary – (52:54) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage with optional commentary by director of photography Steven Poster
  • They Made Me Do It – The Cult of Donnie Darko – (28:05) A featurette on how “Donnie Darko” achieved cult status.
  • #1 Fan: A Darkomentary – (13:18) The winner of the donniedarko.com #1 fan contest.
  • Storyboard to Screen  – (7:58) A splitscreen comparison of the storyboards and the actual final cut.
  • Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer (1:02) The original theatrical trailer to “Donnie Darko”.

DVD DISC THREE:

  • Theatrical Trailer/TV Spots – Featuring theatrical trailer, TV Spot – Sacrifice, TV Spot – Darker, TV Spot – ERA, TV Spot – CAST And TV Spot – DARK.
  • Cast and Crew Information – Text based filmography information on the cast and crew.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary – Featuring a total of 20 deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary.
  • Mad World Music Video – (3:21) “Mad World” performed by Gary Jules and directed by Richard Kelly.
  • Donnie Darko Website Gallery – Images from the website.
  • The Soundtrack – Liner notes on the “Donnie Darko” original soundtrack.
  • “Cunning Visions” Infomercials – Featuring infomercials  (5:41) with optional commentary by Cunning Visions CEO Linda Connie and Director Fabian Van Patten, His Name is Frank and Book Covers.
  • Art Gallery – Featuring production stills and concept art.
  • The Philosophy of Time Travel Book – Featuring pages from “The Philosophy of Time Travel”.

“Donnie Darko” is a film that I don’t know if it’s even worth explaining because it’s a movie that is meant to be seen and watched again.  And even if you do watch the theatrical version or even the Director’s Cut, only those willing to rewatch and dissect the film, to piece together the various clues, will find the film to be quite entertaining.

For me, I love films that make you think, I love films that have a lasting rewatch value because you tend to have different interpretations of what is going on and what is happening.  What is real?  What is not real?  Are we watching scenes from Donnie’s perspective or reality?  Or is it a parallel, alternate timeline?

Needless to say, this is not a film that will be easily accessible for those wanting a simple, formulaic storyline.  And to make things even more confusing is the inclusion of the Director’s Cut which has scenes that further make the series a bit more confusing and different, that you either will prefer on or the other.

Speaking of the Director’s Cut, it’s essentially almost like you are getting two different films.  The Director’s Cut changes a few musical sequences and adds in other sequences that make you wonder why the Director added them but needless to say, the film was complex to begin with and now it’s even made a bit more complex with the additional footage.  Especially the addition of the title cards showing the contents of the Philosophy of Time Travel.

Personally, when I watched Donnie Darko, I just thought it was sick individual who didn’t take his medication and what we are watching are neither reality but a figment of his imagination.  But then again, that would be too easy of an explanation.

So, the next time I watched the film, I felt that perhaps there was  deeper meaning and almost what we see with those who have mental issues and end up hurting or murdering people because they have a problem with society, I often wondered because Donnie had so many issues of society, was always a challenge to authority, that perhaps it was his way of trying to free himself from society.  To conjure any thoughts of escaping the reality through time travel and in some way, while a smart individual, it’s his inability to fit in that puts various situations in his mind.

I often feel that there is also a message from Kelly that he felt towards society.  Where his sister is a dancer for Sparkle Motion, the parents put too much emphasis on their children to achieve but for the wrong reasons.  We see it at the beginning of the film when Rose is talking to her daughter about Harvard, we see Rose more concerned about Sam’s dancing and the parents for the other children are no different.  And I felt that Kelly was trying to demonstrate how messed up society is because of this thinking.  That people are consumed by this culture that there are other things that that should be cared about but no one was willing to make that change.  But it’s not just Donnie’s parents, it also can be seen with the teacher (played by Drew Barrymore) and other adults where society is literally heading to darkness and decay and perhaps Donnie is the one to fix the world.

But that leads me back to the people with mental problems who go on to hurt others.  In their head, they are also thinking they are trying to make the world a better place when in fact, no one sees them like that.  More like a cancer to society… the same can be seen with Donnie Darko, hero for a new generation or a cancer to society?

Last but not least, there is almost a lax of parental authority. Children are free to cuss on the table, the father just laughs.  Donnie tells a teacher to shove something up her butt and his father just laughs.  And as for Frank, the demonic rabbit, this is Donnie’s figment of his own imagination.  Think of it as the devil and angel on one’s shoulders, telling them what to do and not do.  Well, remove that angel out of the equation and substitute that devil for a demonic rabbit.  The rabbit is the yearning of Donnie to be destructive because afterall, who will really care?

And the irony of it all, is that destruction is going to happen but yet, Donnie seems to have found love during destruction and to see that love taken away.

Of course, I have had several interpretations of this film over the last ten years.  It’s an artistic expression that reminds me of a Picasso painting where you can see a painting that looks so off, so dark and bleak, but someone else can see it as light, vibrant and unique.  Donnie Darko is a film that is not mean to be understood 100%.  It’s mean for the viewer to take what they got from the film and interpret it their way.  Some may find it complex, some may find it as a simply love story.  Some may find it as a film of sacrifice.  It’s all subjective to the viewer.

As for the Blu-ray release, unfortunately there is not much new aside from the downloadable digital copy that is included with this 10th anniversary of Blu-ray and the inclusion of the original 2002 DVD release.  Those hoping for a remaster or newer restoration are not going to find any changes from the 2009 Blu-ray release. But for those who have not purchased the 2009 edition on Blu-ray, then by all means, definitely give “Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” a chance!  It’s definitely worth checking out if you are open to creative, artistic and a different style of film.

I have heard cinema fans who talk about how they disliked the film at first but now consider it a masterpiece.  I’ve read people who love intellectual films to surreal films but couldn’t get into “Donnie Darko”.  Suffice to say, people do have an opinion of it.  There is no doubt that “Donnie Darko” Is definitely a different kind of film and possibly one that didn’t do well in the box office because of its unusual nature.  But to see how this film has grown its fanbase in the last decade is quite intriguing!

Regardless of how my interpretation or others interpretation of the film may be.  Positive or negative…really, it doesn’t matter because this is not your average film where one can watch once and give a definitive answer.  It’s a film that requires multiple viewings and because of that, it either may peak your interest or turn you off.

“Donnie Darko” is meant to be experienced and re-interpreted.  It’s a film that is thought-provoking, intriguing and surreal but at the same time, I can easily say that it may not be accessible for the general public and it may not be for you.   But if you are into artistic expression of cinema, then “Donnie Darko: 10th Anniversary Edition” is worth watching!

Definitely recommended for the cineaste!

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