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A view on Hi-def discs by Gary W. Tooze

Donnie Darko - Collector's Edition Blu-ray vs. Limited Edition Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD

(Richard Kelly, 2001)

 

Being Released, by Arrow, in the US, on Blu-ray in April 2017:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio: Pandora Cinema

Video: 20th Century Fox - Region 'A' / Arrow Video - Region 'B'

Release Date: February 3rd, 2009 / December 12th, 2016

Standard Blu-ray case / Custom packaging (see below)

 

 

 

Video:

Feature films (both): 2.35:1 / MPEG-4 AVC Video / 1080p / 23.976 fps

Fox Disc Size: 45,682,403,678 bytes

Arrow Theatrical Disc Size: 47,986,820,049 bytes / Arrow Director's Cut: 48,102,322,642 bytes

Theatrical Feature Size: 19,746,324,480 bytes

Arrow Theatrical Feature Size: 34,593,168,960 bytes

Director's Cut Feature Size: 24,981,104,640 bytes

Arrow Director's Cut Feature Size: 38,924,228,160 bytes

Running Times:

Theatrical: 1:53:12.202 / Director's Cut: 2:13:51.064

Theatrical: 1:53:14.787 / Director's Cut: 2:13:53.025

Total Bitrate: 24.88 Mbps / 34.08 Mbps / 34.04 Mbps

Chapters: 28 / 12 / 12

 

Bitrates:

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio:

Theatrical: DTS-HD Master Audio English 2147 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2147 kbps / 24-bit
(DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentaries: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps
DUB: Dolby Digital Audio French 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Director's Cut: DTS-HD Master Audio English 4153 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4153 kbps / 24-bit
(DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
 

Arrow Theatrical Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 4160 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4160 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Arrow Director's Cut Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 2542 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2542 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, French, Spanish, none

English (SDH), none

 

Extras

• Audio commentary with director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith ('Director's Cut' version only)
• Audio commentary with cast and Crew (Theatrical version only)

• Audio commentary with director Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal (Theatrical version only)
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems

Disc 2: Single-layered DVD
The Donnie Darko Production Diary (52:48) - with optional commentary by DP Steven Poster
They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko (28:02)
#1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:16)
Storyboard to Screen Comparison (4 scenes - 7:57)
Theatrical trailer 

 

Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut
Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director s Cut
The Goodbye Place, Kelly's 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films (8:43)
The Donnie Darko Production Diary, an archival documentary charting the film's production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster (52:54)

Deus Ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko - (1:25:32)
Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly (31:54)
15 Archival interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal (1:57), Mary MacDonnell (1:09), Jena Malone (037), Drew Barrymore (2:08), James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster - total  = 14:20
Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It (4:48), They Made Me Do It Too (30:17), and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:18)
Storyboard comparisons (7:58)
B-roll footage (4:37)
Cunning Visions infomercials with optional commentary (5:43)
Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules (3:21)
Galleries (0:48)
Trailer (2:28) DC Trailer (0:55)
TV spots
Exclusive collector s book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials
Limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp

Second discs DVDs

 

 

 

Summary: During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko sleepwalks out of his house one night, and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. He returns home the next morning to find that a jet engine has crashed through his bedroom. As he tries to figure out why he survived and tries to deal with people in his town, like the school bully, his conservative health teacher, and a self-help guru, Frank continues to turn up in Donnie's mind, causing him to commit acts of vandalism and worse...

 

Arrow Description:

Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template and the high-water mark with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium.

Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank s maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum.

Described by its director as The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick, Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katherine Ross, and television favourite Noah Wyle and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.

 

 

 

The Film:

"Pay close attention," warns the Web site for "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut," because "You could miss something." Damn, I missed it. I'm no closer to being able to explain the film's events than I was after seeing the 2001 version, which was about 20 minutes shorter. The difference is, that doesn't bother me so much. The movie remains impenetrable to logical analysis, but now I ask myself: What logical analysis would explain the presence of 6-foot-tall rabbit with what looks like the head of a science-fiction insect?

The director's cut adds footage that enriches and extends the material but doesn't alter its tone. It adds footnotes that count down to a deadline, but without explaining the nature of the deadline or the usefulness of the countdown (I think it comes from an omniscient narrator who, despite his omniscience, sure does keep a lot to himself). What we have, in both versions, is a film of paradox that seems to involve either time travel or parallel universes. Having seen in "The Butterfly Effect" (2004) how a film might try to explain literally the effects of temporal travel, I am more content to accept this version of the Darko backward and abysm of time.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

 

Image :       NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

This Blu-ray contains both the original theatrical version and 20-minute longer 'Director's Cut'. Strangely 'branching' was not used to 'seam' the two versions together in the file structure - which would have saved a lot of space - possibly improving compression*. Perhaps the cuts were too varied and difficult to weave together though - I don't know. Hence, both versions are the equivalent of single-layered transfers. The image quality does not appear dynamically sharp but improves over the existing DVDs in showing far less artifacts and much more grain. The differences can appear subtle but as the image is expanded - it becomes readily more apparent. There is no question it looks superior but the consumer advantage is more limited than in many other comparisons we have done. Colors seem a bit warmer, lean a bit blue, and are slightly brighter than the SDs - detail improvement is apparent in close-ups - but there are not a lot of them in the film. The theatrical Blu-ray rendering in 1080 may be marginally hazier than the DC. Digital aficionados will be grateful that there are no apparent manipulations to smooth out that good grain or unrealistically enhance colors or detail. 

 

* NOTE: Roger tells us in email: "When originally released the director's cut utilized (mostly) the same music, but different scenes utilized different cuts. The opening scene, for instance, utilized a different track. I believe the director's cut scene was also cut slightly differently, but I'm not sure of this. I hope this helps answer the why they didn't approach the blu-ray as you expected." (Thanks Roger!)

 

Arrow have created an amazing new package and the a/v improves dramatically over the Fox Blu-ray and all digital editions to date. Both versions, theatrical and director's cut, have their own dual-layered Blu-ray disc. It is described as a "Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster." I'll make a few general points:

We weren't as picky about matching the exact frame captures beyond the first few because 1) the vast improvement was obvious, 2) it was difficult as the two versions may, or may not, contain the same scene and, even if it does, it may not contain the same frame (see the children on the beds in the hotel in the third large set of captures) and 3) the Fox ratio is distorted - stretched horizontally and is marginally cropped in some sequences and shifts left in relation to the Arrow, in others.

Arrow's theatrical and director's cut transfers are both max'ed out and the quality is the same. I can see no difference in image quality.

The improvement over the 8-year old Fox Blu-ray is quite dramatic if you toggle between the full resolution 1080 captures, linked, of Donnie awakening on the golf course (look at his shirt and the grass etc.). It is even greater than the difference of quality of the Fox BD over the DVDs.

Donnie Darko looks brilliant in 4K restored - what an impressive video transfer! I'm amazed.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample - Arrow UK - Region 'B' Blu-ray

 

 

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - Director's Cut - Metrodome UK - RC2 (PAL) - TOP
2) Donnie Darko - McOne Germany - RC2 (PAL) - SECOND
3) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - RC1 (NTSC) - THIRD

4) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Theatrical) Blu-ray - FOURTH
5) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - FIFTH

6) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - SIXTH

7) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: the exact same frame is not found in the theatrical version (although a similar scene is there)

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Donnie Darko - 20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray - TOP

2) Donnie Darko - Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio & Music: Both versions sport a new DTS-Master 5.1 track that I noted in the crispness of the music. This isn't a track that supports a lot of aggressive range. Fox offers only 3 subtitle options and one foreign language DUB on the theatrical only, making it appear that this Blu-ray disc is region 'A' locked.

Arrow go more technically robust with the theatrical cut's audio transfer - DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 4160 kbps, but less-so with the Director's Cut, but both are 24-bit. With tracks like Gary Jules and Michael Andrews performing Roland Orzabal's brilliant Mad World, Tears for Fears ("Head over Heels"), Duran Duran ("Notorious") and Echo & The Bunnymen ("The Killing Moon") and tracks and sampling of Oingo Boingo, INXS, Aimee Mann (wrote Voices Carry) etc. all sound pristine in the lossless. There is other original music by Andrews that haunts the film and there were a few notable separations and effects (bunny) can carry some ominous intensity. The modern music in the film is another huge factor in helping the film touch such a wide swath of young people. These songs fit the film so appropriately adding an even deeper layer to the film experience. Arrow add optional English (SDH) subtitles on their region 'B'-locked Blu-ray discs.

 

Extras: Three, count'em three!, audio commentaries which I *believe* have all been on previous DVDs in one edition or another. Firstly, director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith chat during the 'Director's Cut' version and then on the Theatrical we get a Cast and Crew one and another with Kelly supported by Jake Gyllenhaal. For those wishing to delve further into Donnie Darko - these commentaries provide some essential production and creative impetus information. Also on the Blu-ray disc, exclusively, are an Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems. There is a second disc 2 - which looks to be a duplicate of the single-layered DVD from the 2-disc Director's Cut package of a few years back. On it are an hour's worth of The Donnie Darko Production Diary with optional commentary by DP Steven Poster, They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko for close to 1/2 an hour, a scattered #1 Fan: A Darkomentary for less than 15 minutes, a Storyboard to Screen Comparison utilizing 4 specific scenes for about 8 minutes worth of information. Finally there is a theatrical trailer. Some, more enterprising, disc producer may have put the DVD disc contents on the Blu-ray as it appears there was room.

Duplicated from the Fox are the three audio commentaries; with director Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith on the 'Director's Cut' version, cast and Crew - Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the theatrical version and Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal - also on the theatrical version. Included is the 52-minute The Donnie Darko Production Diary - with optional commentary by Director of Photography Steven Poster, the 1/2 hour They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko, the #1 Fan: A Darkomentary, a Storyboard to Screen Comparison and a theatrical trailer. What is additional for the Arrow are Kelly's 1996, 9-minute, short film The Goodbye Place which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films. Deus Ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko runs almost 1 1/2 hours. It covers so much about the film referencing the subtle themes and minute details of the production and the impetus behind the film philosophy. It's a highly educational viewing. Arrow include Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly running over 1/2 hour. There are 15, brief, Archival interviews, running shy of 1/4 hour, with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary MacDonnell, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster . We get the first, They Made Me Do It, featurette in addition to the sequel and Darkomentary pieces. There is interesting B-roll footage, the Cunning Visions infomercials with optional commentary, a music video: Mad World by Gary Jules, an image gallery, and trailers for both versions. The package has an exclusive collector's book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials, and limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp. It has 2 DVD discs with the two films.

20th Century Fox USA - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Theatrical Cut) Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow UK - Region 'B' (Director's Cut) Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE : One of the more bizarre and interesting films made in the past decade. The Blu-ray isn't going to give a pristinely sharp appearance - but it is more faithful to a cinematic, and textured, version than the existing DVDs. This 1080 does what it is supposed to without manipulations. Fox has done a decent job transfer-wise although my choice may have been to only have the DC utilizing more file space (and possibly even more grain!) and the 2nd disc extras included on the single Blu-ray. It's a film that tend to grow on you. Purchasers should be prepared, the Blu-ray certainly isn't demo material. The film, however, is filled with the curious and 'unexpected' and for that reason alone it is worthy of at least one viewing. The Blu-ray offers the best audio and richest video experience to date.

It's a shame that we didn't get this till after the Arrow Blu-ray package has gone out-of-print (on Amazon) but it will resurface without the booklet and different packaging. In short this is exactly the type of film you want to see in the best quality a/v and the multitude of supplements only augment the value. I, definitely, would have put it in my top 10 of 2016 - had I had exposure to it, so, obviously that means our highest recommendation.  

Gary Tooze

February 3rd, 2009

January 11th, 2017

 

Being Released, by Arrow, in the US, on Blu-ray in April 2017:

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