H D - S E N S E I

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


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze







Donnie Darko - Collector's Edition Blu-ray

(Richard Kelly, 2001)



Review by Gary Tooze


Studio: 20th Century Fox - Region 'A'



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Chapters: 28

Feature film: 1080p / MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: 45,682,403,678 bytes

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

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

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

Total Bitrate: 24.88 Mbps






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



English, French, Spanish, none



• 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 


Standard Blu-ray case

Release Date: February 3rd, 2009


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...





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 ripped 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. This is not a film that strongly benefits from the advancement in resolution. 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 (more so in the DC), and slightly brighter - 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. Fans should be aware that the higher resolution simply helps Donnie Darko's intended presentation - it doesn't make the film look better than it can look. 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!)   





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

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



Blu-ray Captures














Audio & Music: Both versions sport a new DTS-Master 5.1 track that I noted in the crispness of the music - with tracks like Tears for Fears ("Head over Heels"), Duran Duran ("Notorious") and Echo & The Bunnymen ("The Killing Moon"). There is original music by Michael Andrews that haunts the film well but nothing sounded demonstratively separated. 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.

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.



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 most crisp audio and richest video experience to date. 

Gary Tooze

February 3rd, 2009