Posts Tagged ‘Mary McDonnell’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Original Theatrical Version01:53:14

Director’s Cut02:13:53

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate:

Original Theatrical Version34.08 Mbps

Director’s Cut34.04 Mbps

Notes: This title also includes DVD copies of each version of the film.

Tite

Ambiguity is frowned upon by marketing departments…Everyone wants to put something in a box [or] a specific category. And that’s unfortunate because to me the great films break those barriers. They spread far and wide in their reach. So now we’re blessed. It’s been fifteen years and people now just let the film exist. They let it be what it needed to be, which is its own weird self—its own thing. And luckily people have supported it in such a way that now ‘Donnie Darko can just be ‘Donnie Darko.’ It doesn’t have to try and be something else.” –Richard Kelly (Flickering Myth, December 16, 2016)

The “ambiguity” pervading Donnie Darko makes writing about the film almost as difficult as trying to market it—but it also makes for an incredibly rich viewing experience. The film wasn’t the only thing being projected onto that giant screen in October, 2001. The viewer’s own interests, baggage, experiences, and concerns were also projected comfortably into that same space. It allows for personalized interpretation and the result is that the film is still being discussed all these many years later.

“It’s about what each viewer wants it to be about. I like to let people come up with their own answers. I see it as more of a science fiction story. I see it as a superhero story in a lot of ways. Other people see it as a movie about mental illness, or they see it as a film about a dream. They’re all equally valid theories, I guess.” –Richard Kelly (Vice, December 19, 2016)

So ask not what Donnie Darko means, ask what Donnie Darko means to you.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

It is impossible to think of a Blu-ray release of a single film with superior packaging to this gorgeous release of Donnie Darko—even if it does include two very different cuts of the same film. Arrow has really gone above and beyond the call of duty with this release, but this is what sets Arrow apart from similar labels.

Limited Edition

Three items are held in a very sturdy box featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp: There are two Digipak cases—one for each of the two cuts of the film—and each case houses both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD containing that particular cut of the film. The third item is a ninety-two-page hardback collector’s book that includes a short “Foreword” by Jake Gyllenhaal, a new four page essay about the film entitled “Donnie Darko, Adolescence and the Lost Art of Remembering and Forgetting” by Nathan Rabin, an archival article about the film and its director from a 2001 issue of Film Comment Magazine entitled “Discovery: Richard Kelly” by Mark Olsen, an archival thirty-page interview with Richard Kelly from “The Donnie Darko Book” entitled “Asking Cosmic Questions” by Kevin Conroy Scott, a new four-page essay about the late Patrick Swayze’s career and his image-bending performance in Donnie Darko entitled “The Cult of Patrick Swayze” by Jamie Graham, and an essay about Richard Kelly’s post-Darko career entitled “After Darko: How Richard Kelly Adapted to the Apocalypse” by Anton Bitel. All of these writings are instructive and add to one’s appreciation of the film, and it is beautifully illustrated with production stills and promotional materials. Candice Tripp’s artwork features prominently on all three of these items.

All of this would be pretty amazing all on its own, but Arrow goes even further by including a few surprise in a folder-like compartment within the Digipak cases. The Director’s Cut includes an envelope addressed to Roberta Sparrow from “Darko” that is labeled as “extremely important.” Inside the envelope is seven art cards. The first art card features the same design that is showcased on the front of the box on both sides. The other 6 cards have different designs on the front and part of a larger image on the back. When they are put together correctly they form that same front cover image. (In short, the cards act as a kind of puzzle—albeit one that is incredibly simple to solve.) The Theatrical Version’s case holds a reversible poster that features the film’s original one-sheet design on one side and Candace Tripp’s new cover artwork on the alternate side. It is a toss-up as to which I prefer because both designs are very good.

Menu - Theatrical Cut

Menu - Director's Cut

Both of the discs include animated menus that utilize footage and music from the film and are easy to navigate. Everything about this release is remarkable and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

“[I received] a wonderful phone call to get from Arrow. They’re a great company and they take great care of these restorations. I think it was an issue where, after fifteen years, the rights were being renegotiated and had changed hands and Arrow was very aggressive about wanting the film. They campaigned for the right to restore the film and this is something I had always wanted to do.

The movie was never transferred properly. It was a very poor transfer for many years. So I had a window where I could devote time to helping—getting into the restoration in a very deep way. That was a great opportunity because it’s something that the film always needed and it was good that we were able to do it now. Otherwise, it would have been having it done without my input. That would have been so stressful for me. I spent a lot of time obsessed with every shot of the movie, this is very much an approved restoration.” –Richard Kelly (The Hollywood News, January 09, 2017)

Richard Kelly’s enthusiasm for this 4K restoration transfer from Arrow Video is evident in the above quote, and he has every right to be proud of this beautiful work as it is absolutely breathtaking. The technical specifics of the restoration were detailed in the beautiful book that comes with this set:

Donnie Darko has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films… The original 35mm camera negative [from the somewhat grainy 800 ASA 35mm stock] was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin-registered 4K Lasergraphics Director scanner at Deluxe Media, Burbank. Although the original 35mm camera negative served as the primary restoration source for both the theatrical and director’s cut versions, a 35mm digital intermediate element was scanned for some sections unique to the Director’s Cut.

Film grading and restoration were completed at Deluxe Restoration, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed through a combination of digital restoration tools. Additional grading was performed at Deluxe, Culver City, under the supervision of director Richard Kelly and director of photography Steven Poster.” –Arrow Video (Limited Edition Collector’s Book)

The resulting image is noticeably superior to the somewhat disappointing previous transfers of the film—including the problematic Blu-ray editions from Fox Home Entertainment. The two versions of the film are given their own Blu-ray disc allowing for the disc’s maxed out bitrate—and better quality.

It should be stressed that the film was shot on a high-speed film stock that resulted in a rather grainy image and some of the lens filters used by Steven Poster intentionally gave the film a softer look. In other words, viewers shouldn’t expect a grain-less razor-sharp image. This is celluloid—and it is beautiful! The layer of grain simply makes the transfer look more filmic and never gets in the way of fine detail—which becomes all the more impressive when one compares the image with previous transfers. The difference is revelatory! Rest assured that the color grading reflects the filmmaker’s original intentions with fantastic black levels that are deep without going overboard.

The transfer is also relatively free of any noticeable digital anomalies and artifacts such as aliasing, banding, blocking, noise reduction issues, or etcetera. What we get is a perfect 1080p representation of the original photography (which wasn’t always perfect), and this is all that any reasonable viewer should expect.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio transfer for the theatrical version of the film is technically superior (48 kHz, 4160 kbps, 24-bit) to the one used for the director’s cut (48 kHz, 2542 kbps, 24-bit)—but neither track is anything to complain about. Both represent the original audio mixes honorably. Dialogue is always crisp, clear, and well prioritized in both versions of the film. Both mixes also have some effective separations and it should be said that the film’s noteworthy music sounds amazing on these lossless tracks. There are certainly differences between these tracks in terms of the music, sound effects, and even the mixing—and both have a slightly different effect on the audience. However, both are excellent even if the director’s cut is more dynamic.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

This release is absolutely stacked with supplemental materials and includes all of the extras from the film’s many previous home video releases along with a few brand new additions from Arrow. There are three feature-length commentary tracks, about four and a half hours of video based material, and even commentary tracks for several of the supplements. It is actually a bit overwhelming!

THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL VERSION – (DISC 1):

Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal

Perhaps the best of the three commentaries included in this set is this discussion by Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is conversational and incredibly informal but still manages to relay enough information about the film and its production to make it worthwhile.

Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew

The cast and crew commentary features Sean McKittrick (Producer), Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Holmes Osborne, Mary McDonnell, Katherine Ross, Beth Grant, and James Duval. Each participant reveals fond memories from the set and there are discussions about the film’s meaning—but one laments the time that is wasted on congratulatory praise. The resulting track isn’t quite as informative as the other two tracks but is always engaging. Fans will certainly want to give it a listen.

The Goodbye Place (1996) (08:43)

This was Richard Kelly’s first film effort and was made while attending USC as a class project. Shot in black and white without any traditional dialogue (only voice over is used), the short tells the story of a young abused boy who is offered refuge by a group of mysterious strangers who might be responsible for many unsolved disappearances. There are definitely elements of the film that remind one of Donnie Darko. It is a wonderful addition to this incredible set.

Deus Ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko – (01:25:32)

Deus Ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko is a brand new feature-length documentary about the making of Donnie Darko and its lasting legacy. The documentary was directed by Daniel Griffith and includes new interviews with Richard Kelly (Writer and Director), Sean McKittrick (Producer), Steven Poster (Cinematographer), Sam Bauer (Editor), Michael Andrews (Composer), April Ferry (Costume Designer), James Duval (Frank), and Robert V. Galluzzo. ‘Behind the scenes’ footage from The Donnie Darko Production Diary, production stills, articles and reviews, and footage from the film itself is utilized to illustrate the various revelations divulged by these participants.

The result is a comprehensive examination of the films making and reception. One is reminded of those incredible “making of” documentaries that were made in the early days of laser disc and DVD—a time when “special features” were actually special and not merely a tired marketing gimmick. This is a documentary with meat on its bones!

20 Deleted and Alternate Scenes – (31:54)

(w/ Optional Commentary by Richard Kelly)

Many of these scenes are included in the director’s cut of the film, but it is nice to have these included if only for the optional commentary track that plays over these scenes. The track was recorded well before the film was given a director’s cut and appeared on the original DVD release of the theatrical cut. It is quite evident that Richard Kelly wasn’t terribly happy about losing some of these scenes.

Those who haven’t already indulged in the director’s cut might wish to watch that particular version of the film before viewing these scenes. One feels that the experience of both will be more rewarding this way.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:28)

It is nice to see the original theatrical cut included here. It isn’t nearly as unique as the film that it promotes, but one can’t have everything.

Director's Cut - SS

RICHARD KELLY’S DIRECTOR’S CUT – (DISC 2):

Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Kevin Smith

It is nice that a commentary is included for the director’s cut, but this particular track seems like a missed opportunity. For one thing, Kevin Smith isn’t the best moderator in the universe and many of the questions that one hopes will be answered in this director’s cut track aren’t even discussed. Richard Kelly does reveal some interesting information here (some of it new to this track), but one certainly hopes for more revelatory information.

The Donnie Darko Production Diary – (52:54)

(w/ Optional Commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster)

The Donnie Darko Production Diary is an archival fly-on-the-wall documentary charting the film’s production. It is made up entirely of ‘behind the scenes’ video footage and is completely free of interviews to provide context. The result is an interesting look at the film’s production and this is without any doubt the most significant supplement on this particular disc.

To make this addition to the disc even sweeter, Steven Poster provides an informal commentary track for the documentary that reveals some interesting tidbits of information about the production that is impossible to gather from the raw footage alone.

B-roll Footage (04:37)

Viewers who have a fondness for “behind the scenes” footage will be happy to see these short clips from the set of the film.

15 Archival Interviews: Richard Kelly, Mary MacDonnell, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry, Casey La Scala, and Steven Poster (14:20)

These are the standard publicity interview clips that are often sent to the various news (or entertainment news) outlets so that they can edit them into their coverage about the film. Of course, this means that the comments made are somewhat generalized and not very revealing, but they are a nice look at the film’s publicity.

They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of ‘Donnie Darko’ (30:17)

They Made Me Do It Too: The Cult of ‘Donnie Darko’ is loosely connected to the inferior They Made Me Do It featurette—but this is less esoteric and more relevant. (See below to read about that particular supplement). This half-hour documentary is an examination of the film’s reception in the UK versus its US release. The film was released much later in the UK giving the film time to gain some word-of-mouth momentum, and this resulted in superior box-office success. Journalists and fans discuss their opinions as to why this happened while also revealing what the film means to them. The “They Made Me Do It” art exhibition is briefly discussed here, but it is simply part of the bigger conversation about the film’s impact on the culture.

4 Storyboard to Screen Comparisons (07:58)

Four storyboarded scenes are compared to the film’s final footage. This feature should be instructive viewing for feature filmmakers.

Mad World by Gary Jules (03:21)

The music video for this hit Tears for Fears cover track (which features at the end of the film) utilizes a generous portion of Donnie Darko footage—and is an essential addition to the disc as the song is very much a part of the film’s success story.

Cunning Visions Infomercials (w/ Optional Commentary) (05:43)

Those who have already seen Donnie Darko will remember the Cunning Vision video that Mrs. Farmer forces on her students. Now you can see this footage in all its glory—and there is even a very silly mock commentary track included for this footage.

#1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:18)

Apparently, a promotional contest was held to determine Donnie Darko’s biggest fan—wherein various fans submitted videos proving their devotion to the film. The winner would have their video included on the Director’s Cut DVD release of Donnie Darko. This is the winning video and is actually pretty amusing, but it is difficult to believe that it wasn’t staged.

They Made Me Do It (04:48)

They Made Me Do It is a look at a group of graffiti artists and their Donnie Darko inspired artwork. This exhibition of artwork was probably some sort of publicity gimmick for the director’s cut (although this isn’t made clear) and was based in the UK. Some of the artwork is interesting, but this particular featurette isn’t as essential as many of the other supplements included here.

Director’s Cut Trailer (00:55)

The theatrical trailer for the “director’s cut” release is fairly standard but it is nice to have it included on the disc.

TV Spots

This collection of television spots provides the viewer with an interesting look at the film’s marketing campaign which apparently didn’t work incredibly well considering the fact that the film wasn’t a box-office success. The collection includes five separate spots:

Sacrifice – (00:32)

Darker – (00:32)

Era – (00:32)

Cast – (00:17)

Dark – (00:17)

Picture Gallery

This picture gallery is the standard collection of promotional stills and is probably another carryover from the previous DVD release. They probably would’ve been more enjoyable as additions to the included collector’s book, but it is nice that they have been included in some form. 

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Final Words:

Soon after the original theatrical version of the film was released on DVD, Richard Kelly expressed his dissatisfaction with that release and announced his desire to release a director’s cut:

“I kind of hope to assemble a director’s cut. I’d really love to be able to do a Criterion double-disc for this. If the movie ever catches on and earns a degree of success on home video then maybe they’ll let me do that down the road with a slightly longer director’s cut where I can put some of these scenes back in the film. I’d really love to be able to do that if they’d let me have my original poster art and packaging—not the lowest common denominator packaging [that they used for the current DVD edition]…

…I was given pressure to cut 10 minutes from the film… We were having a lot of trouble getting a distributor and they heard through the grapevine that Miramax still wanted the film, but that Harvey Weinstein would only look at the film if it were 10 minutes shorter. That’s his rule. They made me cut 10 minutes because they heard that that was Harvey’s rule. And it probably isn’t even Harvey’s rule, you know? It was almost like they said, ‘We don’t know what to do, but you have to cut 10 minutes.’ And I was like, ‘Why not eight minutes?’ And they said, ‘No, it has to be 10.’ It became idiotic and frustrating.” –Richard Kelly (Stumped Magazine)

Kelly later confessed that he enjoys both versions of the film but insists that the director’s cut of the film “is a lot closer to what premiered at Sundance Film Festival.”

“I don’t favor one cut over the other. That’s why when we decided to do a restoration we decided to do it on both cuts and have both available. I was able to make more enhancements to the director’s cut because there was some stuff that wasn’t finished properly, and we improved the visual effects in some places. I had to spend more time on the time travel book, and I wanted those who wanted to know more to have access to that information. Both cuts have their virtues and I’m not completely satisfied with either of them, but they are what they are. But it was great being able to go back and getting the image re-enhanced. It looks so much better, especially on the big screen. People have never seen it in this way and it’s a significant change.” –Richard Kelly (Culture Whisper)

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which version of the film one prefers—because Arrow Video has included both versions in what may be their best release of a single film so far. That “Criterion” package he mentioned all those years ago has finally seen the light of day—only it is an Arrow Video release! Needless to say, Criterion has some pretty strong competition.

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Review by: Devon Powell