Blu-ray Review: Donnie Darko (Limited Edition)

Picky filmgoers are the worst audiences. All they do is whine about how unoriginal movies are. Which is a valid argument as you suffer through another paint by numbers blockbuster that hits all the predictable beats. But what happens when an original film shows up in the nearby cineplex that can’t be confused for Transformers 28 or Adam Sandler’s Crimes Against Humanity. Do they grab their loved ones, race to the front of the line on opening weekend and eat popcorn all day? Of course not. They let the film play before empty seats since they’ll wait for it to come out on DVD or stream on Netflix. When Donnie Darko played Sundance in 2001, it seemed the film was destined to be an edgy indie hit. But when it arrived in theaters at the end of 2001, it withered and died. Thankfully the home video release allowed it to quickly pick up a cult following. There have been plenty of reissues since the original VHS hit Blockbuster shelves. There’s been numerous DVD and Blu-rays. Richard Kelly went back into the editing room to create a director’s cut. Now Arrow Video has created a boxset that brings together both cuts, previous bonus material and a few new elements to excite fans who wanted non-cookie cutter film.

Back in 1988, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is hearing voices. Late at night he’s lured out of his bed and outside by this voice. While he’s gone, the engine of an airplane falls into his house and crushes his bedroom. But he is warned that the world is going to end in a few days. Are we watching the apocalypse approach? There’s a whole lot of issues over the course of the film including time travelling, homicidal rage, a giant weird looking rabbit, Drew Barrymore as a teacher and Patrick Swayze as an inspirational speaker. The film captures a bit of ’88 with the presidential campaign, Star Search and those big new wave hits. This is where Adam Lambert got his approach to “Mad World.” There’s no need to give away too much of the plot cause it won’t make sense to type it up. But like 100 Years of Solitude, just go with the flow.

The bonus features on this limited edition delve into almost every element of the show. I can’t imagine a fan having any unanswered questions about the film unless writer-director Richard Kelly is completely hiding the answers from audiences. There is even DVDs of the two cuts so you can share them with your low resolution pals. The only thing missing from the boxset is your own rabbit costume. This is a fine way to celebrate and immerse yourself into Donnie Darko‘s universe. You should watch it before the world ends.

The videos is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The new transfers are transcendental. They were made from the original camera negatives under the supervision and approval of director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster. The audio is the Original 5.1 audio.The score and the creepy noise elements are extra clear. The movie is subtitled.

DVDs have the films and bonus features at a lower resolution.

Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal talk on the Theatrical Cut. Although between the two, they seem to go silent a lot.

Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval speak on the Theatrical Cut. They share plenty of stories from the set. Barrymore was the driving force to get it made.

Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut. This was done to make sure Kelly doesn’t go silent on the track. Kelly points out the changes in the director’s cut and justifies the alterations. He wanted to enhance the science fiction and comic book element of the film.

Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (85:23) is the big documentary that lets Kelly, crew and cast reflect on the film. He talks about how his college career lead to him writing the film.

The Goodbye Place (8:42) is Kelly’s 1996 short film. A few of his Donnie Darko ideas are in the black and white film.

The Donnie Darko Production Diary (52:54) is vintage video shot on the set. Cinematographer Steven Poster provides an optional commentary so you can have a clue at the raw footage you’re watching.

Twenty deleted and alternate scenes (31:54) feature an optional commentary by Kelly. The better scenes ended up in the director’s cut.

Archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, 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. These are from the original media package.

They Made Me Do It (4:48) is about an exhibit from street artists to promote the movie in England. No idea if one of them was Banksy.

They Made Me Do It Too (30:17) is another piece promoting the film in London. Fans seem to reflect on why this film didn’t become a major hit.

#1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13:18) is the winning entry of the greatest fan in 2004. What is this guy like 13 years later?

Storyboard comparisons (7:58) shows how the scenes looked like Kelly’s preproduction drawings of the frames.

B-roll footage (4:37) is mostly Richard Kelly directing scenes.

Cunning Visions infomercials (5:42) is the complete “Controlling Fear.” There’s a jokey commentary from the alleged people who made it.

Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules (3:21) is the remake of the Tears For Fears song.

Galleries (0:48) are the photos from the set and other publicity items.

Trailers include the Director’s Cuts preview. The trailer tries to get folks to understand the twists.

TV spots includes five different promos.

Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by Nathan Rabin.

Arrow Video presents Donnie Darko: Limited Edition. Directed by: Richard Kelly. Screenplay by: Richard Kelly. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 4 discs. Rated: R. Released: April 18, 2017.

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