Donnie Darko

Viewed – 19 December 2016

Theatrical Cut

For a while there, around the time of this movie’s release the as yet unknown Jake Gyllenhaal was the poster boy for a generation of disaffected teens.  Now regarded as a cult movie, this decidedly anti-teen drama still strikes a cord, with it’s dream-like atmosphere and obvious Lynchian stylings.  Gyllenhaal plays troubled school kid Donnie who suffers from depression, has a past linked to burning a house down and seemingly can’t relate to the world around him.  He also happens to have an imaginary friend called Frank, a guy dressed up in a rabbit costume.  Following a freak accident where an aircraft engine falls out of the sky and through the roof of his bedroom, Donnie tries to piece together various clues supposedly leading to the end of the world.


A blend of styles, from sci-fi, Twilight Zone and high school angst to David Lynch-like urban paranoia – makes for a decidedly unique experience topped off with an unhinged central performance from Gyllenhaal.  Along for the ride is welcome support from an alluring Drew Barrymore, a very young looking Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the late Patrick Swayze.  It defies conventions and is pretty bizarre, but is also a movie that really made me think about life and death, the choices we make, paths we go on etc.  This is all aided by an effective, ethereal score and great 80s themed music cues, the most memorable being Gary Jules’ eerily brilliant version of Mad World.

It’s probably not a movie for everyone, is slow in places and leaves some moments unexplained.  However as an introduction to one of my favourite actors, and as a high school movie that really had a profound impact on me … I give this my highest recommendation.

Limited Edition

The Blu-ray is (mostly) impressive stuff.  The image quality I’m guessing is purposely soft, to create that dream-aesthetic, so disappoints with flat colours and a smudgy, dull appearance throughout.  However, sound fairs much better with crisp dialogue, good use of surrounds and each music moment is particularly effective.  However it’s in the extra material where this Arrow Video Limited Edition blew me away.  We get two cuts of the movie, including the longer Director’s Cut, which primarily adds greater emphasis to the sci-fi elements with on-screen extracts from the time travel book featured in both versions, extra symbolism and some scenes are extended or slightly altered.  Ultimately though this version doesn’t differ all that much from the original but perhaps is a little clearer in some of it’s themes.  However the mystery of the theatrical cut is for me what makes it so effective.  There’s a wealth of supplementary material included, like interviews and deleted scenes.  Stand outs though are two audio commentaries on the theatrical cut from cast and production crew, as well as another on the director’s cut.  Add to this a detailed collector’s book and I’d say this is one of the most packed Blu-rays you can currently buy.


(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Dirty Dancing

Viewed – 29 May 2011  Blu-ray

Keepsake Edition

This has to be one of the most memorable and timeless coming of age love stories ever made.  A clear favourite amongst the female crowd and anyone with a love of 80s shmaltz, this follows the story of teenage girl ‘Baby’ (Jennifer Grey) who during a summer vacation to an exclusive resort, falls for bad-boy dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze) and subsequently experiences her own sexual awakening whilst breaking the heart of her Mother and Father.  But this isn’t really about teenage rebellion, but more about the chemistry between the two leads, the charming humour of her dance lessons, the annoying would-be suitors, the tone-deaf sister and the set-in-his ways father.  And the music is just fantastic, taking tracks from some of the most memorable 60s rock ‘n’ roll songs to create a truly sexy and uplifting feel good classic.

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Patrick Swayze dies!!

I was sad this morning to hear the news that one of the coolest actors of the eighties has passed away. 

Patrick Swayze who will be best remembered for his iconic performance in fan-favourite Dirty Dancing  … died yesterday at his home aged 57, following a 2 year battle against pancreatic cancer.   I think my favourites of his long list of movies were Point Break and the underrated Roadhouse, even though I can’t help but love that moment when he says ‘Nobody puts baby in the corner’ in ‘Dancing.  Sheer class.

Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey payed this tribute:

“When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practising the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would ever see.  He was a ‘real cowboy with a tender heart’, who was so fearless doing his own stunts that it was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified.”

Patrick Swayze

1952 – 2009


Have we met before?

Something occurred to me the other night.  I was surfing the TV channels, and stumbled upon one of my favourite movies of the 90s – Point Break.  Directed by the once talented (but where has she gone?) Kathryn Bigelow, this starred a pre-Speed Keanu Reeves, and a buffed out Patrick Swayze.  Now the reason I am writing this post, is to point out that this great action thriller bares an uncanny similarity to another more recent thriller from a few years back, The Fast & The Furious.

Now I know…how can a tale of surf dudes bare any comparison to a tale of illegal street racers?  Bare with me and I will explain.


The plot of Point Break:  Keanu Reeves is a rookie F.B.I. agent who infiltrates a gang of surfers in an attempt to crack a mystery gang of bank robbers, who may or may not be from the surf-community.  He befriends the leader of the surf-dudes, Patrick Swayze, and also ends up falling for Swayze’s ex-girlfriend along the way.  At first he doesn’t suspect these clean-cut surfers, and therefore thinks the bank robbers must be the other surf gang from the bad part of town who are always causing trouble.  Then when he realises that Swayze et-al are the ones he’s after, he is suddenly forced to turn against a friend in order to do his job.


The plot of The Fast & The Furious:  Paul Walker is a rookie F.B.I agent who infiltrates a gang of illegal street racers in an attempt to find a gang of hijackers who may or may not be linked to the street racing community.  He befriends the leader of the gang, Vin Diesel and also falls for Diesel’s sister along the way.  He soon grows fond of the new friends he’s made and therefore thinks the dangerous Chinese gang of street racers are the ones he’s after, until he eventually discovers its really Diesel’s gang all along, and he has to turn against his friend to get the job done. 

In both films, Keanu & Paul Walker report back to an F.B.I. mentor who they have secret meetings with behind the gangs backs.  Also, Keanu is treading dangerous ground to be going with Swayze’s ex-girlfriend in the same way Paul Walker creates tension falling for Diesel’s sister.  The more I think of it, The Fast & The Furious is an unofficial remake of Point Break, with surfing swapped for street racing, to bring things up to date with what is cool and trendy.

In almost every way the two films are alarmingly similar.  I’m probably not alone in noticing this.