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Take Shelter Blu-ray Review

Take Shelter (2011) movie poster Take Shelter

Theatrical Release: September 30, 2011 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: R / Song List

Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols

Cast: Michael Shannon (Curtis LaForche), Jessica Chastain (Samantha LaForche), Shea Whigham (Dewart), Katy Mixon (Nat), Ray McKinnon (Kyle LaForche), Lisagay Hamilton (Kendra), Robert Longstreet (Jim), Kathy Baker (Sarah), Tova Stewart (Hannah LaForche), Stuart Greer (Army-Navy Dave)

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One of the first words that comes to mind to describe Michael Shannon is "odd." Odd-looking men typically become leading men
of cinema in only one of two ways: they're very funny or they are great actors. No comedian, Shannon nonetheless has shown the dramatic chops needed to earn starring roles in the years since his supporting actor Oscar nomination for 2008's Revolutionary Road. The films might not always be widely seen, but they and more specifically, Shannon's contributions to them, have often been widely praised.

Take Shelter was expected to land Shannon a Best Actor nomination at last night's Academy Awards, which would have placed him alongside two of Hollywood's biggest stars and unknown winner Jean Dujardin. Instead, Shannon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and breakout star Michael Fassbender saw the final slots go to the accomplished, long unsung Gary Oldman and Mexican dark horse Demiαn Bichir.

Take Shelter could have used the recognition. One of the year's most acclaimed films, it played in just 91 theaters last fall and grossed under $2 million.

"Take Shelter" stars Michael Shannon as Curtis LaForche, an Ohio construction worker increasingly troubled by unsettling visions.

The sophomore film of writer/director Jeff Nichols (whose 2007 debut Shotgun Stories also starred Shannon), Take Shelter tells the story of Curtis LaForche, a husband, father, and construction foreman in rural Ohio. Curtis has become increasingly distracted and disturbed by vivid visions of calamity befalling him and his loved ones. Curtis believes them to be premonitions of a huge, end of days-type storm. He keeps these startling images secret from his loving wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), who is concerned with getting their deaf young daughter (Tova Stewart) a hearing implant and having the procedure covered by insurance.

Curtis heeds his warnings, moving the family dog (who bit him in a dream) to a fenced area outside and launching plans to build a heavy-duty underground tornado shelter, for which he stocks up on canned foods and gas masks while even taking out a risky bank loan. Privately and sheepishly, Curtis seeks medical help for his day/nightmares. The alternative to an apocalyptic storm is just as frightening to him; Curtis fears he could be diagnosed with the same paranoid schizophrenia that reduced his mother (Kathy Baker) to hospitalization and assisted living when she was his age.

That question supplies the bulk of the plot. Is Curtis right to prepare for a devastating natural disaster or is he simply exhibiting the first signs of mental illness?

Curtis' wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) is confused and concerned by her husband's distracted recent behavior. Curtis (Michael Shannon) takes dramatic steps to prepare for the apocalyptic storm he anticipates.

Some viewers will accuse Take Shelter of being slow and uneventful, but while it does employ a relaxed pace and linger on ostensibly mundane work and home interactions, the movie is an utterly engrossing human drama.
This isn't some gimmicky mystery, reliant on a twist or lazily open to interpretation. Nichols has created a fascinating foundation that grants the film dramatic power either path it takes.

The presentation is delightfully atmospheric. The visions of doubted thunder, motor oil rain, and ominous bird flocks are as striking as any fantastical visual effect. David Wingo's recurring wind chimey-score complements them nicely. And Shannon makes for a perfect subject for the camera to fix upon. It is so easy to question his stability and sanity, and to read into his pained, often motionless expressions. This is everything a protagonist should be: sympathetic, complicated, and entirely capable of surprise, redemption, and ruin. Chastain, in one of an astonishing six significant performances in her legendary breakout year, is also great as the calm voice of reason, speaking for us when faced with these troubling signs of meltdown from her husband.

This compelling drama, acquired by Sony Pictures Classics at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, received rave reviews and dozens of commendations. And on Valentine's Day, it reached home video. Initially announced as a DVD-only release, the award season buzz seemed to prompt Sony to wisely reconsider and issue a Blu-ray Disc as well. We look at that here.

Take Shelter Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, English, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Take Shelter looks pretty good on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 presentation boasts a clear, deliberate style and despite the modest $5 million production budget, the film looks polished and professional, even boasting some mildly impressive visual effects. A few shots are slightly less defined, but for the most part, the clean, clear, colorful picture is a delight. As is the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio, which conveys Wingo's winning score nicely and also command notice with potent, choice atmosphere in a few key points.

Director Jeff Nichols wears his "Breaking Bad" appreciation on his chest as he talks about his second film this behind-the-scenes featurette. At a SAG Foundation screening, Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham answer the questions of a host and the audience.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras begin with an audio commentary by writer/director Jeff Nichols and star Michael Shannon.
It's an unusually good one, neither yet jaded by the format or by filmmaking. The two have a few words to share about every actor who turns up. They also talk about story motivations, technical considerations, visual effects, and deleted scenes, moments, and subplots that they chose not to include as bonus features. Commentaries have become so by-the-numbers and clinical that it's nice to encounter one that reminds you of the days when it was a novel feature.

On the all HD-encoded video side, things begin with "Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter" (10:34). This featurette collects thoughtful remarks on the project from Nichols and all leading cast members. After touching on the film's conception and the cast's attraction to it, the fine piece comes around to production design, visual effects, and shooting in Ohio.

Next comes a SAG Foundation Q & A session (19:50) with Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham. Jenelle Riley asks the two actors all the appropriate questions about the film, with clips sprinkled throughout and Shannon naturally doing the bulk of the talking.

Curtis (Michael Shannon) opens up some in this deleted counseling scene. "Take Shelter" shares some of its copious critical praise in its original theatrical trailer, thankfully included here.

Two standard def-quality deleted scenes (5:57) present a long additional counseling scene and a short spousal conversation. It's interesting to see, but obviously not material that the film needed.

Take Shelter's intriguing, accolade-touting theatrical trailer (2:11) is included, a nice touch extended to virtually all Sony Pictures Classics films.

"Previews" repeats all the same videos that play automatically at disc insertion: a Blu-ray promo followed by trailers for The Skin I Live In, A Dangerous Method, Carnage, In the Land of Blood and Honey, and Retreat.

The disc is equipped with BD-Live, its only format exclusive, but offers nothing more than the usual smattering of streaming trailers there.

The menu strings together a scored rain-heavy montage of haunting images. This being a Sony BD, the disc resumes playback of anything (even after ejecting the disc), supports bookmarks on the movie, and utilizes both sides of the keepcase cover to display film imagery. Perhaps the product of the rushed afterthought nature of this Blu-ray, extras are not subtitled here.

Tut tut, looks like rain for Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) and his family.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As its limited release made clear, Take Shelter will not be to everyone's tastes, but I suspect anyone interested enough in cinema to read this review this far will get something out of it. For me, this ranks among 2011's best and most fascinating films, a drama that would be worthy to compete against the other Best Picture nominees (and even bests Chastain's two). Being strange and requiring patience and thought, this will not draw such admiration from the average moviegoer, but anyone open-minded enough to include independent films in their cinematic diet is practically sure to like it.

Sony's Blu-ray delivers a fine feature presentation and a solid two and a half hours of extras, both more than enough to warrant a strong recommendation.

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Related Reviews:
Michael Shannon: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done • Revolutionary Road • The Runaways • The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
Jessica Chastain: The Help • The Tree of Life | Ray McKinnon: That Evening Sun
New: J. Edgar • The Rum Diary • Love Story • All Things Fall Apart • The Mighty Macs • Drive
A Serious Man • Win Win • Terri • There Will Be Blood • The Straight Story
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season • Winter's Bone • The Road • Taxi Driver • Buried

Take Shelter Song List: Ben Nichols - "Shelter"

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Reviewed February 27, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Sony Pictures Classics, Strange Matters Films, Grove Hill Productions,
and 2012 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.