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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jeff Nichols
Cast:
Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Natasha Randall, Ron Kennard
Writing Credits:
Jeff Nichols

Synopsis:
Following his acclaimed debut, Shotgun Stories, writer/director Jeff Nichols reteams with actor Michael Shannon to create a haunting tale that will creep under your skin and expose your darkest fears. Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His seemingly inexplicable behavior concerns and confounds those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify. Take Shelter features fully realized characters crumbling under the weight of real-life problems. Using tone and atmosphere to chilling effect, Nichols crafts a powerful psychological thriller that is a disturbing tale for our times.

Box Office:
Budget
$1 million.
Opening Weekend
$52.041 thousand on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.720 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 2/14/2012

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Nichols and Actor Michael Shannon
• Deleted Scenes
• “Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter” Featurette
• Q&A with Actors Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Take Shelter (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 7, 2012)

When the Oscar nominations for 2011’s movies got announced, one of the bigger surprises came from the absence of Michael Shannon’s name on the Best Actor list. Much praised for Take Shelter, he seemed like a lock for a nod. Alas, that didn’t occur, so the versatile performer will have to wait until another year to potentially score Oscar gold.

Given all the praise Shannon received, I was curious to give Shelter a look. We focus on Curtis LaForche (Shannon), a middle-class family man who lives in rural Ohio with wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart). They lead a pretty content existence, though Hannah suffered an illness that left her severely hearing impaired.

Out of nowhere, Curtis starts to experience troubling dreams that show disturbing images such as natural disasters and animal attacks. As time passes, Curtis becomes more and more preoccupied with these visions and finds himself concerned that they portend an apocalyptic future – or his own descent into mental illness.

Without question, Shelter places itself on Shannon’s back. It’s an intensely character-focused piece with little narrative to carry us. Instead, we’re asked to view the world through Curtis’ eyes, as virtually everything we observe comes colored by his potentially warped perspective.

When asked to lead the film, Shannon responds well. Is it a travesty that he didn’t earn the aforementioned Oscar attention? Perhaps not, but at the very least, it’s a shame. He takes on a challenging role and handles it with aplomb.

This seems especially remarkable given how easy it would’ve been for Shannon to go big. Characters with apparent mental issues can be a license for over-acting, but Shannon resists those temptations. He gets one – and only one – scene that permits him the chance to chew a little scenery, and even then, he holds back a bit; at no point does Shannon do anything that feels theatrical or untrue for his character.

Which is a bit of a miracle given the opportunities for hamminess. Essentially, one could view Shelter as a long take on Roy’s crack-up from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Both characters experience mysterious visions that create relationship stress and lead to erratic behavior. The films treat the roles quite differently, of course; in CE3K, we know Roy’s right, whereas here, we’re never sure if Curtis is nuts or if he’s really able to foresee a coming disaster.

Whereas Roy’s apparent breakdown created only a small section of CE3K, Curtis’s issues become the focal point of Shelter. That might lead one to worry that the narrative will get stretched thin, but it doesn’t. The story unravels in such a deliberate, gradual manner that it never feels forced or artificial. It also doesn’t seem slow, as we become naturally immersed in Curtis’s situation.

All of this leads to a dark, unsettling but consistently involving film. Shelter rarely spoonfeeds the viewer, but it also doesn’t go out of its way to be opaque or difficult to understand. While it leaves itself open for interpretation, it remains concise and provocative. We find a high-quality character drama here.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Take Shelter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This became a surprisingly good SD-DVD presentation.

Sharpness looked solid. A few shots were slightly soft, but these were minor concerns. Overall, though, definition was quite good. No jagged edges or edge haloes occurred, and shimmering was insubstantial. Source flaws were a non-factor, as the movie stayed clean.

Shelter opted for a low-key palette. It tended to be a little desaturated, actually, but was reasonably natural most of the time. Within their parameters, the colors appeared well-developed. Blacks seemed deep and tight, while shadows were solid; they showed positive clarity. In the end, the transfer proved to be very good.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Take Shelter, it was a good mix. Curtis’ visions became the most important elements, as those created dynamic sound elements; with thunder, storms and tornadoes, the soundscape really came to life in a vivid manner when necessary. Quieter scenes provided good atmospheric material as well.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was crisp and distinctive, with no edginess or other concerns. Music was full and rich, while effects came across as clear and accurate. The track boasted solid low-end when appropriate. All of this was good enough for a “B+”.

We get a mix of extras here, and these open with an audio commentary from writer/director Jeff Nichols and actor Michael Shannon. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and characters, cast and performances, music and effects, sets and locations, and a few other production areas.

While it occasionally drags a little, the commentary usually covers the movie well. Both Nichols and Shannon mix well, and they add low-key but likable humor along the way. They help make this a pretty informative and enjoyable chat.

Two Deleted Scenes fill a total of five minutes, 59 seconds. These include “Second Counselor Session” (4:22) and “Picnic Table” (1:37). The first shows what it describes, as it takes us to one of Curtis’ therapy periods, while “Table” gives us a chat between Curtis and Samantha that discusses a visit from Curtis’ brother. Both are pretty inconsequential; neither adds anything that would’ve fleshed out the movie in a substantial manner.

Two featurettes follow. Behind the Scenes of Take Shelter goes for 10 minutes, 34 seconds and offers statements from Nichols, Shannon, set dresser Ben Haehn, production designer Chad Keith, and actors Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham. “Scenes” looks at the film’s story and influences, cast and performances, set design and construction, visual effects, filming in Ohio and other production issues. “Scenes” is too short for much detail, but it’s fairly efficient and it gives us a decent examination of movie topics.

A Q&A with Actors Michael Shannon and Shea Whigham lasts 19 minutes, 51 seconds. Filmed for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, the performers discuss aspects of their characters and performances as well as a few other elements of the shoot. Both seem engaging and informative through this piece, so we get some nice notes here. (Don’t watch it if you’ve not already seen the movie, though, as it includes potential spoilers.)

The disc opens with ads for The Skin I Live In, A Dangerous Method, Carnage, Retreat and In the Land of Blood and Honey. These also appear under Previews, and we get the film’s trailer as well.

Dark and foreboding, Take Shelter offers an intriguing take on a man’s apparent psychological disintegration. It creates a good character examination and keeps us with it from start to finish. The DVD provides solid picture and audio along with a few useful supplements. Shelter offers a apocalyptic drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5714 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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