Cast shines through stormy ‘Take Shelter’

Sony Pictures Classics via AP

Michael Shannon (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire,’’ William Friedkin’s “Bug’’) might want to beware the typecasting trap, given how powerfully he plays characters tormented by dark compulsions. In “Take Shelter’’ (2011), Shannon offers a more subdued shade of harrowing as Curtis, a blue-collar family man driven by recurring nightmares to build an apocalyptic storm shelter in his backyard. Despite himself, he risks his meager finances and even his marriage to wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain). Is it schizophrenia, which afflicts Curtis’s mother (Kathy Baker)? Or is it something else? Whichever, Curtis’s descent is rough viewing, but strong work from filmmaker Jeff Nichols. Ditto for Chastain, an Oscar nominee for “The Help,’’ who credibly plays Samantha as alternating between standing by her man and getting tearfully, angrily pushed to the end of her tether. It takes a couple of scenes for the actors to settle into the world they’re inhabiting, but once they do, we feel their workaday stress. And this familiar feeling is compounded by their hearing-impaired daughter’s imminent ear surgery. With items like these topping the worry list, there’s no time for sick days or insurance lapses, never mind public breakdowns. Extras: Shannon and Nichols supply commentary, while Shannon also sits down for a screening Q&A with Shea Whigham, his castmate both here and on “Boardwalk Empire.’’ If only the commentary elaborated on the provocative ending. Shannon, echoing Nichols’s no-comment: “Deal with it.’’ (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)




Johnny Depp again tries on Hunter S. Thompson’s persona - or that of Thompson’s novelistic alter ego, anyway - in this adaptation from filmmaker Bruce Robinson (“Withnail and I’’). The action here isn’t as unhinged as in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’’ but Depp has fun as an iffy, boozy journalist kicking around 1960s San Juan in search of a worthy story. Giovanni Ribisi is also cartoonishly amusing as a cracked eclecticist with a taste for 400-proof liquor. The movie’s real excess, though: overdoing Depp’s evolution into a crusader against establishment greed. Thompson an idealistic softy? Hmm. Extras: Production featurettes. (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)

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It’s a Blu-ray reissue for the Oscar-winning antiwar epic about idealistic young German soldiers getting a bitter taste of life in the trenches during WWI. (The re-release is part of a Universal centennial celebration that will also see “Jaws’’ and “E.T.’’ make hi-def bows later this year.) The package includes the home video debut of a rarely seen quasi-silent version of the film that cut the dialogue for certain markets but added a musical score - the anomalous product of an industry still making the transition to sound. A hardcover collectible booklet features cast biographies and studio correspondence. (Universal, $39.98)




If you’re intrigued by a movie tapping fond memories of family game night, you can check out Hollywood’s upcoming “Battleship’’ hooey, or even 1985’s extra-gimmicky “Clue.’’ (Remember those pre-DVD alternate endings?) But give some thought to director Kevin Tostado’s film, in which he tracks a group of expert board-gamers vying to become Monopoly world champion. Much like the game itself, the documentary can have its pacing issues - too many professions of love for Monopoly at the start, and not enough elucidating info. But its player portraits eventually rival those of the Donkey Kong obsessives in “The King of Kong.’’ (Docurama, $29.95)