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Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

How can you empathize with a millionaire who throws temper tantrums about some absurd work-day minutiae a mere week after hawking his collection of Basquiat and Pollack paintings at Christie's for a few million in pocket change? Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky ask the audience to do exactly that, and it's a testament to Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004) that it manages to not only capture the frustration of the band members with a sense of honesty, but a keen eye is maintained on the inherent absurdity of the subject matter. The door-slamming episodes show the side of the band members that have been rock stars since they were 18 years old, and even as their hair turns gray or vacates their scalps entirely, it seems apparent that perhaps emotionally they haven't aged a day. Anyone who has seen a married couple have a spat will easily recognize the bitter button-pushing that goes on between singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, while guitarist Kirk Hammett plays the part of the only child who desperately wants the family to stay together. From 1981 until the release of "The Black Album" in 1991, Metallica was the band that pioneered a generation of heavy metal, in their own way becoming a generation's Led Zeppelin. Seeking to live up to their reputations, the members of the band delved into self-destructive behavior that re-defined the rock-god persona. Along the way, they got old and started families, while the band's family structure was slowly falling apart. Some Kind of Monster is a compelling examination of a group of 40-year-old rockers trying to maintain their edge, while at the same time dealing with the results of their hard living. Prior to starting work on their first album in five years, Metallica's management team assigned them a performance counselor, Phil Towle, who had worked in the past with other bands and professional sports teams. The documentary captures the band's musical process and corresponding group therapy. Since bassist Jason Newstead left the band, producer Bob Rock is playing bass during the sessions, and during live gigs it's all the band can do to keep him from cracking a big smile at playing for a couple hundred screaming fans, cause that ain't heavy metal, man. Along the way, therapist Phil begins taking on the role of fifth Beatle, at one point going so far as to pass James some lyrics during a recording session. As the film progresses, there's a moment where its revealed that the band is paying Phil $40,000 a month for their weekly sessions, and at that point the filmmakers adeptly make everything the good doctor says becomes a means to keep his job. As the album nears completion, and the plans for a tour come together, the friction between therapist and clients becomes palpable. With James surviving a stint in rehab, the rules of his new life begin to interfere with the process of making a record, and the band struggles to keep it together long enough to finish.

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Paramount presents Metallica: Some Kind of Monster in a packed two-disc set. Twenty-six deleted scenes, adding a hefty 2:20 to the running time, show more of the process than could fit into the 2:20 run-time of the feature. From Lars' outrage at not being told to wear a Hawaiian shirt for Kirk's birthday to, well, Lars' outrage at James wanting to put chrome car parts on the album cover, the scenes add more depth to the areas covered well in the film itself. Of special note is the scene in which the band works with hip-hop producer Swizz Beats to create a "Run DMC/Aerosmith" style crossover in the name of self-promotion. Ja Rule and his crew playing dice and passing the blunt around while Metallica riffs play in the background practically sells the disc itself, but it's important to note that each of the scenes would have drastically changed the tone of the film. Thirteen additional scenes, clocking in at 62 minutes, focus on the therapy, as well as an extended interview with the band members about the process of being filmed. The band members took a break from their tour to record a commentary track, but it's not much to listen to. Berlinger and Sinofsky also provide a commentary track, which is a little more insightful. Highlight footage of the festival and premiere circuit is included, as well as two trailers and a music video. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Scott Anderson



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