Metallica-Some Kind of Monster (2004)

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Released 8-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Metallica
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Theatrical Trailer-2
Additional Footage
Featurette-Festivals And Premieres
Additional Footage-This Monster Lives
Music Video
Filmographies-Crew-Filmmakers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 140:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:36)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joe Berlinger
Bruce Sinofsky
Studio
Distributor
Third Eye Motion Pic
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Kirk Hammett
Lars Ulrich
James Hetfield
Rob Trujillo
Bob Rock
Jason Newsted
Dylan Donkin
Gio Gasparetti
Mike Gillies
Joe Berlinger
Cliff Burnstein
Zach Harmon
Stefan Chirazi
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Metallica
Bob Rock


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Spanish
Greek
Croatian
Italian
Portuguese
Slovenian
Serbian
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    What began in 2001 as a series of promotional infomercials about the making of an album evolved into something entirely different and infinitely more complex. Some Kind Of Monster is a documentary, the product of three years work for filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, chronicling an important transitional phase for rock band Metallica.

    When filming began, Metallica had recently parted ways with their bass player of fourteen years, Jason Newsted. On recommendation from their management, the band called upon Phil Towle, a US$40,000 per month performance enhancement coach who has previously done wonders for high profile sporting teams and bands such as Aerosmith (interestingly Towle is not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist, yet he makes his living in that field). As the cameras began documenting the therapy sessions along with studio progress, the project slowly turned into an exposition of the band's inner turmoil, the damage of rock and roll excess and the personal working relationships we rely on as human beings from day to day. Drummer Lars Ulrich has even gone as far as to say that the presence of cameras during the therapy sessions acted as a truth serum for the band, forcing them to be honest with each other in the knowledge that everything they said and did was being recorded for posterity. There is no arguing that the result is confronting viewing, whether you're familiar with the band or not.

    And therein lies the jewel in the crown of this amazing rockumentary. You don't have to be the slightest bit familiar with Metallica, their previous albums or their past band members to benefit from or enjoy this film, although it might help. Indeed, it is true to say that dedicated fans are the ones likely to enjoy this most. The lengths the band have gone to to open themselves up are staggering, and it is likely that no matter how well you think you know this band, after watching Some Kind Of Monster you'll find the rock icons you know and love totally demystified. The demystifying effect also extends to their therapist Towle, who by the end of the film seems to be in need of a serious reality check.

    For those who are not familiar with Metallica or their music, the irony of this film is that in their heyday Metallica were affectionately dubbed Alcoholica by their fans. While they were not widely known for the use of hard drugs, the band were openly and actively championing the consumption of alcohol for many years. Not surprisingly the turning point of the film comes about when guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield checks himself into rehabilitation for substance abuse after an extended vodka-swilling sojourn in the Siberian wilderness. At this stage the band are in the midst of pre-production for their album and everything is left hanging - their recording, the lease the band holds on the studio, even the film itself. After a very lengthy absence, Hetfield returns and the future of the film project is questioned. If it is to continue, the band must outlay a vast amount of money in order to purchase the rights from their now frustrated record label and finance the remainder of the project themselves. To the filmmakers credit, with a rough cut of the existing footage the band are convinced of the direction and significance of the film, and the rest is history.

    As a fan of the band personally, in recent years I've derived greater enjoyment from their parodies than their legitimate output. St. Anger, the album that resulted from the period covered in this film, was released to mixed reactions from fans and dubbed by many as a critical failure despite the massive sales the album enjoyed upon its release. Although I personally continue to dislike the album - mainly due to its terrible sound - this documentary has helped me understand the state of the band at this time and appreciate the album in a different way.

    Now, do yourself a favour and forget for a moment that this documentary is about a heavy metal band. If you have even the slightest interest in the demands of being a high profile musician, or the evolution of interpersonal relationships, then this documentary is a finely crafted masterpiece and a must-see.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is free of any major issues and appears to be sourced from a digital videotape master. The image is consistent and presented appropriately for a documentary such as this. Many short pieces of archival footage are used from Metallica's past, usually to place certain scenes or comments in context. These bring with them some very ordinary images - mostly riddled with cometing, videotape artefacting and a lack of resolution. For the purposes of this review I've overlooked the insertion of archival footage, mainly because there is so much of it I'll be here forever picking it to pieces. We should also remember that it has been used in an artistic sense to keep the story flowing and assist viewers who may not be entirely familiar with the band or their history. When I think of it that way, I'm happy to put up with a few moments of less than perfect video on this occasion.

    The feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full frame. This is the aspect in which it was shot, edited and presented in theatres. Being such a recent production, it is unfortunate that a widescreen image couldn't be provided. In their commentary, the filmmakers state that when filming began they had no idea that the project would eventuate into a theatrical release, which explains the choice of format on this occasion. Besides, shooting on film would mean having to change magazines every ten minutes, which would disrupt the band no end and draw undue attention to the cameras.

    Looking closely at the transfer, there isn't nearly as much fine detail as we would see in a film based source. The level of sharpness is acceptable, just not up to the level of recent digital television productions. Shadow detail and black levels are consistently solid during the darker moments of the film, however there is one low light indoor scene at 48:45 that seems to break down into a mess of grey grain. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Colouring appears true and consistent. Skin tones are realistic and there doesn't appear to be any colour manipulation performed in post production. I didn't notice any evidence of colour bleeding or oversaturation in the transfer.

    There are absolutely no MPEG or film artefacts present during the feature. The video bitrate is highly variable, averaging 6.22Mb/s throughout but often peaking over 9Mb/s. As far as the source is concerned, I noted what appears to be a minor videotape artefact at 103:25. This is rather small and not likely to bother the average viewer.

    There are subtitle streams available in many languages, including English. The subtitle font is yellow with a black outline, making it highly visible and easy to read. Some profanity is not translated in the subtitles but the sentiment of the dialogue certainly doesn't suffer as a result.

    This package is comprised of two dual layered discs. On disc one the layer transition is placed at a silent, unobtrusive moment during the feature at 66:36. I didn't notice any layer change during the extra material on disc two.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks accompanying this documentary on DVD. The default soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). Two feature commentaries are also included; one each from the band and filmmakers respectively. I listened to all three soundtracks in their entirety.

    The English dialogue is relatively easy to understand and prominent throughout. There were a number of occasions on which the band use slang that isn't familiar to me - words such as "stock" meant I had to turn on the subtitles to try and ascertain what they were talking about. In the context of their studio setting, I think they're using automotive terms, saying something is stock standard, or average. There were only a handful of occasions like this, so I'd hardly call it annoying. There has been no ADR performed in post production, and audio sync is spot-on at all times.

    The use of the surround channels is minimal, which didn't surprise me greatly. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray, while the left and right channels carry music and the like. I only noted two occasions of activity in the rears; the first at 83:15 as the boys go jet skiing, and again at 132:00 as the crowd cheers during their live performance. Being a documentary there isn't a lot of call for an aggressive surround mix, so I believe the audio presentation here befits the content nicely.

    The film is peppered with pieces of music from throughout Metallica's career and obviously suits the subject matter perfectly. The mellow passages of music are placed in the more appropriate moments in the film and these work well.

    The subwoofer is generally inactive during this soundtrack and it isn't particularly missed. Again, in a film such as this there is hardly any call for it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is an abundant array of extra material, all pertinent to the film and all worthwhile viewing.

Menu

    The menu pages feature short instrumental passages of music, taken from throughout the band's career. Each page is subtly animated with graphics similar to the St. Anger album artwork. None of the menu pages are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc 1

    The extras on disc one consist of trailers and two commentaries; one from the band and another from the filmmakers. Both are subtitled in three languages and presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (192Kb/s).

Feature Commentary-Metallica (Kirk Hammett, Rob Trujillo, Lars Ulrich & James Hetfield)

     The band appear to have seen the film many times and are somewhat bored with it. The film is picked to pieces, discussing where scenes fall in a timeline and complaining of edits often. There are some laugh out loud moments, such as when Lars repeatedly refers to his long-bearded father as "Metal Gandalf". Kirk makes an effort to addresses the lack of solos on the album and how the song writing process made their inclusion difficult. The scene in which Phil Towle makes a lyrical contribution is the source of great resentment for some of the band and it would appear he overstepped the mark on that occasion. Although it is a bit bland at times, this is an interesting commentary with a few cool insights.

Feature Commentary-Filmmakers (Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky)

    In early 2001 Bruce and Joe were having their own collaborative issues and hadn't made a film together for two years. Their commentary discusses how the project came to fruition, the initial plans for the footage and the logistics of making it work. The partners cite their being influenced by the Maysles' classic Gimmie Shelter and point out several homage's that I hadn't previously noticed. In reality, Some Kind of Monster represents three and a half years of work for this pair, and they are never short of things to talk about. The Blair Witch 2 film is also discussed, along with their less-than-friendly dealings with certain studios. Recorded in August of 2004, this is a very entertaining and enlightening commentary.

Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

    This is a very effective trailer that sums up the sentiment of the film neatly.

Concert Trailer (3:09)

    Similar to the above, with a little more focus on the individual band members. It's likely this trailer is more geared towards fans of the band, rather than normal film-goers.

Disc 2

    The second disc is separated into five distinct sections, all of which are available with or without subtitles. All of the second disc's video content is presented in 1.33:1, while the audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo throughout.

Additional Scenes (28)

    As the focus of the documentary shifted from the making of an album to the building of the band, the change in subject meant many formerly workable scenes were made obsolete. Many of the scenes presented here fall into that category. There are 28 scenes in total, five of which include an optional commentary from the filmmakers Joe and Bruce.

  1. Photo shoot with Kirk (1:18). Kirk tries different poses in his chair of skulls while promotional photos are taken. This then cuts to Bob making cocktails while James test drives an antique electric chair.
  2. Lars with his newborn son (1:52). Lars attempts to discuss his new method of mixing family and work, but doesn't get very far when his youngest child interrupts the conversation.
  3. Metallica, Swizz Beatz & Ja Rule (with optional filmmakers commentary) (10:02). Bob Rock links with a studio in New York via ISDN to record a vocal contribution from rapper Ja Rule, who appears to be more concerned with other distractions in his studio. I wish I could say that Ja is clearly at home in the studio and treats the band he is working with the utmost respect, however his hat and bandanna cover his ears entirely and his efforts behind the microphone leave a lot to be desired. James was in rehab at the time and had no say in the collaboration, which indicates to me the desperation Kirk and Lars were feeling. In their commentary, Joe and Bruce spend only a few minutes explaining how they split the filming crew to record the two sequences at once. In a way, I found the scene sadly comedic.
  4. Lars and Kirk webchat (2:35). After some initial difficulty entering their own website, Lars and Kirk drop into their chat room for a surprise visit - much to the delight of their fans.
  5. Management discusses Metallica's future (with optional filmmakers commentary) (4:23). Q-Prime executive Cliff Bernstein delivers an interesting opinion on how James' extended break will ultimately benefit Metallica in the long term. In their commentary, Joe and Bruce explain the decision to edit this scene from the final cut of the film.
  6. Should the filming continue? (with optional filmmakers commentary) (3:35). This is a very interesting extended cut of the scene we see in the film, where the filmmakers Joe and Bruce confront the band to discern whether the project has a future. James is clearly more uncomfortable with the presence of cameras since his return from rehab, so the filmmakers screen the guys a twenty minute cut of some of the footage prior to James leaving. In their accompanying commentary, Joe and Bruce highlight the risks involved in showing footage to a subject and point out their surprise at the band's reaction.
  7. James talks about growing up (4:15). While driving around, James touches on his relationship with his father, his brothers' musical influence and the negativity he endured as a teen.
  8. Surprise gig at Kimo's (with optional filmmakers commentary) (5:00). The band get together for a gig under an assumed name, at a small venue near Kirk's house. After a quick tour of the mansion and some of its bizarre decorations, the band heads to the gig which was unique because the inclusion of Bob Rock on bass guitar. The filmmakers commentary touches on the reasons for cutting this scene.
  9. Metallica honours Aerosmith at MTV's Icon (2:39). Brief clips are shown of the band in rehearsal and on stage at the tribute night, offering their dedications to their heroes.
  10. Take the metalheads bowling (0:22). A quick glimpse of the band, crew and their families ten-pin bowling during their time off.
  11. Bass lines for "My World" (2:59). Hetfield assumes duties behind the desk, while Bob Rock attempts some bass riff ideas.
  12. More work on "My World" (3:22). James tries alternate rhythm guitar melodies, while Bob criticises Lars' timing during his snare rolls.
  13. Kirk's birthday (2:42). It's Kirk's 40th birthday, so the band and crew throw an Hawaiian party for him, however Lars has some problems not being the centre of attention and seeks the advice of Phil Towle.
  14. Tough riff (2:15). Kirk and James concentrate on an alternate rhythm guitar melody that never made it onto the album in the end.
  15. "All Within My Hands" vocals (1:45). James records some vocals, with lyrical suggestions from those in attendance.
  16. Castor doesn't want headphones (0:38). James tries to convince his son Castor that headphones are a good idea.
  17. Bob is bitter (0:48). Lars jokingly offers Bob Rock the permanent role of bass player in Metallica.
  18. Lars stews in his anger (1:36). The presence of Towle and the band's limited working routine begin to frustrate Lars.
  19. Lars and James have made progress (3:16). The band share a meal together and discuss the previous day's events, leading into the new ground they find themselves in.
  20. Kirk goes to traffic school (3:08). As part of his penalty for travelling fifty miles per hour in a thirty-five zone, Kirk attends a day of traffic school, remembering to take his guitar along.
  21. New artwork (0:53). James presents some artwork ideas to the band, most with an automotive theme. I like Kirk's reaction: "it needs more spiders".
  22. Album packaging (with optional filmmakers commentary) (1:47). The band sieves through a myriad of album packages, looking at ways of presenting their work in the current market. The idea of a bonus DVD is presented, and it is proposed that the band record the songs live in their rehearsal space. This is exactly how the original package eventuated, but most interesting of all to me is their advisor's comments on the DVD buying public. Bruce and Joe's comments regarding this scene are worth hearing. The original project was intended to cover the simple making of an album, so this scene would have surely been included. However, the turn of events changed the tone of the film, meaning this scene was now obsolete.
  23. Hammering it out (1:48). Some interesting studio banter between Lars and Bob Rock.
  24. Sounds good (3:47). Lars discusses his pleasure after the initial audition with Rob Trujillo and the way in which they want to ease his transition from Ozzy's band.
  25. Rob goes snowboarding (2:56). Some great footage of Rob in action on the snowfields, followed by Rob relaying his departure from Ozzy's band with a great impersonation of the man himself.
  26. Kirk's father-in-law plays with Rob (1:54). Rob Trujillo tries his hand at some slide guitar.
  27. A lot of work to be done (1:38). A montage of footage as Metallica wrap up recording and begin promoting the album.
  28. "Frantic" at the Fillmore (7:50). In this early live performance of the album's opening track, the band are yet to fully find their feet on stage. The performance is rough around the edges and Trujillo is still finding his place, while the audio mix itself is annoyingly inconsistent. Still, it's a good indication of where they made their new beginning in a live sense.

Festivals and Premieres

    Sundance Q & A (5:32). Bruce and Joe answer some questions from the audience at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004. Interestingly, here they attribute their newly invigorated working relationship to Phil Towle's therapy sessions.

    Sundance Press Conference (14:49). Since the band were touring Australia at the time of the film's Sundance premiere, a satellite hook-up was arranged so the band could participate in some questions and discussion from the press. The conference is coordinated by directors Bruce and Joe and the band are surprisingly frank in their responses to everything from financing the film to the inevitable Napster queries. The audio volume fluctuates heavily in this featurette, but don't be tempted to skip it over as it is certainly insightful and worthwhile viewing.

    San Francisco International Film Festival (10:48). In April of 2004, the band took to the stage at the San Francisco film festival to field questions from the audience. The band are surprisingly more relaxed and candid during this appearance.

    New York Premiere (6:02). Bruce and Joe get a chance to talk a little more about how the filming experience changed them personally. The band members then take a little time each to have their say on the film.

    Metallica Club Screening (4:14). Select members of the Metallica fan club were screened a rough cut of the film, followed by some discussion with Bruce and Joe. There are no great revelations to be found here, however it is nice that the filmmakers included them in the process and took their thoughts on board.

This Monster Lives (More Additional Scenes) (13)

    Even more deleted and extended scenes are presented in this section - why they are separated from the other deleted scenes is unclear. Five are available with commentary from the filmmakers, Bruce and Joe.

  1. Predictions about the album (1:41). Judging by the band's physical appearance, this scene was captured early in their sessions with Towle, prior to Hetfield's extended absence. It serves some significance in hindsight, showing the album's concept in the embryonic stage.
  2. Being Original (2:14). This is an extension of one of the many therapy scenes in the film, showing that the sessions weren't always entirely serious.
  3. Lars and Dave Mustaine, alternate cut (5:32). This is the scene I have been waiting to watch. Since the film's theatrical release, Dave Mustaine has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with his portrayal in the film and this alternate cut of the scene serves to portray a much less aggressive angle of their meeting. For me, the most interesting facet of this conversation is the exact details surrounding Mustaine's sacking and what events led to the band making that decision.
  4. "F$%@! meeting" extension (with optional filmmakers commentary) (6:38). The confrontational scene between Lars and James is one of the stand-out moments of the film, and this footage is taken from that session. It is a little deeper in content and quite interesting, as stated in the brief commentary.
  5. Raiders tailgate show (with optional filmmakers commentary) (10:07). I recall reading about this performance on the internet and it is pretty interesting to see the events that inspired the band to play on the back of a truck in a parking lot. The commentary on this scene doesn't cover any new territory, unfortunately.
  6. Raiders fallout (with optional filmmakers commentary) (4:40). The performance at the Raiders game hit a nerve for Jason Newsted, prompting him to leave a less than polite message via telephone. This is a particularly interesting sequence, partly because it shows the unresolved tension that still existed between Metallica and their former bass player.
  7. The new face of metal? (2:13). A sarcastic exchange between Lars and Towle.
  8. Touring confusion (with optional filmmakers commentary) (3:08). More tension between the band and Newsted, this time accusing Metallica's management of bumping his band at the time, Voivod, from an event in Europe. Our filmmakers were caught in the middle here, as they were the bearers of the news.
  9. Dee Dee's legacy (4:13). The band discuss their contribution to a Ramones tribute album and coincidently find out later that Dee Dee has passed away. This causes them to draw parallels with their relationship with Newstead, rethinking their decision to not welcome him back.
  10. Talking about bass players with Pepper (2:50). Pepper Keenan, guitarist of bands Corrosion of Conformity and Down, shares some thoughts on where Metallica might find their replacement bass player. COC are one of my favourite bands, so I was particularly happy to see more of Pepper in the extras.
  11. Rob's first interview (3:29). In Rob's first meeting with the band, Towle appears to be doing most of the talking, making Rob nervous and causing Lars to question his motives. Having Towle involved in the selection of a bass player doesn't seem appropriate, and the band are visibly irritated.
  12. Lars visits his childhood home (with optional filmmakers commentary) (3:38). Lars shows Rob the home in Copenhagen where he grew up, his school and the tennis courts where he trained for many years. While it's very interesting, the sequence has a very different feel when compared to the rest of the film, which is acknowledged in the commentary.
  13. The Oslo interviews (11:44). Each of the band members chat with Joe Berlinger about their feelings regarding the film. These interviews were conducted for Joe's book about the making of this film and are generally interesting and insightful.

Music Video - Some Kind of Monster (4:30)

    The film's theme, of sorts, is augmented by a collage of recognisable scenes in no particular order. Some pieces of dialogue are inserted at certain points, causing the clip to almost serve a dual purpose as a trailer.

Filmmaker Bios (2)

    Actually more like a detailed filmography, three pages each for Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title appears to be identical across all regions. A three disc special edition has been rumoured, which is hardly surprising given that the first cut of this documentary ran over six hours. I don't currently see any reason to import this title.

Summary

    Some Kind of Monster is an entertaining and enlightening portrait of the inner turmoils of one of the world's most successful rock bands. The characters are endearing and the filmmaking is superb. See it.

    The video transfer is good, considering the source material.

    The audio transfer consists of an unremarkable Dolby Digital 5.1 effort.

    There is a lot of extra material included, most of it entertaining and relevant to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
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St Anger album - NickH