Probably one of the biggest surprises of the year, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's (coming off the disaster that was "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows") documentary "Some Kind of Monster" is a fascinating rock odyssey. In this case, the focus is the heavy metal band Metallica, who's been around for ages and, through the 90's, enjoyed immense touring and album sales success. As the years draw forward, however, things are changing. Bassist Jason Newstead quits the band, citing "the damage he has done to himself playing the music live". In 2001, the band goes into a rented military barracks in order to try and pull out a new album. The chemistry is not the same, though: the band members have begun to tire of one another - a creative marriage between the remaining people that has soured over the years. The band and their company have decided to hire (at a ridiculous $40,000 a month) a rather mousey therapist named Phil Towle, in order to try and mend relationships between band members and get the creative juices flowing.
Towle doesn't seem to do anyone much good, as drummer Lars Ulrich (who looks remarkably like actor Tom Sizemore in some scenes) and singer James Hetfield spar verbally during the recording sessions, with tired guitarist Kirk Hammett playing reluctant negotiator between the two. After one particularly bad arguement, we find that Hetfield has entered rehab and nobody knows when he might be coming back, or if he will ever come back to finish recording the album. In the meantime, Towle does continue his work, watching as Ulrich has a difficult meeting with his father and works out his problems with former "Metallica" member Dave Mustaine, who still has hurt feelings despite going off to create the very successful band Megadeath. Hetfield does return a year later, sober, but not able to work that long per day, which touches off further irritation with the other members. When Ulrich goes hardcore against Napster and file-sharing, the fans fight back with an enormous amount of ill-will directed at the band.
Even for those who have never listened to the band, "Some Kind of Monster" will still likely entertain, as the film is a pretty intresting look at therapy, creativity and relationships between artists who have to collaborate. It's also an interesting documentary in the way that the two directors were not expecting any of this when they first started - a little "making of the album" piece turned into a full-scale look at a major touring act on the brink of falling apart.
The film's only fault is that, at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it's a little bit too long. Aside from that, this is mostly a very involving portrait of rock gods who try themselves go on despite not living the rock life anymore (some members have started families), or seemingly having quite the same passion they did for it all years ago.
VIDEO: "Some Kind of Monster" is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame by Paramount, which the box notes is the film's original aspect ratio. The picture quality is generally excellent, considering the fact that this is a fairly low-budget documentary that looks to have been shot on video. Sharpness and detail are usually first-rate, although there's some occasional moments of softness here-and-there.
The picture doesn't show any instances of edge enhancement, but some minor shimmering was spotted at times, along with some very slight pixelation. The elements seemed to be in excellent condition, with no wear or damage - including the older concert footage that's seen occasionally in the film. Colors looked natural and accurate, as did flesh tones. Overall, a very nice presentation of the material.
SOUND: The documentary is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Paramount. Despite being in 5.1, the audio is largely front-heavy, with the surrounds not adding in a whole lot, aside from some minor reinforcement of the music. Audio quality of both the dialogue-driven pieces and the concert footage is perfectly fine, although the loudness of the concert footage versus the dialogue-driven sections may require some volume adjustment for some people at points throughout the film.
EXTRAS: There are two commentaries: one with Metallica (the commentary was recorded during the band's recent tour) and Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the co-directors. The band doesn't say a whole lot, but they do provide some pretty interesting comments on the stories behind the scenes. The directors talk more consistently, chatting about things like coming up with the title, working with the band members and trying to capture the band's struggles that they didn't expect to see. The directors also give their viewpoint on some of what was happening with the band in certain scenes.
Jumping to the next disc, we first find 28 deleted scenes, some offering commentary from the filmmakers. I got the sense that these scenes were deleted due to pacing reasons (the film is already nearly 150 minutes), as there's good footage here (the band's management talking about the future of Metallica, who discuss the possibilities of the band not having the motivation to go on anymore; more angry moments, Metallica honoring Aerosmith at MTV's "Icon" and others). Next is a series of festival highlights, including "Sundance Q & A", "Sundance Press Confrence", "San Fransisco International Film Festival", "New York Premiere" and "Metallica Club Screening". The pieces are between 4 and 15 minutes in length.
"This Monster Lives" is another section of deleted/extended scenes - 13 scenes in all, once again, some scenes offering audio commentary from the filmmakers. Finally, we get bios and a music video. The bonus features have the option of English or Spanish subtitles.
Final Thoughts: "Some Kind of Monster" is a bit overlong, but it's a pretty compelling look at a 20-year-old band trying to find the motivation to go on. Paramount's DVD edition provides plenty of supplements, along with fine audio/video quality. Fans of the band should certainly look into the release, but others should certainly look into it as a rental.