Some Kind of Monster

By Adam Lippe

monster3Some Kind of Monster, about the production of Metallica’s St. Anger album, is a 140 minute explanation for how forgettable, corporate metal gets made. While a featurette for a movie that is bad in a rather traditional, boring way, is rarely going to be detailed, and certainly not going to really reveal the depth of the paucity of thought that went into it, Some Kind of Monster is all ego stroking, so unintentionally incisive that it achieves the feeling of watching a profound traffic accident. The fact that Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who made the masterful Brother’s Keeper and the Paradise Lost films together, directed this, probably meant that the band members had more faith that they would get at something deeper.

I’d imagine Berlinger and Sinofsky thought they probed as much as they could and came out with how a struggling band overcomes its problems in order to triumph in the end. But what we see is a band therapist along for the ride at every moment, making sure they express their feelings, leaving notes about being in “The Zone” all over the studio. When the band thinks they’ve outgrown him, they suddenly have a panic attack and realize they can’t handle life on their own, at least not without their $40,000 a month/24 hours a day shrink on hand. The desperation to spit out an album is all over the film, they are clearly not inspired, James Hetfield admitting that it’s the first time he and Lars haven’t come in with lyrics and music beforehand and left it open to the band to come up with new material. To watch them try to force out tired lyrics, while they have arguments about how the music is “stock,” as they spend 2 years making such a tired, uneventful and undistinctive album, is like being able to be at the script, production meetings, and on the set for Leonard Part 6. Basically, rich, spoiled people, with only yes men around them, who can’t take honest criticism, despite having families and being in their 40’s, who are too passive aggressive and yet egotistical to get through their problems with each other, are pampered and overpaid for a whole movie, and we are supposed to sympathize with them. Some of the scenes are so surreal, they almost could be in This is Spinal Tap without any adjustments. Though there is occasional self-awareness, Lars makes reference to a song being a “Shit Sandwich,” how deluded did he have to be to say this about St. Anger?

“If you read the lyrics, it’s angry in a healthy way.”

metallicaFor 2 1/2 hours, we witness Lars act like an angry martyr, James getting annoyed that the band listens to their work without him while he’s under his newly appointed rehab hours, and guitarist Kirk Hammett ducking his head out of any issues, possibly because he sounds like the nerdy kid trying to break up a fight in high school, “Come on, guysssss, ssssstop it.”

As producer/bass player Bob Rock says to Crazy Cabbie, a Howard Stern radio personality, about Lars Ulrich, and how they organize the music, taking bits and pieces of 3 hour jam sessions (which we conveniently never see), pretending that they weren’t coddled through every moment in the studio, and that it isn’t completely filtered music, with not a raw moment in it:

Cabbie: “So he’s like Pollack.”

Bob Rock: “He is. He’s Pollack, the funnel arranger guy.”

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.