Some Kind of Monster

Metal has come of age and so has its practitioners. It’s weird seeing youth culture music still being played by middle aged family men who’ve head-banged their way to male pattern baldness.

The two directors of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster reconnected with the group ten years after the infamous (and justifiably highly-regarded) film. Both are available on Netflix and make solid back-to-back viewing.

Always staunchly anti-music video (until they weren’t) Metallica embraced digital to the point where they were the subject of not one, but two films —  the concert flick, Metallica: Through the Never and of course, Some Kind of Monster.

The Monster metaphor of the lumbering Frankenstein may fit with popular misconceptions about heavy music, but Metallica’s lunk-head image always belied their musical sophistication. With their affectations they’re a heavy metal Morricone (whose The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme precedes every show).

However, Some Kind of Monster captures them at their artistic nadir, trying to will their way to creativity by discarding anything that previously made them successful. Although they’d be the first to deny it, music of all stripes requires a formula. And theirs was James bringing in a riff and a few scraps of lyrics into the studio, Lars adding some sonic touches and then the rest of the band shaping it into form.

Going into a studio formless, meant no chain of command. No direction. And their jams here are those of a worn out bar band, “stock” as they themselves concede in several instances.

Absent is the fire that blazed through Master of Puppets (a near-perfect metal song). And what we’re left with is internecine squabbling: with one another, their band’s 40k/month therapist, and with producer Bob Rock (who looks and sounds so much like Spinal Tap’s David St. Hubbins it’s unreal).

It’s a fascinating look at the group’s individual personalities: singer James Hetfield and his sober-living solipsism, drummer Lars’ abrasive implacability and guitarist Kirk Hammet, the passive peacemaker and the group’s dispensable Ringo.

***1/2 (out of 5)

 

 

 

 

The Country Bears

“Based on a theme park attraction” is second only to “based on a popular video game,” as the phrase mostly likely to have these reviewers sprinting like Usain Bolt —with a boulder bearing down on him in the opposite direction.

The Country Bears, though, is one such movie…a project inexplicably inspired (if that’s the word) by a Walt Disney World attraction. In our neck of the woods, Ontario, there’s something called a spring bear hunt…but don’t expect us to fire potshots at these creatures.

For whatever reason — we sure as hell can barely explain — this is an oddly charming, bizarrely horrifying film.

Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel “I see dead people” Osment) grew up in a human family. And is a cub. Otherwise, he may have gone all Grizzly Man on his adoptive bipedal parents. He’s a budding musician, and took inspiration from the eponymous band, the Country Bears, an all-bear band who’ve since disbanded.

Like an ursine VH1 Behind the Music special, Beary tracks down the various members of the band, and they reunite for a big tour. Of course, there’s an obstacle in their way: an evil developer (Christopher Walken) who wants to tear down their concert hall, as well as an unscrupulous concert promoter who wants to exploit them (Alex Rocco, who got it in the eye in The Godfather).

As badly received as any movie we’ve discussed on the Really Awful Movies Podcast, this one isn’t as deserving of opprobrium as you might think. That could’ve been the beers or the weed talking, but here us talk about it…this was a fun podcast to do.

We’re continually surprised by what comes across our metaphorical desk every week on the show, and this one’s no different. So, is The Country Bears a classic for the ages? Perhaps not, but give it a crack…