Some Kind of Monster appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite its origins as a videotaped program, Monster looked consistently fine within those parameters.
Sharpness seemed decent. As I expected from this sort of production, the image rarely looked extremely detailed, but it was more than acceptable for a videotaped piece. Very little softness interfered, as the movie remained accurate and concise the majority of the time. Though videotape often tends toward those problems, I detected only a few instances of jagged edges or moiré effects, and it showed only a little edge enhancement. Some video artifacting appeared occasionally, especially in low-light situations, but that was inevitable given the shooting conditions.
Colors appeared unexceptional but more than acceptable. The cameras captured the tones as they showed up in real life, and they came across as reasonably distinct and accurate. The hues never popped up strongly, but they were totally fine. Black levels also seemed tight and deep, while shadow detail was as clean as possible under the conditions. A few shots - such as those in dark nightclubs - were tough to discern, but I regarded that as virtually inevitable. I wouldn’t use Monster to demonstrate the visual capabilities of DVD, but the program looked positive for something with its origins.
While also typical for the genre, I must admit the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Some Kind of Monster was more of a disappointment. That’s because the movie spotlighted a musical act but didn’t do much with the songs. The soundfield demonstrated erratic stereo imaging for the songs. Sometimes they showed good delineation, while other instances presented mushier definition. Music and speech dominated the piece, as effects stayed in the domain of general atmosphere. Those added a little ambience and made some minor use of the surrounds, but they didn’t add much to the mix.
Audio was fine except for the music. The songs varied a fair amount. Sometimes they sounded pretty lively and vibrant, while other instances played them in a more lackluster way. Bass response was pretty flat most of the time, as the movie didn’t present a lot of low-end. Still, the songs were reasonably well-depicted much of the time, despite the lack of much dynamic range. Speech always sounded natural and crisp, though, and effects were acceptably clean and accurate. I did expect more from the audio of a music movie, but this track remained fine for the material.
A pretty extensive two-DVD set, Monster opens with a pair of audio commentaries on the first platter. One comes from Metallica members James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. This commentary sounds promising but ends up dull. The musicians mostly just toss out minor remarks about what they watch. Occasionally we get some insight into the experiences and find out a little about what happened off-screen. This means a few good notes like more about Ulrich and Dave Mustaine, and we also discover a bit more irritation aimed at Jason Newsted. Unfortunately, the useful statements pop up infrequently, as mostly they don’t tell us much. Dead air abounds and we simply don’t learn a whole lot from this slow track.
For the second commentary, we hear from directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. While the band track was very erratic, this one comes chock full of information. Berlinger and Sinofsky touch on pretty much everything we could want to know about their perspective. We find out how they got involved in the project, how it grew in scope, their few restrictions and many freedoms, working with Metallica and other attached parties, editing choices and paring down the 1600 hours of footage, financing, controversial concerns, and many other topics.
Almost no dead air appears, and the pair provide a frank and open look at their work. They let us know when they toyed with chronology to make the film flow better; for example, it looks like Napster was an issue during the filming, while it was really a dead issue by that point. They also discuss some mistakes they made and how their presence affected band interactions. The filmmakers tell us most of what we might want to know and make this a lively and extremely informative chat.
In addition to the two commentaries, DVD One includes a pair of trailers. We find both the “theatrical trailer” and the “concert trailer”.
Over on DVD Two, the main attraction comes from a collection of 41 Additional Scenes. The package amasses them in two areas. 28 appear in “Additional Scenes”, while the other 13 come in “Additional Scenes II: This Monster Lives”. It’s not totally clear why the package separates them, though I think the bits isolated in “Lives” all are also discussed in a separate book about the movie. I don’t like the absence of a “Play All” option in either domain.
Perhaps not coincidentally, taken together the 41 scenes last virtually the same amount of time as the feature film. The clips run a total of two hours, 22 minutes and 59 seconds, which means the deleted scenes actually run slightly longer than the final product. Of course, they’re not edited together to create an alternate version of Monster, but in length, they do add up essentially to a second film.
Given that the filmmakers had 1600 hours of footage from which to choose, it comes as no surprise that the deleted scenes are uniformly good. They expand on many of the issues discussed in the theatrical release and also delve into other topics. On serious notes, we learn a little of Hetfield’s family background, and the deleted scenes better explore tension between the band and Newsted. There’s more between Ulrich and Mustaine as well.
Lighter material comes from Hammett’s visit to traffic school - for which he wrote an Adam Sandler-style ditty - and Lars’ general whininess in a couple of clips. Musically, we see and hear a hip-hop mash-up with Metallica plus a live version of “Frantic” and the band’s performance at a Raiders game. This extra footage is always fun to watch and the clips help make this a terrific package.
10 of the scenes come with optional commentary from directors Berlinger and Sinofsky. They offer basic background for the segments and tell us why the clips were cut from the final film. Usually scenes are deleted for length, and that’s partially true here. However, most of them were lost for thematic reasons. For example, they didn’t want to show any live performances until the movie’s end so the band’s return to the stage would feel more climactic. The comments offer good perspective on the material.
In a domain called “Festivals and Premieres”, we find five components. Sundance Q&A lasts five and a half minutes and involves comments from Berlinger and Sinofsky. If you’ve listened to their commentary, you’ll find little in the way of new material here. We get a few comments from Dr. Phil Towle, who’s also in attendance, but otherwise the Q&A simply covers ground already addressed in the filmmaker commentary.
The Sundance Press Conference goes for 14 minutes, 45 seconds, and includes a panel with all four members of Metallica. This comes from the same screening as the prior Q&A, though the band members appear via satellite while on tour. They also touch on a few areas addressed in their commentary, but they open things up a bit as well. Of key interest are their remarks about the Napster fallout and whether they should “apologize” for what they did. There’s nothing revelatory, but the conference includes enough useful material to merit a look.
Next we get a 10-minute and 45-second piece from the San Francisco International Film Festival. It shows the band and the filmmakers at that screening of the flick. They take some simple questions but don’t get into much that we don’t already know. Probably the most interesting one asks if James finds it hard to stay sober on the road.
A similar clip comes from the New York Premiere. It lasts six minutes and 15 seconds as we watch the band and filmmakers arrive at the screening. They also provide some comments to welcome everyone. The material says fairly brief and superficial, so while it’s interesting to see for archival reasons, it doesn’t tell us much.
“Festivals and Premieres” ends with a snippet from the Metallica Club Screening. In this four-minute and 11-second segment, we watch as fans view a rough cut of the flick. They then offer their thoughts about it. The comments are uniformly positive but it’s good to hear an outside perspective.
After this we find a Music Video for “Some Kind of Monster”. It collects movie bits and performance segments in a montage. It’s not terribly interesting and largely acts as a long ad. Lastly, the package ends with Filmmaker Bios. Actually, these are just slightly annotated filmographies, with very little additional information about Berlinger and Sinofsky.
User-friendly footnote: as usual, Paramount present English subtitles for the extras.
Most rock documentaries are interesting solely to fans of the act in question. Not so for Some Kind of Monster, a mildly erratic but mostly compelling look at the ups and downs of Metallica. The movie benefits from total access to the band as well as some usual moments as they go through therapy.
The DVD presents adequate but unexceptional picture and audio. However, it boasts a killer array of extras. The band commentary disappoints, but an excellent directors’ track makes up for its flaws, and an extremely generous collection of deleted scenes and other footage puts this one over the top. I highly recommend this entertaining and insightful flick, especially since it offers the first great DVD of 2005.