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Metallica: Through The Never

Rush & Don Jon

October 3, 2013

Metallica: Through the Never (** ½) R

Before I even begin to write this review, let me put things in perspective by saying that if you’re a die-hard fan of the iconic rock band Metallica you will absolutely love this film. You’ll love it so much that you’re likely to lap it up in the same manner that a dog might take to a tootsie roll, for lack of a better analogy, and you’ll want to up my rating by at least one solid star. Now that I’ve gotten that bit of business out of the way, allow me to articulate my thoughts on the experience of seeing this film.

I suppose it helps a lot to explain that I came of age around the same time that Metallica rose to prominence during the early 1980s, my musical tastes always skewering toward the pop variety during those heady days. Many of my closest friends shared a passion for Metallica that was off the charts, thus allowing me, through my friendships, the opportunity to get to know a little something about the band without actually being what you might call a fan. I knew the songs and names of the band members without actually having purchased any of their individual albums.

Now, after seeing the band’s latest film project Metallica: Through the Never, a funny thing happened. While watching lead vocalist James Hetfield simultaneously making his guitar speak its own language and belting his way through the band’s repertoire, I was struck by the musicianship of not just Hetfield, but all of these guys.

James Hetfield at a concert celebrating the film

That’s something I didn’t appreciate back in the days of my youth but as we’ve now entered an era where the ability to play a musical instrument (or even sing) isn’t a prerequisite for a hit record, I really felt that I got what I’ve missed about these guys for so many years. The fact that the film is shot mostly onstage with the band in IMAX and 3-D and accompanied by an ear splitting soundtrack certainly helps to make the case in favor of the group.

As for the film itself, I would mostly describe it as a long form music video harkening back to MTV’s heyday. Mostly what we see is footage of the band trotting out all of their signature songs to an extremely enthusiastic audience. The film is so technically well made that you really do feel as if you’re standing onstage with these guys, watching them do their thing. If there is a complaint to hedge against the film, it would be the attempt at a dramatic narrative that the filmmakers concoct, which interrupts the flow of the music from time to time. The half-baked subplot stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) as some sort of Metallica roadie who gets caught up in what looks to be Armageddon. This comes off as heavy-handed symbolism at best.

The main thing to know is that if you’re a Metallica fan you’re going to be a happy camper. Others need not apply. Whatever the case, make sure you see it in IMAX and 3-D.
    
Rush (***) R

Ron Howard’s 1970s period piece Rush, which chronicles the rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), is the type of competently made product we’ve come to expect from the veteran filmmaker. It hits all the expected notes and leaves one with a feeling of being in the hands of a good storyteller who knows how to effectively utilize all of the cinematic tools at his disposal.

Unfortunately, it’s the type of film that’s now out of fashion with the studios, those executives who have decided in their infinite wisdom that two types of films, tentpole extravaganzas and micro budgeted affairs, are the only kind of movie projects worth pursuing.

Should moviegoers seek it out, Rush may be just the film to prove once and for all that there is indeed an audience for films budgeted in the mid-range and that studio heads should sit up and pay attention. In the meantime we’ll forgive them for forcing Howard to seek independent financing for this film. But never mind as that’s another topic for another day.

Daniel Bruhl as Lauda in Rush

Rush follows the typical template for a film of this type and I suppose it helps if one has little to no knowledge of the subjects at the heart of the film. Not being a racing fan I found the twists and turns the story takes to be revelatory and satisfying. If I were to lodge a complaint against the film it would be in its somewhat formulaic early section, which sets up the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt. There’s probably no other way that a film of this type could have been structured other than the way it is, but that still didn’t stop me from having a feeling of déjà vu. Once the film hits the midway mark, though, that’s when things took off for me and I found the film’s remainder to be a most enjoyable one.

In the pic’s early section, we are introduced to Hunt and Lauda in 1976, at the beginning of the race that would have tragic repercussions. From there the film flashes back to 1970, illuminating how these two men made their name in the sport of Formula 1 racing and their wildly divergent personalities. The British Hunt is portrayed as a playboy with a never-ending penchant for partying, while Austrian Lauda comes across as the ever serious of the two. Lauda, of course, is seemingly baffled at his competitor’s ability to win race after race with what looks like little to no preparation. Hunt romances, eventually marries a model (Olivia Wilde), divorces and parties his way through the years. Lauda, true to his personality, remains faithful to his wife Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) and his sport.

What stands out most in the film is director Howard’s technical skill on the filmmaking side of things. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle does a phenomenal job lensing the pic, giving it the look of films made during the period it takes place. Its only one of the film’s many pleasures.

Don Jon (*** ½) R

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets my seal of approval in his first attempt as a triple hyphenate (actor-writer-director), the comedy-drama Don Jon. Kudos should be given to Gordon-Levitt for even attempting to tackle the film’s subject matter, porn addiction. It’s a subject that easily could have resulted in a lesser picture in anyone else’s hands. The trick here is that although Gordon-Levitt does play it somewhat for laughs in the pic’s early half, which will satisfy some, he chooses not to stop there. Gordon-Levitt gives the audience something more substantive in a surprising third act development that really takes the film to another level and left me with a very satisfied feeling. Had he decided to stick with strictly the laughs that the subject matter naturally lends itself to Don Jon would only have been marginally successful. Gordon-Levitt, however, is smarter than that and gives the viewer something to mull over long after the film has come and gone.

Gordon-Levitt stars as the title character, Jon (Don Jon) Martel, whom we are introduced to in an early scene illustrating Jon’s penchant for picking up women at the local watering hole he frequents with his two best friends.

Danza & Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon

Jon tells us early on in voiceover, in a wonderfully edited sequence, what he values in life. The most important thing, it goes without saying, is internet porn. Jon just can’t seem to stop himself. That is until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), with whom he is instantly smitten. Barbara becomes Jon’s obsession once she gives him the heave-ho after their initial meeting. Jon does a little detective work, locates Barbara online, and continues his pursuit.

Barbara eventually gives into Jon’s charms and begins to let him into her life a little at a time. As the relationship moves forward, Barbara reveals herself to be more than a little self involved and manipulative, to which Jon appears to be oblivious. After his porn addiction becomes clear to Barbara, Jon is forced to reevaluate his priorities, aided in his crisis by Esther (Julianne Moore), a woman he meets while taking night classes. It’s at this point that the film heads for another emotional plateau entirely as Jon is forced to take stock of his life.

Gordon-Levitt’s choices as a filmmaker are spot-on in so many aspects of the film. From the phenomenal editing and pacing to the casting of smaller roles, particularly Glenne Headley and Tony Danza as his parents. The fact that the film comes in at a lean eighty nine minutes also helps matter considerably, illustrating Gordon-Levitt’s ability to get on with things and not waste time getting there.

Don Jon is the kind of film I look forward to in the fall months of the year, an adult drama rooted in reality and dealing with adult problems. Seeing it made me glad that fall has finally arrived, at least from a movie standpoint.

Metallica: Through The Never is playing in Charlotte at the AMC Northlake 14, 7325 Northlake Mall Drive; the Regal Cinema Stonecrest at Piper Glen 22, 7824 Rea Road, and at Grand 18 & IMAX, 5601 University Parkway in Winston-Salem.

Rush & Don Jon are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Email Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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