METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER (NR) Along with all those conscience-wracked mafiosos, samurai warriors and other good-bad guys the movies love to show wrestling with various codes of honor, you can now add one more unlikely name to the list: heavy metal gods Metallica. As observed in this fascinating new documentary, the seasoned headbangers find themselves caught between (forgive me, somebody has to say it) rock and a hard place, struggling to balance what's expected of them as celebrity musicians with what they need to survive as human beings. Over the course of three years, this epic, 140-minute doc focuses on the various band members as they air their beefs in therapy, fall apart, come together, and try to get a new record made. Directed by probably the best team working in documentary film today, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (Brothers Keeper, Paradise Lost), Some Kind of Monster is a far cry from your conventional rock documentary. The talented filmmakers don't gloss over their subjects' faults, but they use those faults as entry points into the characters' lives, using their very human natures to make them engaging and even appealing. Ultimately, the film is a little like a heavy metal version of Let It Be (that's a compliment, by the way), and, as its subjects whine and rattle on and on, the success or failure of the film really depends upon just how much Metallica you can take. Stars Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Bob Rock and Jason Newsted. Opens July 30 at local theaters. 1/2
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (PG) Maybe the best movie ever about all-American high school geeks, and certainly one of the funniest, Napoleon Dynamite is about a slack-jawed loser with a tight red perm and almost no concept of how to live in the world. Mouth permanently agape, and eyes simultaneously squinty and glazed, Napoleon is barely a millimeter away from being a zombie — but then again, so are most everybody else in the movie. The film takes place in a bland little town in Idaho where time passes slowly, as do the thoughts and words of the inhabitants, and the movie depicts it all with sly humor and affection. Most of the conventions of the high school comedy are here — the school prom, the class election — but the film transcends cliche with a lethal combo of slapstick, absurdity and dry, deadpan Jarmusch-ian wit. The young, mostly nonprofessional cast was largely drawn from 24-year-old director Jared Hess' pals at Brigham Young University, but don't hold that against them. Among its many other virtues, Napoleon Dynamite offers proof positive that Mormons really do have a sense of humor. Stars Jon Heder, Sandy Martin, Tina Majorino and Aaron Ruell.
THE NOTEBOOK (PG-13) Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (the head mean girl from Mean Girls) star as star-crossed lovers in this slow-moving, sticky-sweet, cliche-ridden romance. The tale is told in flashback, with a nicely evoked setting of coastal North Carolina in the 1940s being one of the film's few saving graces. The source here is yet another assembly line product generated by romance novelist Nicholas Sparks (Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember), so you pretty much know what you're getting into even before the opening credits roll. Also stars James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden and Sam Shepard. 1/2
SHREK 2 (PG) While not quite the raw burst of unbridled (and vaguely subversive) creative energy that the original was, Shrek 2 is just as loaded with wall-to-wall gags, and may even boast a tighter, more traditionally compelling story. The narrative this time out features a deliciously nasty fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders) who wants to pry apart our two favorite ogre lovebirds, and give Fiona to her vain, vapid Prince Charming of a son (Ruppert Everett). The movie also makes great use of its other voice talents, both old and new, showcases some of the best computerized animation ever seen, and grooves along on an eccentric soundtrack that includes everything from vintage '70s disco-funk to Nick Cave. Features the voices of Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese and Julie Andrews.