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Movies That Rock 2024

Today’s episode featured a look at musically themed movies including musicals, biopics, and concert films. Here is the commentary from the program.

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny

The Pick of Destiny was a jokey origin story for the band Tenacious D, which primarily consists of Jack Black and Kyle Gass. The film is a goofy stoner comedy. Viewers passed on the movie at the time but The Pick of Destiny was made for a very specific audience who have since found it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stars Michael Cera in the title role as a mousy guitarist who has to defeat his girlfriend’s seven evil exes. The film mixes elements of superhero films, anime, and video games. Filmmaker Edgar Wright is known for his soundtracks and this one of the best examples of Wright’s use of music. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a box office disappointment in 2010 but it has acquired a cult audience.


The 1975 film Tommy was based on the 1969 album by The Who. The film is a surreal rock opera about a deaf, mute, and blind boy who becomes a pinball champion and is later embraced as a religious leader. Tommy starred The Who lead singer Roger Daltry in the lead role and was directed by Ken Russell. The movie was a critical and commercial success.

Gimmie Shelter

The Rolling Stones have been the subject of several documentaries over the years, most famously Gimme Shelter. This film documented the 1969 Altamont Free Concert which was positioned to be the west coast version of Woodstock. Like that festival, the planning of Altamont was haphazard and members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang were hired as security. The chaotic scene culminated in a Hells Angels member stabbing a concertgoer to death during the Rolling Stones’ performance. Gimmie Shelter is constructed in an interesting way with band members screening the footage of the event and commenting on it. Gimmie Shelter pairs well with 1970’s Woodstock and is that documentary’s violent counterpoint.

Bob Marley: One Love

Bob Marley: One Love is the latest in a fad of musical biopics. These films have to be understood as an act of legacy curation by the musician’s estate to spike the value of their catalog and brand. As a film, One Love is a successful but average musical biopic. Viewers seeking a more meaningful exploration of Marley should check out the 2012 documentary Marley.

8 Mile

8 Mile is a semi-autobiographical story in which the rapper Eminem played a fictionalized version of himself. This is one of the best examples of a musician dramatizing their life story in a feature film. Admittedly, that’s a low bar but 8 Mile is an exceptional film because it is so departed from the gloss of Hollywood. It’s a tough and visually gritty picture but with an underlying human vulnerability that captured a lot of what made Eminem’s music so popular.


The late 1960s and early 1970s produced a number of important music documentaries that captured an exciting time in American music. Probably the most famous of these is Woodstock, Michael Wadleigh’s documentary about the storied 1969 music festival. Among the editors of Woodstock were Martin Scorsese as well as Thelma Schoonmaker, who now edits Scorsese’s films. Woodstock is a significant documentary not only for the musical performances but for the way it captured and defined a historical moment. This film probably did more than any other single work to define the memory of the 1960s counter culture. The original cut of Woodstock was 185 minutes but a 224 minute director’s cut has been subsequently released.

Summer of Soul

The Harlem Cultural Festival was another significant musical event from the summer of 1969 but until recently it wasn’t as widely recognized. The festival played over six Sundays in Harlem and featured acts such as B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mavis Staples, and Sly and the Family Stone. The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival finally got its due in 2021 with the documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) which was directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

This is Me . . . Now: A Love Story

This is Me . . . Now is a companion film to Jennifer Lopez’s album of the same name. Lopez embraces her public image as a serial romantic and the film contains a bit of self-awareness and self-deprecation on her part. This is Me . . . Now consists of a series of vignettes strung together by a thin narrative frame. The individual pieces are fun and creative but they don’t really work as a whole. The marketing materials for This is Me . . . Now bill the film as a personal statement but the film is too plastic and polished for that.

The Greatest Night in Pop

The 1985 song “We Are the World” brought together many of the biggest acts in pop music from that time to raise funds for famine relief in Africa. The documentary The Greatest Night in Pop plays as a procedural, recounting the genesis and development of the song with most of the documentary’s running time dedicated to the recording session itself which was completed in a single evening. Although the song itself is lame, the documentary succeeds as a story of producers running against the clock.