2014 is the year for exciting music movies. Between intimate documentaries and full-budget, full feature biopics on subjects ranging from Bessie Smith to Gregg Allman, there’s no shortage of box office activity surrounding the greats in music due out this year. Here’s six films that the American Blues Scene staff can’t wait for. Some are being released as early as this month and others are due out later in the year, but all should be watched.
1. The Thrill Is On! Starring Mykelti Williamson as B.B. King
Mykelti Williamson, who famously played Bubba in Forrest Gump, will be playing the king of the blues in this upcoming movie on a relationship between King and a young musician. Patrick Fugit, who starred as the young music writer in Almost Famous, is playing the second lead role.
The movie depicts the relationship between the blues master and a young musician, Michael Zanetis, who by chance forged a lifelong friendship with the Mississippi legend, culminating in B.B. King receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990. This exciting movie, from an interesting and dynamic perspective, deserves a place on blues lovers’ must-see list: The Thrill Is On Official Website
2. Get On Up! Starring Chadwick Boseman as James Brown
Chadwick Boseman, who previously starred as Jackie Robinson in 2013’s 42, is playing the prestigious part of the godfather of soul. The big-budget movie follows Brown’s rise from extreme poverty in Georgia to a world famous and highly influential Rhythm & Blues artist with a string of hits during the 60s and 70s, including “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “Please, Please, Please,”, “Get On Up”, and “I Got You (I Feel Good),”. His innovative performance earned him the distinction as one of the founders of funk.
The movie was filmed on location in Natchez and Jackson, Mississippi, and was directed by The Help’s Tate Taylor and produced by Mick Jagger and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazier. Get On Up Official Website
3. Miles Ahead Starring Don Cheadle as Miles Davis
Cheadle, the Academy Award-winning actor who starred in a number of movies including House of Lies, Iron Man Two and Three, and Hotel Rwanda will direct and produce Miles Ahead from a script he wrote with Steven Baigelman, who also wrote Get On Up, which also made this list. The film was just announced and will also star Zoe Saldana, from Star Trek and Avatar, and Ewan McGregor from Big Fish.
“We look forward to exploring the culture, musicians and backdrop of this city,” said Cheadle in the film commission release today. “We are hoping to work closely with the community to bring this project to (the) screen.”
4. Midnight Rider Starring William Hurt as Gregg Allman
The Gregg Allman biopic is a bittersweet entry. A film starring a legend of both rock and blues stirred huge excitement from the music and film community when it was announced. Fanfare surrounded the project until disaster struck immediately after filming began.
Starring both William Hurt and All American Rejects lead singer/songwriter Tyson Ritter as Allman, Midnight Rider filming had just began when tragedy struck. An unexpected train crossed a bridge where filming was taking place, hitting the set. The tragic accident took the life of a camera assistant and injured seven others. Afterwards, the filming was indefinitely postponed and laterl resumed, despite a protest by Allman, who took the company to court to stop filming. A closed out-of-court settlement just occurred between the production company and Allman, and it’s unknown if filming will resume at all.
5. B.B. King: The Life of Riley Documentary
The documentary, due out in May, is an intimate look at the life of the King of the blues. Battling unrelenting racism and the humiliation of segregation while working in the cotton fields as an orphaned child, King lived to overcome the toughest critics in the entertainment industry and ultimately be hailed as one of the kingpins of an entire genre of music. This candid biopic of the life story of one of our living legends is highlighted by rare archive footage and beautifully shot scenes of the deep American south.
The Life of Riley includes appearances and contributions from an incredible number of people, including Bill Cosby, Bruce Willis, Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Walsh, Morgan Freeman, Walter Trout, and many more.
The film will be in theaters nationwide starting on May 21st, and fans can buy tickets to select screenings at BB King’s Official Website.
6. Blue Goose Hollow, starring Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith
Not much is known about the film yet, but Queen Latifah will be portraying Bessie Smith, the “Empress of the Blues” and one of the most influential and successful blues personalities of the 20th century, it was widely reported Tuesday. The movie will be aired on HBO, and will be called Blue Goose Hollow, named for the area in Tennessee where Smith was born and raised.
Latifah has long discussed wanting to make this biopic, for some time. Smith grew to become the highest paid African-American of the era, often riding in her own train car. She appeared on film in 1929’s St. Louis Blues, and sang duets with Louis Armstrong. Tragically, Smith died at 43 years old in Clarksdale, Mississippi after a car accident on Highway 61.