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9 music films & series to watch now on Disney+

9 music films & series to watch now on Disney+

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The streaming wars are no longer a foregone conclusion as the monoculture of choice has diversified into options for all.

Disney+ has made its mark with its rich catalogue of films, along with the Marvel universe and the Star Wars canon including the excellent Mandolorian and the could-be-great Obi Wan Kenobi.

Disney+ has had some big wins in the music space so far with the Beatles’ Get Back 8-hour documentary and Summer Of Soul boosting their offering significantly, to name but two.

Here’s a look at the best of what’s on offer for music films and series on Disney+.

1.

Pistol

A six-party mini-series directed by Danny Boyle about the rise and fall of one of the establishment-shaking Sex Pistols, Pistol is based on guitarist Steve Jones memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, and charts the English punk’s ignition point and inevitable implosion.

Anson Boon is a razor-witted delight as Johnny Rotten, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game Of Thrones) revels as the svengali manager Malcolm McLaren, and the band’s musical development and notoriety is treated with a refreshing 21st century eye.

Pistol makes time for the women who were often left out of the shorter version of the story – from the fashionable Pamela Rooke (Maisie Williams), to legendary designer-in-waiting Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) to soon-to-be-famous Chrissie Hynde (Sydney Chandler).

Pistol is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

2.

Summer Of Soul

There are many reasons we called Summer Of Soul “the best live music concert film of 2021” but if you wanted to distill the performances of the film’s performers Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, B. B. King, Hugh Masekela, David Ruffin, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, the 5th Dimension, Mahalia Jackson and the Staples Singers to name most of them, down to one word, it would be “magical”.

The film, directed by Questlove, shows an alternative reality to the summer of Woodstock 1969 where the free Harlem Cultural Festival hosted the aforementioned luminaries.

The Harlem Cultural Festival’s entire days of festival performances were recorded for posterity but never saw the light of day (they spent 50 years in a basement) til this film, and there is a palpable sense of history found with the many energetic performances of magnitude throughout the film, whether that’s ex-Temptation David Ruffin’s screeching falsetto, Mahalia Jackson’s spiritual vocal offerings or Stevie Wonder’s supreme talent on keys and drums. There are too many highlights to list.

Summer Of Soul is a sparkling soulful document of an alternative history of the summer of 1969 that rescues these nearly-lost experiences from the bargain basement, wipes off the dust and rewrites music history.

3.

Get Back

In which, Lord Of The Rings’ director Peter Jackson trawls through the 60-hours of archive footage and 150 hours of audio from Lindsay-Michael Hogg’s own documentary about the recording of the Beatles’ Let It Be in 1970.

Get Back is nearly 8 hours long and still isn’t long enough, such is the delicious intimacy it offers us into the last days of The Beatles as a band. With beautifully restored footage and cleaned-up audio to a high standard, the three-part series, offers the most realistic depiction of the band as they were – the access we get to Paul, John, Ringo, George (and Malcolm) in this series is unparalleled.

With Get Back, you get to know the personalities of each of the musicians, the creative tussles and dynamics of a famed group on the edge, all while writing some of their best music.

To see Paul write ‘Get Back’ in real time is a thrill upon repeated viewing, it’s like movie magic. Ultimately, the series is concerned with creativity and friendship, as cameras were always rolling, it captures Ringo quitting the band (“i’ll be leaving now”) and McCartney’s fidgeting in the aftermath, the four playing many cover songs, the arrival of keyboardist Billy Preston and the final Rooftop concert, shown in real-time as the police finally bungle their way up the stairs.

It’s an endlessly fascinating, warts and all document of what it was really like to record as the Beatles. Peter Jackson first cut was 18-hours long which I would totally watch too. Yes, it’s that good.

4.

Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to LA

Billie Eilish’s 2021 concert film features every song on the album of the same name in sequential order live from the from the iconic Hollywood Bowl.

The performance features her musical partner Finneas, the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel and Brazilian guitarist, Romero Lubambo.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the concert film’s live scenes are interspersed by animated flights of fancy with Classic Hollywood flourishes, and fresh arrangements and takes on the songs from Eilish’s second album.

5.

McCartney 3,2,1

Shortly before the release of Get Back truly brought back Beatlemania last year, this six-track interview series was satiated my appetite for what was to come.

McCartney 3,2,1 is a refreshing take on an interview documentary in that it puts McCartney at a mixing desk with legendary producer Rick Rubin, shot in monochrome, and the pair just.. talk.

Rubin’s clear reverence and love for the music of the Beatles is evident and McCartney’s memory for the small details of what happened in the room while recording Beatles albums is razor sharp.

With the mixing desk and the tracks original stems, the pair are able to isolate and highlight key parts of Beatles recordings (and for many people it will be the first time they hear parts of the band’s songs with just the harmonies, the drums or bassline). Paul picks up a guitar or plays the piano for further demonstrative purposes, and it all adds up to a six-part series that wanted to binge after episode one.

6.

Wu-Tang: An American Saga

An American Saga tells the story of New York rap supergroup Wu-Tang Clan, with the source material wisely being Wu producer RZA books The Wu-Tang Manual and Tao of Wu.

It’s the origin story of overcoming the odds in ’90s New York with two seasons (with a third and final season on the way) of how a group of disparate MCs became the biggest rap group in the world.

It stars Ashton Sanders as RZA (Moonlight, Native Son), Shameik Moore as Raekwon (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and Siddiq Saunderson as Ghostface Killah (Messiah). Joey Bada$$ also stars as Inspectah Deck in season one.

7.

Black Is King

Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King also serves as a companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift, which she curated and uses that album as soundtrack and source text.

The film is a visual feast, loosely retelling the story of the original Lion King film with black-centric iconography and marks Beyoncé’s further explorations into the music-video format.

Black Is King is an immersive celebration and bridge of African and Black American culture culture, honouring by featuring African artists, actors, and dancers, fashion, music, and poetry, while centering Beyoncé as the film’s embodiment of the overall theme in a sumptous 85 minute visual feast.

8.

Taylor Swift: Folklore The Long Pond sessions

The release of Taylor Swift’s Folklore album during lockdown of summer 2020 was a surprise and not least it’s acoustic-rooted 17 songs, a return to an introspective sound for the pop star.

The Long Pond sessions is notable in that it captures the first performance of all 17 songs with the team who produced the album – Taylor, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner – meeting in person for the first time after recording the entire album remotely.

9.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story

Richard and Bob Sherman wrote some of the most famous songs in the world. Every man, woman and child especially knows the iconic songs that they wrote for Walt Disney Studios, and this doc tells their untold story.

‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ (Mary Poppins), ‘It’s a Small World (After All)’, ‘Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat’ (The Aristocats), ‘”I Wan’na Be like You’ (Jungle Book), ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ were all Sherman compositions.

Time to give them their flowers.


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