How does 'Jimi: All Is by My Side' compare to 2014's other music bios?

How does 'Jimi: All Is by My Side' compare to 2014's other music bios?
Andre Benjamin in "Jimi: All Is by My Side." (XLrator Media)

Filmmakers have long been drawn to stories of iconic musicians, and it's easy to see why: They come pre-packaged with charismatic characters, a rise-to-fame story arc (with the occasional fall from grace), a built-in audience and a killer soundtrack. None of that guarantees a compelling movie, though, and for every hit like "Ray" or "Walk the Line," there's a miss like "The Runaways" or "The Doors."

The latest musical biopic to step into the spotlight is "Jimi: All Is by My Side," which comes on the heels of "Get on Up" and "Jersey Boys" earlier this year. Here's a look at how the three films match up.


Who is it about?

"All Is by My Side": Singer, songwriter and guitar god Jimi Hendrix.

"Get on Up": James Brown, the Godfather of Soul and Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.

"Jersey Boys": Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito, better known as the Four Seasons.

Who directed it?

"AIBMS": John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "12 Years a Slave." It's his second film as a director, after the little-seen 1997 movie "Cold Around the Heart."

"GOU": Tate Taylor, who previously directed "The Help."

"JB": Clint Eastwood.

Who's in it?

"AIBMS": OutKast rapper-turned-actor Andre Benjamin.

"GOU": Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in "42."

"JB": John Lloyd Young (reprising his role from the Tony-winning stage show), Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza.

Is that really them singing? What songs?

"AIBMS": Benjamin sings, while ace guitarist Waddy Wachtel provides the licks (Benjamin did learn to play left-handed, though).

Because the filmmakers couldn't get the rights to Hendrix's songs from his estate, "All Is by My Side" doesn't feature any of the artist's original music: Instead it includes songs he covered, such as "Wild Thing," "Mannish Boy" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

"GOU": Boseman lip-syncs to Brown's vocals on songs such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "Get Up Offa That Thing." He also expertly replicates Brown's fancy footwork.

"JB": Yep, that's the actors singing — they recorded live on set. Songs include "Sherry," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and "Rag Doll."

How much time does it cover?

"AIBMS": Just one transformative year, from 1966 to '67, when Hendrix traveled to England and set the London club circuit ablaze. The film concludes just before the Monterey Pop Festival performance that would launch him to new heights.

"GOU": In decidedly nonlinear fashion, the film flashes back and forth across Brown's life, from his dirt-poor childhood in rural Georgia (1939) to his eventual superstardom (1993).

"JB": A more conventional trajectory, from the group's humble origins in 1951 New Jersey to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Is it any good? What about box office?

"AIBMS": "All Is by My Side" has earned generally positive reviews, with many critics praising Benjamin's performance and Ridley's artful direction. It's an indie film in limited release, so don't expect eye-popping box-office numbers; on the other hand, it was made on a modest budget of about $5 million.

"GOU": "Get on Up" also met with mostly positive reviews, though a number of critics were put off by the aggressively nonlinear script. Boseman received excellent notices for the commitment and physicality of his performance. Commercially, though, the film has underperformed, grossing about $30 million domestically — about the same as its estimated production budget.

"JB": Eastwood's film failed to impress critics or connect with audiences. Reviews were unenthusiastic, and the film grossed $47 million domestically, not much more than its $40-million budget.

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