Maybe it's their energetic shows, insightful lyrics, rags-to-riches stories and crazy lifestyles (and hair) that make rock stars so entertaining. This fall, Pearl Jam, U2, two former Beatles and more will continue to captivate — this time at the movies. Rock bands will take fans backstage in a new batch of documentaries. USA TODAY's Carly Mallenbaum rounds up the offerings and US Weekly's Ian Drew weighs in on why the films are worth watching.
Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon
Tale behind the title: Named for the city in Oklahoma where the band's family hosts annual reunions.
Director: Stephen C. Mitchell befriended brothers Nathan and Caleb Followill 10 years ago while working at a music publishing company. Mitchell sensed the songwriters would make it big, so when he was invited to the Followill family reunion in 2002, he started filming the documentary before Kings of Leon formed. He uses intimate home videos and gritty behind-the-scenes footage (like one particularly vicious argument between the brothers) in his directorial debut.
Showtime: Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, airing throughout September on Showtime and Showtime 2.
Why it's worth watching: The Followill boys (three brothers and their cousin) of the Grammy Award-winning rock band have talked about their impoverished, Pentecostal upbringing in interviews before, but the film delves deeper into their back story. In one scene, when a copy of Rolling Stone with the band's photo on the cover is shown on The Price is Right, the group's hometown fans go nuts.
Interesting extra: The film premiered right after Caleb left a performance in Dallas mid-set and the band canceled the remainder of its U.S. tour, citing his exhaustion. Jared tweeted, "There are internal sicknesses & problems that have needed to be addressed." Talihina Sky more than hints at these issues.
Kings of Leon "are in such a tumultuous time," says Ian Drew, senior music editor at US Weekly. "Fans are going to want to see the real story behind the brothers."
Pearl Jam Twenty
Tale behind the title: It has been 20 years since the band's debut album Ten was released.
Director: Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) interviewed Pearl Jam as a staff writer for Rolling Stone and even featured the then-unknown band in one of his films. Crowe's longstanding relationship with Pearl Jam allowed him to tell the group's story with interviews that never have aired. (The trailer shows a rare exchange betweenDavid Lynch and Eddie Vedder).
Showtime: Premieres Saturday at Toronto International Film Festival, opens Sept. 20 in major cities and airs Oct. 21 on PBS.
Why it's worth watching: The band struggled with its sudden rise to superstardom in the grunge era. Pearl Jam Twenty shows how the group managed to stay together.
Crowe's movie uses two hours — cut from 3,000 hours of footage — to give fans an insider look at the group that's usually "very, very behind closed doors," says Drew.
Interesting extra: Pearl Jam held a Labor Day music festival in Wisconsin to celebrate the anniversary and launched a "20 Days of Pearl Jam Countdown" to the movie's release (www.pj20.com/countdown).
An accompanying soundtrack (with two CDs and 29 rare tracks, curated by Crowe) and book (with a foreward from Crowe) will be released Oct. 25
From the Sky Down
Tale behind the title: It's a reference to the band's songwriting process that Bono discusses in the film.
Director: Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth) uses new interviews and footage of U2's recording sessions to show why the band has "defied the gravitational pull toward destruction," he says.
Showtime: Kicks off the Toronto Film Festival today, the festival's first documentary opener in 36 years. Airs Oct. 29 on Showtime.
Why it's worth watching: "This is a band that's constantly evolving. … They're at a different point in their career right now," says Drew.
More than a dozen films have been made about the U2 concert experience, but From the Sky Down lets the audience be in the stands and behind the scenes. The movie looks at the making of U2's groundbreaking 1991 album Achtung Baby which, in Bono's words, was "the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree" (the name of the group's massively successful 1987 album).
Interesting extra: U2 is re-releasing Achtung Baby on Oct. 31 in several formats, including the appropriately titled Uber Deluxe Edition package ($659) that has six CDs, five singles, four DVDs, 16 art prints, Bono sunglasses, a book and stickers. If fans want to ask questions about the film, they can post on twitter with the hashtag #THESKYDOWN by noon ET Friday. Edge, Bono and Guggenheim will answer tweets during a live chat Friday beginning at 1:30 ET on U2.com.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Tale behind the title: Takes its name from Harrison's introspective 1973 solo album.
Director: Martin Scorsese, who directed No Direction Home: Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stone documentary Shine a Light, knew Harrison personally. After Harrison's widow, Olivia, saw No Direction Home, she asked if Scorsese would make a similar film about George.
Showtime: Parts 1 and 2 air Oct. 5 and 6 on HBO
Why it's worth watching: Harrison was "so eclipsed by John and Paul. Even Ringo. It's time for him to shine," says Drew.
Living in the Material World uses never-before-seen interviews with Paul McCartney andRingo Starr in addition to home videos to let viewers peek into the mind of one of the most complex, but least understood, musicians of his time.
Interesting extra:Olivia Harrison is releasing a companion 400-page George Harrison: Living in the Material World book on Sept. 27.
Neil Young Life
Tale behind the title:Life is also the name of a 2002 Young album.
Director: Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) likes to make Neil Young films. He has already made two: Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Neil Young: Trunk Show.
Showtime: Premieres Monday at the Toronto Film Festival.
Why it's worth watching: Demme's Heart of Gold was a meticulous concert movie, while his Trunk Show was more like a "bootleg" version of a documentary, the director says. Neil Young Life promises to have a unique style, with Demme using concert footage and scenes from the road to document the Godfather of Grunge's two May 2011 Toronto shows.
"Neil Young is one of the rock greats. This is a guy who changes his sound all the time," says Drew.
Interesting extra: Young is a native of Toronto. After the film screens, Young and Demme will be part of an onstage conversation at the film festival.
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
Tale behind the title: It's the name of the British group's first American hit record.
Director: David Peck is the founder of Reelin' In the Years LLC, a source of music footage that represents 35 TV and film archives worldwide.
Showtime: Premieres Sept. 22 at American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, Calif. Arrives on DVD Oct. 4.
Why it's worth watching: "They were inspirations for a lot of people — everyone fromMaroon 5 to R.E.M.," says Drew.
Look Through Any Window follows The Hollies' start as young boys who sang together to their last major hit in 1975, and includes 22 performances, new interviews with the original band members, never-before-released home movies and recording sessions.
Interesting extra: The Aero Theatre premiere will have a post-film panel discussion with band members Graham Nash, Alan Clarke and the film's producers. The DVD will include rare photographs of The Hollies and an essay by former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres.
The Love We Make
Tale behind the title:The End, a song Paul McCartney wrote for The Beatles, has a line that goes, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
Directors: Albert Maysles co-directed The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit and Gimme Shelter, the movie about a controversial Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. While filming The Love We Make, he did his best to hide and told McCartney to ignore him.
Showtime: Premieres Saturday on Showtime. Benefit screenings will be staged today for American Express cardholders in various U.S. cities.
Why it's worth watching: The focus is "The Concert for New York City," which the former Beatle helped organize as a night of healing in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This isn't about McCartney's superstar career, rather his response to a devastating event, which occurred while he sat in a grounded plane at New York's JFK airport.
"We're talking about someone with very voracious fans," says Drew. McCartney is "theicon of rock."
Interesting extra: The film airs on Showtime exactly a decade after 9/11. The documentary has been under wraps all these years.