Biopic Full of Funk: GET ON UP (James Brown)

Friday, August 1, 2014

I know biopics often get a bad name, they can be cliched and predictable or the reverse, so creatively told that you lose the gist of the story and the heart of the intended subject.  I tend to like them good or bad, from offerings like The Runaways (Cherie Currie & Joan Jett) which didn't quite hit the mark, to Ray (Ray Charles) and Walk The Line (Johnny Cash) that rightfully became critically acclaimed films.  I'm just fascinated with the whole rise and fall aspect of telling life stories.  When it comes to director Tate Taylor (The Help) efforts to tell the beginnings, middle and near end of the life of James Brown, I'd put it closely on par with Ray and I've never been a big fan of Brown, the man or his music - Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

Get On Up Around the Web

“Get On Up,” thrillingly captures the frenzy of Brown’s music, and the forces driving that frenzy, both musical and personal. Like its gyrating, spasmodic staccato beats, “Get On Up” refuses to stand still. It whirls and does splits and jumps, with leaps around in time and changes in tempo that are jarring and abrupt and that usually feel just right... READ MORE Stephen Holden The New York Times

T&T -  So true, every other scene is punctuated with big musical numbers showcasing the musical genius of the "Godfather of Soul". Note: despite the fact that I don't have James Brown's songs among my CD collection, doesn't mean I don't recognize the impact of his music on American culture and generations of pop music).

Boseman throws himself into the role and not only nails his husky drawl but his dynamic, untiring moves. If Boseman isn’t as electric as the real deal, he’s close enough, and he doesn’t try to play him as a real person who turns the show on and off. He’s always on, more cartoon than man — which is to say he’s James Brown.... READ MORE - Matt Prigge New York METRO

T&T first off the make-up artist deserve kudos. Still, with or without makeup, Chadwick Boseman truly worked hard on every aspect of portraying this abusive, egotistical, whip smart, musically gifted, larger than life character.  I just fear the movie has been released too early to allow Boseman to be an Oscar contender, but he's certainly got my vote!

Jill Scott on playing Brown's abused second wife - ... Jill even tried to replicate the physical pain Dee-Dee suffered to fully immerse herself in the role. As she told The YBF: “I knew [the blow] was going to happen and I prepared with a stunt man just so I could know how to fall and then I decided that knowing wasn’t going to help me that I needed to allow myself to really be afraid and to fall. So we did a kind of smack to the face and then I let it happen. I hit the table pretty hard, and I hit the wall pretty hard. I hurt myself pretty good but I was really proud of it because it made people go [gasps] and that’s what you want. You don’t want it to look prepared because you know Dee Dee wasn’t prepared for that smack. So how could I be prepared for it?”...READ MORE Clutch Magazine

Viola Davis as Brown's estranged mother
Taylor peppers the picture with good moments, especially in the first hour, but he also resorts to cheesy tactics like having Brown look straight at the camera and talk or smile or wink to us. Breaking the fourth wall can be an effective device, but Taylor doesn't make it organic to the film as a whole. Instead of feeling like Brown is letting us in on his most private moments, itís clear that the director is simply using it in order to take advantage of the best thing he has at his disposal -- his charismatic leading man... READ MORE Perry Seibert TV Guide

T&T - I don't agree with this, I like the winking, nodding moments of talking directly to us, felt it was used effectively, the movie tries not to get too weighted down with race, drugs, spousal abuse, politics, instead it focuses on Brown as a larger than life you've gotta love em even if you hate him type character.  The breaking of the 4th wall helps to keep it light.

I also read a review that criticized the fact that the film goes back and forth in time, calling it confusing. I had absolutely no problem following the progression of the movie, a completely linear biopic would feel like a TV movie, this story telling device of completing some scenes at a later point gives Get on Up texture.

The only thing I'd say is missing is a clip of Eddie Murphy doing James Brown from the Hot Tub skit on SNL. There is however, a scene where one of his band members imitates Brown's stage persona, complete with a horrible wig, not knowing Brown is looking on. Later, the often ill tempered singer lets on he knows about the mimicking and shares in the joke.

T &T's LAMB Score: 4 outta 5

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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