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Wick's Review

Created Aug 03, 2014 08:37PM PST • Edited Nov 28, 2019 09:54AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Get on Up joins the pantheon of great rock biopics, memorializing James Brown as a seminal rockstar whose power, pomp and circumstances paved the way for the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sly & the Family Stone, hip-hop and every other form of funkable & funkadelic music. Get on Up gets on down.

    Chadwick Boseman inhabits James Brown – the Godfather of Soul & the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. First he was Jackie Robinson in 42, now James Brown. That’s half the black Mount Rushmore. As a white guy, I wouldn’t presume to name all 4, but I’m pretty sure Chadwick Boseman has played 2.

    The movie is alternately jaw-dropping and LOL, occasionally both. It revels in having Boseman walk, talk and carry-on like James Brown, on-stage even when he’s off. It opens with James Brown administering a blistering yet LOL address to some hapless employees, complete with a shotgun. Shotgun HR as it were.

    Exec Music Producer Mick Jagger returns a favor to James Brown 50 years after alienating him by closing the T.A.M.I. show at the Santa Monica Civic. Cleverly, actors playing the Stones are shown waiting to go on. Then the real Stones are seen on a screen showing T.A.M.I. Show footage. But that’s not the half of it. Jagger coached Boseman on Brown. Think about it. Who else knows what it’s like to be that outrageous.

    Say it loud – Get on Up is a hair better than Ray and right up there with Walk the Line. With it, Soul Brother No. 1 joins Elvis & Ray & Buddy & Johnny in the cinematic rock pantheon. Get on Up!

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Chadwick Boseman is a credible James Brown, notwithstanding being six inches taller and requiring a prosthetic underbite. Importantly, he nails the essence: the crazy talk, the crazy walk, the funkadelic sound. Coming on top of Jackie Robinson in 42, he has now starred as half a cinematic Mount Rushmore.

    Family
    • Viola Davis as Susie Brown, James Brown’s teen Mom. Powerful Performance
    • Lennie James as James Brown’s abusive Father – Joe Brown
    • Octavia Spencer as his Aunt Honey, the madam who took him in and put him to work corralling johns into her cathouse.
    • Atkins Estimond as Big Junior, which made young James Brown Little Junior
    • Jacinte Blankenship as Velma Brown, his first wife
    • Jill Scott as Dee-Dee Brown, his Seventies second wife. After spotting a man sneaking a peak at her spectacular cleavage, he beat the hell out of her. Yeah, he pretty much hit all his women.
    Band
    • Nelsan Ellis appealingly plays Bobby Byrd, Mr. Brown’s top sideman, best friend and onetime partner. Strong song-n-dance part, to say the least, yet Ellis is more than up for the job.
    • Craig Robinson as Maceo Parker, one of Mr. Brown’s exploited sidemen. Same Craig Robinson from This Is The End.
    • Tika Sumpter as sexy singer Yvonne Fair
    • Aunjanue Ellis as the best singer James Brown ever had in his revue – Vicki Anderson, per Mr. Brown himself
    • Aakomon Jones as singer Bobby Bennett
    Business
    • Dan Aykroyd as Ben Bart, Jimmy Brown’s manager. Aykroyd knows unctuousness.
    • Fred Melamed as Syd Nathan, record label President, the man who taught J.B. that there’s Show and there’s Business.
    Cameos
    • Brandon Mychal Smith as Little Richard gets the hair right and the Queen’s English too. The movie shows a meeting between Little Richard and James Brown when Tutti Frutti was being pressed into hot wax. The future rockstar was flipping burgers with his pompadour up in a hairnet.
    • Nick Eversman as Mick Jagger has no lines, nor looks much like Stone Brother No. 1.
    • Ralph Tresvant as Sam Cooke
  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Tate Taylor took some risks and made them pay off, starting with directing a biopic of James Brown. He then has his larger-than-life subject talk directly to the camera while taking the stage at some of his biggest performances. This works terrifically well. Also, Taylor’s film deftly skips foreword & back in time. Bravo!

    Notable Credits
    • Best Credit: Wig Consultant
    • 13 dancers
    • 50 singers & musicians
    • 14 drivers
    • 14 stunts
  9. Direction Really Great 4.5

    Better than Tate Taylor’s The Help, though in fairness, as a guy I’m much more drawn to a biopic about the creator of Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag than a female focused flick.

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    Jez & John-Henry Butterworth turned in a very fun screenplay, collaborating with Steven Baigelman on the story: fun but sobering and downright respectful when it needs to be.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    We have Mick Jagger, a star of James Brown’s stature, to thank for the musical power. Plus something like 50 supporting musicians and singers. The James Brown sound clearly isn’t easy to reproduce.

    I didn’t much like James Brown music – too harsh to my Caucasian ear – before understanding it.

    • Every instrument a drum, guitars and horns included
    • Electrified African chants
    • Scat singing atop a hyper-rhythm
    • R&B, but much more Rhythm than Blues
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Sordid 2.6

    It’s a sordid story, full of private jets, fur coats and all manner of rockstar privileges. Abuse happens, to little James Brown and by grown James Brown. One wonders what Chris Brown thinks of watching this biopic of James Brown?

  15. Sex Titillating 2.5
  16. Violence Fierce 1.9
  17. Rudeness Profane 3.5
  18. Glib 1.2

    Get on Up shows the whole sordid story, tarted up though it may be. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear: that kind of thing. Much rings true, e.g. I remember his ’88 arrest that the movie shows vividly.

    Of all the fascinating aspects of James Brown’s life and career shown in the movie, his entrepreneurially brilliant takeover of his show business dealings stands out. Cutting out all the payola parasites, he took over promotion of his own music and shows, becoming vastly wealthier as a result.

    Finally, he gave himself nicknames, just like Muhammad Ali & Shaquille O’Neal did. Shaq still does.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0

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