Thursday, August 14, 2014

The hardest working reviewer in show business

Any critic can review movies everyone has seen. But to write reviews for movies that no one has seen and still make them entertaining, that’s a challenge. With GET ON UP I guess I accept that challenge. If I could see 3D or be willing to brave the teen texters and parents who bring screaming babies to the theater I’m sure I’d catch more of the popular ones. Most of my movie-going these days is membership screenings at the WGA and DGA. They’re free, audiences really do turn their cellphones off, and it’s nice to be in a full theater and still be one of the youngest people there.

And just because the buying public doesn’t respond to a movie doesn’t mean it’s bad. There have been many undiscovered gems that came and went in virtual obscurity because they failed to have anyone in them who wore a cape. So I had high hopes for GET ON UP. It’s the story of R&B superstar James Brown (whose music I love), in an era I love, and for good measure, when he was on stage he often did wear a cape.

And theater owners had to be happy. What better in-movie-commercial was there than James Brown singing “Popcorn?”

There’s a lot to like about this film. The problem is there’s too much. It’s almost two-and-a-half hours long. You could easily take forty minutes out of this movie. And its fatal flaw – you could take any forty minutes out of this movie.  Instead of GET ON UP, the title should be WE GET IT.
First the good news. The soundtrack is terrific and Chadwick Boseman is electrifying as the Godfather of Soul. He’s got him down – from the voice to the moves. First Jackie Robinson and now this. Imagine what he could do playing a fictional character. I thought Chadwick was better as James Brown than Jamie Foxx was as Ray Charles and Jamie won an Academy Award for his performance. Will Chadwick be so lucky? I think it depends on the competition. Will there be other movies that Academy members DO see?  That could spell trouble.

More good news – Clint Eastwood didn’t direct it.

As for the bad news – this film is waaaay over-directed. It cuts back and forth in time leaving the viewer utterly confused. Director Tate Taylor takes no chances. He throws every convention he can at you. He breaks the fourth wall, does time lapse montages – I was just relieved Oprah Winfrey didn’t show up in a cameo.

The portrait of James Brown was quite idealized, and that’s with showing multiple arrests and spousal violence. There were way more arrests, much more domestic violence, drug use, and rape charges.  He had at least nine kids and at least three marriages.   To me a better movie would have shown the real contradictions between this genius performer and music industry visionary and troubled, angry, very damaged soul. We only see brief glimpses of his dark side. For every moment he’s fucked up there’s ten minutes he’s funked up.

There are numerous scenes of Brown’s horrible dysfunctional childhood in the deep South that quite frankly would have had more impact if we hadn't already seen similar scenes in five or six other movies.   That's just a timing issue. 

The rest of the cast was fine except for Dan Ackroyd. He can’t play real and he sure can’t play Jewish.

All in all, too long, great music, but if you want to get a much better, more accurate portrait of the man, instead of this (which no one is watching anyway), go see the documentary THE NIGHT JAMES BROWN SAVED BOSTON by filmmaker, David Leaf. It’s “Outta SIGHT!”

22 comments:

Hamid said...

Does it cover his legendary appearance in ROCKY IV where he performed Living In America? One of the most surreal movie/real life celebrity crossover moments ever.

Hamid said...

I was just relieved Oprah Winfrey didn’t show up in a cameo.

She'll probably be on the Blu-Ray extended cut.

Dan Ball said...

"Instead of GET ON UP, the title should be WE GET IT."

Pow! lol

Pat Reeder said...

I have to see this movie because a friend of ours, the terrific singer/actress Liz Mikel, is in it. But you can't complain about both the length and how many arrests, domestic disputes and illegitimate kids it left out. If the movie included them all, it would be longer than "Cleopatra."

Anonymous said...

I was happy to see Dan Akroyd in this film, since his Blues Brothers movie featured the real James Brown. Seemed like a fitting tribute.

John Leader Alfenito said...

"You could easily take forty minutes out of this movie."
You could easily say that about almost every movie currently in theaters.

Tim Ahern said...

When I was a teenager in1965-1967 I used to go to the local TV dance shows; 9th Street West, Boss City, American Bandstand. James Brown was the guest on a 9th Street West episode promoting “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”. Sam Riddle introduced him, the music starts and the classic JB moves begin. All the performances were lip synced in those days but no vocals are heard and James is just dancing up a storm. After about a minute the music fades & Sam comes back on and says “we played the wrong cut; here is the correct one!”. The song starts again & now it contains the vocals. James dutifully lip syncs and the song ends. Sam apologizes profusely. JB said ”that’s OK; I would have danced until the end anyway” He was mesmerizing on the floor. Recommend the “T.A.M.I Show” DVD to see him in action…

Hamid said...

Off-topic but I only just read what Rush Limbaugh said about Robin Williams. I sincerely hope Limbaugh dies a slow, painful death. He's a total piece of shit and I'll throw a party when he dies.

VP81955 said...

"Get On Up" may have been swamped by "Guardians Of The Galaxy" the opening weekend of August, but it's not as if it sank without a trace. IIRC, it made $10+K.

And playing both Jackie Robinson and James Brown? That's reminiscent of Loni Anderson portraying Jayne Mansfield and Thelma Todd in a pair of TV movies.

Kyle said...

Making outrageous, "Oh, my god! I can't believe he really said that!" remarks is stock-in-trade for Limbaugh. It's how he ensures his name making regular appearances on every social media outlet in the country, generally accompanied by a headline screaming, "You won't believe what Rush Limbaugh just said!" It may be reprehensible and it may not be right, but it keeps his name out there and keeps people talking about him, which is what he wants.

Scooter Schechtman said...

In the 80s there was talk of making biopics of both Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix, with Prince listed as a possible Jimi and Forest Whittaker as Otis. I don't know what became of either of those, though there was a craptacular "Showtime" movie on Hendrix in the 90s.

Scott Cason said...

Incredible how you guys let a simple radio talk show host get under your skin the way he does.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
H Johnson said...

Jeez, I was all set to comment on the James Brown movie when that anonymous douche bag suck the air out of the room.

By the way nameless dude, hanging yourself isn't brave. You want to go out because you're gonna get sicker? Notify your family, leave town and spare your family and loved ones the drama. And besides who cares? He's gone and it's sad, and how everyone else feels about it isn't your problem.

Sorry Ken. Uh... I agree with you about the film except I didn't buy him as James Brown as much as Jamie Fox as Brother Ray.

Tim said...

Well, I have to confess that while I'm sorry the guy's dead, I haven't exactly felt the kind of devastation I'm apparently supposed to be feeling. I was never even that much of a fan. Like I said, I'm sorry he's dead and sorry for his family, but it's not like I knew him.

404 said...

Anonymous, the fact that Ken hasn't deleted your comment yet proves he's a better person than you are. Seriously, you feel pretty good about yourself, I bet? Even though whatever it is you think you proved, you didn't. So he had Parkinson's great. Does that somehow negate the effects of depression? Or make whatever he did somehow better? Or make any more sense than the depression alone?

Of course not.

Now fuck off.

Stephen Robinson said...

What did assholes do before the Internet?

Stephen Robinson said...

I wish we could have gotten a RAGING BULL type film for James Brown. He strikes me as complex enough for such a story rather than the mawkishness that many bio-pics can produce.

RG said...

Anonymous,

I wish to sincerely thank you for your "full Jew" comment. I always appreciate when a person let's me know they are an anti-Semite and proud of it. I then know to treat their words as if they were written or spoken by a mongrel. Yours is an inconsequential and truly sad life without the hope for any true happiness and that is your punishment.

Liggie said...

Sometimes, 'ti's better to bite your tongue and let someone else win an argument, than to prove you're right and be a tone-deaf horse's ass.

Anonymous said...

404 said...

"Anonymous, the fact that Ken hasn't deleted your comment yet proves he's a better person than you are. "

Not so fast, there 404. Your hero did delete the comment, undermining your claim. That's gotta hurt.

But really, it's not important. My intent was to give him some good advice so as to avoid appearing as a self-indulgent at Robin's expense. I don't care what Ken does on his own. I don't care my post is "broadcast" or not. He got the message, just as he will get this one, and hopefully he's learned his lesson.

I kinda doubt it, though. Narcissists don't respond well to being called out as narcissists, do they?

It's fun to note that Rosanne, the lady he's continually ragged on as a nut case, was the one who selflessly linked to his lament about the tragedy, calling for sympathy for those suffering from mental disorders. He didn't link to her posts.

I think Rosanne had the last laugh.

I, Anonymous

normadesmond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.