Northampton Press

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Movie Review: Get down with 'Get On Up'

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Get On Up," the bio pic about James Brown, takes you inside the career, mind and heart of the Godfather of Soul.

James Brown was a controversial figure onstage and off.

Onstage, he was a dancing dynamo, setting the stage for Michael Jackson, the choreography of Motown groups the Four Tops, Temptations and Supremes and a bass-drums-horn rhythm section that became the foundation of funk.

Offstage, he got into trouble with the law, became an advocate for the African-American community and battled drug addiction.

"Get On Up" presents the good, the bad and the ugly sides of James Brown, whose career spanned six decades, starting with "Please, Please, Please" (1956), but mostly the 1960s: "Live At The Apollo" album (1962), and the singles "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" (1965), "I Got You" (1965), "It's A Man's Man's World" (1966) and "Say It Loud: I'm Black And I'm Proud" (1968).

Brown was more than a caricature for Eddie Murphy's hilarious hot-tub parody on "Saturday Night Live" (1986). Brown (1933 - 2006) was a complicated man.

"Get On Up" is a complicated film. Director Tate Taylor ("The Help," 2011) shuffles the deck of James Brown's career and life, shifting faster than a James Brown spin from present to past in the screenplay by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (co-writers, screenplay, "Edge Of Tomorrow," 2014) from a story they wrote with Steven Baigelman ("Brother's Keeper," 2002; "Feeling Minnesota," 1996).

Taylor has Brown, played magnificently by Chadwick Boseman, talk directly to camera and look right into the lens, but not as consistently or successfully as in director Clint Eastwood's "Jersey Boys."

"Get On Up" is worth seeing for the back story about Brown: his rise from abject poverty in Georgia, business savvy in dealing with record labels, promoters and his band, and especially the performance of Boseman (who lip-syncs Brown's songs).

Boseman becomes James Brown, as he became Jackie Robinson, who he portrayed so memorably in "42." Boseman has the stance, head titled upward, lower lip jutting to accentuate Brown's powerful jaw, gravely voice and slide-across-the floor, spinning and leg splits dance moves.

Dan Akyroyd is a hoot as Brown's manager. Also excellent in supporting roles are Viola Davis as Brown's mother and Octavia Spencer as the woman who raised Brown.

One of the best things about "Get On Up" is the can't sit still funky music of James Brown.

Get on up off of that couch and go see "Get On Up."

"Get On Up," MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations; Genre: Biography, Drama, Music; Run Time: 2 hrs., 18 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The "Get On Up" closing credits crawl includes archival photos of James Brown. The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger is the film's executive producer. Now we know where Mick got his "moves like Jagger."

This column is dedicated to Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

Box Office, Aug. 15: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" didn't crawl back into their shells, but continued at No. 1 for two weeks in a row, $28.4 million, $117.6 million, two weeks, with "Guardians Of The Galaxy" continuing at No. 2, with $24.7 million, $222.2 million, three weeks, keeping "Let's Be Cops" opening at No. 3, with $17.7 million for the weekend and $26.1 million since opening Aug. 13, "The Expendables 3," opening at No. 4, with $16.2 million, and "The Giver" opening at No. 5 with $12.7 million;

6. "Into The Storm," $7.7 million, $31.3 million, two weeks; 7. "The Hundred-Foot Journey," $7.1 million, $23.6 million, two weeks; 8. "Lucy," $5.3 million, $107.5 million, four weeks; 9. "Step Up All In," $2.7 million, $11.8 million, two weeks; 10. "Boyhood," $2.2 million, $13.8 million, six weeks

Unreel, Aug. 22:

"Sin City: A Dame To Kill For," Rated R:: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez direct Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Jaime King, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Juno Temple, Eva Green, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd and Lady Gaga in the crime thriller sequel.

"If I Stay," PG-13: Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the drama about a young woman who's in a coma following a car crash.

"When The Game Stands Tall," PG: A drama based on the true story of Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), who coached the De La Salle High School Spartans to a 151-game win streak, said to be the longest-ever. Michael Chiklis and Laura Dern co-star.

"Love Is Strange," R: Marisa Tomei, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina star in the drama about a teacher who is fired and must stay with friends.

"Are You Here," R: Two childhood friends go on a road trip to their hometown after one inherits money from his father. Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Melissa Rauch Jenna Fischer and Amy Poehler star in the comedy.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.