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Title: Get On Up

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:86

Chadwick Boseman seems to be on a role playing historical/cultural figures recently. He was brought into the limelight with his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in the movie “42” (amazing movie by the way), and again hits the character out of the park by playing the Godfather of soul himself, James Brown. Ironically Chadwick didn’t even want to play another iconic figure after “42”, and director Tate Taylor had to hound his agent for quite a while to even get the young actor to consider the role. I have to say that the end result is quite stunning. The story is rather good, but Chadwick Boseman OWNED the role of James Brown in a way that I didn’t think was possible, and while I loved the characterization done, it was the physical elements that really sold the show. The facial tics, the incredible physical presence on stage, and that voice…oh my goodness that voice.

The movie starts out in 1988, just before the famous incarceration, as a makeup and prosthetics wearing Chadwick Boseman saunters in to an Insurance seminar with a shotgun ready to confront whoever used his private bathroom next door. What follows is the famed car chase by police and the incarceration of James Brown for attempted assault of an officer, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After a slightly incoherent rant from the befuddled Brown we jump back in time to James’ early childhood. There we see the abuse that happened towards him at a young age in the 1930s. His mom (Viola Davis) abandons the family and leaves him with his physically abusive father (Lennie James) only to be abandoned by him as well and raised by his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) at her brothel. Getting into trouble at a young age nets the boy short stint in prison which brings him into contact with Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis….AKA Lafayette from “True Blood”). Realizing the vocal potential in James, Bobby convinces his family to take the orphaned boy into their household in order to get him parole. There Bobby and James fine tune their musical talents for what is to become “The Famous Flames”.

The story jumps around in time a lot. The main storyline that goes forward is constantly interrupted with flashbacks to different points in time that shaped James Brown’s life and also utilizes plenty of times where the 4th wall is broken, sometimes smashed to rubble actually, and James comments to the audience. Once “The Famous Flames” takes off it becomes very obvious who the big pull is and James lets nothing stand in his way, even the friendship of Bobby Byrd and “The Famous Flames” becomes just “James Brown”. Much like a conversation with another rising star musician in his hometown, James Brown falls prey to the niceties of being famous and things start to fall apart. The drugs start happening, the multiple marriages (interesting bit of trivia, they intimated that he had 2 marriages in the film, but in actuality he had 4), the distrust, the physical abuse of his wives, the list goes on.

The movie itself is rather good. The flashbacks do start to get wearing after a while, but they serve a purpose and I have to say the cinematography is absolutely stunning in telling the story, but what really shines here is the incredible music. You can’t help but admit that the main pull of a James Brown movie is to hear that stunning voice that shaped modern music in ways that we are only just seeing. Chadwick Boseman did belt out a few lines of music, but that incredible singing voice is hard to replicate and they used studio tracks with some digital smoothing going on to sound “live” so what you’re hearing is the real James Brown up there on stage. However, vocals are just half of the coin in a James Brown concert, as the man is virtual physical powerhouse on stage. The dancing, the splits, the jiving…..the man had it all and Chadwick throws himself into the role with a ferocity that pays off in the end. He moves so much like the Godfather that it is eerie at times. Not to mention the facial tics and the movements off stage as well, add that to the fact that Boseman replicated that raspy voice down to the T makes the transformation of a young 6 foot tall actor into the Godfather of Soul downright amazing. As I said, the movie is quite good, but the physical performance of Chadwick Boseman is downright legendary.

Some parts of the movie tended to be a bit cliché, especially with the internal drama. I know much of it really happened, but he Hollywood third act with the reconciliation with Bobby Byrd felt a bit too cheesy for my taste. That and the constant use of those flashbacks pulled the movie down a few notches. Some of them served their purpose but at nearly 2 ½ hours some of that could have been trimmed in my opinion. Still “Get on Up” breezed along at a nice clip and mad for a very interesting Biopic on one of music’s greatest legends. If anything, I certainly gained a newfound respect for Boseman’s acting talents and really am excited to see what he does next after the impressive work he did portraying the hardest working man in show business.


Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations

Video :4.5stars:
“Get on Up” sports a fantastic looking 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Featuring a couple different color gradings dependent on the period that the film is portraying we have a picture that is just this much short of perfection. The old 1930’s and 1950’s era have a nice golden grading to them, giving the colors a slight diffused look, while the 70’s and 80’s have a much more natural looking color tone in an effort to make it feel more modern. Primaries are nice and bright, especially up on stage with those bright outfits and shiny sparkles that James was so famous for donning. Black levels are inky black and even the onstage darkness looks incredible. Little bits of fine detail are apparent everywhere as you can see everything (and sometimes that includes the prosthetics Boseman was wearing as an older James). I was really impressed from beginning to end and loved the eye candy that the film displayed. Excellent from beginning to end.

Audio :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track sparkles just as much as the video with a fantastic track that accentuates the wonderful music. I’ll say it up front, the music is the star here. The track does a fantastic job with the vocals, the dynamic range, the surround usage of ambient noise, but the music is simply awe inspiringly represented on this disc. All 6 channels light up with an incredible dimensionality that just puts a smile on your face when James Brown’s voice starts a singing. The balance with the rest of the track is superb as I’ve had movies where the music is nice and powerful, while the voices are a bit muffled, or the opposite being true (I’m looking at you “Rock of Ages”), but “Get on Up” is exquisitely balanced to where the music and the vocals can interact organically. The only dialogue issue I ever had was occasionally trying to decipher James Brown’s heavy accent at times. The Jive talk occasionally moved a bit too fast and I had to pop on subs just to double check that I actually heard what I heard.

Extras :3.5stars:
• On stage with the hardest working man
• The founding father of funk
• 10 Deleted/Extended scenes
• Full song performances
• Extended song performance
• Long journey to the screen
• Chadwick Boseman: Meet Mr. James Brown
• The Get on up family
• Tate Taylor’s master class
• Audio Commentary

Overall: :4stars:

“Get on Up” was definitely a fun little movie that cemented my love for Chadwick Boseman even more. His acting and his OWNING of the role is what made this a better movie than the script allowed. I had a few moments where I honestly questioned the writing of the script, but my eyes were just locked on James Brown and his incredible music the entire time, so those little inconsistencies are easier to overlook than not. The presentation on the disc itself is quite stunning, both with the audio and the video, plus plenty of extras to please the collectors by a large margin. Definitely recommended.

Additional Information:

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Written By: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Buttherworth
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0
Studio: Universal Studios
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 138 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 6th 2015

Buy Get On Up Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

More about Mike

10 Posts
I agree, the degree to which Boseman inhabited the role was incredible.

But what made the movie for me was that they attempted--and succeeded--in the one thing that's so frequently lacking in these biopics of musicians: They actually showed glimpses of how he revolutionized music. Check that scene when he's rehearsing the band, and getting pushback from some of his players, especially Maceo Parker. Even Parker, an acknowledged giant, didn't get where Brown was going. Brown was pulling the music apart, turning one part upside down, and recombining it to make something no one had ever heard before.

Once I heard a talk by Michael Tilson Thomas, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, describing his student days and racing around LA from one class to the next rehearsal. One day he had the car radio on and heard "I Feel Good." When he heard that horn fanfare he got so excited he had to pull over, jump out of the car and then jump up and down yelling, "That's what Stravinsky was TRYING to do!!"

Oh and let's not forget: great cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt.
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