Get On Up Blu-ray review
James Brown is one of the most prolific and celebrated artists in modern music. Over his career, he recorded nearly 150 singles, released more than 70 albums and landed 90+ songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Rolling Stone named him the seventh greatest artist of all time (they also named his Live at the Apollo album the 25th best album ever; six of his songs ranked on their list of the greatest songs ever). He was inducted as part of the first class in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor. Streets have been named after him and statues have been erected in his honor. His personal life found him marrying three times, having (at least) nine children and facing numerous arrests.
GET ON UP opens in 1993, with Brown (Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Jackie Robinson in Brian Helgeland’s 42) walking down a hallway decked out in a slick red costume as an audience chants his name. Flash back to 1988 and Brown waving a shotgun and demanding to know who used his toilet. Flash back to 1968 and Brown onboard a plane enroute to Vietnam to perform. Flash back to the 1930s and Brown living in the woods with his parents.
There are several flashbacks and flashforwards that cover all of the ups and downs of The Godfather of Soul’s life and career. It’s all of the material one expects to find in a musical biopic—the troubled childhood, the first smash hit, the arrests, the marital issues, the drugs, the legacy—but the structure keeps the pace moving at the sort of speed Brown must have been used to. Such a pace works to the advantage of GET ON UP, which runs fairly close to two and a half hours.
A biopic at least partly depends on a strong lead. Boseman (who is set to appear as Black Panther in the third CAPTAIN AMERICA entry) was up for the challenge and gives a magnetic and wildly energetic performance. While Boseman at times has to imitate Mr. Dynamite (sort of a necessity for such a movie), it’s the moments behind the scenes that show the level of work he put into the performance. This is a layered turn that fits the mood and intentions of the movie.
While GET ON UP can’t avoid the same pitfalls that plague every musical biopic, it’s still one of the more entertaining in years and it’s clear that director Tate Taylor (2011’s THE HELP, 2008’s PRETTY UGLY PEOPLE) and company care about the subject and want to do him right. GET ON UP is a colorful success that captures Brown’s life, career and spirit.
The supporting cast includes Nelsan Ellis (HBO’s TRUE BLOOD) as The Famous Flames member Bobby Byrd, Dan Aykroyd (TAMMY) as manager Ben Bart, Viola Davis (PRISONERS) as Brown’s mother, Octavia Spencer (FRUITVALE STATION) as Brown’s aunt and Craig Robinson (HOT TUB TIME MACHINE) as saxophonist Maceo Parker.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. From the dirty woods to the glitzy stage, this high-definition transfer looks spectacular. Colors are more muted when necessary and loud when called for, which shows off an array of tones that capture the feel of the story.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French.. The sound is also without flaw and features clean dialogue and a robust soundtrack that comes through the speakers wonderfully and may make you want to get up and dance.
Feature commentary with director/producer Tate Taylor: Taylor offers a decent solo commentary in which he reflects on the shoot and shares production stories.
Long Journey to the Screen (3:58): Taylor discusses the difficulties in obtaining the rights, while producers Mick Jagger and Brian Glazer have their roles praised.
Chadwick Boseman: Meet Mr. James Brown (11:25): This featurette looks at Boseman’s performance and his transformation into The Godfather of Soul.
The GET ON UP Family (6:27): The supporting cast of Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd and more is spotlighted.
On Stage with the Hardest Working Man (6:25) focuses on the recreation of the some of the key scenes shot for the movie.
The Founding Father of Funk (13:19): Ice Cube, Pharrell, Cee-Lo Green and more share their thoughts on Brown’s music and legacy.
Tate Taylor’s Master Class (6:57): Alison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey groove and improv to one of Brown’s songs.
Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes (15:03): There are 10 here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Joe & Susie Fight,” “Meeting Mick Jagger,” “Alone in the Woods,” “Parole Board,” “Big Junior’s Lesson,” “Awake to the Brothel,” “Push the Car to Money,” “Olympia Backstage #1 – Ready Mr. Brown,” “Olympia Backstage #2 – Groove Fine” and “Jailhouse Epiphany.”
Full Song Performances: Housed here are four songs: “Out of Sight,” “Steal Away (Steal Away to Jesus),” “I’ll Go Crazy” and “Cold Sweat.”
Extended Song Performances: Housed here are three numbers: “‘Please, Please, Please’ – Recording Session & Montage,” “‘Please, Please Please’ – Live Performance” and “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud.”