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Tate Taylor
Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Craig Robinson, Octavia Spencer
Writing Credits:
Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth

Based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul, the film will give a fearless look inside the music, moves, and moods of Brown, taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$13,585,915 on 2,468 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
English Descriptive Video Service
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 1/6/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Tate Taylor
• 10 Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
• Four Full Song Performances
• Three Extended Song Performances
• “Long Journey to the Screen” Featurette
• “Chadwick Boseman: Meet Mr. James Brown” Featurette
• “The Get On Up Family” Featurette
• “On Stage with the Hardest Working Man” Featurette
• “The Founding Father of Funk” Featurette
• “Tate Taylor’s Master Class” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Get On Up [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 29, 2014)

Although James Brown probably boasted more nicknames than any entertainer in history, 2014’s Get On Up skips those. Heck, it doesn’t even use a song title, though it comes close, as “get on up” becomes a refrain repeated often in Brown’s classic “Sex Machine”.

Get On Up starts in 1988, as it shows James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) as a loose cannon in his mid-50s. He uses a gun to threaten attendees of an insurance seminar when one of them uses his business office’s bathroom without permission.

From there we skip about the years. The film shows his dysfunctional childhood in the 1930s as well as his imprisonment in 1949 and various career and personal milestones.

The movie’s chronological lack of continuity gives it a change of pace to differ with most biopics, but that’s about the only unusual touch found in Get On Up. Most films of this sort give us the subject’s “greatest hits” in order; Up addresses the expected topics but just does it in a more scattered manner.

At least that offers some surprises, though I can’t say I think the chronological jumps add anything else to the table. Like most biopics, this one gives us the basics without much more than that, so expect a quick overview of Brown’s life and career but not much else.

This becomes more of a shame because Brown presented a complicated/messy personality. I get the feeling that because Up opens with Brown circa 1988 in “loose cannon mode”, it thinks it did its job. Oh, we get a few other shots of Brown’s dark side, but these remain brief and infrequent. For the most part, the film avoids entanglements with Brown’s criminal excursions and seedy behaviors.

To some degree, that’s fine, especially because most of these appeared to manifest later in his life and the movie wants to focus on his prime years. Still, if Up wants to portray Brown across his entire existence – or close to it – I think it needs to do more than pay lip service to his serious flaws. We don’t get much of that side of Brown here.

We also don’t find psychological depth in other ways. Essentially the film paints Brown as a self-possessed semi-megalomaniac with parental abandonment issues.

However, it doesn’t portray those in a consistent or engaging manner. Up tosses out these ideas and lets them sit there without any substantial exploration. Whatever complexities Brown possessed get left on the side of the road, so when the movie ends, we don’t feel like we understand Brown much better than we did before it started.’

On the positive side, Boseman offers a simply stunning turn as Brown. Boseman doesn’t look much like the Godfather of Soul, but he manages to embody Brown in terrific fashion. Boseman involves himself in the role in most possible ways and helps elevate the thin, superficial material. The script may not give us much of a feel for Brown, but Boseman manages to develop the character as well as anyone could.

Up often relies on musical performances to keep our attention, and given the thinness of so much of the rest of the material, that’s a good decision. Boseman plays Brown’s stage presence well, though he doesn’t get to sing most of the time.

In a choice with pros and cons, Boseman usually lip-synchs original Brown recordings. On the positive side, this means we don’t get stuck with some half-assed Brown impersonator, but on the negative side, the vocals don’t always match the rest of the audio. Some of the recordings show less than stellar quality, so when the singing doesn’t neatly connect to the other sound elements, we get thrown out of the reality to some degree. Especially true in the 1950s scenes, there are segments that just don’t “fit” in terms of sonics, and those become a minor issue.

Still, the music works better than the wigs. Dear Lord, does this film suffer from crappy attempts to replicate various hairstyles! It’s a good thing Boseman offers such a magnetic performance – otherwise I suspect I’d have been unable to focus on anything other than the odd pelts affixed to his head.

Outside of Boseman’s acting and some fun musical performances, Get On Up doesn’t have a lot to offer. It suffers from the same malady that afflicts many biopics, as it simply tries to tell too much story in too little screentime. The movie remains watchable but its flaws make it a disappointment.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Get On Up appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an appealing presentation.

Sharpness was almost always positive. A minor amount of softness crept into a couple of long shots, but otherwise the image remained tight and well-defined at all times. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also failed to mar the presentation.

For much of the film, Up went with an amber-influenced palette typical of the biopic genre. Other hues popped up on occasion, but that impression dominated. Within the movie’s color design, the tones seemed solid. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows demonstrated nice smoothness. This was a consistently satisfying image.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it proved to be unusually ambitious for its genre, though as expected, music dominated. With a wide variety of performances, the songs filled the side and rear speakers on a frequent basis.

That was par for the course, but the way the mix used effects came as a surprise. With some “action elements” like scenes in Vietnam and other escapades, the track opened up in a broad manner on more than a few occasions. These gave the situations more range and scope than I anticipated.

Audio quality seemed fine. Music showed pretty good pep and power, though the nature of the source recordings could be slightly iffy at times. Still, the songs usually came across with nice clarity and range, and effects were similarly full and accurate. Speech seemed distinctive and concise. The track turned out to work well for the movie.

Up delivers a pretty sizable set of extras, and we start with an audio commentary from director/producer Tate Taylor. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and his approach to the material, sets and locations, music, cast and performances, various effects, editing/deleted scenes, facts/historical liberties, and connected areas.

While Taylor covers a good array of subjects, the commentary feels pretty ordinary overall. That occurs mainly due to its many sags, as Taylor goes quiet too much of the time. When he talks, he offers pretty useful info, but the dead air makes this an inconsistent chat.

10 Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes occupy a total of 15 minutes, three seconds. Some of these provide interesting elements, such as Brown’s 1964 chat with the Rolling Stones or his abandonment as a child. Most of the segments seem pretty good, though I’m not sure how well they’d have worked in the final cut; while they may be useful to see, the movie already drags, so a longer running time probably wouldn’t have helped it.

More music appears in the next two segments. We get four Full Song Performances (9:24) and three Extended Song Performances (7:27). These essentially act like elongated movie scenes, and obviously they give us additional parts of the songs. They’re fun to see.

Six featurettes follow. Long Journey to the Screen lasts three minutes, 58 seconds and offers notes from Taylor and producers Mick Jagger, Victoria Pearman, Erica Huggins and Brian Grazer. We get quick notes about the movie’s development and how Taylor came to the project. Despite the piece’s brevity, it comes with some useful details.

We concentrate on the lead actor in Chadwick Boseman: Meet Mr. James Brown. The 11-minute, 25-second show provides info from Taylor, Jagger, Grazer, Pearman, choreographer Aakomon Jones, and actors Chad Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, and Jill Scott. “Meet” looks at Boseman’s casting and aspects of his training/performance. Some decent insights emerge, but much of the piece focuses on praise for Boseman and not a lot else.

For a look at the supporting cast, we head to The Get On Up Family. It runs six minutes, 27 seconds and includes comments from Taylor, Huggins, Boseman, Grazer, Spencer, Davis, Boseman, Ellis, Pearman, Aykroyd and Scott. The show offers a quick look at the various actors but offers next to no depth, so expect a lot of happy talk.

During the six-minute, 25-second On Stage with the Hardest Working Man, we hear from Jagger, Grazer, Taylor, Boseman, Aykroyd, Jones, musician Ice Cube, and production designer Mark Ricker. The featurette touches on some aspects of bringing James Brown’s life to the screen. Like the other programs, it boasts a handful of good details but usually feels promotional in nature.

The Founding Father of Funk takes up 13 minutes, 19 seconds with details from Cube, Scott, Davis, Boseman, Taylor, Aykroyd, Jagger, Grazer, Ellis, Spencer, actor Aloe Blacc, and musicians Pharrell Williams and Cee Lo Green. “Father” offers a general reflection on Brown’s importance. Again, much of the piece remains superficial, though I like Jagger’s comments on Brown’s impact as a performer.

Finally, we go to Tate Taylor’s Master Class. During this six-minute, 57-second reel, we locate an outtake, as we see an extended version of the dance scene with Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey – a really extended version, in fact. It goes on so long – and becomes so silly – that it turns into a delightful sequence.

The disc opens with ads for The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, The Man with the Iron Fists 2, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Lucy, Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse and The Theory of Everything. No trailer for Up shows up here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Get On Up. It includes the commentary and four of the featurettes.

If you want a rich portrayal of James Brown, you won’t find it via Get On Up. Despite a terrific lead performance from Chadwick Boseman, the movie lacks complexity and just meanders its way through Brown’s life without enough purpose. The Blu-ray presents very good picture and audio as well as an inconsistent set of supplements. Boseman’s acting gives Get On Up life, but it falters in too many other ways.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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