Get On Up
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, drug use, profanity and violence
Chadwick Channels James Brown In Nostalgic Jukebox Musical
Just last year, Chadwick Boseman successfully channeled the spirit of Jackie Robinson in 42, a powerful biopic about the Hall of Fame great who made history when he integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. In Get On Up, the gifted young actor is already impersonating another legendary African-American, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown (1933-2006).
Unfortunately, this revisionist fairytale works better as a jukebox musical than as an accurate recitation of the late crooner’s checkered past. The problem is that Brown simply is hard to portray sympathetically, despite his overcoming abject poverty and a dysfunctional childhood on the road to superstardom.
Yes, he was abandoned by abusive parents (Viola Davis and Lennie James) at the home of an aunt (Octavia Spencer) in Augusta, Georgia, who did her best to raise him in the absence of a father figure. Nevertheless, James dropped out of school in the seventh grade, took to the streets, and spent several years behind bars for an armed robbery committed at just 16.
Upon parole, he made a foray into showbiz after joining the Famous Flames, the first of numerous R&B groups he would headline over the course of a career marked again and again by bad break-ups due to disagreements he had over salary with disgruntled sidemen. Brown would also have further run-ins with the law, ranging from repeated arrests for domestic violence against three different battered wives, to embezzlement, tax evasion and bankruptcy, to another three years in prison for illegal drug and weapons possession, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
Somehow, Tate Taylor (The Help) has figured a way to put a positive spin on the tarnished legacy of this terribly-flawed figure. Rather than have the film unfold chronologically, the inventive director has crafted an oft-confusing flashback flick which jumps backwards and forwards in time in dizzying fashion with no apparent rhyme or reason.
That scattershot approach ostensibly enables Get On Up to sidestep the more tawdry episodes on Brown’s résumé without appearing to leave gaping holes in his life story. Consequently, the movie sits on solid ground during gyrating Boseman’s lip-synched, on stage performances of such James Brown hits as “I Feel Good,” “It’s A Man’s World,” “Super Bad” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud,” but not so much whenever it shifts its focus to its morally-objectionable protagonist’s poor people skills.
A nostalgic indulgence which, like the cinematic equivalent of a fluffy fanzine, eschews serious criticism of a revered icon in favor of a pleasant parade of his most memorable classics.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Running time: 138 minutes
Rated R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity
Selena Gomez And Star-Studded Cast Can’t Save Raunchy Teensploit
Rick Stevens (Nat Wolff) is a socially-awkward virgin experiencing pangs of sexual awakenings. That explains why he is trying to summon up the courage to make a play for Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez), the cute, high school classmate he’s had a crush on since the sixth grade.
Trouble is she already has a boyfriend, Kevin Carpenter (Austin Stowell), a handsome hunk who’s very jealous and possessive. Moreover, Rick is so distracted by his dysfunctional family that it’s hard for him to even have time for dating.
He’s mercilessly teased and abused by his deadbeat dad (Cary Elwes), and his alcoholic mother (Mary-Louise Parker) is recovering in the hospital after recently trying to kill herself. And to add insult to injury, she only left a suicide note addressed to Lucy, her pet dog.
Rick’s siblings have their issues, too. His sister, Kristen (Ashley Rickards), has secretly started working as a stripper, and his closeted brother, Steven (Mitch Hewer), is gay and afraid to come out.
Nevertheless, Rick is determined to summon up the nerve to approach the girl of his dreams, and finally jumps at the chance when their Latin teacher (Charles C. Stevenson, Jr.) drops dead during class, ironically while conjugating “vivo,” the verb for live. Nina accepts his offer to drive her to the funeral which, in his mind at least, will be their first date.
So unfolds Behaving Badly, a screwball comedy directed by Tim Garrick that’s far more raunchy than it is funny. This tasteless teensploitation flick serves up generous helpings of gratuitous nudity and profanity but precious little that elicits any laughter.
Director Garrick throws everything at the screen but the kitchen sink in an almost desperate attempt to shock, forgetting in the process to craft a plausible plotline that might hold the attention of anyone with an I.Q. above room temperature. Before Rick is allowed to win Nina’s heart, he acts out repeatedly, prematurely ejaculating with a stripper and sleeping with his best’s friend’s (Lachlan Buchanan) mom (Elisabeth Shue) en route to sharing an incestuous moment in a men’s room with his own mother’s seductive alter ego.
He also gets mixed up with Lithuanian mobsters and lands in jail along with most of his guests after throwing a wild party in the house while his folks are away. The bottom-feeding production squanders the services of a star-studded cast featuring Oscar nominees Elisabeth Shue (for Leaving Las Vegas) and Gary Busey (for The Buddy Holly Story), pop icons Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, Dylan McDermott, Jason Lee, Heather Graham and Patrick Warburton.
A misfiring misadventure not even recommended for diehard Selena Gomez fans.
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 96 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening August 8, 2014
The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG for mature themes, mild epithets, violence and brief sensuality) Three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom directed this adaptation of Richard Morais’ best-seller about an immigrant family which opens an Indian restaurant in a quaint village in the South of France, much to the chagrin of the steely proprietor (Helen Mirren) of a trendy bistro right down the street. Cast includes Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon. (In English, French and Hindi with subtitles)
Into The Storm (PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, and scenes of intense peril and destruction) Found footage thriller about some storm chasers and thrill-seekers who get more than they bargained for when they decide to film a tornado bearing down on a tiny town in Middle America. Co-starring Matt Walsh, Arlen Escarpeta, Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies.
Step Up All In (PG-13 for profanity and sensuality) Fifth installment in the street dance franchise revolves around an L.A. crew which ventures to Vegas to enter a competition where the winning team lands a lucrative pro contract. Ensemble includes Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Adam G. Sevani and Stephen Boss.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13 for violence) Reboot of the adaptation of the comic book franchise finds the anthropomorphic protagonists (Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek) rising from NYC’s sewers to fight their archenemy (William Fichtner) and his army of ninjas, with the help of an intrepid, young reporter (Megan Fox). Cast includes Whoopi Goldberg and Will Arnett, with voicework by Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub.
What If (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and partial nudity) Romantic dramedy revolving around a med school dropout (Daniel Radcliffe) who develops feelings for his BFF (Zoe Kazan), despite the fact that she lives with her longtime boyfriend (Rafe Spall). With Megan Park, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis.
About Alex (R for profanity and drug use) Jason Ritter stars as the title character of this nostalgic drama about a group of college friends’ eventful reunion to care for a suicidal pal over the course of a three-day weekend. Cast includesAubreyPlaza, Maggie Grace, Max Minghella and Nate Parker.
After (R for profanity) Skeleton-in-the-closet drama about a cash-strapped matriarch (Kathleen Quinlan) whose already-fragile family’s stability is further threatened by the revelation of her big secret. With John Doman, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Diane Neal and Pablo Schreiber (brother of Liev).
The Dog (Unrated) Gender-bending biopic about John Wojtowicz (1945-2006), whose robbery of a Brooklyn bank to pay for his boyfriend’s sex change served as the inspiration for the film Dog Day Afternoon.
Fifi Howls From Happiness (Unrated) Celebrity to obscurity documentary tracing the trajectory of the career of Bahman Mohassess, the flamboyantly gay artist known as the Persian Picasso, who went from national icon to persona non grata following the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. (In Persian with subtitles)
James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge (PG for mild profanity and disaster images) 3D documentary chronicling the director of the Titanic’s submarine expedition to the ocean floor.
Keep On Keepin’ On (Unrated) Reverential biopic about 93-year-old jazz legend Clark Terry, trumpeter and flugelhorn pioneer who played with everyone from Duke Ellington to Count Basie to Dizzy Gillespie to Quincy Jones.
The Maid’s Room (Unrated) Paula Garces handles the title role in this psychological thriller, set in theHamptons, as a summer season housekeeper for a rich couple (Annabelle Sciorra and Bill Camp) covering up their Princeton-bound son’s (Philip Ettinger) deadly hit-and-run car accident. With Remy Auberrjonois, John Brodsky and Stefanie Brown.