Tag Archives: James Brown

Creed II Movie Review

When a little underdog of a movie named Rocky came out 42 years ago, a litany of Roman numeral titled sequels wasn’t foreseeable. Fantastic box office returns and a surprising Best Picture Oscar win changed that dynamic. 1979’s Rocky II was eagerly awaited and served as nothing much more than a retread of its predecessor. It was a dull copy at that where the main difference was its hero Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) besting rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

Creed came out in 2015 and it had underdog status itself. The concept of shifting the focus to Apollo’s illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) and his prowess in the ring seemed a little lame upon its announcement. However, like Rocky, the picture exceeded expectations with energetic direction from Ryan Coogler, fine work from Jordan, and an emotional storyline with Rocky’s cancer diagnosis. Stallone was even nominated again for an Academy Award.

Financial success has brought those Greek digits back. Creed II has a deeper well to drain from as far as plot compared to Rocky II because of the further follow-ups. Coogler isn’t behind the camera anymore as he took on the phenomenon that was Black Panther. Steven Caple Jr. takes over the reins while Stallone shares script credit (something he didn’t do three years ago).

1985’s Rocky IV is the entry that the second Creed taps for material. As you’ll recall, this was the saga where Balboa fought fierce Russian competitor Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) while seemingly punching out Communism too. Part four was cheesy, very much of its time, and highly enjoyable. It’s also the one where Drago delivered a fatal blow to Apollo after the energetic “Living in America” performance of James Brown.

Adonis gets an opportunity to avenge his father here. Drago’s son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) is an up-and-comer with his sights on the now heavyweight champion. His pops Ivan sees it as revenge after mother Russia shunned him following his loss to Balboa. The daddy issues don’t end there. Creed is now engaged to singer Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and she’s expecting. Rocky is estranged from his son as Adonis often fills that void.

The Italian Stallion isn’t thrilled with the prospect of Creed/Drago II, considering Apollo died in his arms. And we know that training montages will keep the drama unfolding. We don’t have a Xerox like situation with this sequel. It does follow the path of #4 in numerous ways, including a Soviet set main event.

Ivan Drago was a man of few words in ‘85 and he still is. His back story of abandonment from his wife (Brigitte Nielsen, who cameos) and countrymen has the potential to be compelling, but it’s given the short shrift. Jordan is still excellent in the title role, as is his chemistry with Thompson. Stallone’s character arch here is considerably less captivating than the last time around. This franchise is shifting away from him to Adonis and you feel it.

Like Creed, the ring action is more realistic than anything in the Rocky tales, where punches landed with a percentage of around 110%. Caple Jr. does decent work filming them, though not to the level of what Coogler accomplished.

Creed II is a superior direct sequel than Rocky II. The common thread is that neither are particularly memorable or necessary. To add to the clichés that permeate this series (sometimes in supreme guilty pleasure ways), it’s not a knockout. If you’re a true fan, though, it certainly won’t break you.

**1/2 (out of four)

Music Biopics: The Name Game

A growing trend in movies for the past few years (and a bit beyond) is the musical biopic that incorporates one of the band or artist’s songs into the title. The latest example will come out this fall with Bohemian Rhapsody, the behind the scenes story of Queen.

2019 will bring us Rocketman with Taron Egerton as the legendary Elton John.

We’ve seen this trend in years past. For instance, the 1980s saw La Bamba about Richie Valens.

The 1990s gave us Angela Bassett in her Oscar nominated role playing Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It?

In 2005, we had Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix in his Academy nominated turn as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon winning as June.

More recent ones have been in the hip hop world with Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.) and All Eyez on Me (Tupac Shakur). There’s also Get On Up with Chadwick Boseman as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

So this got me thinking. What would be some other movie/song titles if certain iconic musicians got their biopic? For this blog post’s purposes, I tried to focus on artists where I feel a big screen treatment on them is at least feasible. In other words, while Rico Suave might be a spectacular title, I don’t envision two hours on Gerardo coming anytime soon.

There is already a Madonna flick reportedly in the works and it takes its name not from a tune, but from one of her tours – Blond Ambition. I suppose Material Girl or Like a Prayer could have worked, but Blond Ambition is just about perfect.

Some choices seem obvious. You gotta call the Bon Jovi story Livin on a Prayer, after all. And My Way seems like the natural fit for Frank Sinatra. And Born to Run for Bruce Springsteen. And there’s Piano Man for Billy Joel.

It doesn’t end there. Respect (Aretha Franklin) and Fire and Rain (James Taylor).

When it comes to some recently dearly departed legends, Prince presents a challenge because you can’t call it Purple Rain. And a number of his other massive hits don’t fit. When Doves Cry is probably the name the studio would go for considering it’s his biggest hit. Personally, I rather like the thought of My Name is Prince, taken from his Love Symbol album of 1992.

With Michael Jackson, Thriller would work but it’s hard to imagine Man in the Mirror not being the choice.

For David Bowie, Starman seems like the winner, but that’s also the name of a fairly well-known 1980s science fiction effort starring Jeff Bridges. That may not matter, but if so, Space Oddity or simply calling it Ziggy Stardust might fit.

Tom Petty? How about Free Fallin or Runnin Down a Dream. George Michael? Faith or Freedom. Whitney Houston? Tough one. Perhaps a studio would want I Will Always Love You. Maybe So Emotional works as well.

Some bands have more than one title that seem appropriate. Aerosmith has three great ones: Dream On, Sweet Emotion, or Walk This Way. With AC/DC – Back in Black or Thunderstruck.

Guns n Roses is an interesting one. Welcome to the Jungle is fantastic, but it was just the subtitle for the blockbuster Jumanji reboot. In this matter, you might have to go with their album name Appetite for Destruction, which is ideal.

Metallica could have For Whom the Bell Tolls or Enter Sandman. Nirvana might have Smells Like Teen Spirit as the studio choice, but I’m a little partial to Come As You Are.

I like Runnin with the Devil for Van Halen and I suppose Stairway to Heaven would be the choice for Led Zeppelin.

Let’s move off rock. How about Britney Spears? That may depend on what direction the studio goes. It could be Toxic or Stronger. Maybe Baby One More Time instead.

Stevie Wonder? Superstition or Sir Duke are possibilities, but I like Higher Ground.

With Bob Marley, maybe Get Up, Stand Up or One Love.

Circling back to hip hop, Fight the Power is the clear pick for Public Enemy and the same may hold true for Mama Said Knock You Out with LL Cool J.

And then there’s my favorite… the Rick James biopic Super Freak. Why hasn’t this been made already?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Let’s see if any of these suggested titles end up playing out in the future. Maybe there will be surprises… Barbie Girl: The Aqua Story, anyone?

Get On Up Movie Review

Get On Up never fully finds a way to break out of the typical biopic conventions that we’ve come to anticipate from the genre. The same holds true for some of the prevalent flaws we find in these types of pictures. The rough edges of the central subject are mostly glossed over. Family dynamics including mother abandonment issues, no matter how true, are too familiar.

What director Tate Taylor has going in his favor are two big things: James Brown is one hell of a subject and Chadwick Boseman was born to play him. Told in a non linear structure, Get On Up explores sixty years of history for the Godfather of Soul, from childhood to the early 90s. We witness his troubled and poor upbringing, his rise to stardom, his business abilities that earned him more money than any other African American musician at the time, and so forth. There’s also his well known history with women that includes domestic violence and infidelity yet that subject is not a primary focus.

Taylor enlists some of his cast from his blockbuster The Help with Viola Davis as his mother who left him and Octavia Spencer as the aunt who raised him. Dan Aykroyd appears as Brown’s longtime business manager. The real Brown, by the way, had a cameo in Aykroyd’s The Blues Brothers in 1980. The second best performance belongs to Nelsan Eddie as best friend and JB hype man Bobby Byrd.

Just as Mr. Brown (his preferred method of what to be called) owned every stage he was on, the man playing him owns this picture and makes it worthwhile. Boseman embodies Brown and is quite remarkable during the musical numbers. Those sequences are the best thing about Get On Up. One of them includes mingling Boseman with the real Brown and it’s thrilling. Let’s face it: by now we have witnessd a lot of biopics that include the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, musicians with inflated egos, addictions, and Mommy and Daddy issues. The music isn’t usually as impossibly funky though with an actor expertly channeling a complicated legend.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up

It’s not out until Friday but the James Brown biopic Get On Up has so far been earning very solid reviews, especially for its star Chadwick Boseman. The actor became well-known to audiences last year for his portrayal of another real-life figure, Jackie Robinson, in 42. His well-received turn in that part and critical lauds for Up could mean Boseman’s chances for a Best Actor nomination are decent.

Obviously the race is in its early stages though, based on festival buzz, you can bet Steve Carell will earn one of the five spots for Foxcatcher. Everything else is currently uncertain. A win or nomination for an actor playing a musical legend is nothing new. In 2004, Jamie Foxx took the prize playing Ray Charles in Ray. The following year, Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress as June Carter Cash in Walk the Line and Joaquin Phoenix was nominated as Johnny Cash. Other past nominees include Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story, Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in the Tina Turner pic What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams, and a win for Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

If the movie turns out to be a huge hit, it might even stand a chance for a Best Picture nomination. However, that currently appears to be a long shot. Boseman’s chances are much greater and his name is one to remember come nomination time next year.

 

Get On Up Box Office Prediction

The Godfather of Soul gets his own biopic when Get On Up debuts in theaters this Friday. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the hit 42, portrays James Brown with The Help director Tate Taylor behind the camera. Costars include Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Craig Robinson, and Jill Scott.

Get On Up could be in a good position for a solid debut. Taylor’s The Help opened in August three summers ago to $26 million. That would certainly be a good number for this. 42 premiered to $27 million in 2013.

The pic could be successful in bringing in African-American audiences and adult moviegoers burnt out on sci-fi blockbusters. I’ll predict Get On Up manages a debut in the mid 20s.

Get On Up opening weekend prediction: $24.9 million

For my Guardians of the Galaxy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/07/27/guardians-of-the-galaxy-box-office-prediction/