SOUL POWER?

get_on_up_xlgBiopics are by their very nature formulaic and so it’s very hard to break out of that formula. If it’s someone in the music industry, it’s usually a story that starts with abject poverty, moves onto huge wealth and then ends in tragedy. Get On Up tells the story of the Godfather of Soul James Brown but director Tate Taylor (The Help) does try to play with the formula a little bit. Chadwick Boseman, the future Black Panther in Marvel’s forthcoming movie, plays the lead role as a larger-than-life man who managed to break out of his desperately poor South Carolina background to pull himself up by his bootstraps to become a  huge success in the world of popular music. Taylor injects some genuinely amusing scenes into proceedings, mostly keeping the tone light, which helps pass its two hours and twenty minute running time pretty effortlessly, and Boseman does have real charisma on screen, channeling the real James Brown with some skill. The director does move around from Brown’s childhood to his later life in a non-linear fashion but it does keep the structure a little more interesting. We see Brown in Vietnam, Brown being pursued by the police later in life and the singer making his name. There is an impressive supporting cast that includes Dan Aykroyd as his manager Ben Bart and Nelsan Ellis as his right hand man Bobby Byrd. Brandon Smith as Little Richard, who Brown encounters early on his career too, puts in an impressive performance too. The film is produced by Mick Jagger and there is a knowing but entertaining scene where Brown is seen supporting the Rolling Stones, a band that he dismisses as being a flash in the pan. Some of the more negative aspects of Brown’s life like his violence towards women is skirted around but mostly Get On Up is an accomplished and likeable biopic of a major player in music. Boseman is obviously an actor to watch and this film will help increase his profile…

NOT AN INTERSTELLAR EFFORT

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SPOILER WARNING

Very few films warrant long running times. Epics like Lawrence of Arabia or The Godfather justify breaking the two-hour mark. Director Christopher Nolan seems to have made a career out of very long films but he has managed thanks to the commercial success of the three Batman films to put himself in an envied position in modern Hollywood. Interstellar is a film that has been eagerly awaited, looking like an intelligent sci fi film with an impressive cast and the sort of visual flourishes that Nolan has become associated with. The world has been hit by a terrible disaster, wiping out the crops and obliterating technology. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former engineer who has turned his hand to farming. His life changes when he encounters Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a scientist with a plan to save Earth by sending a team in a rocket through a wormhole to find a new planet for us to colonise. But of course, nothing is what it seems and Cooper discovers that the professor’s plan has some major flaws. Anne Hathaway plays Brand’s daughter Amelia, who accompanies Cooper on the mission. Interstellar is a fairly ambitious film and some of it looks stunning. The cinematography by Hoyt Van Hoytema is spectacular and Nathan Crowley’s production design, with its nods to classics like 2001 and Alien, is superb but there are some serious problems with Interstellar. Clocking in at just shy of three hours, the film drags in several places and what begins as an intriguing concept becomes quite tiresome in places. It would have been a better film if it had a tighter running time. The other problem, which is arguably a more major one, is that the plot is filled with holes and you get a mcguffin that is foreshadowed but just doesn’t really make any sense. Just like Inception, or perhaps more so, Nolan and his brother love the idea they have created here but they don’t really know how to wrap it all up. McConaughey is very good here, Caine is wasted and Hathaway is bland and annoying. It does have its moments but these mostly occur in the first half of the film. John Lithgow appears but is also wasted because he disappears early on in the film. There is also a sizeable Matt Damon cameo in the film. The brothers have set up an interesting premise about a world riven by a blight but the cause is not explained satisfactorily for the viewers. Interstellar feels like a three hour EC or Twilight Zone story with a poorly executed pay off. It will be interesting to see just how well it does. Nolan is a talented director but here he has been given too much freedom and so we end up with a film that wants to be groundbreaking and seminal but is just a very frustrating failure. A shame really…