Get On Up
James Brown. Biopic. Good God, y’all!
Producer Brian Grazer has been circling around the life story of the Godfather Of Soul for years, with names like Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy dropping into and out of consideration. In the end, the role went to Chadwick Boseman, a young actor who made an impression on all those who saw the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 last year. That opened up storytelling possibilities regarding Brown’s troubled youth that past names floated for the role wouldn’t have allowed, since it’s easier to age a younger actor than to make Murphy or Snipes look like a teen again. Boseman is joined by a cast that includes stalwarts like Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, re-teaming with their director from The Help, Tate Taylor.
The trailer suggests Taylor will be following the tried-and-true troubled-genius path trod by Ray and Walk The Line—and parodied so well in Walk Hard. But if any subject resists being squeezed into an established formula, it’s Brown, whose inventiveness, weirdness, charisma, and tough-to-forgive abusiveness make him a bad fit for the standard template of the noble heel who made great music.
Will Boseman be convincing as Brown? Could anyone?
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.6
Brown is one of a kind, but music biopics tend to be anything but. We’re taking a wait-and-see approach.
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Not exactly the best-known of the Marvel Comics superhero teams, the planet-hopping Guardians Of The Galaxy have long been a cult favorite of comics fans, in all their different configurations. The movie features one of the more recent versions of the Guardians, with Chris Pratt as roguish intergalactic adventurer Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as conflicted warrior Gamora, Vin Diesel as sentient tree-person Groot, Bradley Cooper as sharp-shooting raccoon Rocket, and Dave Bautista as the aptly named Drax The Destroyer. Also on board in smaller roles: Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro.
Continuing Marvel’s recent trend of hiring filmmakers with strong personalities (like Joss Whedon and Shane Black), Guardians Of The Galaxy was written and directed by James Gunn, a B-movie veteran with a twisted sense of humor, evident in his previous films Slither and Super. Though the Guardians are part of the far-flung “cosmic” reaches of the Marvel Universe, their comics have always been rendered with the kind of bizarre sense of fun that’s in Gunn’s wheelhouse.
When Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige first started dropping hints about a possible Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, even fans of the team assumed it had to be a joke. By the time the movie was officially announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con, excitement for the project had built to a pretty high pitch—which went even higher when Feige unveiled the first footage at 2013’s SDCC. The trailer makes the movie look like a raucous good time, with more of a sense of humor than the recent run of superhero films.
Guardians will be the fourth Marvel movie to be released since April, arriving after the adventures of Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. They aren’t all part of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”—and Guardians Of The Galaxy looks to be unique in many ways—but that’s still a lot of Marvel in a four-month period.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 8.1
Did we mention it has Chris Pratt, a sharp-shooting raccoon, and a sentient tree? In what part of the universe does that not sound like something worth seeing?
It’s When Harry Met Sally Met Poutine in this Toronto-set will-they-or-won’t-they romantic comedy about really good friends who may, in fact, be romantically compatible, too. The main obstacle between the med-school dropout played by Daniel Radcliffe and the animator played by Zoe Kazan is Kazan’s boyfriend. But the lead characters’ friendship is so close, both are hesitant to risk it by taking their relationship to another level.
Director Michael Dowse previously made the disarming hockey comedy Goon, which found the perfect role for Seann William Scott as a dim rink bruiser with a heart of gold. In addition to seasoned leads Radcliffe and Kazan, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis offer the promise of a quirkier romantic comedy on the side.
Premièring to mostly positive reviews at TIFF under the (much better) title The F Word, What If impressed The Dissolve’s Scott Tobias, who called it “the rare rom-com that’s both funny and romantic,” even though it “does nothing whatsoever to buck the conventions of dozens of movies like it.” A charming A.C. Newman score brightens the mood.
Is the rom-com dead? It was all but declared such earlier in the year, but with this and the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore reunion Blended, this summer could be the final test. The fact that What If is a tremendously satisfying example of the genre augurs in its favor, but convincing viewers to see it is another matter.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 7.4
We’re ready to fall in love with love again.