CHADWICK BOSEMAN as James Brown in "Get on Up". 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.
1 “Get On Up” is loud, proud, funky, soulful, sweaty, emphatic and sometimes a little hard to understand, just like its subject, James Brown. Tate Taylor’s musical biography rockets us along a roller coaster of awe, admiration, pity and repulsion. It never quite cracks the mystery of how Brown rocketed from the Jim Crow South to become the screaming, moaning, gymnastic Godfather of Soul. But it puts on one hell of a show. Chadwick Boseman (“42”) is too handsome and long-legged to be a convincing physical embodiment of the compact Brown, but the actor digs into the singer’s spiky character, radiates the swagger and becomes blazingly alive onstage.
3 Are there any more exciting words than “secret agent”? Peter Duffy, who had us railing against the Brits in his book of Irish history “The Killing of Major Denis Mahon,” now has us cheering for the U.S. in “Double Agent,” the story of German national William Sebold, who became an American citizen and infiltrated Nazi groups in New York for the FBI during World War II. Duffy got access to thousands of FBI files, full of information — including what happened to Sebold after the war. (His was a rather sad end.) Thrilling, well-researched, well-told, fascinating.
2 Mu Performing Arts production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” perfectly captures the mood, magic and crisp effervescence of a glass of champagne on a perfect summer evening. The musical revolves around a series of interlocking love triangles. Director Rick Shiomi maintains a leisurely, lighter-than-air pace throughout, giving full rein to the sparkling complexity of Sondheim’s wit and wordplay. A highlight is Sheena Janson’s stunningly poignant rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” with its revelation of the vulnerability beneath her poise. muperformingarts.org.
4 After trumpeting their return locally with a triumphant Rock the Garden headlining set in June, hard-bopping Texas indie-rock vets Spoon make good this week on their first album in four years. “They Want My Soul” adds a heavier dose of mood-casting organ parts and nerve-rattling guitar bursts to the band’s often minimal mix, but the smooth-driving beats or sharp, new wavy hooks still rise to the top. Go figure: It’s at once their most experimental album to date and one of their most accessible. Out Tuesday.
5 More than 100 years after his death, Swedish playwright August Strindberg (1849-1912) remains controversial in the homeland he pilloried as pietistic, repressive and hypocritical. Always conscious of his image, he took many self-portraits, 19 of which are featured in “The Image of Strindberg” at the American Swedish Institute. Whether he comes across as a brooding reader of souls or hardworking father in the garden, the photos capture his self-absorption and hypnotic intensity. ASImn.org.
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