Have you got soul? Are you a sex machine? You’ll still never be James Brown. But you can get to know the soul superstar a little better with Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown, a documentary from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side). HBO acquired the U.S. and Canadian rights to the doc, and will premiere it on Monday, October 27.
Tate Taylor touched upon the glamorized surface of Brown’s life with this year’s Get on Up, featuring an acclaimed performance from Chadwick Boseman, but Gibney used many years’ worth of archival footage to put this feature together. According to Deadline, Mr. Dynamite will follow “Brown’s shift from the R&B sounds that dominated black music in the early years after WWII to the funk sound he pioneered.” If you’ve got an ear that’s keen on old recordings, you might want to get your dancing shoes stretched out.
Footage from some of Brown’s Apollo Theater performances are included, as well as those from 1964’s concert film The T.A.M.I. Show. Go ahead and press play below to watch Brown sweat like a mountain made out of waterfalls in this electric rendition of “I Got the Feelin’.”
Brown’s ascension to his position as the Godfather of Soul will also be chronicled through interviews with his former band members Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, as well as talks with The Roots’ Questlove and Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who serves as producer, is also part of the interviews.
Gibney is an interesting person to be behind this project, as he’s directed headline news docs like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and last year’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, as well as more biographical stuff like Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Magic Trip. As far as music projects go, he co-directed the 3 Doors Down documentary Behind Those Eyes. He's an equal opportunity storyteller.
As the pic will also focus on Brown’s place as a social activist during the 1960s and 1970s, this is obviously more of a pro-Brown doc which presumably tops off when he was still enforcing a drug-free policy within his group. We all know how rough things got for him in later years with the domestic abuse problems and the hollering on angel dust. Get on Up didn’t rely too heavily on such material either, but that instance seemed to be more at the request of Brown’s estate.
Jagger and HBO have had a good relationship recently, and one can only hope something amazing becomes of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming pilot. For now though, we’ll just have to fee-e-eel good about Mr. Dynamite.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.