Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: "Cadillac Records"

MOVIE REVIEW: "Cadillac Records"

It's been a while since I saw "Cadillac Records". I thought that it would have gotten more attention than it did. I was drawn to the movie because of the legacy of the original Chess Records artists. The movies title references how the Chess Records owners paid their artists - with Cadillacs.

Funny thing about the movie's release, it did not show on many screens. I saw it in Pittsburgh on the first weekend that it opened there and it was only showing at two theaters.

The movies cast was also intriguing to me: Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Mos Def, Beyonce and Cedric "The Entertainer". Jeffrey Wright did a nice job as Muddy Waters. Wright seemed to really morph into Muddy's persona. Mos Def as Chuck Berry was refreshing, but his role was minor in comparison to some of the others. Etta James was played by Beyonce and left me a little indifferent. James is a big role to fill and Beyonce did not do it for me. And yes, I am being critical. I really want to see Beyonce do something exceptional and not just run of the mill. Adrien Brody was fine as Chess Records owner Leonard Chess; nothing too exciting there either, but I did not expect anything more and that is not a bad thing; just what it is. Same for Cedric.

The surprise action came from Columbus Short as Little Walter. I can tell you that if there were not so many exceptional mainstream movies out, Short would have gotten an Oscar nod as Best Support Actor in a film - at least I had hoped. He really brought the character to life in such a real life way. Meanwhile, Eamonn Walker portrayed Howlin Wolf in "Cadillac Records" and I think too much of his role ended up on the cutting room floor. He did a nice job, but it just really did not go anywhere. He easy stole the scenes that he was in; he has a commanding presence.

Finally, Gabrielle Union's acting was unique for her. I like that she showed some depth and was not the character that has been seen in so many of her previous movies.

I would see this one again. Seeing the movie did get me to do more research on the real lives of Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter and Etta James and their lives as a part of the Chess Records heritage. Crazy though that many scenes in the movie have been amped up for entertainment sake. For example, Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf did not have the level of anomosity toward one another that was showcased in the film.

Oh and I would be remiss if I did not mention the music. I really enjoyed the music throughout. Good stuff.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Sandy Guy Schoenfeld said...

Yes, here in San Francisco it zipped thought theaters fast, and so I have yet to see this film, but am looking forward to doing so. I'm sure it will be around again soon, with Beyonce having sung at the inauguration of Obama and plenty of art houses to show it.

Despite historical contradictions and some Hollywoodization, already noted in so many reviews of the flick, Eamonn Walker's portrayal of legendary blues giant Howlin' Wolf was described to me by a friend of Muddy Waters and blues songwriter as mesmerizing. He'd met the Wolf.

However, Howlin' Wolf was MY great friend, mentor and music teacher, so I am not expecting Walker to BE the Wolf, as that has been tried hundreds of times by many in the music and at times acting world, ain't gonna happen. But any nice tribute to his general vibe even on just some levels will be a long-overdue tribute. Of the three greatest influences on Rock & Roll (Muddy, Wolf, Bo) Wolf was the jump-starter of the Brit Rock Invasion and very influential in so many future forms of rock, from metal to alternative and, of course, the genuine king of the Chicago scene, electric Delta and beyond.

In reality Wolf was uniquely caring and centered, even keeping "rival" Muddy Waters afloat during Muddy's time of need, as well as getting retirement and health insurance for his band members. Yet he
is the by far least known of the three, and I'm sure it's because he didn't sell out. In fact his estate late sued Chess and won over a million dollars.

Now, if you want to see the "real deal," my site, Wolf was 99 photos of Howlin' Wolf in concert, at home, and RARE portraits, some of which you see "everywhere" but so often copied and passed around without my credits... In fact, Cadillac Record's own PR page, at the bottom of Eamonn Walker's bio in the cast and crew section uses MY "#2" photo of Howlin' Wolf which I was told about and then had to get my rep to bill them.

Hmmmm I'll expect that will be resolved in time properly. I enjoyed your review and will check your blog every so often, too.


Sandy Guy Schoenfeld

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Sandy Guy Schoenfeld said...

(ooops, zipped "through" the theaters.

I also played drums with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, who's quieter but pioneering application of the rock "beat" to blues makes him, to me and many, the true "father" of Rock & Roll. At some point this spring I will also post my portraits of Arthur on my site.

Elvis made his first 3 hits covering Arthur's songs. And Crudup (pronounced Crew'-duhp) wrote "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Mean Ol' Frisco". Why he is not yet inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame makes him even more overlooked than Wolf, and for that matter, me. ;)

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Radiogirl said...

You guys are awesome. I love hearing the stories from people who were there. I'm also glad to know that you are sharing your stories. I'll check out your websites. Thanks.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home