Love Notes
For the slow jam lover in all of us.
Beyonce Knowles as Etta James

December 2008 motion picture release

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Fine acting, terrific music but a funky storyline......Beyonce is superb as Etta James.

  • Dec 10, 2008
In the opening moments of "Cadillac Records" the audience is advised that the film is "based on a true story".  Well, sort of.  I have read a lot about the history of rock and roll over the years and the fact is that the producers of this film chose to take quite a bit of artistic license with the story of Chicago's legendary Chess records.   You see Chess records was founded in Chicago in 1950 by the Chess brothers, Leonard (Adrien Brody) and Phil.  One of the  problems with "Cadillac Records" in my view is that the producers chose not to even acknowledge the existence of Phil Chess.  Despite this and a few other instances where the producers chose to play fast and loose with the facts I still thoroughly enjoyed this flick.  As I indicated in the Review Headline the acting was terrific and the music was out of this world.

"Cadillac Records" fondly recalls the heyday of Chess records and remembers the incredible stable of artists that helped to put this label on the map.  The very first artist to be signed by Chess was Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright).  This legendary artist would record some of the most memorable blues sides in history at Chess and would play an important role in the emergence and growth of the label in the early to mid 1950's.  The film also tells the troubling story of Little Walter (Columbus Short), perhaps the best harmonica player who ever lived.  Other Chess legends portrayed in the movie are Howlin' Wolf (Eammon Walker), Willie Dixon (Cedrick the Entertainer),  the incredible Etta James (Beyonce) and of course rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry played ever so convincingly by Mos Def.   Remarkably, each and every one of these performers would one day be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!  Quite an accomplishment for the upstart label!  I must tell you that while I had every reason to expect that the music would be great I was stunned to discover just how good the acting was in this film.   Adrien Brody was terrific as Leonard Chess while Jeffrey Wright was thoroughly convincing as Muddy Waters.   Kudos also to Beyonce Knowles and Mos Def for their remarkable portrayals of Etta James and Chuck Berry respectively.   And the music.......just outstanding!   Beyonce does an amazing job on two of Etta James most enduring tunes "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind".   She certainly proved to me that she is more than capable of handling this type of material!     
If you know anything about the early history of rock and roll you would be aware of the fact that the hundreds of black artists were routinely cheated out of their royalties by the various record companies.   Let's see, there was Herman Lubinsky at Savoy records in New Jersey,  Syd Nathan at Cincinnati's King records and oh yes,  the Chess brothers in Chicago.  From what I have read in the past Leonard Chess was not quite as kind and benevolent as he was portrayed in this film.
Despite its  flaws, "Cadillac Records" still makes for a fun night out.  For those too young to remember this is a great way to become acquainted with some of the greatest blues artists of all time.  And for older fans it is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.  Recommended!
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August 13, 2009
I was shocked by how much I loved this movie, I had my trepidations because, well, mostly because of Beyonce as Etta. I didn't think she could pull off Etta, in fact I still don't think she did Oscar-worthy work but, she was suffice and she did a great job with the two hits, like you wrote. Mos Def was awesome as Chuck Berry. I didn't know what to expect but, thought that Jeffrey Wright as Muddy was impeccable. What a wonderful movie to watch the introduction of blues to the mainstream then to R&B and finally, R&R. Great review, Paul!
More Cadillac Records reviews
review by . December 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Excellent theatrical and musical performances by all involved.     Cons: Not enough time to tell the story.     The Bottom Line: Cadillac Records was just the beginning of our musical journey into these very interesting and influential (Black) American lives.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. The roots of Rock-n-Roll, they used to change depending on your skin color and who was telling the …
review by . February 14, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. SASS biopic of Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, played by Adrian Brody   2. Quick look at Chicago in the time of segregation   3. Stirring portrayal of Muddy Waters by Jeffrey Wright   4. Short history of Little Walter, played by Columbus Short   5. Quick peek at Chuck Berry, portrayed by Mos Def   6. Quick leer at Etta James, portrayed by Beyonce   7. Passing glimpses …
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on I never could … more
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About this movie


Cadillac Records is a 2008 musical biopic written and directed by Darnell Martin. The film explores the musical era from the early 1940s to the late 1960s, chronicling the life of the influential Chicago-based record-company executive Leonard Chess, and the singers who recorded for Chess Records.

The film stars Adrien Brody as Chess, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Columbus Short as Little Walter, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters, and Beyoncé Knowles as Etta James. The film has been rated R by the MPAA for "pervasive langauge and some sexuality". The film is set for release in North America on December 5, 2008.

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Genre: Drama
Release Date: December 6, 2008
Runtime: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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