Cadillac Records

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Product Overview

Chronicles the rise of chess records and its recording artists. In 1950s chicago, cadillac records follows the exciting but turbulent lives of some of america's musical legends, including muddy waters, leonard chess, little walter, howlin' wolf, etta james and chuck berry.


Studio Sony
SKU 210664877
UPC 043396294660
UPC 14 00043396294660
Format DVD
Release Date 3/20/2012
Rating Rating
Blues Music
Blues Singers
Folk Music
Music (General)
Rhythm And Blues
Theatrical Release
True Story
Editors Note
Note CADILLAC RECORDS is a writer/director Darnell Martin's riveting ensemble film depicting the rise, in the early-?50s to late-?60s, of key musical figures at the crossroads between blues, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll. Based on the true story of the original Chicago-based purveyors of electric blues, Chess Records, it centers on two men: Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish nightclub owner; and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), a transplanted Mississippi sharecropper with sights set on musical stardom. After hearing Waters's electrified Delta blues during a tussle at his nightclub, Chess decides to pool his resources into releasing what were then called "race records." Soon a coterie of label talent, from Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf, to Chuck Berry and Etta James, help to propel the fledgling label to the top of the charts--with each hit-maker rewarded by Chess with a shiny new Cadillac automobile. While sometimes playing loose with some minor historical points, the film truly hits the mark with its attention to visual detail, from costumes and cars, down to vintage recording equipment, all of it is a feast for period buffs. But what truly makes CADILLAC RECORDS captivating are the exceptional musical performances of Beyonce Knowles (Etta James) and Mos Def (Chuck Berry), two of the finest musicians-turned-actors of their time. Ultimately, CADILLAC RECORDS' most potent message may be the boundless ability that much of this music had in transcending the unsettling realities facing blacks of the time. From Payola (the practice of bribing disc jockeys to play "race records") and segregation, to white performers pilfering songs written by blacks, all of it is handled with admirable aplomb in this enjoyable, often edifying, film.
USA Today "Knowles captures James' emotional vulnerability and is substantially better than she was in DREAMGIRLS....She shines most when singing." 12/05/2008
Los Angeles Times "Mos Def makes a terrific Berry, all flash and confidence, and Wright offers a memorably soulful take on Waters..." 12/05/2008
New York Times "[A] rollicking and insightful celebration of Chicago blues in its hectic golden age....Enriched by the skill and verve of a prodigious ensemble..." 12/05/2008
Chicago Sun-Times "The casting throughout is successful. Columbus Short suggests the building inner torments of Little Walter, and Cedric the Entertainer plays the singer-songwriter Willie Dixon as a creator and synthesizer." 12/05/2008
Entertainment Weekly "Wright plays Waters as an elegant tomcat in boxy suits....Then there's Chuck Berry -- played by Mos Def, who nails the legend's apple-cheeked charisma as well as his saucy grooves." -- Grade: B 12/12/2008 p.50
Total Film 3 stars out of 5 -- "Beyonce is luminous as the driven diva. Also excellent is Mos Def as an up-for-anything Chuck Berry." 03/01/2009
Empire 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he music kicks up a storm, and the real revelation is Knowles, who burns a hole in the screen as sexy, drug-addled siren Etta..." 03/01/2009
Hollywood Reporter "[Beyonce Knowles] performs dynamic versions of Etta James classics and delivers the dramatic goods as the troubled and badly addicted young woman who lives the blues she sings." 11/25/2008
Wall Street Journal "Jeffrey Wright is superb as Muddy Waters. Columbus Short is scarily mercurial as Little Walter." 06/04/2010
Darnell Martin
Mos Def
Beyonce Knowles
Jeffrey Wright
Adrien Brody
Cast & Crew
Mos Def - Star
Beyonce Knowles - Star
Jeffrey Wright - Star
Gabrielle Union - Star
Columbus Short - Star
Adrien Brody - Star
Cedric the Entertainer - Star
Eamonn Walker - Star
Emmanuelle Chriqui - Star
Darnell Martin - Screenwriter
Terence Blanchard - Composer
Sofia Sondervan - Producer
Anastas Michos - Director of Photography
Steve Jordan - Music Producer
Beyonce Knowles - Executive Producer
Andrew Lack - Producer
Marshall Chess - Executive Music Producer
Darnell Martin - Director
Technical Info
Original Release Date 2008
Catalog ID 29466
UPC 00043396294660
Number of Discs 1
Running Time 108 minutes
Color Color
Aspect Ratio
Anamorphic Widescreen  2.35:1
Image Award (2009) Beyonce Knowles, Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture,Cadillac Records, Nominee, Outstanding Motion Picture,Cedric the Entertainer, Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture,Darnell Martin, Nominee, Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television),Jeffrey Wright, Nominee, Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Golden Globe (2009) Beyonce Knowles, et. al., Nominee, Best Original Song - Motion Picture
Review The story about how the white man cheated the African-American out of his rhythm-and-blues heritage for the cash cow known as rock-and-roll is by now the stuff of legend. Heck, Little Richard's been living off that storyline for the last 20 years. Still, the truth about how misplaced immigrants teamed up with the marginalized minorities to create the soundtrack to our post-modern life is rife with obstacles, contradictions, and more than a little anecdotal fantasy. Now comes Cadillac Records, hoping to shed light on Leonard Chess and his Chicago blues-based label. Yet by leaving one essential character out, and manufacturing more than little of its so-called truth, it's hard to tell fact from fiction...As an example of history at its slightest, Cadillac Records is solid, if superficial. The actors are required to add the depth that Martin's script regularly fails to offer. Elsewhere, intriguing elements are left unexplored. Eamonn Walker's Wolf is a major piece of work, and the ex-Oz man's take on the imposing musician is magical. But we don't get enough of it. Instead, Martin chooses to focus more on harmonica ace Little Walter, and while Short is equally good, his character arc is biopic basic. Even Chuck Berry, who seems to be the most whacked out figure in rock-and-roll's tortured history is relegated to clowning most of the time...Yet there is something undeniable about this film. There is a subtle, sublime feeling of watching pop culture folklore being crafted right before our eyes. When Walker wails on Wolf's "Smoke Stack Midnight" or Wright wriggles to Water's seminal track "Hoochie Coochie Man," no fact-checking can stop the sensation. If one remembers this is a movie, and not a documentary, you'll walk away satisfied. But as a tribute to Chess and its importance to modern music, this is a half-baked homage, entertaining but incomplete.
Reviewer Bill Gibron
ReviewRating 7
ReviewSource Chicago Sun-Times
Review An argument could be made that modern rock 'n' roll was launched not at Sun Records in Memphis, but at Chess Records, 2120 S. Michigan, and its earlier South Side locations since the early 1950s. The Rolling Stones even recorded a song named after the address. The great Chess roster included Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Little Walter. They first made Chicago the home of the blues, and then rhythm and blues, which, as Muddy said, had a baby, and they named it rock 'n' roll..."Cadillac Records" is an account of the Chess story that depends more on music than history, which is perhaps as it should be. The film is a fascinating record of the evolution of a black musical style, and the tangled motives of the white men who had an instinct for it. The Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, walked into neighborhoods that were dicey for white men after midnight, packed firearms, found or were found by the most gifted musicians of the emerging urban music, and recorded them in a studio so small it forced the sound out into the world...The casting throughout is successful. Columbus Short suggests the building inner torments of Little Walter, and Cedric the Entertainer plays the singer-songwriter Willie Dixon as a creator and synthesizer. Nobody can really play Chuck Berry, but Mos Def does a great duck walk...Eamonn Walker, at 6-foot-1, is three inches shy of the towering Howlin', but he evokes presence and intimidation. Sometimes I'm amazed at actors. Seeing Howlin' Wolf bring danger into the room in this film, you'd never guess Walker started as a dancer, was a social worker, acts in Shakespeare, is married to a novelist. Could any of the regulars at 2120 S. Michigan have guessed they would be instrumental in creating a music that would dominate the entire world for the next 50 years?
Reviewer Roger Ebert
ReviewRating 8
DVD, Widescreen, Aspect Ratio 2.35:1, Dolby Digital (5.1), Dolby Surround Sound, English, Subtitled, French, Dubbed & Subtitled
Product Attributes
Video Format DVD
David Edelstein, New York Magazine The ensemble is stupendous--howlingly great--and the music goes deep.
Ken Lombardo, Cadillac Records is a chart-topping hit! Finally, a film depicting the true origins of rock and roll.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle A satisfying combination of great songs and strong dramatic performances.
Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly enjoyable ramble, with a feel for what made the early days of rock as wild as any that followed.
Stephanie Zacharek, Such an exhilarating, spirited piece of work that its embellishments and omissions cease to matter.

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