The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 108 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English/French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Columbus Short, Beyonce Knowles, Mos Def
Written & Directed by: Darnell Martin
Music by: Terence Blanchard
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 10, 2009
"If you take the ride, you must pay the price"
"Cadillac Records" chronicles the rise of Leonard Chess' (Adrien Brody) Chess Records and its recording artists including Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter (Columbus Short), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Willie Dixon (Cedric The Entertainer) and the great Etta James (Beyonce Knowles). In this tale of sex, violence, race and rock and roll in Chicago of the 1950s and 60s, the film follows the exciting but turbulent lives of some of America's greatest musical legends.
I am ashamed to admit that I wasn't' familiar with the Chess Records story prior to seeing this film. Of course I was aware of some of its music and artists but the back story is pretty interesting. Leonard Chess was an ambitious guy who knew talent, and wasn't afraid to be innovative. According to the film his decision to allow Muddy Waters to play his style of Blues music was really a stroke of genius that paved the way for many great artists. It also opened the door to a genre that probably wouldn't have had commercial success otherwise. This movie paints a pretty vivid picture of what life was probably like for these musicians and their families. Without proper representation or financial handling of their affairs they were in many cases not being effectively compensated. Handing someone the keys to a Cadillac is all well and good but unless you sell it all it offers is stylish convenience. The film depicts the downfalls of drug/alcohol abuse, infidelity, violence, racial prejudice, and pretentious behavior. On the other hand it reveals the effects that these artists had on the music industry and how those effects are still pertinent even today. The impetus being the fusing of black and white audiences as the music helped to break down the barriers that separated them.
I find biopic stories like this to be engaging and this film was no different. The cast did a spectacular job from soup to nuts as I didn't feel there were any weak links among the main players. Columbus Short was simply amazing as the unpredictable and fiery Little Walter and Gabrielle Union made the most out of every scene she was in. I enjoyed its strong dramatic elements but a movie like this is inevitably about the music. There was much to enjoy Beyonce's captivating and beautiful renditions of Etta James' At Last and I'd rather go blind leading the way. She is a stunning woman who is beginning to come into her as an actress which is evidenced by her strong performance in this role. It was easy to see Writer/Director Darnell Martin's passion for this project. I think she tried to be as faithful to the story as possible while properly placing emphasis where she envisioned it. I think that bringing the history behind these events and people to light is important to their legacy. This film dignifies them by trying to be honest in its telling.
The rating is for pervasive language, violence, drug content and some sexuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Cadillac Records comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 1.5 mbps.
This is nice looking high definition presentation that exhibits video quality that is consistent with a newer release film on Blu-ray Disc. The early parts of the film use a muted color palette that maintains more of a neutral chromatic that doesn't offer definitive color depth. As the success of Chess Records increases colors take on more prominence with primary emphasis that offers vibrant textures and bold, eye catching variety. Fleshtones have a resplendent quality with appreciable tonal divergence among the varying complexional types within the predominantly African American cast. Contrast is spot on and blacks are fairly delineated and deep. Images are crisp and resolute with defining sharpness that provides excellent depth regardless of the camera's perspective. The video was whistle clean and showed no obvious signs of compression errors or video related anomalies.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack offered imaging that was tightly focused across the front three channels as its delivery was well defined and spatial. Dialogue was rendered with subtle distinction and refinement as delivered by the majority of the cast. The only problem I had which isn't really attributable to the encoding was the difficulty in understanding some of dialogue as spoken by Jeffrey Wright and Columbus Short. I guess Muddy Waters (Wright) muttered when he spoke because Wright's interpretation left some of his dialogue difficult to comprehend. The problem with Short (Little Walter) had more to do with the dialect he used than anything else. Clarity and detail were first rate as the multitude of musical numbers flowed across the front soundstage with crystal clear and acoustically transparent auditory. The surround channels didn't offer much in the way of discretely placed sounds but rather provided mild ambience that didn't create a very enveloping presence. The style of music made limited use of low frequency effects as this was not a very dynamically demanding soundtrack. While bass response could have been mixed hotter I thought that it provided proportionate emphasis in support of the film's time period and musical expression.
- Commentary with Writer/Director Darnell Martin
- The Chess player record
- 5 Deleted scenes
- (HD) Playing chess: The making of Cadillac Records - 26 minutes
- (HD) Once upon a Blues: Cadillac Records by design - 15 minutes
- (HD) BD Previews
- BD-Live enabled
Cadillac Records is an interesting and well executed film that has musically historic significance. Writer/Director Darnell Martin allows us to momentarily share in her passion for this subject matter as she re-creates the world inhabited by these musicians. Its release on Blu-ray Disc from Sony is another strong effort from them that offers excellent high definition video quality. The bonus content isn't high in quantity but its condensed view of the production is comprehensive and interesting. I am not sure how this film would hold up under repeat viewings but it is easily worth the cost of a rental to find out.
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