223 results
    • Hoochie Coochie Men

      Hollywood's version of the Chess Records story combines the best and worst of the classic rock 'n' roll biopic
        Based on the story of Chicago’s legendary Chess Records label, which gave rise to such monumental musical figures as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James, and, despite a host of errors that will irritate the rock and blues historian, it still manages to capture the essence of the story it’s trying to tell. Adrien Brody portrays Leonard Chess, a Polish immigrant junkyard owner who opens Chi-town’s Macomba Lounge in 1949 and begins presenting local blues artists (although, historically speaking, the club was originally a jazz hang; both Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington played its stage early on). At the same time, Muddy Waters (played by a terrific Jeffrey Wright), after being recorded by folk music archivist Alan Lomax (Tony Bentley), leaves his sharecropping life in Mississippi to seek something better in the Windy City. The movie — as narrated by Cedric the Entertainer playing Chess songwriter, bassist and producer Willie Dixon — then tries to tell the entire Chess story in the remaining 90 minutes, which, among other things, probably explains the absence of such pivotal Chess figures as Bo Diddley if not the dramatic license it often takes with facts. But Wright definitely gets Waters, reflecting the man’s nobility and quiet dignity, despite his character flaws, throughout the film. Brody, meanwhile, is merely serviceable as Leonard Chess, although he looks absolutely nothing like the real man.
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    • The boy looked at Patti

      New film documents a rock 'n' roll matriarch, from her home in Detroit and beyond
        Fashion photographer Steven Sebring met Smith 11 years ago, during a photo session, and approached her with the idea of a personal documentary. Smith agreed, and the documentarian was given extraordinary access to his subject for more than a decade. Smith narrates the film herself — both in verse and plain speaking — and her biggest fans will find much here to love. Early in the film, we’re treated to footage of her old home in Grosse Pointe, as well as a visit to late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith’s grave. The Smith’s children — Jackson and Jesse — figure predominantly throughout the film, both as young children and young adults. There’s also moving footage of Smith with her seldom-seen, now-deceased parents at their family home in New Jersey. And there are images, as well as footage, of Smith with iconic friends, from the great (Dylan, Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Phillip Glass) to the questionable (Ralph Nader, Red Hot Chili Pepper asshole Flea). And remembrances of Burroughs at the Chelsea Hotel are hilarious. But one wishes that Sebring had concentrated more on Smith’s humorous and humanistic side, like those mentioned above, and less on the pretentiousness. Another major complaint is that while trying to show that Smith is more than a rock star, the director (and perhaps Smith herself) short changes the importance of Patti the rock ’n’ roll star. Smith is one of the greatest rock performers this reviewer ever saw during her mid-’70s heyday. While there’s no footage of her as the young performing wildcat, there are scenes (perhaps not enough, though) of some more recent and overwhelming performances in various parts of the world.
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    • BOO!!

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