Friday, January 1, 2010

An Adrian Brody Two-fer: The Brother's Bloom and Cadillac Records

I'm not a fan of Adrian Brody, yes he did a good job in the Pianist and deserved his Oscar, I'm sure all can agree that doesn't automatically make one a good actor. I saw The Brothers Bloom because I do like Mark Ruffalo, and Cadillac Records for Jeffrey Wright and the music. Luckily, Brody does nothing to prevent either movie from being really terrific entertainment.

The Brothers Bloom finally puts Mark Ruffalo into a character different from others he's played - a scummy not so great guy, and he obviously revels in it. He plays Brody's older brother, Stephen, and the pair of them have been con men since childhood. However, now Brody, called Bloom - I never figured out the title, since they have no last names, one is Stephen (Ruffalo) and one is Bloom (Brody), but it doesn't seem important. Anyway now Bloom wants out of their life, and Stephen talks him into one more con with their silent partner in crime, Rinko Kikuchi (Oscar nominee from Babel). They decide to try to con a rich lonely eccentric woman, Rachel Weisz, who learns hobbies of all sorts and falls into their con with ease. However, this is the last time I fully understood what was going on. A complicated series of cons take place, some with Penelope's (Weisz) help and some for other reasons. It's a great movie with funny dialogue and a morose looking Brody all the way through. Ruffalo and his ideas for cons are funny, and the supporting cast is terrific - Rinko is wonderfully funny while saying almost nothing (maybe she doesn't speak English well, but they used it to perfection. 4 of 5 stars/lambs

The other movie I enjoyed despite Adrian Brody's presence was Cadillac Records the story of real-life Chess Records and its artists. Started by Leonard Chess, a Jewish man in Chicago in the 1950s trying to make a better life for himself, he starts a club where black musicians play, and he meets Muddy Waters and Little Walter, and goes on to set up a recording studio and does all he can to get their blues music on the air. It's mostly the story of Muddy Waters and the evolution of music from blues to rock and roll. Jeffrey Wright is Muddy, recording music and learning to love the life it provides. Chess does take some advantage of his artists, but placates them by providing new a Cadillac constantly. Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyonce) sign with Chess Records and obviously become stars. There's competition between artists for attention from the small studio and who makes the most money. It's really interesting from a historical perspective as I didn't know Chuck Berry spent so much time in jail, and how badly taken advantage of and abused many black musicians were (the Beach Boys stole an entire song from Berry and changed the lyrics, only compensating him later after he sued). The music is wonderful and all the acting is terrific. Even Beyonce stretches her acting chops a bit - not in who she plays, Etta James was a terrific singer, but had tons of attitude and a huge hurdle to overcome her start in life (a prostitute and white politician). Nearly all the characters are eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but there's an obvious tone of too-little-too-late when it comes to really appreciating artists from the beginning as human beings not just commodities. Excellent movie. 4.5. of 5 (and available on Netflix Watch Instantly for those interested).

Oh, and a PS - Don't watch Two Lovers with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwenyth Paltrow - it's awful. Worst movie of 2009.

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