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Movie Reviews

By Kam Williams Excellent'''''. Very Good''''.. Good''''''... Fair'''''''.. Poor'''''''. Thunder Soul

    No stars

Thunder Soul 

Reverential Bio-Pic Pays Tribute to Legendary H.S. Bandleader

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fter graduating from Wiley College (of The Great Debaters fame) back in the Thirties, Conrad “Prof” Johnson (1915-2008) briefly embarked on a promising career as a jazz musician, joining big band orchestras led by the likes of Count Basie and Erskine Hawkins. However, he decided to come off the road in 1940, right after meeting the love of his life, Birdie. The couple soon married and decided to settle down in his native Texas, where for the next 37 years, Prof would teach music at Kashmere High in Houston. There, he formed a stage band to compete in tournaments against other schools, and as conductor taught his students how to achieve a professional quality sound on their instruments. By the late Sixties, Kashmere had developed an enviable reputation as a world-class powerhouse, courtesy of a funky brand of music dubbed Thunder Soul. But perhaps more important than forging youngsters into a competitive, top-flight band capable of winning national championships was the fact that Prof simultaneously served as a father figure to so many who were being raised without a male role model. Although he retired in 1978, Conrad Johnson had made such a last-

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ing impression on his Kashmere kids that numerous band alumni decided to pay tribute to him 30 years later by reuniting to do a show when they learned their hero was in failing health. That Herculean effort is the subject of Thunder Soul, a reverential bio-pic directed by Mark Landsman. Produced by fellow Texan Jamie Foxx, the picture features file footage of the group performing in the

Seventies when they were mostly sporting big afros and wearing bell bottoms pants and platform shoes. That retro reminder is deftly juxtaposed against the same individuals now middle-aged, yet somehow still summoning up the funkified fire of old as they “practice, practice, practice” just to please their former mentor in one glorious, toe-tapping last hurrah. Mixed in with those preparations are a host of heartfelt reminiscences about how much Prof meant to each of them. And if you aren’t moved by those teary-eyed testimonials, then the Courageous

floodgates will certainly open on reunion night when their 92 year-old mentor is wheeled up the aisle from a hospital bed to attend the magnificent concert in his honor. They don’t make ‘em like Prof anymore!

Rated: PG for smoking and mild epithets Running Time: 83 minutes Distributor: Roadside Attractions To see the trailer for Thunder Soul, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbSBqgJbTQ Courageous 

Cops Struggle to Juggle Careers and Fatherhood in Faith-Based Family Flick

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hen Pastor Alex Kendrick read a report back in 2003 alleging that movies had become more of an influence on impressionable young minds than the church, he decided to do something about it. So, along with his brother, Stephen, and fellow pastors Michael Catt and Jim McBride, he cofounded Sherwood Pictures in order to make their own faith-based films. Operating on a modest budget under the aegis of the Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, the Christian-themed studio has previously produced a trio of well-received, inspirational morality plays, most notably, Fireproof, which grossed over $30 million at the box-office alone. A bona fide Renaissance Man, Pastor Alex not only writes and directs each feature, but stars in them as well. Plus, he is the author of several best-selling novels, including “The Love Dare,” a New York Times #1 Best Seller which has remained on the list for 126 weeks thus far, while selling 6 million copies and counting. Courageous, Kendrick’s latest cinematic offering, is an alternately actionoriented and thought-provoking adventure which thoroughly entertains while ever so subtly issuing a

clarion call for a cultural rededication to traditional family values. The story specifically telescopes tightly on the trials and tribulations faced by a quartet of colleagues serving on the Albany Police Force. We witness an endearing male bond-

Denver Urban Spectrum — www.denverurbanspectrum.com – November 2011

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ing among the four at work as they cultivate the trust necessary to know a buddy will have your back when apprehending perpetrators in dangerous situations. However, an entirely different type of camaraderie is called for after hours as they try to unwind from the stresses of the day in the company of their wives and children. It is that struggle to juggle career and fatherhood which sits at the heart of Courageous, a sobering parable designed to make men reflect on what’s most important in life. And to varying degrees, each of the picture’s protagonists proves to be a flawed individual. First, there’s Officer Adam Mitchell (Kendrick), who’s been chided by his wife, Victoria (Renee Jewell), for not devoting enough quality time to their kids. He can’t catch a break, between missing daughter Emily’s (Lauren Etchells) dance recitals and declining son Dylan’s (Rusty Martin) repeated offers to run a 5K race together. Then we have Adam’s partner, Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes), who behaves more like a pal than a dad to his 12 year-old, perhaps because he was left emotionally wounded by his own parents divorce. Consequently, he’s taken to filling that hole in his soul in an inappropriate manner. The third officer is Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), an 8-year vet from Atlanta who has just moved his family back to his hometown to raise his kids in a city with a slower pace. He never even met his own father, so foremost among his issues is figuring out how to parent a flattered 15 year-old (Taylor Hutcherson) being wooed by an older boy (Donald Howze) in a gang who has his own car. Finally, there’s Nathan’s young partner, David Thomson (Ben Davies), a deadbeat dad who is in denial about the existence of a 4 year-old daughter born out-of-wedlock. Each of the aforementioned predicaments eventually boils over into a crisis leading to a moment of truth. But no matter the issue, again and again the question seems to return to whether or not each is ready to summon up the requisite amalgam of courage, faith and resolve to become a man. A moving, modern parable not to be missed by anyone who’s always wondering why they don’t make wholesome movies with uplifting messages anymore. Rated: PG-13 for violence and drug use Running Time: 129 minutes Distributor: Tri Star Pictures / Affirm Films To see a trailer for Courageous, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9VT_NBIVfs

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Denver Urban Spectrum November 2011 Issue