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Jamie Foxx Presents Thunder Soul - Movie Review - 2011

Pure Inspiration Then and Now

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)


Jamie Foxx Presents Thunder Soul - Movie Review - 2011

Jamie Foxx Presents Thunder Soul - Poster Art

Roadside Attractions
Thunder Soul is a genuinely uplifting documentary that spans two distinct time periods - past and present - in the history of Kashmere High School Band, a student ensemble that during the 1970s ruled in the realm of high school music competitions and that reunited in 2008, picking up their instruments again for the first time in years, to play a tribute concert in honor of their inspired, inspiring and demanding music teacher and band leader, Conrad O. Johnson, Sr., fondly referred to by them as Prof.

The documentary's official title is Jamie Foxx Presents Thunder Soul, but Foxx doesn't appear in the film.

Ruling In The Realm of Student Musicians

During the 1970s, the student band at Kashmere High School, a Houston, Texas, inner city school that was attended mostly by African-American students who were considered at risk, emerged as the unbeatable best in high school band music competitions across the U.S.

Under the tutelage of Prof Johnson, they strayed away from the prevalent big band sound and introduced popular tunes -- funk -- into their repertoire, along with original pieces composed for them by Prof. Their sound was unique. Additionally, they choreographed their performances with smooth moves that left audiences in awe. Everywhere they performed -- including Texas-funded tours through Europe and to Japan -- they attracted a huge and loyal following. They even recorded and released a record, Texas Thunder Soul, which is now, in re-release, a huge hit and collector's item.

The successes of Kashmere High School Band inpsired other student groups - ranging from basketball to debate - to excell and boosted pride throughout the entire community.

Band members were treated like rock stars, but Prof kept a tight reign on them, demanding discipline and their continued hard work and achievement - not only in music, but in other aspects of their lives, as well. One former student comments that Prof taught him not only how to play music, but how to be a man. Needless to say, all of the young band members adored the teacher who inspired them to learn and built their self confidence by insisting that they achieve.

As Time Goes By

Thunder Soul - Kashmere High School Band

Roadside Attractions
Year after year, student musicians graduated, went on to other studies and success in their various careers. After a run of competition wins and successful tours, "Prof" Johnson was apparently forced to retire - presumably by school administrators who were jealous of his growing glowing fame. With Prof gone, Kashmere's powerhouse band folded.

Fast forward to 2008. Former Kashmere band members, now in their 50s, reassemble to honor Prof, now 92, with a concert of the music they played way back when. Many band members hadn't handled their instruments since graduation, but they're determined to get back into the swing - or funk. It ain't easy. One horn player confides with good humor that she nearly passed out on her first blow. But she and her peers persist, and under a baton wielded by a former student who's now a musician, and with prayers lead by another who's now a preacher, the ensemble plays a brilliant, heartfelt concert for Prof.

Filmmaker Mark Landsman embraces his cast with warmth and captures their humor. His use of archival photos, news footage and assorted vintage movie clips sets historical context, but it's current on camera interviews with Prof and testimonials from his players mixed with footage of the reassembled band in rehearsal and performance, that's so moving, so joyful and inspiring, such a pleaser for crowds of all ages, for people in all seasons of life. Thunder Soul may play prelude to a narrative feature - a la Mr. Holland's Opus, say - but it's questionable whether another film could deliver the authentic emotional impact of this original.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Thunder Soul
  • Director: Mark Landsman
  • US Theatrical Release Date: September 23, 2011 (limited)
  • Running Time: 83 mins.
  • MPAA Rating: PG for brief language and momentary historical smoking
  • Parental Guidance: Advisory for Parental Guidance for content
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Language: English
  • Production Country: USA
  • Production Company: Snoot Entertainment
  • Distribution Company: Roadside Attractions
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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