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The two remaining members of the popular soul band, The Real Deal, from the 1970's, Floyd Henderson, now a retired businessman, and ne'er-do-well, ex-convict, Louis Hinds, take a road trip to the Apollo Theater for a musical tribute to their recently deceased front man, Marcus Hook. As they travel cross country in a series of adventures and misdventures, they air old grievances about thirty year old betrayals and learn the music's still in them.
This was Bernie Mac's final film.
For more about Soul Men and the Soul Men Blu-ray release, see Soul Men Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on February 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Malcolm D Lee
Writers: Robert Ramsey (V), Matthew Stone (I)
Starring: Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Leal, Sean Hayes, Affion Crockett
» See full cast & crew
Soul Men Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Sir Terrence, February 12, 2009
As I watched Soul Men, I was deeply saddened with the fact that two actors in this film will never be seen in new projects in the future. I liked a lot of Bernie Mac's work, especially his role in Ice Cubes "Friday" as Pastor Clever, and his performance in Transformers as "Bobby Bolivia". He was also particularly funny in the movie "Guess Who" where he had the starring role. I also got a chance to see his stand up show at the Paramount Theater in Oakland California several years ago, and I found him to be even funnier than on the big screen. Whenever I saw him, he was always in brightly colored suits, looking "old school" cool complete with a matching brim. This is a star that burned brightly, but for far too short of a time. He passed away August 8, 2008 from complication from pneumonia, but he will never be forgotten.
Much of Isaac Lee Hayes most prolific work was done before I was born, but coming from a musical family I heard a lot of his music spinning on the turntable during my families after dinner music listening. I love his music, as it always seemed like smooth classy soul and jazz music to me. Who could forget "You Don't Know Like I Know", "Soul Man", and "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby", as these were his big hits of the 60's and some of his best musical creations. Also who could forget his cool role as "Duke of New York" in the movie Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell. He also did the voice work of "Chef" on the comedy centrals "South Park". Ironically enough, Hayes passed away two days after Bernie Mac in what I call the darkest week in entertainment history for African American entertainers. Fortunately for us, we are left with this little gem of a film entitled "Soul Men", loosely based on the work that Isaac Hayes did for Stax Records back in the 60's and 70's.
The Real Deal, a group consisting of front man Marcus Hooks(John Legend), and back up singers Floyd Henderson(Bernie Mac) and Louis Hinds(Samuel L. Jackson) is a major hit in the music world and enjoying major success as a result. However all is not well with the group as its lead singer Marcus decides to ditch the group and move on as a solo act. He goes on to be a major hit, but unfortunately not for Louis and Floyd as they attempted to continue on, but end up splitting up because of a major disagreement involving a woman. They go their separate ways as Floyd takes up various business interests, and makes a lot of money in the process. Louis unfortunately spends time in prison, and when he gets out lands a job as a mechanic at a car repair shop. Twenty years pass and it is announced on television that Marcus Hooks has passed away, and his memorial will be at the Apollo Theater in New York City. Floyd gets the idea to call on Louis and get back on stage for this memorial. Louis balks at the idea, and it takes some major convincing in the form of money to get him to agree to do the show. So the duo hops into Floyds Eldorado convertible and get on the road to the Apollo Theater. On the road the anger and coldness the two have for each other thaws out as they rediscover their friendship again.
There is nothing original about this story line, it has been told a million times before this. However Mac and Jackson do this old tale with such originality that it becomes refreshingly entertaining. It's like the two are not acting at all, but just being themselves around each other as they travel. I was amazed at the fact they can both hold a tune, dance, and seem to enjoy doing it. Adam Herschman (Accepted) plays the role of the duo's manager, and is exceptionally good at just being goofy, and attempting a stab at being cool. While traveling Floyd and Louis stop at the house of Floyd's ex-wife where his supposed daughter (Sharon Leal) is currently living with her abusive boyfriend, and sees she has issues of her own. Leal does a credible job with the role, and has a fine singing voice as well. This is great old fashion story telling done with a fresh twist, with fine characters, great comedy and very good character interaction. Malcolm Lee does an excellent job of directing these fine actors performances and keeping the story on track. It is rather easy for these kinds of stories (and actors) to get sidetracked by their own silliness, but Lee keeps it well controlled without smothering the humor. We are also treated to an excellent film score written by the great Stanley Clark whose previous film scores I found a treat to listen to.
Soul Men Blu-ray, Video Quality
Soul Men rocks its way on to the Bluray format in a 1080p/AVC encode, framed in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio. This is one good transfer that is clean and offers a lot of detail to boot. There are no film related artifacts such as pops, scratches or dirt in sight. Contrast is spot on, and black levels are deep without obscuring shadow detail. Detail and fine detail are very good, as you can see the gray hair on Bernie Mac's face quite easily, as well as detail in the performance clothes they wear onstage. Images have incredible depth and three dimensionality, you feel like you can almost reach in to the screen and pull something out. Primary colors are very well rendered, but secondary colors seemed somewhat muted. Flesh tones were tonally natural with excellent delineation that made subtle facial expressions easy to discern. There were no compression artifact present, but there is some resolution fluctuations which I believe are more attributed to director's artistic choice than the transfer itself. This is a very fine high definition presentation that is sure to please.
Soul Men Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack while not a barn burner in the effects area is a real treat to listen to. There are no explosions, but there are a few accidental gunshots that come off rather convincingly. This is a dialog driven film, and it is always clear and intelligible even in the presence of music in the background. LFE is basically missing in action, as most of the bass is in the music and featured in the main front channels. During the musical performances, the sound stage comes alive filling the room in all directions. It's during these performances that the sound field opens up completely, providing a deep sound field both in width and depth, and from front to back. The legendary Stanley Clark's film score is well recorded, and sounds sublime with its jazz tinged feel. This is a great example of how to create an engaging audio track without a single explosion or gunfight.
Soul Men Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There is fair amount of extra content on this disc, though most of it not particularly memorable.
Commentary with Malcolm D. Lee, Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone vacillates between being informative, and just plain fun.
Featurette: The Soul Men (SD 9 minutes) features Jackson and Mac talking about their friendship, the material, and their approach to it.
Featurette: The cast of Soul Men (SD 7 minutes) includes the entire cast and crew along with Mac and Jackson. Also interviewed is John Legend, who gives his perspective on the production as well.
Director Malcolm Lee shows us how the director sets up a scene, and how he works on the set.
Featurette: Tribute to Bernie Mac (SD 7 minutes) has the cast paying tribute to the great Bernie Mac.
Featurette: Tribute to Isaac Hayes (SD 4 minutes) has the cast paying tribute to music legend Isaac Hayes.
Featurette: Boogie ain't nuttin (SD 2 minutes) features a behind the scenes look at Jackson/Mac in the recording studio.
Bernie Mac at the "Apollo" (HD 4 minutes) gives us 4 minutes of Bernie Mac stand up comedy show live at the Apollo Theater in Shreveport Louisiana.
Soul Men Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I am glad Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes lived long enough to finish this movie. It was a treat to ride with the guys while they were on their way to perform at the Apollo Theater. While there is nothing original or new about this story, it is delivered in a entertaining way that fans of Mac and Jackson are sure to enjoy. These guys made this story theirs, and it looks like they had a great time doing it. I highly recommend this movie, but recommend that you send the young ones to bed before viewing. The language can get strong, but not particularly offensive in this case, but it is not for young kids' ear that is for sure. At least give this flick a rent to decide if you want to add this flick to your collection permanently. I am glad it is in mine!
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