Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

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Soul Men (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 103 Minutes

Why black filmmakers want to show their race as imbeciles is beyond me. There are some, like Spike Lee with “Miracle at St. Anna,” and Denzel Washington with “The Great Debaters,” who portray blacks in a positive light. Hollywood needs more of the latter and less of this type of belittling obscenity. It mystifies me why “Amos ‘n Andy” can be banned from the airwaves for half a century by the NAACP, but a racist film like this that stereotypes blacks as foul-mouthed, ignorant fools can not only be released, but be made by and about blacks without a whimper from the NAACP.

Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) and Floyd (the late Bernie Mac), were backup men in a group featuring singer Marcus Hooks (John Legend). Hooks left them to go single; they continued as a duo then broke up after recording one album and haven’t spoken in decades. When Hooks dies, a show honoring him is planned for New York and Floyd prevails upon Louis to drive back with him to appear. This is the story of that journey and how they get along with one another.

This is supposed to be a musical comedy, but there is no music in the first hour and every other word is either the “f” word or “MF-er.” The only black person in the movie who isn’t a vulgar ignoramus is Cleo (Sharon Leal), who just might be the daughter of Louis or Floyd, who they visit in the course of their journey. Humor is juvenile and concentrated on groin and rutting jokes.

Despite marquee stars Jackson and Mac, maybe the best performance in the film is by Affion Crockett, who plays Lester, a gangbanger who is Cleo’s boyfriend, but who beats her. He is appropriately hateful and stupid.

I thought there might be some good music, as the credits list 12 songs that will be coming out in a sound track. But the first hour dragged by with nary a tune.

There are some almost unbelievably amateurish scenes in the film that director Malcolm D. Lee could have fixed with minimal effort. In one, Cleo is playing the piano. Her hands are shown on the keys, but she isn’t playing any of the keys that are heard. In fact, her hands don’t even punch the keys down or move; they just stay mostly stationary in chord position when what we hear are individual notes. It shouldn’t have been too much trouble for Lee to either have her learn a few chords and play them, or cut the keyboard from the shot by using a different angle.

In a couple of other scenes, Louis and Floyd are shown on stage, doing dance steps á la The Pips, who backed up Gladys Knight in the '60s and '70s with highly choreographed dance steps. But whenever there is a shot of Louis and Floyd actually dancing, their heads are cut off! All we see are two headless torsos doing some fast dance steps. Obviously, these are not shots of Jackson or Mac, but body doubles who can actually dance. It’s so obvious, it’s laughable. Now that I think about it, those are the only scenes in this movie that cause any mirth. Unfortunately, we are laughing at Lee, not with him.

But, to return to the opening theme of this review, if this movie is OK with the NAACP, what does it have against the relatively innocuous and far less derogatory “Amos ‘n Andy,” which featured Tim Moore as Kingfish, one of the best and most memorable television characters of all time? In fact, Moore’s performances make what Jackson and Mac do in this film pale as the moon pales facing the rising sun. While Moore’s standout performances rust away unseen in a vault, banned by the NAACP, Jackson and Mac’s meager and disparaging performances are now playing at your local theater with nary a peep or protest from anyone.

November 3, 2008