BluRay Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5 stars)

    Jamal Woolard as CHRIS WALLACE
    Derek Luke as SEAN “PUFFY” COMBS
    Angela Bassett as VOLETTA WALLACE
    Naturi Naughton as LIL KIM
    Anthony Mackie as TUPAC SHAKUR
    Antonique Smith as FAITH EVANS

    Rated R and UNRATED
    Studio: Fox Searchlight

    Directed by: George Tillman Jr.

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Influential rap legend Chris Wallace (Jamal Woolard), aka Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G., grew up in the ghetto of Brooklyn, selling drugs and committing a variety of petty crimes. However, when he took his rhymes on the street to Sean Combs (Derek Luke), he was became a star. “Notorious” follows Wallace from the streets to being a legend of hip-hop, including his various affairs with female singers and rappers, including Lil Kim (Naturi Naughton) and Faith Evans (Antonique Smith). However, when the East Coast/West Coast turf war in the rap industry led to violence with him and Tupac Shakur, tragedy struck.

While I’m not a big fan of hip-hop music, I did find “Notorious” to be an interesting story of one man’s struggle to better himself – even if bettering himself was immersed in a thug life, drugs and violence. The story of Chris Wallace is definitely an interesting one. There was drama. There was sex. There was violence. It’s everything you could ask for in a movie, even if it was a bit sleazy.

The cinematography was crisp and fresh, giving the film a great look. An even though the film takes place in the not-too-distant past, it had a look of the era.

Finally, the acting is very good in this movie. Jamal Woolard does a spot-on impression of Chris Wallace, and the supporting cast shines as well. Naturi Naughton is sexy, sultry and intoxicating as a young, pre-cosmetic surgeried Lil’ Kim. And Derek Luke exudes the confidence we’ve come to expect from Puff Daddy, even if he doesn’t quite look like him.

Ultimately, this movie was made for the fans of Chris Wallace’s music. It’s not something for the people who hate rap music, simply because there’s a lot of rap music to be had in this film. The fans and B.I.G. historians are going to eat this movie up.

While the movie was dramatic and powerful at times, it was a bit of a fluff piece about Chris Wallace. I appreciated the fact that the film showed him in his sometimes unflattering light (like when he sells drugs to a pregnant woman and is a womanizing pig), but the filmmakers still did their best to make Wallace look like an innocent bystander in all the thug-life hubbub.

Not being a fan of hip-hop, and not knowing first-hand the cultural impact that Wallace’s recordings had on the public, I was a bit bored in the moments that recreated his recording session and historic concert moments.

While “Notorious” is a decent film, it shines as a BluRay release. Here is one of those discs that takes full advantage of the BluRay medium. The special features come loaded with the expected material, including two commentary tracks – one featuring the filmmakers and the other featuring the folks from Wallace’s life. A second disc also includes a digital copy of the movie for portable media players.

Multiple featurettes are available, including a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurtte, a spotlight on the cast, a featurette showing how the filmmakers achieved Biggie’s style, an examination of his lyrics, multiple deleted scenes, a special bootleg performance of the real B.I.G. and a break-down of a B.I.G. performance.

Enhanced features include “The B.I.B. Three-Sixty,” which drops the viewer at ground zero where Wallace was shot, complete with video segments describing the importance of the different elements of the location. There’s also a series of featurettes that are embedded into the film, which can be watched along with the movie or separately.

Finally, the “Music BD-Live” feature runs with the theatrical version and allows the viewer to customize playlists of the songs online and view a trivia track.

Fans of hip-hop and The Notorious B.I.G.

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