The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2009
MPAA Rating: R/Unrated
Feature running time: 123/129 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, Angela Bassett, Anthony Mackie, Naturi Naughton, Antonique Smith
Directed by: George Tillman Jr.
Music by: Danny Elfman
Written by: Reggie Rock Blythewood & Cheo Hodari Coker
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: April 21, 2009
"No dream is too B.I.G."
Chronicling the extraordinary life of Christopher The Notorious B.I.G. Wallace, NOTORIOUS follows the young rapper from the tough streets of Brooklyn to the heights of superstardom as he juggles the increasing demands of fatherhood, marriage and a music career. Amid chaos and controversy, Biggie's remarkable talent and fierce determination help to solidify his legacy as one of hip-hop's greatest MCs.
Notorious is a biopic film that chronicles the rise of Christopher 'Biggie' Wallace from the streets of Brooklyn NY to becoming one of Hip Hops most iconic figures. The story begins with his untimely death at the hands of an assassin in California on March 9, 1997. It then turns back the clock to 1983 and follows him from childhood as it recounts his life right back to the point where the film began. It depicts him as an intelligent, ambitious young man who discovers that he has a talent that draws people to him. Early on he fall's victim to the environment where he grew up. Money comes easily when he is introduced to hustling crack on the street corner. It eventually catches up with him and he does a stretch in prison. He comes out with a slightly different outlook. He had time to reflect on his life and he poured many of his thoughts into words and subsequently his music. The birth of his daughter got him thinking about staying on the right side of the law and happenstance brought him into contact with Sean 'Puffy' Combs who offered to take him and his music via the fast track to the top. Things didn't exactly go according to plan but Combs was determined and when opportunity knocked B.I.G. was born. Biggie was fortunate to have good people around him. His mother Voletta was a driving force in his life. His best friend Damion D-Roc' Butler would make a huge personal sacrifice (that most friends wouldn't) to help Biggie. Combs and Mark Pitts were Biggies management team and together they orchestrated his rise to stardom.
On his way up the ladder he would meet West Coast rapper/actor Tupac Shakur. Tupac was charismatic, talented, well established and Biggie was impressed by him. He was unpredictable though and little did Biggie know that this friendship would ultimately be part of the reason for his death. Like most young men, Biggie had a thing for the ladies. There were three women in his life (besides his mother). Jan was the first and is the mother of his daughter. He then hooked up with an attractive and fairly volatile young lady who would come to be known as Lil Kim. Lastly, he met Faith Evans whom he would marry after a whirlwind courtship that lasted a matter of days. They had a son, Christopher, who played the role of Biggie (when he was young) in this film. The movie depicts the ins and outs and ups and downs of his relationship with these women and how he in turn affected their lives and careers. The events leading up to Biggie's death started when Tupac was invited to visit Biggie/Puffy and company at their NY City studio. When he entered the building he was attacked, shot and robbed. He survived but blamed them and accused them of setting him up. This poured gasoline on the already burning West Coast/East Coast hip hop feud. The two artists openly admitted their dislike for one another as it played out in the media. Tupac was shot and killed in Las Vegas in September 1996. Biggie was devastated by his death which gave him reason for pause. After a car accident left him with a broken leg he received a visit from D-Roc. D-Roc spoke to him prophetically about life, reflection and family. After this Biggie, decided to make time for his daughter and to take his music in a bit of a new direction. He completed his second album and traveled to California to promote it. He would never return.
Both the Director's cut and Theatrical versions are included. The Director's cut adds 6 minutes to the theatrical version's runtime. I watched the theatrical version during my evaluation. One of the reasons that I enjoy reviewing movies is because of the variety of films that show up at my door. I look forward to the opportunity to see a film that explores topics that I would otherwise not necessarily be drawn to. Hip hop music is generally not my cup of tea. I do appreciate its form of artistic expression which very much like other art forms/music speaks to life's experiences. Its use of repetitive rhythms and explicit language never attracted me but every now and then if I do hear it I find myself bobbing my head and tapping my toe to the beat. I clearly recall the deaths of both Tupac Shakur and Biggie but quite frankly never understood the whys and wherefores until now. I enjoyed this film more than expected. I found it at times to be compelling and I thought that Jamal Gravy' Woolard did a marvelous job in the lead role. I was also very impressed with Naturi Naughton who portrayed Lil Kim and Antonique Smith who portrayed Faith Evans. The film is explicit in its telling which seemed appropriate for the subject matter. I don't know how accurate the film is however I thought that the pacing and direction were on the money. As a film biopic I can't say that it broke new ground but I found it to be entertaining just he same. I think that what I took away from this film is that Christopher Latore George Wallace stands as an iconic hip hop figure that solidified the East Coast hip hop music scene. He died for nonsensical reasons and is considered by many to be the greatest rapper of all time. I think that his life stands as a testament to the fact that no dream is too big.
The rating is for pervasive language, strong sexuality, nudity and some drug content.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Notorious comes to Blu-ray from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 21 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
This is a reference quality video presentation that boasts deep, stable blacks and bold dynamic contrast. Colors range from vividly saturated to intentionally reserved/muted. Fleshtones are lustrous with appreciable tonal delineation that highlights subtle variations in the complexions of the largely African American cast. Images are exquisitely detailed, three dimensional, and razor sharp regardless of the camera's perspective. Shadow detail is strong which provides an appreciable sense of depth during the low lit concert/club and exterior nighttime sequences. Grain is well preserved with variable texture that becomes prominent at times but never rises to objectionable levels.
The high resolution DTS-HD MA soundtrack delivers smooth, sibilant free treble, tonally rich, crystalline dialogue, and diffused, room filling ambience. The front channels are seamlessly integrated with surrounds tightly infused which creates an immersive, stable soundstage. This mix creates a two dimensional sound field that comes alive during the concert segments. The sounds of the crowd and music, gyrate around the listening area as the deep, low frequency energy thumps along to the driving hip hop rhythms. It thought that this presentation sounded great.
- Director/Theatrical Cut of the film
- Commentary with Director George Tillman Jr. and Co-Screenwriters Reggie Rock Bythewood, Cheo Hodari Coker, and Editor Dirk Westervelt
- Commentary with Producer/Biggie's Mom Voletta Wallace, Producer/Biggie's Co-Manager Wayne Barrow and Biggie's Co-Manager Mark Pitts
- Life after death: Making Notorious BonusView PiP feature
- (HD) Behind the scenes: The making of Notorious - 27 minute featurette
- (HD) I got a story to tell: The lyrics of Biggie Smalls - 9 minutes featurette
- (HD) Notorious thugs: Casting the film - 9 minute featurette
- (HD) Biggie boot camp - 6 minute featurette
- (HD) Anatomy of a B.I.G. performance
- Party & bulls**t - 3 minutes of rare concert footage
- (HD) The B.I.G. three sixty - interactive view of location of shooting
- (HD) 9 deleted, 1 extended scenes
- Music Trivia Feature - When enabled contains pop-ups with facts/trivia during each Notorious track featured in the film. Play lists can be created and music can be downloaded through iTunes.
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc - Contains a standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC to a portable media player
I liked this biopic film and although it follows a fairly generic formula I found the story to be engaging. It is paced well and covers the majority of bases to provide a sense of Biggie's Notorious rise from the streets of Brooklyn to becoming one of Hip Hops most talented and iconic figures. His death at 24 years of age is truly a tragedy that left his family and fans reeling. Fox brings this title to Blu-ray in a well rounded package that features supreme audio/video quality and a solid set of extras that includes Blu-ray Disc exclusives. If you're a fan this disc should have a place in your collection.
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