Saturday, January 17, 2009
Box Office or Bootleg?
Siskel and Ebert used their thumbs. My movie rating system is Box Office or Bootleg. Let me explain. We all know going to the movies is not cheap. Two tickets, a bucket of popcorn and drinks can easily cost you $30 plus. Don't forget to add parking fees if you live in LA. If I'm going to spend that kind of money, the movie better be good. There are some films where I don't mind breaking out the wallet because I want that movie theater effect. Then there are some movies where they look okay, but it's not worth a trip to the box office. In that case go to a friend's house and watch a $5 bootleg copy. You see where I'm going with this?
This weekend I saw Notorious. The film chronicles the life of the late, great rapper Christopher Wallace. Better known to us hip hop fans as Notorious B.I.G.or Biggie. At first, I wasn't going to see the movie. I know how the story ends. I was a senior in high school when Biggie was murdered. I didn't want to be reminded of all that West Coast vs. East Coast foolishness that led up the deaths of both Biggie and Tupac. But I changed my mind after watching the cast and Biggie's mom, Voletta Wallace on 106 & Park.
I'm glad I changed my mind because Notorious is a great film. Actor/rapper Jamal Woolard who plays B.I.G must have channeled the hip hop icon's spirit because Woolard nailed this role. Woolard had the crooked smile, heavy breathing, and Biggie's stage swagger down. Voice lessons at Julliard worked because Woolard sounded like B.I.G. I was so engaged in his performance that at times I forgot Woolard wasn't Biggie.
The film is a raw and sometimes fun journey that humanizes the rapper. You see the dope dealer and womanizing side of Biggie. But you also see a dreamer, a father a, son. And then you really understand how he brought his life to to his art. It's also a journey through hip hop. The music and costumes takes you back to that era of hip hop where people were really feeling this new sound from Bad Boy records. I saw the movie at Magic Johnson's Theater on Crenshaw and people in the audience were bobbing their heads and mumbling lyrics during concert scenes.
There's not only drama on screen, but behind the camera. Lil' Kim isn't happy about how she's portrayed in the movie. The Queen B told Hip Hop Weekly that she wasn't pleased with former 3LW singer Naturi Naughton being cast to play her. Kim says Naughton never contacted her when prepping for the part. Mind you, Puffy is the executive producer of the film. Lil' Kim is a character in herself and playing someone eccentric and wild as her I imagine is not easy. But Naughton brought Kim's firery attitude and in-your-face sexiness to the big screen. While at the same time showing Kim's love for Biggie. I thought it was interesting that Lil' Kim's character was the only one nude in the movie. Could Lil' Kim be unhappy about the story because she's portrayed as B.I.G's side dish? While his wife Faith, played by Antonique Smith, is his main love. I would've liked to see some input from Lil' Kim. I wonder if the film would've been different if she had some say. Maybe she'll tell her side of the story in her own movie or book. Say you want to say about Lil' Kim. I bet a biopic on her life would be very interesting.
Notorious gets my Box Office approval. Angela Bassett brings out the pain and hope of Biggie's mom. Anthony Mackie plays Tupac and Derek Luke plays Puffy. They were pretty good. Like Lil' Kim, those are hard personalities to bring to the screen. The movie was missing the friendship bond between Puffy and Biggie. But it was fun to go back in time when two of hip hop's greatest reigned--2Pac and Biggie.