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Notorious (2009) Review


Terrible
In hindsight, the thought that a film could have ever done justice to Christopher George Latore Wallace, the Brooklyn-born rapper who went by the names Biggie Smalls and The Notorious B.I.G. until his untimely, unsolved murder in March 1997 at the age of 24, was a foolish if exceedingly hopeful fantasy. Would any director possibly be as good at balancing blunt criticism -- of masculinity, poverty, the music industry, the black experience in America and, perhaps most importantly, himself -- and have as big an ego as the late MC? Maybe Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep) but his project never came to pass.

What we are presented instead is Notorious, a dutifully celebratory, profoundly inept retelling of the rise of Wallace from fatherless coke slinger on the corner of Fulton and St. James to the still-praised Shakespeare of hip-hop and best friend to that other don of hip-hop culture, Sean "Puffy" Combs. The film, which is directed by Soul Food helmer George Tillman Jr., opens on the infamous shooting of Wallace outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. As the first bullet is fired, the screen pauses and the voice of the deceased rapper kicks in and rewinds us back to the beginning of the tale with a 12-year-old Wallace, played by Christopher Jordan Wallace, the son of Wallace and R&B singer Faith Evans, sitting outside Queen of All Saints Middle School in Bed-Stuy, waiting for his mother Voletta (Angela Bassett).

Continue reading: Notorious (2009) Review

Kingdom Come Review


OK
When LL Cool J stars in a movie with a title like Kingdom Come, you expect to see car chases, stuff getting blown up, that sort of thing. Instead, we get a fairly average, seen-it-before, family comedy that has its moments as well as its problems -- just like the clan in the movie.

When the Slocumb family patriarch -- evidently an ornery sonofabitch -- keels over in front of wife Whoopi Goldberg, it sets off a Slocumb pilgrimage back to the tiny town of Lula for a weekend of last respects. But, like most extended families, there is friction, conflict, and the occasional secret.

Continue reading: Kingdom Come Review

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