20TH CENTURY FOX
SPECIAL FEATURES B
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6.75
(OUT OF 10)
This is a good biopic about Notorious B.I.G. (aka Christopher "Biggie" Wallace), telling the story of his life from his days as a nerdy kid on the streets of Brooklyn up until his murder while visiting Los Angeles in 1997, when he became a casualty of the East Coast/West Coast rap feud.
Jamal Woolard gives a strong performance as Biggie, a drug dealer who could lay down some decent rhymes and caught the attention of up-and-coming producer Sean "Puffy" Combs (played by an excellent Derek Luke). The film puts a fairly positive spin on Biggie's life, considering the guy used to sell crack to pregnant women (or so the film depicts).
I learned a few things watching this. I never knew Biggie and Lil' Kim were doing it. I also didn't know that Tupac Shakur was actually once shot downstairs from Biggie's recording studio. (He would die in a later shooting.) Anthony Mackie nails down the Tupac role, looking and sounding a lot like the guy. All of the actors do fine jobs of singing and dancing their parts.
They could've made a whole movie just dealing with the dynamics of the war that got Tupac and Biggie killed, but this is the story of Biggie, and it is an interesting one. It's curious that those murders never got solved.
Cool side note: Biggie's real son plays him at 10 years old in the film.
SPECIAL FEATURES: You get both the theatrical version and an extended cut. Deleted scenes, making-ofs and more come in a two-disc set that should please fans of the film. Biggie's real mom (who is played by Angela Bassett in the film) gives an interview about the project and the creation of the film. It's fun to see her participate in the casting of her son; she actually spotted Woolard and said, "That's my son!"
8 Mile (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES C+
DVD GEEK FACTOR 6
(OUT OF 10)
In the battle of the rap movies recently released or re-released on video, the winner is definitely Notorious. But this one, now getting the Blu-Ray treatment, certainly has its moments.
Some of this film—loosely based on the life of Eminem, who made his feature-film debut here—is pure shit. The movie tells the story of Bunny Rabbit (Eminem) and his fight to get above it all in scary Detroit; some of it is terribly melodramatic. Kim Bassinger is 100 percent awful as his long-suffering trailer-trash mom, and his motley crew of buddies seems borrowed from every urban-film cliché in the book.
Then there's Eminem, who ignites the screen when he shows his rage mojo; that's total fun to watch. I suppose a two-hour film of him just rapping would've been better, but this uneven film comes out slightly positive, thanks to the moments when he lets loose.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A making-of documentary, and uncensored "rap battles."
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 5.75
(OUT OF 10)
An old-school horror film in the spirit of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead and George A. Romero's zombie films, Splinter is fun thanks to the cast performances. I found myself wishing producers had thrown a few more dollars at this low-budget effort; the monster effects and gore are OK, but the acting and some interesting character twists are better.
A camping couple (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner) mess up their tent and decide to head for a hotel. En route, they are taken hostage by a gun-wielding psycho fugitive (Shea Whigham) and his drug-addict girlfriend (Rachel Kerbs). They wind up at a gas station, where things shift from a hostage drama into horror: They are attacked by dead folks infected with a strange parasite transferred through splinters jutting out of them (thus the name of the film).
The dynamics between the actors and some truly unexpected behavior both keep things interesting. Director Toby Wilkins does the most he can with the money he's given. Some of the effects, like disembodied hands that are obviously puppets, don't work all that well. However, I did like some of the zombie effects, especially one zombie that manages to run around on the station rooftop.
Overall, this is a good rental for those who like their horror sloppy and fun.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Docs, making-ofs and a commentary with the director and cast.
Bedtime Stories (Blu-Ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES D
DVD GEEK FACTOR 2
(OUT OF 10)
This is the worst Adam Sandler movie ever, and I can't say enough bad things about it. A fun premise (a kid's bedtime stories come true) is squandered in a messy, unfunny, torturous film that continues a terrible streak for Sandler. Hopefully, this summer's pairing with Judd Apatow (Funny People) will get things back on track for the funnyman.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Bloopers and deleted scenes. Ah, who cares?