Notorious George Tillman

Notorious George Tillman
If it isn't already clear from the glowing biopic that is Notorious, the special features on this two-disc collection reveal how the film's creative team attempted to extol the complex virtues of Notorious B.I.G., giving younger generations a filtered glimpse at the man behind the icon. As casting directors Twinkie Byrd and Pamela Frazier suggest in "Notorious Thugs: Casting the Film," Brooklyn's Jamal Woolard is to Biggie Smalls what Jamie Foxx was to Ray Charles: a miraculous doppelganger capable of spooking their characters' real-life friends and families with spot-on portrayals. Woolard's remarkable performance as an open-call unknown and some spitfire grit from Naturi Naughton (Lil' Kim) and Antonique Smith (Faith Evans) excepted, Notorious's plot suffers from some familiar biopic pitfalls (i.e., family dysfunction leads to a life of crime; the prison stint inspires re-examination; life pressures inspire artistic creation and success; fame leads to sexual temptation and infidelity; family is sacrificed for career, etc.) and odd casting (namely Derek Luke as Sean "Puffy" Combs and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur, neither of whom really capture their muses). But, to its credit, the film gets fans as close as possible to the private life of one of the greatest rappers of all time. Produced by Combs and Big's ma, Voletta Wallace, Notorious isn't necessarily flattering to its subject; Christopher Wallace seems as sweet and hopeful as he does monstrous, lewd and hell-bent. But in Tillman's control, the film strives for authenticity first, presuming that the facts of the tale offer content that's compelling enough. Several features reveal how actual conversations and live footage from Biggie performances in Toronto and Atlanta (a grainy, early performance of "Party & Bullshit" is included) inspired key, shot-for-shot scenes, while "I Got a Story to Tell" finds journalists, fans and musicians discussing the inspiration behind Wallace's dark, often humorous lyrics and artistic stance. Given that we're only 12 years removed from when Big Poppa roamed this Earth, Tillman was relentless in getting the details perfect, sending his entire cast to "Biggie Boot Camp," where they learned to rap, dance and embody their roles, in many cases consulting with their real-life counterparts for insight and advice (excluding Lil' Kim, who has condemned the project). The tragic outcome of Wallace's young life is all the more harrowing in "The B.I.G. Three-Sixty," which provides a revolving view of Wallace's murder scene, literally spinning a camera down the four-way intersection, which includes the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire in Los Angeles, and offering short films from both personal and technical perspectives. One of the great tragedies in popular music, the loss of Notorious B.I.G. certainly resonates but, more that that, Notorious celebrates a true legend by exploring his raw reality and mythical abilities. Plus: Trailers. (Fox)