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On the Notorious B.I.G. Screen

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Just had a chance to see it for the first time yesterday, here’s my official mooovie review:

Considering we’re not too far removed from critically acclaimed biopics about Ray Charles (Ray) and Johnny Cash (Walk The Line), Notorious, a film about Christopher Wallace (aka Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls) might seem premature. Keep in mind though that the world has been without the Notorious B.I.G. longer than it has Charles and Cash, so maybe the time was just right?

(left: How does Notorious stack up against other music movies? Well…)

Like Ray, Walk The Line, La Bamba, or even Walk Hard–the film that parodies these movies–Notorious falls into the normal trappings of a music movie: subject gets picked on, turns his struggle into art, and has a definitive breakthrough moment, in this case, it’s Biggie (Jamal Woolard) reigning supreme in a sidewalk freestyle battle in Brooklyn. From there we also get the run-of-the-mill “first” concert scene, where Wallace is hissed and heckled, only to be adored seconds later as he rips into “Party and Bullshit.” And a music movie wouldn’t be complete without a scene in a recording studio where (insert artist’s name here) performs their signature hit for a smiley-faced producer nodding with approval through the control room window.

Notorious–as most motion pictures about music do–attempts to sum up an entire body of work in just two hours. Because of that, every scene seems to mark a profound moment in Biggie’s life, giving the film–what I call–the “Cold Stone Creamery Effect” (one scoop of the densely rich ice cream is delicious, but by the third bite you want to throw it all up cause it’s just too sweet). With an over abundance of profundity we hear Puff Daddy (Derek Luke) speaking only in motivational quotes and Mrs.Wallace (Angela Bassett) delivering over-the-top dramatic dialogue every chance she gets.

Because I’m familiar with the era of hip-hop in which Biggie rose to fame, I could easily read between the lines, but someone not familiar with his career may have a hard time following (and understanding) certain events, especially how the East Coast vs. West Coast feud got so out of hand–which Notorious needed to develop a lot more than it did.

Without question, the highlight of Notorious is Jamal Woolard’s spot-on performance. If you close your eyes, he is the Notorious B.I.G.–delivery, swagger, lisp and all. Besides Angela Basset, Notorious is also free of any big-name actors, who do a fine job of keeping the focus on the story. I’m sure it would have been easy to enlist a well-known, hip-hop artist/actor to star in the film, but the rags-to-riches tale is tough to tell with someone who has already made it to the top in real life (you think Rocky would have been Rocky if Burt Reynolds starred in it?).

Not surprisingly, the only time I felt a little twinge in my tear ducts was when Notorious used real-life video clips. The biggest downfall of any movie about a music legend is that it’s damn near impossible to duplicate someone who was one in a million. Why would I pay to see a movie about Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, or Christopher Wallace’s life story when I could just put on a pair of headphones and hear them tell it to me?

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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