Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Notorious life makes for inglorious biopic

Notorious (15, 123 mins) Jamal Woolard, Derek Luke, Angela Bassett, Anthony Mackie

IN the early hours of March 9, 1997, Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace, aka rapper The Notorious BIG, left an LA club with his entourage, bound for their hotel.

When the vehicles stopped at traffic lights, an unknown assailant opened fire in a drive-by shooting, spraying the car with bullets and fatally injuring the musician.

His passing was the latest flashpoint in a fierce rivalry between east and west coast rappers including Tupac Shakur, who had died in a drive-by shooting in September the previous year.

George Tillman jnr’s overlong biopic doesn’t draw any conclusions, offering up a reverent if not entirely affectionate portrait of the man, which leaves you wondering how many skeletons the scriptwriters left hanging in the closet.

Real life rapper Woolard, aka Gravy, performs many of the songs in the film but when he can’t rely on lyrics, he is not the most expressive performer.

Moreover, he’s unable to curry any sympathy for Christopher, who mistreats all of the women in his life, both eyes focused intently on his own fulfilment.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (12A, 96 mins)

Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz

The Spanish sun evidently proved a tonic for Woody Allen.

After a sojourn to London to make three very different and equally disappointing films (Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream), the writer-director heads to sunnier climes for this romantic comedy about two friends whose lives are turned upside down by the same passionate hombre.

Flighty and single Cristina (Johansson) and soon-to-be-married Vicky (Hall) head to Barcelona for the summer. Taking in the sights of the city, the young women catch the eye of artist Juan Antonio (Bardem), who is the talk of the town because, as a local explains, “he had that fiery relationship with that beautiful woman who was nuts.”

Cristina falls under Juan Antonio’s powerful spell and they embark on an affair, only for crazy ex-wife, Maria Elena (Cruz), to reappear and stir up dormant desires. Allen is back on form.

At the QFT, Belfast.

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