Review: Drag superstar Bebe Zahara Benet gets real in Emily Branham’s documentary ‘Being Bebe’

BEING BEBE

BEING BEBE intimately charts 15 years of drag performer Marshall Ngwa (aka BeBe Zahara Benet): An immigrant to America from homophobic Cameroon, first champion on now-iconic LGBTQ+ reality show phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race. Grounded by Marshall’s present-day narration, the film features vérité, interviews and performances illustrating his journey to Queer Black Excellence.


A cultural icon in the world of female illusion, BeBe Zahara Benet rose to international fame as the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But Marshal Kudi Ngwa‘s career was years in the making before the reality series. Director Emily Branham uses archival footage mixed with sit-down interviews during COVID. How does a star slowed down by a global pandemic remain relevant without a live audience’s love and energy? Being BeBe is a heartfelt and honest look at the artist pushing boundaries without pause.

The film addresses the criminality of queerness in Cameroon. Branham respectfully blurs the faces of the participants not only for their physical safety but to give them the freedom to express themselves fully on camera. These young men explain the constant fear of being discovered by family or friends. The isolation takes a toll. The slip of a gesture could mean putting their existence at risk. BeBe has become a role model for those in Cameroon. She uses her platform to support the queer community and give a face to black excellence.

Marshall has a personable and glorious nature. You long to be in his presence as he radiates kindness, humor, grace, and an intensely inspiring work ethic. The film is an unfiltered look at the industry’s ups and downs. That unpredictability causes Marshall to push his ego aside, emotional breakthroughs, and unapologetic admissions. Being BeBe is infectious. If you weren’t a fan before, get ready for newfound respect and adoration for BeBe Zahara Benet because, honey, she continues giving us Face, Face, Face, no matter what.


BEING BEBE // Festival Teaser from Emily Branham on Vimeo.

BEING BEBE, roars into Pride Month on June 7th on major Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) platforms via digital distributor Giant Pictures
(Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu – Pre-Order at https://geni.us/BeingBeBe).
The film will also make its Broadcast Premiere on Fuse on June 21st.


SXSW 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH’

CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH

My feeling toward Cooper Raiff’s CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH is summed up by the warning one learns very early when going to or following the news out of film festivals, which is beware anything anyone tells you because it is invariably wrong. More times than not writers, myself included, are caught up in the moment and something you see produces a reaction that over-sells the film. Such is the case with CHA CHA, a film many of my friends oversold when it played at Sundance.

Director Cooper Raiff plays a young man, just out of college who is stuck working at Meat Stick and acting as a guy who can get people to have a good time at various parties. He meets Dakota Johnson and her daughter at one and is smitten. They bond despite her having a fiance in Barcelona. What will happen?

How you feel about the film will be determined by how you feel about Raiff as a leading man and his technique behind the camera. Looking like a younger David Tennant but with 50% less charm and zero weight, Raiff wanders through the film in a part that makes him seem like a gee-whiz sweet guy that everyone likes. Gosh darn it, why can’t he get his life together. Its a saccharine part of the sort that only exists in “you can’t be serious” romantic comedies. This results in moments that had they been played by any other actor or written by any other writer might have seemed remotely real instead of artificial.

And it’s a shame because Dakota Johnson and Vanessa Burghardt as her daughter are magnificent. They take roles that shouldn’t work as written and turn them into something special. They are what make the film work as well as it does.

Yes, despite my bitching the film works as disposable romance. But it should have been better. It also should have had a different ending which seems to be there just to give the proceedings weight. Forgive me, while it may be slightly logical, Johnson is engaged after all, it feels out of place. Yes I know it’s the result of the film being from Raiff’s character’s POV, but it seems wrong and out of left field like many serious works of literature that go serious in the final pages/minutes. But what annoys me is the whole thing outside of Johnson and Burghardt are not far removed from a sitcom so it didn’t have to end real. (Yes know it’s foreshadowed in conversations but it still seems wrong to me)

Worth a look for Dakota Johnson fans or those who want to have their socks knocked off by newcomer Vanessa Burghardt. Everyone else you’re on your own.


To see more #SXSW22 coverage from Steve, head over to Unseen Films


CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH will make its global premiere on Apple TV+ later this year.


Apple Original Film review: Tom Hanks stars in ‘FINCH,’ a post-apocalyptic road film for the entire family. Premiering globally on Apple Tv+ on Friday, November 5th.

An Apple Original Film

FINCH

In “Finch,” a man, a robot and a dog form an unlikely family as Tom Hanks stars in a powerful and moving adventure of one man’s quest to ensure that his beloved canine companion will be cared for after he’s gone. Hanks stars as Finch, a robotics engineer and one of the few survivors of a cataclysmic solar event that has left the world a wasteland. But Finch, who has been living in an underground bunker for a decade, has built a world of his own that he shares with his dog, Goodyear. He creates a robot, played by Caleb Landry Jones (“Get Out,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), to watch over Goodyear when he no longer can. As the trio embarks on a perilous journey into a desolate American West, Finch strives to show his creation, who names himself Jeff, the joy and wonder of what it means to be alive.


The environmental inevitability of our planet is the backdrop of Finch. Tom Hanks plays the titular role. He’s a scientist surviving with his dog and his rover pet Dewey. His goal is to create a robot with the capabilities of protecting Goodyear when he passes on. This rag-tag crew attempts to outrun a superstorm by escaping St. Louis to San Francisco in a 1980s RV. Finch becomes a hilarious and heartwarming road movie you never saw coming.

Tom Hanks has an undeniable ability to play grounded humor in the simplest moments. We all know his talent in the drama department. You’ll always get every last ounce of life from him. But it is his quiet hope that holds your heart captive. Hanks keeps getting better and better with every role. Finch is another notch in his brilliant career.

Caleb Landry Jones as Jeff is brilliant. His performance has a childlike quality that melts your heart. The script smartly allows Jones to explore every human emotion for the first time. The savant aspect combined with its innocence reminded me of my five-year-old autistic son. The linear and literal way of expression was something so familiar. Jones’s energy will undoubtedly speak to every single parent. His physical performance is through motion capture, and it alone is award-worthy. Hanks and Jones’ chemistry is the stuff of movie magic.

The visual grandeur of Finch places you in the desolate environment and squarely in the sadness of its isolated reality. The sets are astounding. Post-apocalyptic buildings covered in dust and graffiti, cars strewn across freeways, debris of all kinds scattered as far as the eye can see, the set dressing and visual FX teams nailed every inch of the landscape. The created technology is retrofuturistic. The design and personality of Jeff are comforting, lying somewhere between The Iron Giant and Big Bird. His intricate workings are impressive but never distract from the audience bonding with him.

Humanity, knowledge, legacy, and friendship, and family; these universal themes set Finch apart as a film. It encompasses the full spectrum of human experiences in just under two hours. Finch is an instant classic. You’ll feel good sitting down and viewing this with everyone in your family. It’s extraordinary.


Premieres globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5

Cast:

Finch: Tom Hanks

Jeff: Caleb Landry Jones

 

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Screenplay By: Craig Luck and Ivor Powell

Produced By: Kevin Misher, Jack Rapke, Jacqueline Levine, and Ivor Powell

Executive Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Craig Luck, Miguel Sapochnik, Andy Bermanand, and Adam Merims

 

ABOUT APPLE TV+

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app in over 100 countries and regions, on over 1 billion screens, including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, popular smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, VIZIO, TCL and others, Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, Chromecast with Google TV, PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles, and at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free*.

 

For more information, visit apple.com/tvpr and see the full list of supported devices.


 

Apple TV+ review: ‘CHERRY’ has Tom Holland spiralling.

CHERRY

The wild journey of a disenfranchised young man from Ohio who meets the love of his life, only to risk losing her through a series of bad decisions and challenging life circumstances.

Tom Holland plays the titular role in Cherry. The character feels like what might have happened to a modern-day Holden Caufield after the end of Catcher In The Rye. Cherry is classified as an American crime drama, but for me, it’s a genre-bending film that flows similarly to the Nico Walker novel it’s based on. Presented in parts, prologue and epilogue included, the screenplay moves at a rapid pace so you never have time to get too settled. Color is an important part of the structure, as red indicates each chapter shift. The lighting choices are smart and help create the overall mood of the film. There is a palpable heaviness to the story. The camera work is fantastic. Closeups are intentional and amazing. The score is also a huge highlight.

There’s an intense charm about Tom Holland. He commands the screen with his ability to both put you at ease and surprise you. You just believe him. If that’s not the very definition of great acting, I’m not sure what is. His narration controls the overall atmosphere of the film from the get-go. While Holland gets to explore the dark humor in it all, you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop for Cherry. The military PTSD exacerbates his already existing sadness which inevitably leads to addiction… Which leads to a string of bank robberies.

Cherry is a self-destructive story of a young man with no sense of direction, controlled by impulse rather than logic. It could just as easily been an entire series. There’s a lot jammed into its two hour and twenty-minute run. If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s almost too much. With 30 minutes left, I had to pause and come back later. To clarify it was very engaged it was just a lot to ingest in one sitting. Had this played in theaters, I worry an audience wouldn’t be able to stick with the length. Outside of that one concern, Cherry is highly entertaining thanks to Holland’s full commitment to Jessica Goldberg, and Angela Russo-Otstot‘s phenomenal screenplay, and the stylistic choices of The Russo Brothers’ overall aesthetic choices.

Apple will release the movie in theaters on February 26 then on Apple TV+ on March 12. Customers can view Apple TV+ on any Apple device, recent smart TVs, set-top boxes, or on the web.