Reel Q Festival continues with 'Hot Guys With Guns' and 'Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth'

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A sampling of reviews for the second and final weekend of the Reel Q film festival:

' Hot Guys With Guns'

(USA 2013)

3 1/2 stars = Very good
Ratings explained

Two male actors who were raped at a wild party given by a promiscuous film mogul go on a rampage of theft and potential murder to get revenge.

An aspiring African-American actor named Danny ("General Hospital's" gay nurse Marc Samuels) takes a class for private investigators in preparation for an upcoming role. When he investigates his ex-partner, Patrick, known as Pip (Brian McArdle), as part of a class exercise, he discovers that Pip was a victim of the vengeful duo.

This may sound grim in the telling, but writer-director Doug Spearman has made it into a hilarious gay send-up of the old-fashioned detective story with a bit of the modern buddy film thrown in. It's a comedy-mystery-thriller-romance that combines Sam Spade with "Lethal Weapon" on a zany West Hollywood romp.

The men are gorgeous, the situations absurd, the laughs prolific, the acting excellent and the direction filled with attention to details. In addition to the dazzling array of men, there are Joan Ryan's indelible wild antics as Pip's pill-popping racist mother, who doesn't mind her son being gay but can't handle his relationship with a man of color.

' Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth'

(USA 2013)

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

"I'm not lesbian; I'm not bisexual; I'm not straight," Alice Walker said. "I'm just curious."

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is indeed curious, about everything in life, notably the plight of African-Americans, whose lives and travails she immortalized in the novel and subsequent film "The Color Purple."

Pratibha Parmer's low-key documentary captures the spirit and the dignity of this sharecropper's daughter who refused to compromise with her oppressors and followed her own path.

She was unapologetic about marrying a white Jewish man and bringing him back from New York to her parents in the deep South, unapologetic for having several lesbian affairs later on, unapologetic for portraying black families realistically, often showing black men as abusers and misogynists.

It came as a surprise to learn that "The Color Purple" brought vicious protests from the black community when it first appeared, even though most white liberals think of it as a very progressive story (and film). Also, that Ms. Walker took on Africans for their continuing practice of female circumcision. "I'm not going to let Africans off the hook," she insists.

Director Parmer uses Walker biographer Evelyn C. White as narrator, along with clips from the protagonist herself. Gloria Steinem, Yoko Ono and Steven Spielberg are among the celebrities who make cameo contributions in her praise.

Only Ms. Walker's estranged daughter, Rebecca, is conspicuously absent, except for Ms. Walker's touching memories of the girl's childhood, and her expression of sadness in their having grown apart. This lovely documentary sheds light not only on the author and her work, but on the social and racial politics in 20th-century America.

' Free Fall'

(Germany 2013)

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

The setting is the German police force, a predictably homophobic institution. The outdoor activity is jogging. The protagonists are two new trainees. Change a few details, and this could be a German transformation of "Brokeback Mountain."

Rugged Marc Borgmann (Hanno Koffler), living with his pregnant girlfriend Bettina (Katharina Schuttler), falls into a relationship with sexy fellow cadet Kay Engel (Max Riemelt), who is already out to himself if not his colleagues on the force.

Marc cannot admit, even to himself, that he is really gay. "This was just a one-off," he protests, long after the affair has become serious. The chemistry between these two magnetic actors sizzles on the screen, and it's absorbing to watch Marc's life go into the free fall predicted in the title.

This is a thoughtful effort that, with more psychological subtlety, could have been more challenging to the viewer's thinking. The unresolved ending, however, is abrupt and unsatisfactory, as if writer-director Stephan Lacant didn't know where to go with his plot and therefore just stopped in midstream. Even with its flaws, this is a film worth seeing.

' G.B.F.'

(USA 2013)

1 star = Awful
Ratings explained

For anyone who hasn't yet figured it out, G.B.F. stands for gay best friend, a must-have accessory for vapid wealthy high school girls vying to be prom queen.

There's hardly a gay stereotype, nor a high school movie cliche, left out of the inane script by Moon's George Northy, nor is there anything original in Darren Stein's direction. The only surprise is that some familiar TV personalities, including "Will & Grace's" Megan Mullally, agreed to participate.

The object of these valley girls' attention is sweet, shy Tanner (Michael J. Willet), outed unintentionally by his best friend, Brent (Paul Iacono) -- also gay and still in the closet -- via some rash Internet action on his cell phone.

When Tanner is refused admission to the prom because he wants to bring a male date, one of the girls organizes an alternate "all inclusive" prom to compete with the school's event. Tanner quickly becomes a target of the local Christians' anti-gay venom and a Mormon's awkward attempted seduction.

There's more mayhem than malice, however, and a glib happy ending. Mr. Willett may be eye candy for the Twinkie set, and Ms. Mullally a pleasant diversion for her fans, but it's hard to imagine that any high school student with an IQ higher than his (or her) shoe size could be taken in.


Robert Croan is a senior editor for the Post-Gazette. First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM


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