Bears on a soapbox – that's the most concise way of describing the preachy BearCity, about finding love in the wild woods of New York City. Claiming to be the bear-version of Sex and the City, Douglas Langway's film pretty much just proves that bears can be bitchy queens, too.
Bearing it all: Stephen Guarino (L) and Brian Keane
For those less acquainted with the bear community, the film provides so many terms and definitions that it feels a crash course in bear-dom, but big and hairy is the shorthand. Tyler (Joe Conti) is struggling to come out – as a bear lover. ''Admitting that you like bears is like coming out of the closet twice,'' he says, in one of the better-written lines in the film. He moves in with a bear and his ''husbear,'' causing tension between the older couple who are feeling the four-year monogamy itch, and soon falls for Roger (Gerald McCullouch), the daddy bear of the clan. But since Roger likes muscle bears, Tyler feels like the runt of the litter.
BearCity, which Langway co-wrote with Lawrence Ferber, is clearly for the bear community, but it often feels like a defiant statement aimed at a judgmental gay community at large rather than a narrative. The self-righteousness is either going to be preaching to the choir or sound off-putting. Either way it walks the tightrope of being too heavy-handed. And the dialogue is a little too bitchy to be clever, which results in the guys sounding as clichéd as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.
The one thing the film doesn't lack is bear-lovin'. Most of the actors bare it for the multiple titillating (and one titty-twisting) graphic depictions of bear love. These scenes are as anti-Bel Ami as you can get, and they provide a subtext for the film that is also the intention of a subplot about weight-loss via surgery. It says, ''We're here, we're queer, we're hairy, deal with it.'' Like Tyler tries to explain to his ridiculously gay friend, you either find bears hot or you don't. BearCity might not turn you into a chaser, but for bears who are used to the manscaped likes of Queer as Folk and Dante's Cove, it's going to be a welcome feast after a long hibernation.
IT'S NO SURPRISE that Out of Annapolis is not just about gays and lesbians in the military, but that it was also made by them. There's a formality and repetition to the documentary that has an almost military precision feel to it. Unfortunately, along with this calculated style comes detachment and muted emotions.
Director Steve Clark Hall, who is also one of the former military officers featured, gets the other 10 subjects to open up about their experiences in the military, interspersing statistics with their own stories. The subjects are broken into two parts – the early years before ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'' when ''witch hunts'' were common, and after the policy took effect. Most of the interviewees relate their stories with great eloquence, but only one – interestingly, the one who spent the least amount of time at the Naval Academy – evokes a real pang.
While the audience might not get emotionally moved to take up arms against DADT after seeing Out of Annapolis, one thing is abundantly clear: Every single person featured was proud to serve their country. And for that, they deserve to be saluted.
It's hard to know where to start with A Marine Story, because the filmmakers didn't know where to end. Alex (Dreya Weber) returns from the war to her family home in a tiny, conservative town, and within days she's dealing with chauvinist pigs, wayward teens, meth heads, a stalker, a new lover, PTSD, and a potential drinking problem. Oh, and no one knows she's a lesbian.
A Marine Story is a whole lot to handle, and the drama-overload overshadows some of the better aspects of the film. Weber's performance is actually quite compelling, and the ups and downs she experiences during her re-entry into civilian life are handled well. Unfortunately, when the lesbian topic comes up, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell section of the film starts, it's a little too reminiscent of a Lifetime special.
Paris P. Pickard is strong as the girl who needs Alex's help to prepare for boot camp, which is one of the less strained concepts in the film. That this more mundane component of the film is the most interesting, since other subplots veer into telenovela land, is a credit to the actors.
Writer and director Ned Farr needs to go to the Coco Chanel school of script writing. When you've finished a script, go back and remove the last subplot you put in. Maybe even the last two.