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Monday, March 14, 2011

Reverend's Reviews: Romance Blossoms in New DVDs

It's Spring, time for rebirth and potential new love! As two new, gay-oriented home video releases make clear, nothing says "romance" quite like... bikini parties and blood-sucking vampires?

A bikini party is the memorable centerpiece of the German film Alex and Leo, out April 5 on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures. Set in Berlin, it depicts the challenges the two title characters face in the process of falling in love. Shortly after the two have a brief encounter in a coffee shop, Alex (Andre Schneider) discovers that his longtime boyfriend has been cheating on him. Meanwhile, Leo (Marcel Schlutt, who is too cute, especially when playing drunk) tells his girlfriend of four years that he is gay. She not unpredictably breaks up with him.

Leo and Alex cross paths again in a local cabaret. Alex, still reeling from the end of his relationship, is hesitant to get involved with another man so soon. His friends also caution Alex against getting involved with a "closet case" like Leo. Leo, however, is very attracted to Alex and is anxious to start living an openly gay life.

Alex's hesitance toward Leo begins to falter during the previously mentioned bikini party, at which both male and female guests are required to wear two-piece women's bikinis. I don't know whether this is a traditional German concept or not, but it's fun and there is naturally plenty of flesh on display. Neither Leo nor Alex are model-quality in appearance, but their average looks make their relationship and the movie more believable.

Unfortunately, Alex and Leo (which was written and directed by Ives-Yuri Garate) isn't the most visually attractive film. Many scenes are at times grainy and/or over-lit. This fact and an awful end title song keep it from scoring higher in my critical book, but it is nonetheless a well-acted, sweet and funny take on contemporary gay relationships.

Another new release with romance on its mind is Vampire Boys, from Ariztical Entertainment. Obviously aiming to cash in on the current craze for all things having to do with pretty, ageless bloodsuckers (i.e. the Twilight saga, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries), this direct-to-DVD production features a posse of toned, frequently shirtless dudes who prowl around LA hunting for plasma.

Into their midst comes young, innocent Caleb (Christian Ferrer). The gay college student has just moved to California from Ohio, lured by an online friend named Paul (Ryan Adames). While Paul is hoping for more than just a roommate arrangement with Caleb, the leader of the local vampire squad, Jasin (the truly captivating Jason Lockhart), begins having visions in which Caleb appears as "The One." Jasin needs to mate with "The One" and turn them into a vampire in order for him and his boys to survive.

The vampires had anticipated a woman to be "The One," so they are all initially surprised when Jasin and Caleb become attracted to each other. This is a unique and appreciated twist in the plot of Vampire Boys over the tortured heterosexual love triangle at the center of Twilight, et al. Only one of the vampires (played by Dylan Vox, formerly known as gay porn star Brad Benton) voices objections, so he plots to steal leadership from Jasin.

The film is pretty silly and amateurishly directed by Charlie Vaughn but isn't without its romantic charms. Caleb and Jasin are worth swooning over as their relationship escalates, especially after Jasin "comes out" as a vampire to Caleb and Caleb must decide whether to become a vampire too. I don't like how the character of Paul is treated, however. He is dispatched so unsympathetically and Caleb's concern over Paul's disappearance is so fleeting that Paul ultimately becomes inconsequential. Why have the character in the script in the first place? The producers of this obviously low-budget affair could have spent even less money.

Still, if you like half-naked male vampires (while a couple of their male victims are shown in their full-frontal glory), Vampire Boys may be the movie for you.

Reverend's Ratings:
Alex and Leo: B
Vampire Boys: C

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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