Cowboys & Angels
dir. David Gleeson
Opens Fri Dec 10.

Civil service work is steady and secure, and doesn't appeal to the sensibilities of college-aged kids who don't yet know who they are or what they want to be. It's also movie shorthand for boring, soul-crushing work. Shane (Michael Legge) is 20-year-old who, like everybody else in his office, hates his civil service job and would rather be sketching in his notebook. Having just moved to the big city of Limerick from somewhere in the Irish countryside he can't afford to live alone, and so he ends up moving in with Vincent (Allen Leech), a flamboyantly gay fashion student (is there any other kind in the movies?).

Shane is a bit of a recluse, with poor social skills and a terribly bland wardrobe. To make matters worse, he has a crush on Gemma, Vincent's pretty and straight girlfriend. Before you can say "metrosexual," Shane begins asking Vincent for fashion advice and rebuilding his personality from his wardrobe up. But it's an expensive proposition. Luckily Shane manages to get on the good side of his local drug dealer by finding and not stealing his stash, and soon enough he's earning extra euros by running drugs from Dublin. By the end of the film, he needs to figure out if he wants to be a civil servant, a drug dealer, or an art student. I won't tell you which he chooses.

Cowboys & Angels is youthful and idealistic, but it's also unsurprising and predictable. However, I must admit that the cinematography is beautiful. If you like to use cinema as a means to tour other parts of the world--places like Ireland, perhaps--then you could do much worse than Cowboys & Angels. But if you want a fresh and interesting story, you'll have to find that elsewhere. ANDY SPLETZER

Bear Cub (Cachorro)
dir. Luis Miguel Albaladejo
Opens Fri Dec 10.

Pedro is a stocky but fit gay man fully enjoying the "bear" scene in Madrid. As the movie opens he is kicking out two lovers from his apartment because his sister is dropping off her son. She's off to India with her hippie boyfriend. Pedro knows that having a 9-year-old kid around will slow his sexual lifestyle down and he's looking forward to the break. Plus, he loves the kid and is looking forward to being a temporary parent. Complications arise when the boy's estranged grandmother shows up. If at first she wanted to shelter the boy from her seemingly irresponsible daughter, now she wants to save the boy from his gay uncle, who the boy has grown to love. And then the mother's trip is extended for reasons I won't go into here.

It's nice to see gay men, or men in general, show so much genuine affection for each other. Plus, the movie is obviously made from the point of view that gay culture is just as varied and complicated as straight culture, if not more so. Like any new parent, Pedro has to balance the needs of the kid with his own individual needs, with the child being more important. Instead of making Pedro a model of the gay community, though, director Luis Miguel Albaladejo gives him flaws that are normal and yet fuel the grandmother's growing campaign against him.

Though the characters feel like they're drawn from real life, the tone of the film is lifted from the Lifetime channel. It's like a made-for-TV movie from a more enlightened society. I think it's because the music is schmaltzy and the grandmother-as-puritan villain is a little one-dimensional. Or maybe it's because the movie succeeds so well in making the idea of a gay single parent seem so normal that it gets a little boring. Which is not a bad thing, ultimately. ANDY SPLETZER

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