Mini Reviews (March 2005)
Acts of Worship, Up and Down, D.E.B.S.
Acts of Worship (March 21/05)
Gritty, unrelentingly bleak story about a homeless junkie named Alix (Ana Reeder) whose solitary existence is redeemed - albeit briefly - by her friendship with Digna (Michael Hyatt), an up-and-coming photographer with a destructive past of her own. Acts of Worship has been written and directed by Rosemary Rodriguez, a first-time filmmaker who imbues the film with a nightmarish quality that undoubtedly reflects the hopelessness of life on the streets. But Rodriguez refuses to allow even a glimmer of optimism into the storyline, something that's reflected in Reeder's fierce, unflinching performance. So, while there's absolutely no denying that Acts of Worship is well made, it's just not all that entertaining - though that was probably Rodriguez's intent.
Up and Down (March 23/05)
In the tradition of Short Cuts and Magnolia comes this Czechoslovakian tale revolving around three distinct storylines that occasionally intersect, particularly as the film approaches its conclusion. Featuring a married couple who buy a baby on the black market, an aging professor and his convoluted personal life, and two inept criminals that can't seem to catch a break, Up and Down moves at a brisk pace and is often surprising funny - particularly in the film's Raising Arizona-esque subplot. That aspect of the film is contrasted with a searing family drama (think Secrets and Lies), and while combining tragedy with laughs seems inexplicable, director Jan Hrebejk (who co-wrote the film with Petr Jarchovský) does a nice job of balancing the admittedly disparate stories. The filmmaker also imbues Up and Down with an effectively innovative sense of style, peppering indivudual sequences with a variety of subtle yet intriguing little tricks (ie he'll change the filters depending on which storyline he's dealing with). Though Up and Down may not have the same sort of political bent as his best known film, Divided We Fall, there's no denying that the movie succeeds on the level of sheer entertainment.
D.E.B.S. (March 25/05)
Though D.E.B.S. isn't even remotely funny - despite the comedic elements in director Angela Robinson's screenplay - the film is actually semi-entertaining, thanks to the filmmaker's colorful sense of style and the brisk pace with which the story moves. D.E.B.S. refers to an organization of spies that's comprised entirely of women (with one notable exception), and the film follows their efforts to stop a ruthless supervillain named Lucy (Jordana Brewster). Problems ensue when one of the D.E.B.S., Amy (Sara Foster), finds herself falling in love with said megalomaniac. D.E.B.S. somehow fuses elements of a lesbian romance with a parody of spy flicks, though it's the former that quickly proves to be the most effective aspect of the film (we're actually rooting for these characters, despite the monumental odds against their relationship).