Alain Goldman

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Babylon A.D. Review


Unbearable
In the movie critic handbook (yep, we all get one), there are certain assured signs that a movie is going to tank and tank hard. Sometimes, all it takes is a name over a marquee (Rob Schneider!). In other instances, the format (mindless Movie lampoon) foreshadows the flop sweat. Perhaps the surest indication of some certified crap comes from the studio itself. When they fail to screen a film before it opens, even cancelling pre-planned previews to avoid that deadliest of PR pariahs (bad word of mouth), you know you're in trouble. After the 90 soulless minutes that make up Mathieu Kassovitz's Babylon A.D., you'll never doubt that tome again.

Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a mercenary hired by an old ally, Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu) to transport a young girl named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) from Eastern Europe to New York City. In the violent, dystopic world which is the future, she needs someone with Toorop's skills as a smuggler. Along with Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), the trio must traverse crowded train depots, perilous border checkpoints, a trip aboard an old Soviet sub, and a snowmobile ride across a security drone-policed arctic tundra. Once they arrive in America, Toorop finally discovers the purpose of his mission. Aurora is either carrying a deadly disease... or the new messiah. In either case, the evil High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) will stop at nothing to get her hands on them.

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La Vie en Rose Review


OK
The fact that Olivier Dahan's lengthy retread into the life of French chanteuse Edith Piaf has subtitles shouldn't distract you from what's going on. La Vie En Rose, though more stylish in a half-assed, Jeunet-aping sort of way, carbon-copies the DNA of Hollywood musician biopics Ray and Walk the Line and, for better or worse, becomes another in a long line of over-hyped cinematic biographies.

Played by the radiant Marion Cotillard, Piaf rose to stardom as France's most infamous and celebrated singer. Her inebriated bravado and playful demeanor only enlivened her fluid, stunning voice, creating some of the most entertaining and dynamic live performances ever given by a solo vocalist. Rising up with her best friend Momone (a solid Sylvie Testud), Piaf was saved from a youth spent being raised in a bordello when her father couldn't keep things together. Singing on the street, Piaf was finally found by club owner Louis Leplee (the reliably great Gerard Depardieu). From there, Piaf furthered her talents and eventually became the great singer we now know her as.

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Crimson Rivers 2: Angels Of The Apocalypse Review


Grim
There aren't many French movies that you can rightly consider as guilty pleasures, but the original Crimson Rivers, a baffling yet highly entertaining thriller that has become a cult favorite. Wish I could say as much of the sequel, which is pretty much nonsense from the first frame, as our mismatched cop heroes (Jean Reno and some other guy -- a new partner) investigate strange goings on inside a remote abbey. Before the end the mystery will entwine Nazis, amphetamine addicts, creepy dudes in robes, and, uh, the Maginot Line. Nudge me if you get it.

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Vatel Review


Good
If you've ever heard of Vatel, it's probably only because you remember it was nominated for a Best Art Direction Oscar in 2000. And indeed, this is a lovely film to watch, even on the small screen. What I hadn't counted on was that Vatel would contain a good story with very capable acting, genuinely intriguing -- and based on a historical event, to boot.

Vatel is the central character in a critical weekend in French history (way back in 1671). Played by Gérard Depardieu, Vatel is the chief steward at the mansion of the Prince de Condé, a now penniless French nobleman whose last-ditch effort is to invite King Louis XIV to his estate for the weekend, through a rager of a party, and win the king's favor in order to get the post as general in the upcoming war against the Dutch.

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Le Pacte du Silence Review


Grim
Psychological thrillers about twins are weird enough -- now we have to have it in French? This flashback-infested, circular, and borderline-nonsensical set piece gives us Gérard Depardieu as a priest and a doctor and Élodie Bouchez as a crazy girl and a nun... only Depardieu's doctor/priest is one person, not two, like Bouchez. Taking trips that venture all the way from voodoo country to the inner workings of the Catholic church, this silly thriller's payoff is so tepid that it hardly makes the frustrating journey there worth it. Skip.

Continue reading: Le Pacte du Silence Review

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