This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond – ‘The Roomate’

By Pete Hammond All things Super Bowl put a damper on Hollywood’s enthusiasm for releasing intriguing news films this weekend. So what we were stuck with ? A Single White Female ripoff called ‘The Roommate’ was so derivative its releasing studio couldn’t even bring itself to schedule an advance critics screening. Turns out it was a smart move since without poisonous reviews leaking before its Friday opening it turned out to be the number one movie in the country. The film managed only an 8% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes , about as low as number one openings can muster. Out of 33 reviews counted so far only 3 could even be kindly labeled as “mixed”. Too bad for Leighton Meester too. She was so good in Country Strong, her other current film which has a song nominated for an Oscar. The Roommate doesn’t have to worry about getting Oscar nominations next year but might be a good candidate for a Razzie. Meester plays a deranged girl who is, OF COURSE, obsessed with her new roommate. Oy. The audience who turned out was predictably girls, mostly under 21 and way to young to remember flicks like the aforementioned Single White Female but Single White Roommate would be a more honest title. Still never underestimate the lowbrow tastes of the American moviegoing public but I have to say the Packers/Steelers pre-game warmup had more thrills than this entire movie.

Continuing to counterprogram, Universal and Executive Producer James Cameron also decided to throw their hat in the ring this Super Bowl weekend with the 3D adventure, Sanctum which is about a group of cave divers who try to traverse perhaps the least accessible cave system on earth with predictable horrifying results. This movie is nice-looking and the 3D is not bad. It would be hard to imagine Cameron sticking his name on this as a producer and going out to promote it if the 3D sucked. The guy is anal about the process when it works. Problem here is not the visual palette but just about every time one of the actors opens his mouth to recite the clunky B-movie dialogue. Still critics were a lot more forgiving giving this a whopping 30% fresh rating at RT, certainly better than Roommate but not enough, even with Cameron’s name attached, to squeeze more than a $10 million dollar weekend and a distant second place to Roommate’s estimate of nearly $16 million, even with higher 3D prices. Even the titles of these two movies are bland and interchangeable with hundreds of others. It’s as if industry executives have absolutely no confidence audiences will go to see anything that isn’t spelled out in obvious ways beginning with the title.

Fortunately for the future of the industry the Academy Award nominated titles continue to thrive with a larger number of them hitting, or about to hit $100 million including titles that wouldn’t have been made except for the vision and perseverance of a few filmmakers who kept up the drumbeat and would n’t let their dreams die. That includes Mark Wahlberg who trained for years , endured countless rejections and finally got The Fighter made. It also includes Darren Aronofsky (ironically attached to direct The Fighter at one time) spending ten years in developing his version of Black Swan and almost seeing it fall apart just four weeks before cameras were to roll. It includes the Coen Brothers having the foresight and desire to remake an old John Wayne western, True Grit and riding to 10 nominations and a shot at $200 million domestic (it currently stands at $155 million) , a western success story if ever there was one. It includes Sony Pictures for proving that a big studio can still make thoughtful, penetrating adult dramas like The Social Network, and it includes the Weinsteins for coming all the way back with a classy period piece that was anything but stuffy in The King’s Speech.

It is films like those , that only came around in the Fall that makes enduring early-in-the-year crap like The Roommate and Sanctum almost seem worth it. Or can we just skip to next Fall right now?

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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