Film Friday: ‘Sanctum’ and ‘The Roommate’

by W. Andrew Powell

A scene from Sanctum

A scene from Sanctum

This is apparently a bad week to be a movie fan, or a movie critic for that matter. New films opening this weekend include three big duds, including: the underwater thriller, Sanctum; the college thriller, The Roommate, starring Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly; and the psychological drama, Frankie and Alice, starring Halle Berry.

Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Daniel Wyllie
Director: Alister Grierson

If Universal Pictures can drill one thing into your head this week, it looks like they’re banking on the name dropping power of executive producer James Cameron to get you into a theatre to see their new film, Sanctum. Cameron and that little thing known as 3-D, apparently. Forget director Alister Grierson, who up until now was really only known for one feature film, and forget about the actors, whoever they are; what you really need to remember is that a talented directed helped produce Sanctum.

The funny thing is, as anyone who has seen Transformers or Transformers 2 will tell you, producers can’t glue together a bad script, a terrible concept, or bad direction, so Universal may as well lie and tell you that Prince Andrew produced Sanctum because it’s essentially meaningless.

In this action-thriller, Richard Roxburgh stars as Frank, an expert diver who is trapped with his team of divers in the South Pacific’s Esa-ala Caves. Trying to survive with minimum supplies, and a group that includes two amateurs, the divers will have to try everything to escape what could become a watery grave if they’re not careful.

From a technical perspective, Sanctum is obviously nothing to laugh at. The film features Oscar-nominated filmmakers, including composer David Hirschfelder, and editor Mark Warner, and the 3-D was provided thanks to Cameron’s film system that helped bring Avatar to life.

On the flip side though, the script was written by first-time screenwriter John Garvin and documentarian Andrew Wight, two people who essentially don’t have a history with action-thrillers, and the critical response to date solidly proves that the script ruins what could be an otherwise tense thriller.

Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies wrote, “The rambling, staggering story line toggles clumsily between depictions of natural disasters and human error and/or treachery without ever hitting anything like a stride.”

One of the few critics to offer much praise for Sanctum, Peter Howell of the Toronto Star was willing to note, “For much of the film, and despite groan-worthy dialogue that often takes you right out of the picture, you’ll likely be holding your breath in genuine suspense.”

At press time, Sanctum was rated 41/100 by critics at

The Roommate
Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka, Danneel Harris, Frances Fisher
Director: Christian E. Christiansen

For anyone who is old enough to remember it, The Roommate might look sadly familiar to the 1992 thriller, Single White Female. The only glaring difference is that The Roommate substitutes Single White Female’s big city setting for a college campus with a couple of slightly younger co-stars.

Minka Kelly stars as Sara, an average college freshman who happens to get a new roommate, the obsessive Rebecca, played by Leighton Meester. Slinking her way into Sara’s life, and getting uncomfortably close to Sara’s friends and family, Rebecca will eventually prove to be more than just a bad roommate as her obsession turns deadly.

Co-starring Cam Gigandet as the unfortunate Stephen, THe Roommate is clearly a cheap thriller that will probably find a way of breaking even thanks to the thriller-hungry masses who seem to eat these movies up. Thanks to its PG-13 rating, there will probably be no shortage of teenagers lining up for what I can only call a waste of film.

At press time there were no reviews of The Roommate, yet another bad sign as Screen Gems refused to show the movie to critics, likely due to the fact that reviews would not have helped them sell the film.

Frankie and Alice
Starring: Halle Berry, Stellan Skarsgård, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson, Alex Diakun, Joanne Baron, Brian Markinson, Matt Frewer, Rosalyn Coleman
Director: Geoffrey Sax

Lastly this week, in director Geoffrey Sax’s Frankie and Alice, Halle Berry stars as 1970s go-go dancer and stripper Frankie Murdoch, and tells her story as she deals with multiple personality disorder in Los Angeles.

Based on a true story, the film is a psychological drama that revolves around Alice’s problems with her other two dominant personalities; Genius, a seven-year-old child, and Alice, a racist white woman from the southern states.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give the film much of a recommendation as critics are slamming the film for being “sensationalistic” and “silly.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called the film “a hokey old-school drama” while Emanuel Levy, of wrote, “Though inspired by a true case, this formulaic mental disorder melodrama is so poorly conceived and executed that even Halle Berry’s decent (but no more) performance cannot rescue from failure.”

Frankie and Alice was rated a mere 9% fresh on on the film’s release day.

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