THE CAVE (2005)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Creature Violence

Cave poster

Directed by: Bruce Hunt

Written by: Michael Steinberg & Tegan West

Starring: Cole Hauser, Eddie Cibrian, Marcel Iures, Lena Headey, Daniel Day Kim, Piper Perabo, Rick Ravanello, Morris Chestnut & Kieran Darcy-Smith

I remember seeing trailers and TV spots for THE CAVE. I was about 15 years old and wasn’t allowed to see R-rated movies. As you might imagine, this rule severely screwed with what kind of horror movies I could watch. By the mere fact that it was one of the few horror films that I could go watch in theaters at the time, I wanted to see THE CAVE. In the years following 2005, this creature feature has faded into well-deserved obscurity. Released coincidentally around the same time that THE DESCENT was hitting theaters in the UK, this cheap horror flick plays out like a Syfy Channel script was somehow funded with a budget of 30 million. None of those dollars necessarily appear on the screen in form of acting talent or special effects. This is every bit as clichéd of a monster movie as you’d guess it probably would be from the bland title.

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A team of archeologists have discovered what could very well be the world’s largest cave system. In order to investigate it further, they’ve hired a team of skilled cave divers to explore it. Turns out that might not have been the wisest move. Due to a cave in, the group of divers and scientists soon find themselves trapped a mile beneath the earth’s surface with no exit in sight. As if things couldn’t get any worse, it turns out that this cave system is so large and evolved that it has its own ecosystem and mutated creatures. These inhabitants include a blind mole, a scary eel and a group of giant bat-like beasties with an appetite for scientists and cave divers. With the batteries on their flashlights running low and their new position on the food chain, the group of hapless victims try to make it to the surface in one piece.

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Credit where credit is due, THE CAVE actually takes its time before revealing the monstrous antagonists. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing when characters constantly need to remind us of who they are and what role they have. There is zero development put into these people. I know that they’re essentially being set up as monster food, but it’s nice to have at least a couple of folks worth rooting for in a creature feature. That’s definitely not the case here. The only character I remotely liked was Lena Headey’s scientist and that’s because she was being played by Lena Headey. While you wouldn’t necessarily expect any sort of logic to be thrown into a premise that’s this far-fetched, the cave system itself is so mind-numbingly silly that it frequently took me out of the film. It doesn’t simply stay in caves or a river running through said underground system, but these characters also travel through ice tunnels that seemingly come out of nowhere and what appeared to be a leftover set from THE MUMMY RETURNS. Aside from the silly cave system, this film is about as bland as monster flicks can be.

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Though I don’t know the complete production story, but I would imagine that THE CAVE was originally rated R and then severely cut back to a PG-13. I say this because there are behind the scenes stills of creature puppets that never made it into the final cut. Nearly every scene with monsters uses silly CGI glimpses, fast cuts and lame POV shots. The monster attacks are edited to the point of sheer incoherency. I literally can’t tell you how some of these people died due to a series of quick shots and close-ups that were clearly added in post-production. I think one character was impaled as the camera seemed unnaturally focused solely on his face, while a far away shot looked a little more graphic. This is also not to mention the clearly redubbed swearing in which one person yells “They freaking fly!” or another begins saying “Come on, motherf…” and then the scene cuts completely off him. Ironically, the only reason I was excited to see this movie as a teenager was because I could get into the theater for it thanks to the PG-13 and that has turned out to be the biggest problem that I have with the film a decade later.

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Every bit as generic as its title, THE CAVE plays out like a Syfy Channel movie of the week. The characters are bland. The creatures look lame when we actually are given a brief shot of them. The script is ludicrous and takes itself way too seriously. There’s a possibility of enjoyment if you watch this film with a group of friends in a so-bad-it’s-good way, but that’s highly unlikely seeing as it’s just so dull in the end. Avoid this film and just watch THE DESCENT instead.

Grade: D

IDENTITY THIEF (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 51 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content and Language

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Directed by: Seth Gordon

Written by: Craig Mazin

Starring: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho & Robert Patrick

Jason Bateman is a funny actor. Melissa McCarthy is a funny actress. Seth Gordon’s previous film was HORRIBLE BOSSES, which was quite funny. So with this obviously funny combination, why isn’t IDENTITY THIEF funny? Part of the reason might be attributed to the lagging pacing or overlong running time. Another component may be the overused jokes that have already appeared in many other movies and feel stale by this point. There are plenty of reasons, but I’ll get to those in a minute. Sad to say that IDENTITY THIEF is a missed opportunity and a mediocre comedy.

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Sandy Patterson is a guy going through a rough patch in his life. He’s a loving father to two young daughters and his wife is pregnant with a third. He’s living paycheck to paycheck due to an underpaying job and serves his obnoxious boss, who frequently takes advantage of the employees. When Sandy’s arrested for missing a court appointment in Florida that he didn’t even know about, the police inform him that a woman (named Diana) has stolen his identity. Besides just ruining his credit, Diana is making Sandy’s life a living hell in other ways (involving the police and a very real possibility of losing his job). Sandy is left with no other option. So he does the unthinkable and travels to Florida to bring Diana back to confess to her misdeeds. Getting there was easy and taking her back won’t be as simple…

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Good things first, IDENTITY THIEF does have some funny moments. None of them are particularly memorable. They did garner solid laughs from me. Credit where credit is due, some of the jokes work. None of the cast members do a sub par job playing their characters. Jason Bateman is nice enough as Sandy and Melissa McCarthy delivers most of the workable jokes as Diana. Robert Patrick also appears as a ruthless bounty hunter looking for Diana. The real issues with characters don’t come from the acting, but from the script. I wasn’t given a single reason why I should care about either Sandy or Diana. They aren’t really compelling (or funny) and their introductions seem to follow beats that have been used in plenty of other comedies (e.g. the unappreciated employee or the scumbag with no friends). The actors are watchable and do as good a job as they can with the tired material, but the writing is what really sinks IDENTITY THIEF.

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Besides the lack of good characters, the film also runs far too long. The plot was crowded with many subplots in order to make itself a little more complex. Thus IDENTITY THIEF wears out its welcome. The film might have worked a tab better, if a few of these unneeded storylines were cut out. At one point, Sandy and Diana have two sets of people after them (gangsters and the aforementioned bounty hunter) and it feels completely useless. The way both these plot-threads conclude is anticlimactic to say the least. Not to mention that the film attempts to get some real sympathy out of the viewer for Diana and it’s a futile exercise. I was given no reason to care about Diana in a positive light to begin with and thus I certainly wasn’t going to feel pity for this obnoxious criminal when some supposedly sappy moments were milked out of the premise.

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IDENTITY THIEF isn’t terrible. It isn’t particularly good or even decent. The entire movie is a middle-of-the-road affair. Everything feels wasted in some way or another. It all has to do with the writing too. The film wears out its welcome, is overly complicated, has falsely emotions, and doesn’t produce a single fleshed-out character. In this case, it doesn’t matter how good the directing or acting are. The script is stale and that’s entirely where the blame belongs in every single problem spotted throughout IDENTITY THIEF. It’s a mediocre comedy that will entertain some people, but everybody could certainly do far better than this!

Grade: C

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