MOVIE REVIEWS: ‘Studio 666,’ ‘Dog,’ ‘Uncharted’ | Movies


‘Workshop 666’

Horror is so hot right now, everyone wants a bite. No longer relegated to the midnight movie, the often low-budget, high-grossing genre isn’t just thriving at the box office in the lingering pandemic market, it’s all but saturated. So it’s no surprise that a beloved rock band, especially one as affable as the Foo Fighters, want in on the action. What They’ve Dreamed Up is a goofy, gory horror-comedy, “Studio 666,” directed by BJ McDonnell, written by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes, from a story by Foo frontman Dave Grohl.

The Foo Fighters have always been a band with more personality than most, especially since the videos for “Everlong” and “Learn to Fly,” which showcased the acting and comedic talents of Grohl, drummer Taylor Hawkins and guitarist Pat Smear, or at least their willingness to try humor. But as “Studio 666” proves, a rock star’s charm and personality doesn’t necessarily translate into the acting skills needed to pull off a feature film.

With a stronger script and more dynamic cinema, amateur acting wouldn’t be so painfully obvious, but the Foos are stuck with a crude, crass, dated and woefully unfunny script, and McDonnell’s cinema is pretty inert. Neither funny nor scary, “Studio 666” lacks tension and suspense.

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The Foos play their own part in this story of songwriter blocking and demonic possession. Pressured to deliver a new album to their demanding manager (Jeff Garlin), they hole up in a ramshackle Encino mansion said to be haunted by the spirit of a ’90s band who never finished their album after a member went on a killing spree (seen in flashbacks). Dave, searching high and low for new inspiration, stumbles upon a new riff after encountering the demon in the basement. Murder and mayhem ensue.

The whole thing feels like it was a lark for Grohl, who gets the meatiest role (literally), while the rest of the band feel held hostage, standing their ground to deliver flat reaction lines to their lead singer. The jokes are stale, the energy is stilted and it all looks like an ill-conceived exercise in vanity concocted in the pandemic to keep them busy.

(R, 1.5 out of 4 stars, 1 hr 46 mins)

Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

‘Dog’

“Dog,” a not particularly kid-friendly film ostensibly about a Belgian Malinois Army Ranger suffering from traumatic injuries sustained in the Middle East, turns out to be something of a romantic comedy about this dog and a Ranger from the wounded and troubled army similarly named Briggs (Channing Tatum, also co-director). Briggs suffered serious head and other injuries while on duty. He wants to be allowed back into service. To do so, he must accept the assignment to go on a road trip in his 1984 Ford Bronco with the damaged dog Lulu and bring her from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to Nogales, Arizona, for his master’s funeral.

Briggs would then have to send Lulu back to Washington to be shot. “Dog,” which Tatum directed with “Magic Mike XXL” producer Reid Carolin, begins with a montage of Lulu’s photos, journal entries, and drawings. It’s the story of his life so far, a life that’s supposed to be coming to an end. But if anyone can’t see how this movie turns out, they should have their eyes checked.

Tatum’s Briggs talks too loudly for my liking, making unfunny jokes and rambling along to the backing of country songs. Its ringtone is “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner, likely the result of a childhood viewing of “Apocalypse Now”.

Tatum and Lulu have chemistry. The performance of the dog (actually it’s three different dogs) is one of the most striking things about “Dog”. It’s perhaps understandable that doggie actors tend to chew on the set. But they certainly convey Lulu’s anxiety, confusion, and anger in a believable way. Tatum has to work not to be overshadowed by the dogs.

In a major set, Briggs, wearing large dark glasses, poses as a blind service man with a service dog to get a free room at a fancy hotel and flirt with receptionists, only for Lulu to attack a doctor. Muslim in the lobby.

“Dog” occasionally displays elements of the 1957 childhood classic “Old Yeller.” At other times, “Dog” is a bit like “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) without Katharine Hepburn and the leopard. Perhaps inevitably, Briggs sings along with Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” Yes, you need to know when to bend them.

(PG-13, 1.5 out of 4 stars, 1 hr 41 mins.)

James Verniere, Boston Herald

‘Unexplored’

Jones-ing for Indiana Jones? Don’t expect “Uncharted” to fill that need. The film, directed by Ruben Fleischer from the spoiled entries of “Venom” and written by Rafe Judkins (TV’s “The Wheel of Time”), Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (“Men in Black: International”), is based on the popular Sony The PlayStation video game of the same name is shoddy and completely lacking in charm or wit.

The film pairs Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland as fortune hunters on the trail of Ferdinand Magellan’s legendary lost gold. Wahlberg is supposed to be an international intriguer, specializing in the search for treasures. Believe me, Wahlberg is like the least likely person in the world to play an international plotter.

The plot involves crosses that double as keys to secret chambers built in the 16th century, trips to Barcelona and the Philippines, a villain (Steven Waddington) with an indecipherable Scottish accent, foot chases, car chases, beatings of fire and lots of not very believable action in the sky. Among the lame elements of the cloak and the dagger in the story is that pillar of American childhood: invisible writing.

Wahlberg, showing off his rock-sized middle-aged biceps, and Holland, the star of the box office bonanza “Spider Man: No Way Home,” have zero chemistry. The film is “The Da Vinci Code” for people who found this effort too cerebral.

The film optimistically announces a sequel. I really don’t think anyone wants to see Wahlberg and the “kid” together again.

(PG-13, 1.5 out of 4 stars, 1 hr 56 mins.)

James Verniere, Boston Herald

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