Peter Berg

Burrito Scene in Battleship

Pushing back against “Save the Cat,” The Bitter Script Reader recently looked to the burrito theft scene in Peter Berg’s Battleship as the inverse proposition. A story scenario that, instead of endearing the audience to the hero, leaves them uninspired by him. The quick and dirty version is this: Taylor Kitsch breaks into a convenience store, unprompted, in order to steal a burrito for Brooklyn Decker and win her heart with cold-in-the-middle fast food. It all goes very un-James Bond, the police are called, and he gets hilariously tased. Bitter sees it as a misfire. His money quote: Also – just because I accept a guy’s libido would make him stupid enough to do this, it doesn’t mean I’d respect any woman who was actually wooed by this behavior.  By extension, I question any audience member who looks at this and says, “I’m SO pulling for this guy.” No, this is a scene that makes me shake my head and say, “No, I REFUSE to accept this as our hero.” I can see the argument that starting this low gives the hero an opportunity for a redemptive moment later on. It would be more persuasive if the action didn’t require him to be so unbalanced in the first place. This is also what undercuts the “selfless” act of him offering the burrito to Brooklyn. Stealing food for a starving kid is one thing.  Stealing food as a down payment on some possible groping and sweaty action? That’s less laudible. So the […]

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lone

Editor’s note: Our review of Lone Survivor originally ran during last year’s AFI Fest, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens tomorrow in wide release. Director Peter Berg made a massive misstep with 2012’s Battleship. There was a decent ninety-minute popcorn movie buried underneath all the bloat, but worst of all, it had no personality. It didn’t feel like a movie Berg had to make. Not every movie has to be a serious passion project, but when the passion is onscreen, it speaks volumes. That theory is proven well by Berg’s latest film, Lone Survivor, his best film since The Rundown. The true life story follows, if you haven’t guessed yet, a lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg). You could consider that a spoiler, but the movie opens with the rescue of Luttrell. It’s a questionable creative decision because a good deal of filmgoers will discover Luttrell’s journey with this film, but then it becomes more a matter of how Luttrell got there rather than who survived. Berg goes about introducing Luttrell and his team — Matt Axelson (Ben Foster), Mike Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) — with the standard camaraderie and exposition that’s expected. It’s a fine set-up, but it’s forgotten once the four of them are thrust into battle, where we learn more about them through action.

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cc jack reacher

If you’ve read FSR for a while you know that unlike some movie sites we like to add commentary and opinion to the news we’re reporting, and since a lot of what Hollywood produces are sequels and remakes you’ve probably also noticed that once in a blue moon our opinions can lean toward the critical. But seriously, they’re remaking Poltergeist and Videodrome, so can you really blame us? But while negativity breeds louder and funnier jokes, not all such announcements meet our ears with the expected skepticism and disappointment intact. Case in point are a pair of news items that hit over the weekend and immediately put a smile on my face. It’s worth noting that neither represents an official announcement and production starts on both are at least a year or two away, but hot damn this is good news all the same.

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When I first heard there was going to be a Red Dawn remake, I didn’t see the need. Even in a post-9/11 world, in which we have experienced a foreign attack on U.S. soil — unlike when the 1984 original could tout its related tagline of “In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil. Until now.” — we don’t have the sort of Cold War worries of being taken over by an enemy superpower, regardless of the plausibility. We’ve entered a different kind of era of fear, of terrorists striking rather than foreign armies invading. In the last 20 years it has made more sense to see alien invasion films like Independence Day and War of the Worlds, because extraterrestrials seemed the more likely foreigners to conquer America if any. And to an extent — especially given a certain ID4-ish plan involving defeating the invaders via their own communications system — the producers could have just changed the enemy in the Red Dawn remake from Chinese to aliens rather than to North Koreans. For one thing, it would remove any claims of racism or direct xenophobia on the part of the film. For another thing, we once saw aliens often employed as stand-ins for our “red” enemies and could just reference that as logic for how it could still be “Red Dawn” but now be science fiction (actually, the original Red Dawn is a kind of sci-fi). More than anything, though, it just doesn’t matter who the […]

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Drinking Games

By now, you’ve come to realize that 2012 was the year of Taylor Kitsch. It hasn’t necessarily been a good year for him, but it has indeed been his year in movies. Between a disappointing turn in John Carter and a underwhelming Savages, he ran off to join the Navy and fight aliens in Battleship. This is quite possibly his best performance yet, considering his acting in this flick is Oscar-worthy compared to co-star Rihanna. You can check it out for yourself because Battleship hits DVD and Blu-ray this week. Based on the popular Hasbro board game, Battleship chronicles the story of an alien invasion attacking Naval warships near Pearl Harbor. You remember the aliens from the board game, don’t you? If not, have a few drinks while you watch the film, and it will soon all be clear. (Hint: It won’t be clear at all.)

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Eric Bana in Lone Survivor

Though there weren’t many people out there who appreciated Peter Berg’s recent board game cash-in, Battleship, he was generally a well-regarded director before he laid that one on us, so there should still be interest out there for what he’s doing next. Especially since he’s already assembled a fairly impressive cast for it. The film is called Lone Survivor, and it tells the true story of a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan gone bad, as adapted from the biography of soldier Marcus Luttrell. While on a reconnaissance mission along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Luttrell and three of his fellow SEALs made a fatal error. After showing a bit of compassion and letting an old man and three boys who came upon them walk away, they soon became victims of a Taliban ambush, which took the lives of every member of the team other than Luttrell, the titular lone survivor.

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Peter Berg has had mixed results throughout his directing career when it comes to critical acclaim and box office success, but he’s also never been one to be pigeon-holed into a specific genre or type of movie. From the very black comedy of Very Bad Things to the under-appreciated action gem that is The Kingdom, Berg likes to flex his creative muscles behind the camera and keep audiences guessing where he’ll land next. He may have been wondering that himself after delivering one of the year’s bigger bombs to theaters in the form of the much reviled and mostly avoided Battleship. The $200m+ blockbuster-to-be has seemingly topped out at under $65 million domestic, and while it made it’s budget back internationally the numbers are still pretty damn grim for what should have been his first summer tentpole. Luckily Berg knows how to plan ahead as before that doomed Hasbro production even hit screens he had deals lined up for at least one more action film in the form of a Navy SEALs adventure called Lone Survivor. Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster and box-office curse Taylor Kitsch are set to star. But it seems he may have also found a far quieter story to tell.

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Once upon a time, Adam McKay’s upcoming football comedy Three Mississippi was going to be a glorious re-teaming of not only Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell’s dueling idiots act from The Other Guys, but also a re-teaming of Wahlberg and Alex Baldwin’s meathead chemistry from The Departed. But now Mark Wahlberg is dropping out of the movie, and heck, it isn’t even an Adam McKay comedy anymore. Just when things were looking so promising too. What happened? It’s a sad tale of other movies taking priority. With Peter Berg’s Battleship sinking at the box office, Universal got cold feet when it came to financing his next movie, Lone Survivor, which is about a Navy SEAL on a doomed mission. Without Universal fronting the bill, Berg needed a big name attached to the project in order to procure some new financing, and he got that in the form of Mark Wahlberg. As part of the deal, Wahlberg had to agree to make Lone Survivor his next project. The other movie that took the wind out of the sails of Three Mississippi is McKay and Ferrell’s upcoming Anchorman sequel. For the longest time nobody thought that movie was going to happen, but then it got unexpectedly green lit and suddenly McKay found himself in the position of having to drop out of Three Mississippi. Ferrell’s own commitments to that film made it pretty impossible for he and Wahlberg’s now inflexible schedules to synch up, so something had to be done.

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Culture Warrior

“If Michael Bay directed Raiders, the Ark would be opened in the first act, and people’s heads would explode through the rest of the film.” I don’t typically seek out wisdom from Twitter, but this below-140-character observation (made by @krishnasjenoi and retweeted by @ebertchicago) struck very close to something that’s been occupying my mind as we enter the fifth week of the summer movie season. Though the statement works better as a fun hypothetical critique than a contestable thesis (in other words, there’s no way we’ll ever really know, thank goodness), the sentiment feels relevant. Though the modern Hollywood blockbuster has been a staple of studios’ summer scheduling for almost forty years, the films that become blockbusters don’t look or feel very similar to the films of the 70s and 80s that somehow paradoxically led to today’s cavalcade of sequels, franchises, adaptations and remakes. Criticizing Hollywood’s creative crisis is nothing new. But with the mega-success of The Avengers and the continuing narrative of failure and disappointment that has thus far characterizes every major release since, it seems that this crisis has been put under a microscope. The moment where unprecedented success is the only kind of achievement Hollywood can afford and the well of decade-old franchises and toy companies become desperately mined for material is something we were warned about. But Hollywood’s creativity-crippling reliance on existing properties is not the only, or even the primary, problem faced by mass market filmmaking’s present moment. The bloated numbers sought after each and […]

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Boiling Point

With what is being called a massive failure at the box office, pulling in just $25 million domestic dollars (or 12% of its budget), Peter Berg‘s Battleship is sinking, but not before firing a warning shot across the bow of stupid ideas. And by a “warning shot across the bow” I mean a giant, moronic cruise missile. Battleship wasn’t destined for failure – after all, almost any idea can be made good. If you ignored the title, the idea of a few naval vessels fighting off aliens sounds pretty cool and not altogether stupid. However, you slap the Hasbro logo in-front of the credits and include a sequence where a missile destroyer blindly fires into the ocean while a captain shouts out “J-11″ and the stupidity quotient rises exponentially.

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Can you hear it? Out there in the distance, on a cold crag of rock with the wind whipping at its monstrous back is a marketing department VP howling at the empty night. Battleship – in all of its $209m budget plus probably $200m more in marketing – was hoping for the kind of win at the box office that would signal the go-ahead for two more movies and the trappings that come with franchises. It did not succeed. As proof that sticking feathers up your butt and calling yourself a chicken doesn’t work, the Peter Berg-directed pile of messy noises made a paltry $25m this weekend, coming in at #2. A fitting, metaphorical place. It’s not surprising that The Avengers ended up back in the top spot, this time earning another $55m – bringing its domestic take closer to the half-billion mark and making its grand total right at $1.8b (with a b).

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Junkfood Cinema - Large

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we’re always a hit…with elderly mimes and people whose favorite band is The Jerky Boys. This is the Internet’s best place to wait around for articles on the sites you like to load – sort of a cyberspace truckstop. And like a truckstop, we celebrate things that most people cast off as “trivial” or “base” or “seriously detrimental to one’s memory and critical thinking skills.” We are too! Wait, what was I saying? Anyway, this week we’ve had the very rare privilege of stumbling across a little gem of a rotten turd that will be playing a limited engagement of roughly ten shows a day in every single theater across the country. The arthouse maestro Peter Berg has taken the board game Battleship, that wonderful tool for teaching children all the necessary tenets of blind, desperate warfare, and extrapolated its meager mechanics into a two-hour cinematic testament to the struggle between Hollywood and your brain. Incomprehensibly bad as Battleship may be (read: totally is), I couldn’t help but wonder if the “plot” on the screen wasn’t merely a smoke screen for something that, like the invading alien ships, lurked just below the surface. So I gathered all the best minds in the Junkfood Cinema war room, which may or may not be my pet name for the corner booth at my local TGI Friday’s, and formulated some theories on just what the hell was going on here. My hope was to come up with a […]

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When a “loose” adaptation of Hasbro’s iconic board game Battleship was announced, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what type of film was in the making: big, loud, manic summer fun. The man to deliver on that promise was none other than Peter Berg, a director whose filmography ranges from Friday Night Lights to Hancock. After over three years of working on the film, Berg didn’t make a film that passes itself off as anything it’s not; he’s made Battleship. Battleship features the expected markings of all commercial tentpole films, something Berg did not want to shy away from. As the anti-film school director put it, he wanted to make a global event film, one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. When your film’s based on a popular board game, how could you? Berg, along with his potential blockbuster, could not be more self-aware. Here is what Battleship director Peter Berg had to say about letting life inform storytelling, his organic and actor-friendly approach to filmmaking, and how to keep your sanity while crafting a $200m event film:

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On December 7, 1941, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Japanese planes. It was a day that lives in infamy, but now director Peter Berg has reconciled the Americans and Japanese (finally!) in the dumbest, broadest, most pointlessly explosive way possible with Battleship. This obnoxious chore of a movie suffers from two cardinal sins. One, it’s probably the smallest-feeling big movie of the past three decades. Two, it steals so much from other, better movies that there’s no doubt Universal‘s legal team spent time considering possible action. Everything from the script to the CGI are low quality, making this $200m tentpole feel like it was made for fifteen bucks and a pack of gum.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Tonight, it’s hanging on by a thread, as we enter Day Four of Dear Leader Neil Miller’s Mental Health Break Staycation. While he’s off eating the finest BBQ that FSR’s hometown of Austin, Texas has to offer and Instagraming all the way, the rest of us are slaving over our keyboards and monitors to bring you the best content we possibly can. Of course, for tonight’s round of MNAD, that includes kitty GIFs, Battleship love letters, and something about the world’s most green soda missing the boat on a marketing opportunity and saddling up with the wrong superhero (to super-sad effect). It’s Movie News After Dark! And, man, is it tired. I won’t bury the lede here, folks, some people love Peter Berg‘s Battleship. Our Cole Abaius is not one of them. But guess who is! Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan! The scribbler has penned a love letter to the film, and while I can’t quite agree with the sentiment, he brings up some interesting and articulate points. And, as Ryan is both a friend and a colleague, I can assure you – he’s not joking and he’s not trolling.

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Another adaptation of Dune has been kicking around for a little while now. The last we heard of it was Pierre Morel (Taken) quickly joining and then leaving the project, a project which Paramount soon after dropped. Four years ago a genuinely enticing filmmaker got attached to finally make it happen: Peter Berg. Berg, for those of you who don’t know, has his gigantic board game adaptation Battleship opening in theaters tomorrow. The Kingdom and Friday Night Lights director isn’t the first person to spring to mind when you think Dune, but Berg was certainly the most interesting director whose name was mentioned. The director can certainly do epic and big, but could he do fantasy? Either way, his plans fit nicely into his signature style: gritty and rough. When asked about what his plans for the film were, Berg told us, “My feeling was, I wanted to make a grittier, rougher film than the [David] Lynch movie. My experience with Dune was just a really great adventure story, and it was muscular, violent, and intense. Obviously there was a very cerebral, mystical, almost-supernatural component to it, and mind communication, and the Bene Gesserits were kind of a bunch of badass witches. At its core, I wanted to make something that felt more like Star Wars, where it just had more grit to it.”

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It’s a wild career Peter Berg has created for himself. The kid from Shocker and Aspen Extreme grew up to have an eclectic mix of directorial offerings. Everything from wicked, black comedies like Very Bad Things and damn solid action flicks like The Rundown. He’s even dabbled in the Summer blockbuster like Hancock and this Friday’s Battleship. I think that movie made Cole angry. Berg’s most important work of art came in the form of Friday Night Lights, arguably the best show in the past decade. You be the judge which side of that fence I fall on. Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t Lose. But we can’t exactly run a Commentary Commentary on the full series run of that show. That would take too long, and there’s not enough Monster in the world to keep the writing juices flowing. So we’ll do one on The Kingdom, Berg’s 2007 film about an FBI investigation of a suicide bombing in Riyadh. That’s in Saudi Arabia, something you’d know if you’ve seen this film’s opening credits. Or watched The Daily Show more often. Enough about TV. On with the Commentary Commentary for The Kingdom.

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The flames are hot here in development hell, and there’s way too much cocaine. Way, way too much. So why wouldn’t we come back? When we first examined 8 Promised Movies That Still Haven’t Been Made, it was an exploration of the complex world of filmmaking where the smallest issue can derail an entire project potentially worth millions. Nervous executives, scheduling conflicts, hangnails. Getting a movie made is a miracle, and even those that get hailed in the press as moving forward are sometimes abandoned. Considering our national grand obsession with hypotheticals, here are 8 more movies we were told would happen that haven’t (including some that won’t).

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When asked at WonderCon 2012 about the forthcoming Battleship, Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter what the world already knows: that the movie has nothing to do with the game it’s based on. “It certainly doesn’t have any direct correlation to the game. That being said, it was a lot of fun to try to find way to reference the game. If you look at the ordinance that the enemies use, it looks a bit like pegs. Both of our ships’ radar systems have trouble seeing each other, so they gotta try and predict where the enemy is so that they can go after them. And there were some other things that were kind of fun,” said the director. So there you go. Apparently a tiny, peg-based production design and the fact that radar systems are imperfect are enough to constitute name recognition. This is Hollywood at its most moronic, and it’s nice to see that Berg recognizes that. They should stick it in the commercial for Hasbro. Without sarcasm, it’s refreshing to see that the production isn’t falling all over itself to try to sell something that no one’s buying anyway. A little honesty can go a long way.

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Look, Battleship will probably end up proving that it has at least a few original ideas in its head. Someone out there has to have shoved in one or two scenes that don’t look exactly like other movies, but the trailers certainly aren’t out to prove that. Nevertheless, it’s time to stop ragging on this flick for being a moronic idea and time to start ragging on it as a clear patchwork of other movies. Somehow, Universal has bypassed the need to do Hollywood math by simply copying and pasting directly from other films that have been successful. Why make something like Iron Man or like Transformers when you can go ahead and just make them again under a different name. Watch this new trailer and try to say with a straight face that the alien design isn’t Iron Man with a paint job. Watch the giant building collapse and try not to think up 5 other movies within the past 2 years where it’s happened (and try extra hard not to imagine the exact same scene in Dark of the Moon). No one says much of anything. Probably a good thing. But, whew, the action sure does look eye-popping.

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