Tag Archives: Sci-fi

A touch of humor invades ‘Star Trek Beyond’

In the previous “Star Trek” installment, Spock cried. In the latest, “Star Trek Beyond,” he laughs.

And not just a little snicker, either, but a belly-full one.

What bold explorations into the farthest reaches of the galaxy hold for Spock no one knows. A sigh? A hiccup?

“Star Trek Beyond,” like most of the rebooted properties flying around our movie theaters, delights in nostalgically resurrecting iconic characters and tweaking them anew. The balance is a delicate one, as seen in the pre-release debate around this film revealing Sulu (John Cho but formerly played by LGBT icon George Takei) as gay.

The scene in question turns out to be a mere moment, lightly handled, showing Sulu greeting his same-sex partner and their daughter after a long mission. It’s all expressed with just a few arms tenderly draped across shoulders. And it’s the kind of welcome touch that director Justin Lin, the “Fast & Furious” veteran who takes over for J.J. Abrams, has brought to this pleasingly episode-like installment.

The opening scene, fittingly, plays with a smaller scale. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), on a diplomatic mission, appeals to a snarling beast looming above him in a crowded amphitheater. Enraged at Kirk’s offer, the alien beast hurtles down upon him, only to turn out to be no more monstrous than a feisty bulldog.

The film finds a bored Enterprise finishing up a five-year tour in deep space. The (albeit brief) change of pace is immediately appreciated. The last two beefed-up “Star Trek” movies, as if overcompensating for decades of Trekkie nerd-dome, threatened to make the once brainy “Star Trek” less distinct from other mega-sized sci-fi adventures — just another clothesline of CGI set pieces strung together.

Like its recent predecessors, “Star Trek Beyond” is mostly an assortment of effects-heavy scenes with bits of talking in between. But unlike the previous film, 2013’s bloated “Star Trek Into Darkness,” not everything is quite so much of a life-and-death issue (the exhausting de facto pitch of today’s summer blockbuster).

The Starship Enterprise, led by Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, looking more natural in the role), is lured through a nebula where a would-be rescue mission turns into a trap set by the villain Krall, whose spectacular army of mechanical drones (“bees” he calls them) attack in an overwhelming swarm. In a galactic blitz, the Enterprise is torn to shreds and crashes down on a rocky planet where the ship’s scattered crew tries to gather, survive and understand Krall’s motives. A local becomes an essential guide for them: Jaylah (a nimble Sofia Boutella), a pale loner with black streaks running down her face who helps the crew discover the Federation’s history on the planet.

The backstory, though, never quite gets filled out, and the plot serves as little more than a mechanism to test the efficient camaraderie of the Enterprise crew. Among them: Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, Simon Pegg’s Scotty, Karl Urban’s Bones and Chekov, played by the late Anton Yelchin, a fine actor who’s disappointing underused here. They’re an entertaining enough bunch meandering around, and screenwriters Doug Jung and Pegg (who, as the writer of “Spaced,” knows plenty about the intersection of comedy and science fiction) have injected some humor to the proceedings.

The heart of the film, though, like the previous two, is the bromance between Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock. They’re Felix and Oscar in outer space, and still the highlight of this batch of “Star Trek” films.

It’s only late in the film that the alien mask is pulled away revealing the actor underneath Krall: Idris Elba. For those who didn’t place his baritone earlier, the reveal comes as a disappointment. It should be a crime in deep space, as it is on Earth, to shroud such a tremendous force behind mountains of extraterrestrial makeup. But I suppose had Elba been an unadorned baddie all along, the Enterprise might really have finally met its match.

Review: Damon charms as stranded astronaut in ‘The Martian’

Without Matt Damon, the solitary fight for survival on Mars would be lonely indeed.

Alone on screen for most of his scenes as an astronaut stranded on the red planet, the Oscar-nominated actor is the winning heart of Ridley Scott’s epic space adventure, “The Martian.”

With Damon’s charm center stage, Scott has crafted an exciting, hopeful story about humanity at its best: The brightest minds working together for a common goal that bridges international borders and forges a feeling of unity.

Affable and intelligent, playful and determined, Damon’s Mark Watney is so endearing and entertaining as a narrator and subject, it’s easy to see why the world would want to save him.

The story begins with Watney accidentally left behind during a NASA mission to Mars. When a fierce storm forces an emergency evacuation from the planet, he disappears in the chaos and is presumed dead. He isn’t, of course, and as his fellow astronauts mourn him during their months-long journey back to Earth and NASA officials struggle with how to explain his death to the public, Watney wakes up, injured and alone.

But he’s incredibly optimistic and resilient. He fixes his wound with minor surgery and immediately goes about prolonging his survival, knowing it could be years before a manned spacecraft returns to Mars. He puts his skills as a botanist and engineer to work, devising a way to grow crops in the arid soil and make water by burning hydrogen. He rewires old equipment from a past Mars mission in hopes of communicating with NASA.

Watney is curious and talkative, keeping himself company by narrating his every move. He tracks his obstacles and progress in daily video logs. He chats to himself in footage from the helmet cam in his spacesuit, cracking jokes he knows no one can hear.

Seeing his efforts through various camera perspectives — the helmet cam, a bunk cam inside his sleeping quarters, a dashboard camera inside his space rover and the video diaries where he appears to talk directly to the audience — adds visual interest, though Damon would probably be just as magnetic talking to a hand-held camera in an empty room.

Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels at his most clinical) and Mars mission chief Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) learn through satellite photos that Watney is alive. As NASA spokeswoman Annie Montrose (a miscast Kristin Wiig) scrambles to protect the agency’s public image, the men strategize how to bring the stranded astronaut home.

“The Martian” unfolds in three settings, all spectacularly realized by production designer Arthur Max. There’s life on Earth, set inside NASA’s sterile Houston headquarters and the lively Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and life on Mars, a dusty, red, rocky expanse where nothing lives (which filmmakers actually found in Jordan). Then there’s life aboard the film’s elegant spacecraft, from the rugged rover Watney uses to explore Mars to the Enterprise-inspired ship that carries his fellow crewmembers and their commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain). 

Unlike other recent big-screen space trips, the science here is presented simply enough that no suspension of disbelief or quantum leap through the time-space continuum is necessary. It all seems plausible, and author Andy Weir, upon whose novel the film is based, insists it is, calling it “a technical book for technical people.”

“I had no idea mainstream readers would be interested at all,” he said.

With Scott at the helm and Damon leading the cast, “The Martian” is accessible and beautiful, cinematically and intellectually. Even though it’s a big Hollywood production, Watney’s survival really does seem in question, and audiences will want to join the international crowds on screen in cheering for his rescue.

“The Martian,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.” Running time: 141 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

Spielberg plunges into the Cold War | An interview with the director

The nearly three year wait since Steven Spielberg’s last movie (2012’s “Lincoln”) comes to an end this October with the spy thriller “Bridge of Spies.”

Good news for moviegoers: There won’t be another gap like that for a while. Having just locked “Bridge of Spies,” Spielberg is already editing his next film, Roald Dahl’s “The BFG,” and is in pre-production on “Ready Player One,” a sci-fi adventure from Ernest Cline’s best-seller.

It’s a pace that Spielberg, 68, says he plans to continue.

“I’m doing a long stretch of directing over the next several years,” Spielberg says. “We put our last child into college. Number seven went to college last week and (wife Kate Capshaw) and I are enjoying the empty nest. It gives her a chance to get more involved with her art — she’s a wonderful painter — and it gives me a chance to direct movies back to back now.”

“Bridge of Spies,” due out Oct. 16, is a new chapter in history for Spielberg and one he knows personally: the Cold War. Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a lawyer the CIA recruited to rescue a spy pilot downed in the Soviet Union.

In a recent interview while taking a break from editing “The BFG,” the director spoke about making the true-life tale, the unexpected success of “Jurassic World” and his distaste for superhero movies.

AP: What attracted you to “Bridge of Spies”?

Spielberg: I’ve always wanted to make a spy movie. This is not James Bond. Only James Bond can be James Bond. I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment value of the James Bond spy series of movies, as well as the serious John le Carre spy novels, especially the Martin Ritt movie “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.” Also spy pictures like “The Quiller Memorandum” and “The Ipcress File,” and “Torn Curtain” by Hitchcock in the ‘60s.  

AP: Were you interested in making a film set during the Cold War? 

Spielberg: I lived through the Cold War and I was very aware of the possibility of walking down the street and seeing a white flash and being atomized. I was very, very aware of what a tentative and insecure time it was, especially for young people. It’s something that made a big impression on me as a kid. We were shown instructional 16mm films of what to do in the event of the air raid sirens going off or seeing the flash and ducking and covering under your desk and holding, hopefully, a very large book over your head.

AP: Do you see a connection between that time and today?

Spielberg: There’s so much relevance between the late ‘50s and today. We fly drones today; they flew U2 spy planes over Soviet Russia in the ‘50s. Our story is also about the shooting down of Gary Powers’ U2 and the apprehension of a Soviet spy working in this country for over a decade: Rudolph Abel. And the negotiator — a fish-out-of-water — an insurance attorney who used to be the associate prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crime trials who was called upon to defend an alleged Soviet spy, and the kind of charged atmosphere he was willing to endure to see justice served. It’s a story about a very righteous, principled individual _ and for Tom Hanks, it’s right up his alley.

AP: This is your fourth film with him.

Spielberg: Every collaboration is better than the one before. We’re having a great time together.

AP: You caused a stir two years ago when you predicted Hollywood was headed toward an “implosion” because of the over-abundance of mega-budget movies. Do you still feel that way?

Spielberg: I do. I still feel that way. We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western. It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.

AP: Were you surprised by the success of “Jurassic World,” on which you were an executive producer?

Spielberg: I’m back in the dinosaur business, it appears. We promised them more teeth and they rewarded us for it. I would have been ecstatic if we had done what the town was expecting, which was a $100 million three-day weekend. That would have just made my whole year. But the fact that it did over twice what the prognosticators were predicting, it just blew me away.

AP: “Bridge of Spies” is the first film in years you’ve made without John Williams composing the score.

Spielberg: Johnny Williams will be back to do “The BFG.” We’ve only not worked together twice in 42 years. The first one was “The Color Purple” in 1985 and the second time was because Johnny had a small medical procedure that precluded him from writing and scoring my movie in the window that he was going to do it. He’s fine, he’s 100 percent back to work on “Star Wars,” but it sadly precluded him from working on “Bridge of Spies.” I was able to work with Thomas Newman, who I’m a huge fan of. This is just a blip and we’re both sad about it, but we’re excited to get back together for “BFG” now.

The San Andreas Fault — fact and fiction

The San Andreas Fault awakens, unleashing back-to-back jolts that leave a trail of misery from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Skyscrapers crumble. Fires erupt. The letters of the Hollywood sign topple. Tsunami waves swamp the Golden Gate Bridge.

Hollywood’s favorite geologic bad guy is back in “San Andreas” — a fantastical look at one of the world’s real seismic threats.

The San Andreas has long been considered one of the most dangerous earthquake faults because of its length. At nearly 800 miles long, it cuts through California like a scar and is responsible for some of the largest shakers in state history.

In the film, which opened Memorial Day weekend, a previously unknown fault near the Hoover Dam in Nevada ruptures and jiggles the San Andreas. Southern California is rocked by a powerful magnitude-9.1 quake followed by an even stronger magnitude-9.6 in Northern California.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough accompanied The Associated Press to an advance screening of the film. Despite the implausible plot, she said the San Andreas will indeed break again, and without warning. 

“We are at some point going to face a big earthquake,” she said.

JUST HOW BIG?

The San Andreas is notorious for producing big ones, but a magnitude-9 or larger is virtually impossible because the fault is not long or deep enough, Hough noted.

The most powerful temblors in recorded history have struck along offshore subduction zones where one massive tectonic plate dives beneath another. The 1960 magnitude-9.5 quake off Chile is the current world record holder.

The San Andreas has revealed its awesome power before. In 1906, a magnitude-7.8 reduced parts of San Francisco to fiery rubble. Nearly five decades earlier, a similar-sized quake rattled the southern end of the fault.

In 2008, the USGS led a team of 300 experts that wrote a script detailing what would happen if a magnitude-7.8 hit the southern San Andreas. They wanted to create a science-based crisis scenario that can be used for preparedness drills.

The lesson: It doesn’t take a magnitude-9 or greater to wreak havoc. Researchers calculated a magnitude-7.8 would cause 1,800 deaths and 50,000 injuries. Hundreds of old brick buildings and concrete structures and a few high-rise steel buildings would collapse.       

Computer models show the San Andreas is capable of producing a magnitude-8.3 quake, but anything larger is dubious.

WILL THERE BE A WARNING?

In the film, Lawrence Hayes, a fictional seismologist at Caltech (a real university), notices spikes in “magnetic pulses” that light up California like a Christmas tree, heralding a monster quake.

Despite a century of research, earthquake prediction remains elusive. Scientists can’t predict when a jolt is coming and are generally pessimistic about ever having that ability.

Every warning sign scrutinized — animal behavior, weather patterns, electromagnetic signals, atmospheric observations, levels of radon gas in soil or groundwater — has failed.

“We wish it were as simple as the movie portrays. It isn’t. Researchers have scoured every imaginable signal trying to find reliable precursors, but nothing has panned out,” Hough said.

The latest focus has been on creating early warning systems that give residents and businesses a few seconds heads up after a quake hits, but before strong shaking is felt.

Japan has the most advanced seismic alert system in the world while the U.S. is currently testing a prototype.

A TSUNAMI IN SAN FRANCISCO?

Unlike the film, the San Andreas can’t spawn tsunamis.

Most tsunamis are triggered by underwater quakes, but they can also be caused by landslides, volcanoes and even meteor impacts.

Giant tsunami waves are formed when the Earth’s crust violently shifts, displacing huge amounts of seawater. The larger the magnitude, the more these waves can race across the ocean without losing energy.

The San Andreas is strike-slip fault, in which opposing blocks of rocks slide past each other horizontally. A big San Andreas quake can spark fires and other mayhem, but it can’t displace water and flood San Francisco.

Hough said the movie got one aspect right: The tide suddenly ebbing out signals a tsunami is coming.

More than 80 — mostly small — tsunamis have been observed along California’s coast in the past, triggered mainly by faraway quakes.

WILL THE EAST COAST FEEL IT?

In the movie, the scientist warned that shaking would be felt on the East Coast.

Even the largest possible San Andreas quake won’t rattle the East Coast (Sorry New York).

While seismic waves from great quakes can make the Earth reverberate like a bell, the ringing can only be detected by sensitive instruments because it’s so low.

Historical accounts show shaking from the 1906 San Andreas quake was barely felt in western Nevada and southern Oregon, Hough said.

DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON!

When the ground starts to shake, the seismologist played by Paul Giamatti makes the ideal public service announcement: “Drop, cover and hold on.”

Since 2008, millions of people in California and elsewhere have participated in yearly disaster drills in which they practice diving under a table and learn other preparedness tips.

If you’re outdoors when the ground moves, experts recommend bracing against a wall, similar to what search-and-rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, told scared survivors in the movie.

“Having Paul Giamatti shouting, “Drop, cover and hold on!” and The Rock telling people to crouch against a wall if they can is one heck of a PSA,” Hough said.

Mark Hamill: ‘Drafted’ for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Mark Hamill knew he had to say yes when George Lucas told him about the plans to move forward with a new “Star Wars” trilogy.

“It’s not like a choice. It’s like I was drafted,” Hamill told a massive crowd over the weekend at Star Wars Celebration of his decision to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“Could you imagine if for some reason I said ‘I don’t think I want to do it?’ I would have all of you surrounding my house like villagers, angry villagers with lightsabers instead of torches,” joked the 63-year-old “Star Wars” veteran.

Hamill admitted he was caught off guard when Lucas invited him to lunch. When Hamill’s wife surmised that perhaps there was a new film in the works, Hamill laughed. Lucas had told him specifically that he was done making “Star Wars” movies after the prequels.

He assumed Lucas was going to announce a 3-D release or roll out another box set of the films, laughing about the number of versions that have been made available.

Still, his interest was piqued when Lucas disinvited Hamill’s daughter. He knew that meant it must be big.

When things started coming together, Hamill said he was cautiously optimistic about J.J. Abrams, the chosen director for “The Force Awakens.”

“I was a little suspicious because he was a ‘Star Trek’ guy,” said Hamill, laughing.

The actor quickly clarified that he likes “Star Trek.”

“It just seems odd,” he said. 

He went on to compliment Abrams for his inclusiveness. Abrams, Hamill noted, is also the first “Star Wars” director to be borne out of true fandom of the original films.

“He feels the way you feel in terms of wanting practical effects. Real sets,” he said.

Keeping in line with the secrecy surrounding “The Force Awakens,” which opens on Dec. 18, Hamill said he is always worried about leaking information. He claims he even learned the subtitle of the seventh film on the Internet.

“They’re so secretive these days,” said Hamill. “When we did the first one no one cared.”

Hamill was “cleared” to tell the packed house that he did record a voiceover specifically for the new teaser trailer, which debuted last week during the Celebration kick-off panel.

In the teaser, we hear Luke’s voice saying a familiar, but slightly altered line from “Return of the Jedi”: “The force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too.”

He laughed and said that he kept messing up and saying: “My father had it.”

The end result is a combination of the original recording and Hamill’s new session, the actor said.

After playing the trailer once more in the large arena, Hamill marveled that there is “so much information there for you to speculate about” embedded in the footage.

“It implies so much that’s gone on from ‘Jedi’ till now,” he said.

“They don’t call it a teaser for nothing. They want to tease you.”

On the Web…

Online: http://www.starwars.com

‘Civilization’ shoots for the stars

Our planet isn’t in very good shape. The good news, according to “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” (2K Games, for the PC, $49.99), is that we’ll be able to hang around for another 500 years or so. The bad news: After that, we’d better start looking for a new home.

It’s not the freshest sci-fi premise — “Interstellar” has essentially the same setup — but it gives Meier and his Firaxis Games studio a chance to expand the beloved Civilization franchise to entirely new worlds. It’s a mostly successful transplant, though at times I wished its scope was even more cosmic.

You begin by selecting one of eight “sponsors.” The United States, Canada and Mexico are now part of the American Reclamation Corp., for example, while China, Japan and Korea have joined forces in the Pan-Asian Cooperative. Their figureheads lack the charisma of classic Civ leaders like Alexander and Napoleon, and their differences aren’t that substantial in the long run.

You have a few other choices regarding passengers, spacecraft and cargo, each of which accelerates the game’s early stages. Then it’s time to make landfall. Sadly, your new home isn’t entirely welcoming; some areas are drenched with a poisonous miasma, and the native insectoids are all too eager to make a meal out of anyone who ventures away from your colony.

Obviously, we’re well beyond the “dawn of man” setup of earlier Civs, so you don’t have to teach your settlers rudimentary skills like agriculture and writing. Instead, you have an elaborate “tech web” that starts with topics like physics and genetics and levels all the way up to exotic sciences like neural uploading and artificial evolution.

All this new technology is a bit overwhelming, and if you’re not a science fiction fan you may be baffled by terms like nanorobotics and geoscaping. But “Beyond Earth” provides a helpful quest structure that lets you focus on short-term goals while you figure out what it will take to conquer the planet.

The game also lets you invest in four kinds of “virtues”: might, prosperity, knowledge and industry. And you score points in three “affinities”: harmony (adapting to the planet), purity (preserving earthling qualities) and supremacy (evolving beyond human flesh). Those points are essential to your ultimate triumph, which can be achieved several ways. Harmony, for example, can lead to transcendence, defined as the “merging of consciousness of all living things with the latent sentience of the planet.” Heavy.

While you’re juggling all that, you also have to contend with the demands of neighboring factions from Earth, which you can handle diplomatically or aggressively. There are many complicated systems at play, but Firaxis makes them work together smoothly.

Players itching to build a galaxy-spanning empire may be disappointed, because once you’ve landed on your planet, you’re pretty much stuck there. But Civ fans looking for a new world to conquer will be over the moon. Three stars out of four.

Online:

http://www.civilization.com/en/games/civilization-beyond-earth/ 

‘Transcendence’ is a mind-bender with an A-list lead

For more than a decade, cinematographer Wally Pfister brought director Christopher Nolan’s cinematic visions to life. Now, he’s the one calling the shots.

His directorial debut, the new sci-fi mystery “Transcendence,” has many elements of a Nolan blockbuster — eye-popping visual effects, a mind-bending story and an A-list lead in Johnny Depp. All of those things translate into high expectations for Pfister, who jokingly likens his newly christened director’s seat to an “electric chair.”

In the film releasing Friday, the mind of Depp’s terminally ill scientist, Will Caster, is uploaded into a computer after his death, spawning an eerily unruly machine. At the heart of the story is the disrupted relationship of Will and his wife, Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall.

“Transcendence,” which was executive-produced by Nolan and written by first-time screenwriter Jack Paglen, hooked Pfister because of the emotional weight put on the study of husband and wife and the increasing reliance on technology. “We start to wonder where it’s all going to go,” he says.

“We are dependent on technology. It’s got us,” affirmed Depp in a recent joint interview to promote the film.

Depp, 50, first met Pfister, 52, when they worked on Paul McCartney’s 2012 video for his romantic ballad “My Valentine,” in which Depp and Natalie Portman starred and Pfister was the director of photography.

“I was immediately intrigued and curious from (the) initial reading,” says Depp of “Transcendence.”

“So many things come into my mind as far as the dangers of technology. Say I’m suddenly holding a gun,” Depp illustrates, lifting his left hand as his formidable engagement ring with Amber Heard sparkles. “The gun is not inherently bad. It’s a tool. It’s what we do with it. I think it’s the same with technology.”

For his first directing gig, Pfister, who’s worked on everything from “Memento” to “The Dark Knight Rises,” swayed from doing a big action film.

“I’d done a lot as a cinematographer,” he says. “What was important was telling some sort of character-driven story. Exploring human emotion. That is the logical reason to jump from visual storytelling to narrative.”

Nolan will also release a thought-provoking sci-fi film this year: the time travel-focused “Interstellar,” out in November. But Pfister assures he’s not in competition with his long-time collaborator. “Chris is an old friend,” he says. “He has been incredibly supportive of my move into this.”

The two filmmakers even shared crew members, including folks in the makeup, special effects, equipment, casting and editorial departments. But while “Transcendence” was shooting, Nolan remained hands-off.

“Chris never came to the set,” says camera operator Scott Sakamoto, who worked on both movies. “I think Chris let Wally take the reins and go with it to see how well he would do.”

Although “Transcendence” marks the start of a new phase in Pfister’s career, he tackled the job with the ease of a veteran.

“He’s (an) experienced filmmaker,” says Depp. “But there are times when you look at a situation with a first-time director and you don’t know. But never was there a stumble.”

Depp’s Will in the film is sharp, warm and ambitious. But he ventures into dangerous territory when his mind is uploaded into an operating system that’s connected to the Internet. Soon, powerful and often-abusive capabilities verge on catastrophic results.

“You have to be wondering, `Is this simply a soulless machine?'” says Pfister. “If you upload a mind into a computer, does it contain sentience and if so, does that affect the decision-making process of the machine? Inherently with Johnny, you want to know that he’s still alive. We love Johnny. The character of Will Caster doesn’t work without having a powerful, emotional person behind it. We needed somebody that you could fall for.”

Depp was sold on the role after learning Pfister was directing. “We had connected and I knew the umpteen amount of hours of set time the man has had,” he says, adding that Pfister was passionate and “beyond prepared” when he arrived on set.

Pfister also “created an atmosphere where everyone felt free to say, `What about this?'” adds Depp. “That’s a rare beast in today’s cinema. It’s all about getting it done: the product and the result.”

“Johnny contributed dialogue and drove this project as if it were his baby as well,” says Pfister. “That is the kind of collaboration I’ve always wanted and probably the reason I got into directing – to play with other players.”