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Johnny Depp's 'Transcendence' lands prime China release date

For a first-time director, Wally Pfister has landed one of the most coveted honors in the movies business.

No, not an Oscar — which Pfister already has for Inception‘s cinematography. Instead, Christopher Nolan’s go-to director of photography has nabbed a rare day-and-date release in China and the U.S. on April 18, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Moreover, the Chinese version of the film will be available in 3-D, while it will screen only in conventional 2-D theaters in the States.

This is a huge boost for Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros., which co-produced the movie with China’s DMG. Many American blockbusters see their profits minimized by piracy in the gap between when they open in the U.S. and when they open in China, the world’s second-largest movie market. Last year, Iron Man 3, which was also co-produced by DMG, opened in China two days before it opened in the U.S., and it went on to become the Asian country’s second-biggest grosser of 2013, making $121.2 million. Fast & Furious 6, on the other hand, opened in China two months after it debuted in the U.S.; that film settled for $66.5 million.

Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as a brilliant artificial-intelligence futurist who becomes more than he ever dreamed when his consciousness is uploaded to the server. The film co-stars Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, and Kate Mara. It’s Pfister’s first directing job after shooting seven of Nolan’s films, as well as Moneyball.

New 'Transcendence' trailer and teasers: Will artificial intelligence destroy us? -- VIDEO

“Imagine a machine with a full range of human emotion. Its analytical power will be greater than the collective intelligence of every person in the history of the world,” Johnny Depp tells a captivated audience in the first full trailer for Transcendence, the directorial debut of longtime Christopher Nolan DP Wally Pfister.

When the anti A.I. group RIFT attacks a series of intelligence centers, Depp’s character is one of the casualties, suffering a radiation-laced bullet wound. From there, things get ugly and desperate as his fellow scientists try to reanimate him by uploading his consciousness.

Transcendence also released two new teasers for the film. They offer little in the way of plot, characterization, or imagery, but actually do manage to go a long way towards immersing us in this imagined world. “What happens when artificial intelligence becomes self-aware?” Morgan Freeman asks in his perfect narrator baritone in the first teaser. “Is it the key to immortality, or is it the path to annihilation?” And you thought Inception was a mindf–k.

Check out the three spots below.

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Casting Net: Morgan Freeman in talks for another Christopher Nolan film; Plus, Michael Caine, Rachel McAdams, more

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• Morgan Freeman is finding his way back to the world of Christopher Nolan. No, the Dark Knight director hasn’t signed Freeman onto his highly anticipated next original project. (Though Anne Hathaway might make the leap to sci-fi for that film, Interstellar.) Freeman is in final negotiations to star in the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, Nolan’s longtime cinematographer. Nolan is producing the film, called Transcendence. Plot details are being kept under wraps for the sci-fi film, but it’s been described as in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Inception. Already signed on are Johnny Depp, Kate Mara (127 Hours), Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind), and Rebecca Hall (The Town). Alcon Entertainment announced Freeman’s casting news via press release on Thursday. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Johnny Depp commits to 'Black Mass' and Pfister's 'Transcendence'; Plus, Tom Hardy in PTSD film, and Bradley Cooper

Johnny Depp fans, get excited. The actor has committed to his next two projects: Wally Pfister’s sci-fi thriller Transcendence, and Barry Levinson’s Whitey Bulger biopic Black Mass, both of which he’d been circling for a while. Transcendence will be the directorial debut for Pfister, an Oscar-winning cinematographer (for Inception in 2011), who has been Christopher Nolan’s go-to since Memento. The details of the project remain sparse, but the logline teases that the film is about a scientist who has his brain uploaded into a computer. Depp will go straight from Transcendence to Black Mass, based on the true crime book Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI and A Devil’s Deal by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Depp will portray the real-life former Boston mob boss and FBI informant, Whitey Bulger, who is still very much alive. [Variety]

• Tom Hardy is set to develop and star in the post traumatic stress disorder drama Samarkand, about a British soldier attempting to readjust to society after serving in the Middle East. Photographer Greg Williams wrote the script with his brother Olly, and will make his feature debut directing the project. Williams directed Hardy in the short film Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother (available here) about a man (Hardy) who decides to run away to join the French Foreign League. [Deadline]

Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper has committed to producing and starring in an English-language remake of the 2011 German film Kokowääh. He’s also reportedly considering whether or not to direct the project. The original film was directed by and starred Til Schweiger (Hugo Stiglitz in Inglorious Basterds) as a writer who discovers that he has an 8-year-old daughter. The film follows his work, his burgeoning relationship with his daughter (and her foster father), and his attempts to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend and writing partner. The script is currently undergoing a re-write. [Deadline]

PREVIOUSLY: Chris Cooper is Norman Osborn in ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2′ 

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UPDATE: Joss Whedon responds to 'The Dark Knight Rises' cinematographer's slam of 'The Avengers': 'I'm a fan.'

Wally Pfister, director Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer, is not a fan The Avengers.

While participating in a Q&A last week at Ringling College of Art and Design, the Dark Knight Rises cinematographer staked his claim in the ongoing rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel, blasting the record-breaking film. “I thought The Avengers was an appalling film,” he said, according to the Huffington Post (via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune). “They’d shoot from some odd angle and I’d think, why is the camera there? Oh, I see, because they spent half a million on the set and they have to show it off. It took me completely out of the movie. I was driven bonkers by that illogical form of storytelling.”

UPDATE: When reached by EW, The Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon responded: “I’m sorry to hear it, I’m a fan.”

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