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<p><span id="_oneup" style="font-size: 11px;"> Bono performs during the Echo 2009 Music Awards ceremony in Berlin, Germany.<br /></span></p>

Bono performs during the Echo 2009 Music Awards ceremony in Berlin, Germany.

Credit: AP Photo/Kai-Uwe Knoth

U2 stadium tour on the horizon. Outing starts in Barcelona in June

Irish band hits the U.S. in September with affordable ticket prices

 

U2's stadium show, U2 360, kicks off June 30 at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona.  U.S. dates start Sept. 12 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

The outing, which is the first under the band's touring deal with Live Nation, includes 14 European cities over the summer, including London, Glasgow and Berlin. Given that there are eight  weeks between the first European date and the last at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in Wales,  we're thinking U2 is planning multiple dates in each European city. The tour is in support of "No Line on the Horizon,"  the band's new album, which came out last Tuesday in the U.S. and will surely debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week.

In addition to the four North American stadiums listed below, September and October tour stops include Atlanta, Charlottesville, VA; Dallas, Houston,  Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Norman, OK; Phoenix,  Tampa, Washington, DC and Vancouver.

[More after the jump]

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<p>Luke and Margie of 'The Amazing Race'</p>

Luke and Margie of 'The Amazing Race'

Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' - 'It Was Like a Caravan of Idiots'

A Blind U-Turn plays a major role, while nobody knows who Anton Chekhov is

 

Russian playwright Anton Chekhov was born in 1860 and died in 1904. He was also a short story writer and a physician, but his plays include "The Seagull," "Uncle Vanya" and "The Cherry Orchard." 

He is, as we say, kind of a big deal.

I only mention this because on Sunday (March 8) night's episode of "The Amazing Race," eight players had to unscramble the name of a Russian playwright from a pile of seven letters. For at least six of them, the task was impossible and required total guesswork.

That just makes me a little sad. I understand that awareness of theater is a class-based knowledge, but I'm not convinced that it's asking too much for a general body of people, most with at least some high school or college education, to be able to name one Russian playwright and if you're going to know the name of one Russian playwright, it might as well be Chekhov. 

OK. I just had to get that snobbery out of the way. Actually, being able to spell "Chekhov" had almost nothing to do with the way Sunday's episode broke down.

[Recap after the break...]

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<p>Dr. Manhattan of "Watchmen" fame.</p>

Dr. Manhattan of "Watchmen" fame.

Credit: Warner Bros.

A Newbie's review of "Watchmen"

When Superheroes go bad or just act badly

 

I'd never heard of "Watchmen" six months ago, much less ever read the graphic novel upon which the movie is based. However, after seeing the film a few days ago, I fall squarely in the camp of those who think it probably should have stayed a comic book.

In case you've been as clueless as I was, "Watchmen" is the story of retired superheroes, who are being knocked off for some unknown reason. The remaining superheroes reconnect to try to find out what is happening to them personally, while the world at large is on the brink of annihilation. The hope for saving the universe lies in Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman, a physicist, who was nuked in a lab accident and is now able to shift particles and rearrange atoms and all that cool stuff.  And yet, in a plot point I'll examine further, he still has a whiny girlfriend who wants to know why he can't connect with her and meet her emotional needs.  Maybe, just maybe, it's because he's been vaporized...

There are several things to admire about "Watchmen." At the top of the list is Jackie Earle Haley's portrayal of Walter Kovacs/Rorschach. He is such a raw nerve, so damaged a character, that there is no room left for humanity to reach him. He acts blindly, but with a conviction that never wavers. Rorschach makes Rush Limbaugh seem like a leftie. It's a really bold, consuming performance, made all the more remarkable by the fact that for the vast majority of the film, Rorschach's face is covered by a burlap sack that-in a device that I loved-is constantly rearranging like a Rorschach test.  His emotion, primarily disgust, is conveyed through his Clint Eastwood-like whisper and his tightly wound body language.

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<p>Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion of 'Castle'</p>

Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion of 'Castle'

Credit: ABC

TV Review: 'Castle'

Nathan Fillion tries to elevate ABC's otherwise routine procedural "Castle"

There's a tendency to write off Nate Fillion as an actor, suggesting after "Two Girls a Guy and a Pizza Place" that he couldn't be a male lead, suggesting after "Firefly" that he could only play the square-jawed serial hero, suggesting after "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that he could only work with Joss Whedon, suggesting after "Drive" that he was best-suited for ensemble work. At a certain point, topping it off by watching him sing and preen in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," one has to acknowledge that just because Fillion isn't some sort of chameleon doesn't mean that he isn't very good at what he does.

Of course, more viewers saw Fillion in his less-than-inspired arc on "Desperate Housewives" than caught him in all of his series projects put together, which makes Monday (March 9) night's premiere of ABC's "Castle" something of a referendum on his star status. If viewers tune in to the "Castle" premiere, it will be because it comes on immediately after the premiere of "Dancing with the Stars." If they stick around after five minutes, it will only be because of Fillion.

"Castle" is being positioned as a cop dramedy, as a teasingly romantic will-they/won't-they two-hander, as a populist mystery. Really, it's The Nate Fillion Show.

[Review after the break...]

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<p><span class="smallest">The Comedian has read the naysayers and is laughing all the way to the bank.</span></p>

The Comedian has read the naysayers and is laughing all the way to the bank.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Some perspective on 'Watchmen's' opening weekend box office

All said and done, it's a hit


As the projected weekend numbers for "Watchmen" hit the web on Sunday morning, no doubt many "I told you so" pundits were furiously typing away at their computers about the huge disappointment the opening weekend gross of "Watchmen" was.  And while a few will spin it that Warner Bros. was wrong to invest the rumored $150 million budget into a 2 hour and 43 minute R-rated comic book thriller with no recognizable stars, another contingent are secretly hoping this can be the beginning of the end of all these "horrible comic-book" movies (really).

Hardly to both points.

It's clear that many in the mainstream media (and a few online) have a disdain for the exuberance and over-enthusiastic response to the whole process (announcement, production, marketing, release) of beloved genre movies coming to fruition such as "Watchmen."  (Of course, many of them act similarly at the altar of Clint Eastwood or Spielberg, but that's a topic for another day.)  No one will dispute that a little reality needs to be injected into the proceedings on both sides, but wishing for a project to fail because a large audience of fanboys are chomping at the bit to see it?  Do we really want people to not get excited about going to the movies? Really? Think about it for a moment.

Now, let's get back to the primary point of box office and do some math, shall we?  "Watchmen" is now the third biggest opening ever in March, behind Snyder's "300" which raked in $70 million two years ago and "Ice Age: The Meltdown" which cumed $68 million in 2006.  The "Ice Age" sequel was something "Watchmen" never intended to be: a four quadrant family flick that was only 90 minutes long.  Newsflash: "300" was also almost a complete hour shorter.  You can make the argument that in this age of the multiplex theater owners can throw up enough screens to compensate so moviegoers can have more options in case they miss the first 8:00 PM show.  That's partially true, but there are laws of time and physics at work here.  You can't max out the number of showings to the level a shorter film did (like "300") during the same period.  This does compensate for some of the difference in per screen average.  "300" did a little over $22,000 per screen its opening weekend and "Watchmen" was also slightly more than $15,000 per screen.  But, we're hardly drinking the kool aid here. 

No one should argue that "Watchmen" maxed out on its opening weekend.  Clearly, R-rated blockbusters have done way more, but each film is really it's own animal.  "The Matrix Reloaded"?  Sure, it got to $91 million during its opening weekend, but anyone remember the publicity maelstrom around that sequel? "The Passion of the Christ"?  Never doubt the power of the mighty one and Mel Gibson, but that marketing, promotion and audience around that phenomenon is too complex to dissect here, nor is it fair to compare.  "Hannibal's" $58 million? That sequel word is gonna come up again.  And finally, "Sex and the City."  Yes, Carrie Bradshaw's jump to the big screen opened to just $2 million more than "Watchmen" last June, but in many way's it's the perfect comparison.

Probably the only true disappointment from Warner Bros. this weekend was their inability to broaden "Watchmen's" must see outside the core demo of 18-34 year old men.  Exit polls showed 65% of the audience was male and only 35% of it over the age of 25.  Ironically, that last figure was the opposite of pre-release tracking services, who said the older audience was more interested in the film than younger.  Warner's can only hope those older moviegoers follow form and show up next week when the crowds have died down somewhat.  But, if you were to flip the exit polling numbers, they would look a lot like "Sex and the City."  The percentage of moviegoers would be completely female dominated with older women turning it into a major movie event instead of twentysomething men.  And that flick, naysayers aside, didn't crash and burn after one weekend.  It grossed a startling $150 million by the time it was all said and done.  And that takes us back to the biggest number of all: production budget.

Publicly, "Watchmen's" production budget is at $150 million and the studio has claimed only $50 million in marketing expenses (domestically).  Even if you believe those figures, a similar $150 million gross to "Sex" isn't going to cut it (especially with Fox taking 8.5% after settling the rights lawsuit in January). However, "Watchmen" grossed $35 million overseas on Friday alone. [Correction: Initial reports were wrong, "Watchmen" did only $27 million overseas this weekend.]  Final numbers for the weekend will be available later today, but a $300-350 worldwide gross when it's all said and done?  Let's just say Warner Bros. stockholders should be more worried about the future of AOL than the profit margins on "Watchmen" which should certainly be in the black after DVD and the growing video on demand market is taken into account.

And I'm sure Mr. Snyder and producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin can hold their heads up high about that.

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<p>Eliza Dushku of 'Dollhouse'</p>

Eliza Dushku of 'Dollhouse'

Credit: Adam Taylor/FOX

Recap: 'Dollhouse' - 'The Gray Hour'

Remote wiping sounds dirty, but that's what happens to Eliza Dushku's 'Echo' on a sensitive job

Previously on “Dollhouse:” you should know the drill by now.

Then we hear a woman moaning in what sounds like orgasm and what turns out to be the final stages of labor. Note to the writers: do not ever suggest to your wives that the final stages of labor are anything like an orgasm. Echo is there, working as a midwife – yet another one of those jobs that could be performed by a regular person, but is being done by Echo, presumably at a very high hourly rate.

[For more, click through...]

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<p>Jerry Lewis takes a swim in 'The Errand Boy'</p>

Jerry Lewis takes a swim in 'The Errand Boy'

Credit: Paramount Home Video

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'The Errand Boy'

Jerry Lewis proves that silly can be art

Three films in, and Jerry Lewis was just warming up for his masterpiece, "The Nutty Professor."  He had taken control of his comic persona with "The Bellboy," a great comedy, and then followed up with the ambitious "The Ladies Man," both of which we'll probably discuss at some point in this column, but with "The Errand Boy," Jerry Lewis wrestled with his identity as a movie star in a very public way, turning his own insecurities and ambitions into material for a string of surreal sight gags that demonstrate his innate mastery with the camera.

Because say what you will about the character he plays, the moron/innocent with the whiny nasal voice and the crazy spastic walk... Jerry Lewis as a filmmaker was a wicked-smart visual stylist, inventive and clever and always able to frame a joke in a way that milks it to maximum effect.  Jerry Lewis the director dwarfs Jerry Lewis the actor in my mind, and to such magnitude that I think of them quite distinctly.  There are always bits I like with Jerry and bits I don't, places where I think he pushes the dumb envelope to the shredding point, and places where I think he plays a childlike innocent spirit just right.  But as a director... every single time, I think he knows what he's doing.  I don't think he makes a bad move.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Admiral Adama has some tough decisions to make in "Island in a Stream of Stars."</p>

Admiral Adama has some tough decisions to make in "Island in a Stream of Stars."

Credit: Sci Fi/Carole Segal

Recap: 'Battlestar Galactica' - 'Islanded in a Stream of Stars'

a.k.a. 'We're still hunting for Emmy nods'


After tonight's episode there are only two more installments of the great "Battlestar Galactica" left.  Anyone feeling nostalgic?  Any chance we'll get the thrill of one more Entertainment Weekly cover (or are we doomed to "Twilight" every other week)?  Are we ready to debate who amongst the cast has the best shot at breaking out in the years to come?  No, probably not yet. However, because tonight's episode featured more dramatic personal moments  amongst the characters (Emmy watcher alert!), this writer's mind is starting to wander.  

Unlike the past two episodes, there were not that many startling revelations in "Islanded in a Stream of Stars."  Sure, stuff happened like seeing the Cylon Colony for the first time (basically V'ger without all the fog), but beyond Adama's pivotal decision at the end of the show (which had been hinted at since at least last season), it was time for some more tender moments between some of our favorite characters.

[Spoilers after the jump]

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<p>Steve Martin as Rigby Reardon in Carl Reiner's 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'</p>

Steve Martin as Rigby Reardon in Carl Reiner's 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'

Credit: Universal Home Video

Motion/Captured Must-See: 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'

Carl Reiner and Steve Martin pay loving homage to film noir

Carl Reiner and Steve Martin had a run of films just as strong as the great Gene Wilder/Mel Brooks trilogy of the '70s, and I'm always fascinated by these collaborations that burn super bright and then just end. 

Reiner and Martin's first film, "The Jerk," put them on the map, and it was a fairly big hit considering it couldn't have cost much money at all.  And despite Reiner's history in the business at that point... the guy was a TV legend, basically... there was something almost experimental about what he was doing with Martin.  Reiner saw Martin's stand-up comedy and it sparked something in him.  He came back at Martin with film ideas and directorial style that didn't just capture Martin's sense of humor... it completed it.  It gave Martin the perfect world to play.  It's like Tim Burton directing a Pee Wee Herman movie... it just makes everything work.  Martin's comic persona is a reaction to '70s pop culture, a mockery of everything sincere in show business.

Wilder and Brooks set a very high bar for parody with "Young Frankenstein," and part of what makes that film so incredible is the attention to detail.  The production design on the lab where the monster is built.  The black and white.  The way Gene Hackman looks as the blind man.  There are so many ways they get it right, and the space is so specific, such a dead-on reproduction of the Universal movies and their entire aesthetic, that every ridiculous thing that happens feels surreal, twice as funny.  The more sincere the satire, the better the end result, I think. 

And so when I look at "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" as satire, I'm impressed with the quiet cool that Reiner brings to it.  He's making a noir movie.  He's making every noir movie.  And this was 1982, before the home video explosion, before the idea of the film geek went mainstream.  Reiner and Martin come by this nerd cred honestly.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan in 'Watchmen'</p>

Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan in 'Watchmen'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Movie Review: 'Watchmen'

Zack Snyder's take on 'Watchmen' is tediously ambitious, a slavish adaptation without new inspiration

Around 40 minutes into Zack Snyder's "Watchmen," my enthusiasm began to wane. The pleasure of seeing Alan Moore and David Gibbons' classic comic brought to the big screen had worn thin.

Unfilmable my eye.

It turns out that what those naysayers had been predicting for years wasn't true at all. It was, in fact, totally possible to bring "Watchmen" to the big screen. The impossible part was making a good movie out of it.

Warner Brothers has been pimping Zack Snyder as "the visionary director of '300,'" but the reality is that Snyder is the very opposite of a visionary. A visionary sees the world in ways that others can't, understands things in on a level that transcends the surface. As technically talented as he may be, and suggesting otherwise would be disingenuous, Snyder is at best a gifted mimic. Far from delivering a point of view that's unique, he seems only able to reproduce, sometimes with pitch-perfect superficial accuracy, what was already represented. If people love "300" or "Watchmen," there's a good chance that they love it because Snyder has given them exactly what they expected to see.

And if the enjoyment of a comic book or graphic novel were identical in form and sensation and duration to the enjoyment of a movie, Snyder still wouldn't be a visionary. He'd just be ambitious executioner of other people's ideas. 

Instead, "Watchmen" is just ambitiously tedious.

[More after the break, as I try to work through my thoughts...]

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<p>Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in an exclusive new image from 'Sherlock Holmes' you can see in full on Moviefone</p>

Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in an exclusive new image from 'Sherlock Holmes' you can see in full on Moviefone

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Afternoon Read (3.06.09) Buzzkill On Boyle and trailers galore

Plus David Foster Wallace and Horton Foote remembered

Let us never speak of Wednesday or Thursday again.

Of course fate would conspire to keep me away from the computer on two days where tons of stuff is happening online, including trailer debuts and all sorts of news.  I guess that means this afternoon's read is going to be a huge one, and we're also going to have to throw in a special Weekend read just to catch up completely.  Sound good?

By the end of the weekend, I expect most of you who want to see "Watchmen" will have seen it, and I'm going to be on G4's "Attack Of The Show" to talk about the film, as a counter to David Poland, who is somewhat less enthusiastic about the film than I am.  I've had a fairly contentious relationship with David over the years, and we've never done any media appearance together.  Should be interesting.  If you don't have G4, or if you believe your TV is trying to kill you so you never turn it on, I will have the appearance here on the Morning Read on Tuesday for you to watch.

TED talks are always worthwhile, and they cover any number of subjects that are of interest to people in all walks of life.  There's a great one up now for fans of FX, and for anyone curious about the process used to create the Oscar-winning character work in "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button."

Over at Empire, they've got a short piece detailing more details on Terrence Malick's "Tree Of Life," and what appear to be three different cuts of the film, or three distinct versions that will have different purposes theatrically.  I had a lovely surprise this week when a draft of this showed up in my mailbox, and I've got some time bookmarked this weekend to read the script.  I'll have my thoughts on all of these rumors, and some thoughts about what Malick seems to be making, early next week, in a HitFix exclusive.

[more after the jump]

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<p>Dr. Manhattan appears over the Thames at the London premiere of 'Watchmen'</p>

Dr. Manhattan appears over the Thames at the London premiere of 'Watchmen'

Credit: Jo Hale for Paramount Pictures

On The Screen (3.05.09) Michel Gondry goes to 'Tokyo!'

Plus, hey, did you know they made a movie out of 'Watchmen'?

Well, here we go.

As I sit down to write this, people on the East Coast are waiting in line to get into this morning's first screenings of "Watchmen."  Maybe.  That's what people hope anyway.  And on the West Coast, I would imagine the people who saw the midnight shows are just about ready to sort out what the hell they just watched.

But it's here.  For better, for worse, no matter what happens at the box-office over the weekend and next week, someone rolled the dice on a movie version of "Watchmen."  That is so f'ing insane.  I am living in a cartoon world when something like that is allowed to happen.

We've written about the film quite a bit here on the site.  I have one more piece that's going up over the weekend.  It's a long-form interview with Zack Snyder, and it's really nice.  We had about a half-hour to chat, and I caught him in a very different mood than I've seen before.  I think a lot of what he had to say on the eve of this blatantly experimental epic is worth reading, even if you don't end up liking the film.

[more after the jump]

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