July 23rd, 2009
11:30 PM ET

Comic-Con: Spandex Everywhere

Today marks the official opening of Comic-Con, the world's largest comic book, movie and pop culture convention.  This year, the San Diego-based event celebrates its 40th anniversary as ground zero of all things new, cool and about to explode on the mainstream.


Comic Con fans wait in line outside Hall H. Some camped overnight.

It's interesting and even a little ironic that I am here because I am not what you would consider a fan of comic culture.  Sure, I have enjoyed the big screen adaptations of the "X-Men" franchise and, of course, was moved by Heath Ledger's performance as "The Joker" in last year's "The Dark Knight," but for the most part I have a working knowledge of comic books on par with your average 65-year-old woman.

I say this to add a bit of context to this blog entry.  Observant, excitable, and curious I am, well-versed in the world of comics, I am not.  What I do know is spandex.

It is estimated that 125-thousand people will circulate through the halls of the San Diego Convention Center during this four-day event.  From what I can tell, about 124-thousand have chosen to decorate their bodies in some form of spandex.  I have a long and checkered history with the stretchy, entirely unforgiving material which we will not go into here.

This early life exposure led me to an acute understanding of the clingy fabric. From what I have seen this familiarity is not entirely shared by the aforementioned 124-thousand "Comic-Conners" in my general vicinity.  For those who care, I would like to share three little guidelines about spandex that I've learned over the years.

(1) Big or small, spandex accentuates everything.  It is a common misperception that spandex is only unflattering on bigger body types.  This is simply not true.  If you have the metabolism of a hummingbird and have to run around in the shower to get wet, chances are you do not have what it takes to give this long chain polymer its necessary "stretch" for maximum appeal.

(2) Spandex is better cast as a "supporting character" than in a "lead role."  One should not feel as though their entire outfit should be made from spandex, simply because it can.  Forearms, hands and the occasional headband are often times "safe" uses of spandex.  Torsos, thighs and derrieres tend to be "danger" areas.

(3) Spandex is a privilege, not a right.  The ability to locate and/or afford spandex does not necessarily mean one should wear spandex.  Let's be clear, it takes a very special kind of body type to make the stuff work and work well.  Chances are your favorite actor or actress worked with a personal trainer for months before earning the privilege of wearing it.  It's just an educated guess, but something tells me The Green Lantern did not stop at KFC on his way to saving the world.

So, my silly lesson in spandex aside, I will say this about what I've seen at Comic-Con so far, there is no shortage of passion.  For many of these fans, they have spent years, if not a lifetime enjoying this art form.  They are here to show how much they care, and that kind of dedication, even set against a spandex backdrop, is impressive.

July 23rd, 2009
06:13 PM ET

'Twilight' cast hits Comic-Con

There's a certain energy that follows Kristen Stewart as she makes her way from reporter to reporter at the 2009 Comic-Con.

Fans of her lead role in the "Twilight" franchise and its upcoming second installment, "New Moon" aren't shy about their hunger for any scoop they might get about the film's divergence from the popular Stephenie Meyers novels. She's tight-lipped on those queries.

Others are feverishly excited about her "new look.". She's currently sporting a short, black windblown "rocker-girl" hairdo as she is on a break from filming her next movie in which she portrays the famous singer, Joan Jett.

Yes, she likes her new look. Although, she admits taking a break from her character to promote her other film project is not her first choice.

As for the other energy surrounding Ms. Stewart, it centers entirely on her potential romantic life – she and "Twilight" co-star, Rob Pattison, have been linked for months on tabloid covers everywhere.

This energy will continue to build and likely follow the fair-skinned beauty throughout her tour of duty at the world's largest comic convention as her publicist makes it clear, "If I hear one personal question I stop the interview!"

My professional assessment?  If you have to ask the press not to ask, chances are there's something to say.

So, what did I find out?

Kristen doesn't go to malls.  She thinks fans will like the second installment of "Twilight" better than the first because of her co-star, Taylor Lautner, who appears shirtless for much of the film.

And finally, she is truly inspired by the droves of fans who continue to support the "Twilight" franchise and impressed that they are often even more excited about her character than she is.

July 23rd, 2009
04:58 PM ET

Suit shopping with C3PO

30-plus years ago, Anthony Daniels was standing in the Tunisian desert in a gold metal suit, having accepted a movie role he didn't really want.  The role, of course, was C3PO in Star Wars, and it's taken Daniels further than he ever dreamed.  This week, it took him to Canali, a swank men's clothing store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.


"It's almost a bigger journey than Luke Skywalker's," notes the graceful, gentlemanly British actor, who was being clothed for his latest Star Wars-related project: "Star Wars: In Concert," a touring stage show with a full orchestra and choir performing John Williams' legendary music from the franchise, as specially edited montages from the movies play on a massive screen.  Daniels will provide live narration for the show - a task he finds both ironic and appropriate.

"You know, in Star Wars, C3PO says 'I'm not very good at telling stories - not at making them interesting, anyway,'" Daniels recalls, noting that by Return of the Jedi, "there is C3PO talking to all the assembled Ewoks, and he's chatting away, telling them the story of the avengers, the rebels... and here I am now telling the story of Star Wars."

Daniels' zeal for the project was obvious, and his enthusiasm for a role he's played for more than half his life seemed undimmed after all this time.

"It's been a job for 30-something years," he mused about his high-strung, often whiny robotic alter ego, "a job that other people have loved the fact that I do it.  That's hugely rewarding, whatever the physical discomforts.  Sometimes the anonymity has been awkward; other times, I've been very grateful for it.  But to have a job, and then to realize how fond you are of the character you play... you know, maybe if he was somebody else, I would have given up.  I'm actually very fond of C3PO.  He's a good guy."

Does "Star Wars: In Concert" sound like something you'd go to see?  What are your favorite Star Wars characters and memories?

July 23rd, 2009
08:15 AM ET

Ellen DeGeneres appears on 'Dance'

It was certainly a memorable night on Fox's summer sensation "So You Think You Can Dance." On the eve of its 100th episode, there was a fourth judge Wednesday night. No, not Kara DioGuardi (and not Paula Abdul either), but comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres, who is quite fond of dancing on her show, took on the role of judge for a night.


DeGeneres made her role on the show clear from the get-go as she talked about learning how to dance from "the streets... actually it was a gated community, and there was just one street."

As the show wore on, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe seemed underwhelmed for the most part, while DeGeneres continued to pull off some zingers (like "Are you two carpenters, because you nailed it!"). Judge Mary Murphy even remarked that the dances seemed to be going in slow motion at one point.

Later on in the show, Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi performed a very personal routine for choreographer Tyce Diorio about a friend who is facing breast cancer. The soaring performance left Lythgoe welling up as he called this routine an example of why he loves dance and worthy of another Emmy nomination for Diorio. DeGeneres called it the "most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Kayla Radomski and Jason Glover finished off the night with a Shane Sparks hip-hop routine, where the two portrayed zombies. The judges loved it, with DeGeneres saying, "Keep dancing like that and you'll get your own talk show someday."

These last three performances left two fan favorites, Evan Kasprzak and Janette Manrana, seemingly in danger for Thursday night. Then again, it's not really up to the judges at this point in the show, which made DeGeneres' turn as a judge all the more appropriate.

What did you think? Was it great to see a fan like DeGeneres judging, even if it was for comic relief, or is three enough for you? Are you looking forward to tonight's 100th episode with Katie Holmes, and the chance to revisit some favorite performances?

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