That’s right, everyone! Chicago means ‘wild leek’. I include this detail as a jaunty segue into the fact that - hey! - I’m in Chicago! For Games Day! So this is my first roving, on-the-road blog (thanks to the hotel’s wireless internet connection ... don’cha just love modern technology?)!
And what can I tell you that I can’t tell you from home?
Well, it’s not windy, for starters. And I’ve never been anywhere that’s so like New York and yet defiantly not. The cab drivers are a bit ‘two fer’ (ie for every one that took me where I wanted to go, there were two who didn’t). I saw that Paul Morley off the telly riding the down escalator in Borders while I was riding the up (a fact that will mean little to nothing to our US readers). I met the very charming Chris O’Reilly, who has (as regular posters will know) named his new born son Jack Abnett O’Reilly. O’really? Yeah, really. I wish Chris, his wife and little Jack absolutely the very best for the future (whilst feeling slightly... nonplussed). Jack will have the first available book dedicated to him. May I also, while I remember, wish Tara’s boyfriend Jason a very Happy Dan Abnett Birthday Party. It’s a funny old world.
My dad (I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this), apart from being a rather famous maker of plucked stringed instruments (the correct term is luthier) is also a keen railway modeller (N gauge, for those nerdishously interested), and has constructed some of the most amazing scale model railways I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a good few, believe you me). So I arrive at my hotel and guess what? The other convention in town is an American railway modeller’s show. I’m going to have to go awol from Games Day for half an hour and take pictures so he can evaluate the competition.
What else? I’m half tempted to go off on a little riff about food in the states, and how it’s great but it comes in portions four or five times larger than is in any way necessary, and that’s coming from me, and you’ve seen me, I like my food...
But I won’t, ‘cause it’s a cliché. Though clichés are usually clichés for a reason.
Instead, I will point you in the direction of Hot Fuzz, which I watched on the plane. Yeah, it’s been out for ages and, yeah, I love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost... it’d just slipped past my lateral deflectors somehow. Great stuff, if a little odd in places, but truly, truly sublime in others.
And Transformers, which I went to see with my girls and my brother in law last weekend. Accepting the premise that it isn’t and cannot be the greatest film ever made, I will add the following remarks:
1) Michael Bay in fabulous movie shocker! (Never, EVER thought I’d write that)
2) It’s pure, pure entertainment if, like me, you’ve the brain of a twelve year old boy (mine’s in a jar, where do you keep yours?).
3) It’s the first film I’ve seen since I was a teenager that simply made me thrilled to be in the theatre. I’ve seen better films than Transformers, but nothing (not Matrix, not King Kong, not Lord of the Rings etc) that afforded me that same pure buzz, the buzz I got off Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Conan, Aliens and Mad Max 2 when I was a nipper and going to the Maidstone ABC.
4) Also, if you forget for a moment that they’re robots/Transformers, I contend the movie has the best superhero/40K action ever filmed (depending on your preference). In the last third of the flick, think of them as superheroes (if you’re into comics) or Space Marines and Dreadnaughts (if you’re a 40ker), and you’ll see what I mean. Crunching, super-powered, high speed, heavy calibre street fighting.
To sum up, I absolutely loved it. Which is a good thing, as I’m going to have to go and see it again with Andy Lanning, or he’ll feel left out. PROVISO - do not take my recommendation if you:
a) don’t like heavy duty shooty death kill action
b) are not prepared to suspend your disbelief.
Otherwise run, run like a fool and go see it. I personally think it’s going to change the way movies work. Here’s why. Ahem... My theory, my theory is this... when CGI first came along, it changed the face of cinema and advertising (cf Jurassic Park, Matrix etc) and thereupon everyone realised that ANYTHING was possible, so they tried to DO anything, with some pretty creditable results (cf Lord of the Rings) and some palpably bad ones (cf the Star Wars prequels). In other words, because CGI allowed film makers to do anything, they tried to do EVERYTHING. And the kitchen sink.
Now Transformers is not a movie of restraint, and Mr Bay is not a director of restraint, but restraint is ultimately what Transformers delivers. It does what it has to do - hugely and brilliantly - but it doesn’t go overboard (I mean, not more than any movie about giant clashing robots CAN go overboard). It is massive and noisy, but there is was nothing extraneous. I honestly believe it is a turning point: the first blockbuster picture to use CGI absolutely as much as is necessary without CGI-ing the arse off everything willy nilly. I mean, it’s got a surprisingly good script, characters, humour, good performances...
...AND GIANT FIGHTING ROBOTS!
Time for bed. Games Day looms. I miss being at home, and I miss Nik and the girls. Home soon. I will retire and contemplate Jack Abnett O’Reilly. I don’t wish to harp on about that, and I certainly don’t want Chris and his wife to feel in any way odd about their naming choice. But it’s very strange to me. I just wrote some stories and look what happened. I am, entirely, flattered and humbled.
Dan, Chicago, Friday night.