Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kitchen Nightmares are my TV dreams

You've probably all at least seen the commercials if not the actual program "Hell's Kitchen." I haven't yet but I know the charismatic and angry main character Chef Gordon Ramsay well.

I was introduced to him on a more personal level when I saw his other show, "Kitchen Nightmares," now in its second season on FOX. I never thought I'd care about a show focusing on chefs and restaurants, but this one is a winner.

The show follows Ramsay as he criss-crosses America, visiting some of the worst restaurants you could imagine, each of them on the brink of bankruptcy, failure, and utter collapse. The kitchens are dirty, moldy, and infested with vermin, and the owners, chefs, and other staff are usually egotistical and often inept.

That's where Ramsay comes in. This tall lanky Englishman with a penchant for the "F-word" swoops into these places, immediately determines their fallacies, and attacks them with furious anger. Unafraid of even the largest megalomaniac culinary personality, he cuts master chefs, head cooks, restaurant managers, and owners down to size, usually with tremendously entertaining results.

He calls them losers, horrible businessmen, pigs (usually for the less than clean state of their kitchens, walk-ins, and food prep areas) along with a never ending list of other colorful epithets, usually with plenty of bleeped out swear words mixed in that are easy to decipher for even the most church going of viewers.

No one is sacred in Chef Ramsay's world, and it's a guilty pleasure to watch him work.

What's best about this show is that he doesn't even try to baby these people. He tells them their shortcomings blatantly and without hesitation. In turn they cry, they scream, they even break things. Under this deluge of honesty and the subsequent breakdown of their tremendous egos, most of them hate Ramsey passionately for the first three days that he spends trying to resurrect their failing restaurants.

By the end of the week, though, he revamps the menu, the staff, the decor (ala several other home makeover type shows) and most important of all, he turns these places into operations that finally turn a profit. As a result, most of these eating establishments even manage to dig themselves out of hundreds of thousands of dollars of paralyzing debt.

And despite the venom and turmoil he unleashes on each of these restauranteurs and the businesses they run, each one of them learns to like Gordon by the end and even thanks him for coming. More than one owner has called the Chef an "angel" or a "blessing" on the program.

And they have good reason to do so; he's saved more failing small businesses in the last two seasons than Roosevelt's New Deal.

I used to hate that Ramsay guy, always swearing at the poor defenseless young chefs on "Hell's Kitchen," but now I respect him. Because, behind the yelling is something that this country and her citizens could use, especially in these tough financial times we're experiencing: It's honest talk that motivates good people to do what will make them successful.

And its this straight talk that Ramsay delivers which makes the program "Kitchen Nightmares" successful as well.

I give Chef Ramsay and "Kitchen Nightmares" five Ginsu knives out of five.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fallout 3 not for me

I read the reviews. I watched the trailers. I thought I would like the game.

Unfortunately, less than an hour, and 20 achievement points into the new release "Fallout 3" I knew I wasn't going to like it.

Why? Too much reading.

Okay, I'm not trying to sound like a Neanderthal, but I love a good old fashioned first person shooter. When I read about Fallout I did indeed realize that it was supposed to be a role player mixed with a shooter rather than a pure shooter. But from what I gathered -- or maybe just my own high hopes -- I figured there would be enough action to balance the talking parts. The game's story and setting just seemed too cool to pass up.

But that wasn't the case, at least for me. The game just doesn't suit my personal gaming sensibilities. I'm a moron shoot 'em up guy without the patience or time to walk around talking to citizens of the video game world for hours on end. For the same reason, I didn't like "Viking" either.

I get bored just interviewing people and aimlessly wandering around an open world map trying to figure out the best place to go next. Some people love that, and that's great, but if I wanted to play "World of Warcraft," I would have bought WOW. I guess I just need more direction in my games to keep me engaged.

Oh well, you live and learn. Hopefully Gamestop will buy it back and not hit me too hard...

I give Fallout 3 one mutant zombie out of five.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dead Space is rather lively fun

I recently finished the title "Dead Space" on the XBOX 360, and found it to be the most fun I've had since Bioshock. The story has a true cinematic feel to it, and there are some scary moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat during gameplay. The weapons are diverse and require some skill to determine which tool is the right one for each job or each creature.

Each mission is challenging yet not so difficult that you'll be running to the walkthrough to leaf through and find the answers. There's also a unique set of skins, weapons, and other add-ons available for download which will enhance the gaming experience.

With multiple difficulty levels to suit every style of gamer and plenty of room to roam and explore what feels like a working mining ship which has been invaded by an alien presence, this game will give 12 hours plus of playtime and will make it difficult to put down the controller for any lover of first person shooters.

I give "Dead Space" four and a half severed limbs out of five. Oh, yeah, did I mention the best way to kill the mutated monstrosities in this game is to shoot off their limbs? How cool is that?