Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Video Review: Wendy's Grill Skill

Recently -by which I mean at least 3 years ago- someone leaked a Wendy's training video called Grill Skill to the internet. I worked at Wendy's myself several years ago and I don't remember watching this training video, but then again it was a long time ago. One way or another, I just couldn't let it go without getting made fun of.

Warning: This is going to be long.

Video Links: Part 1 and Part 2.

The video starts with Wendy's founder Dave Thomas standing in a freezer. If all you know about Dave comes from 90's era Wendy's commercials then brace yourself. Because even though this was filmed 13 years before he died they still managed to film it entirely with his reanimated corpse. He seems to be somewhere between bored as hell and suicidal for the entire video.

"Maybe if I stay in this freezer long enough I'll catch pneumonia. Then I won't have to do this stupid video anymore."

It's not polite to mock the dead so I won't go too much into his speech impediment here. Suffice to say that after two minutes of telling us how he has the fray-shest burgers in the bid-ness, he leaves us alone so he can have an old fay-shioned hamburger with mustard, pickle and onions.

We cut to a static shot of a keyhole accompanied by random bird sounds. This scene drags out almost long enough to make you reach for a razor before we finally meet employee Bill. Bill is an idiot.

Anyway, Bill is told to go speak to the manager, Mary, who wants him to learn how to work the grill. Before sitting him down with a training video (yes, the character watches a training video in this training video) she takes the time to remind him that Wendy's only uses 100% pure ground beef, because apparently no one ever explained to the actress that this was a training video and not a commercial.

Anyway, Bill puts the video into the television and this is where everything goes to Hell. The television promptly explodes in a cloud of smoke, which forms into a disembodied spectral head. Because we've already established that Wendy's training videos are made by necromancers this surprises nobody but Bill, not that you'd know he was surprised from the actor's performance. The head introduces itself as the Duke of the Grill (vassal of the Burger King, I'm sure) and drags Bill into the TV and no, I am not making any of this up. It really happens.

"I'm here for your soul. If you're working in food service you won't need it."

Bill finds himself in the home dimension of the Duke of the Grill, who happens to be a dorky black guy in gold-rimmed sunglasses. Sadly for the Duke, his world is nothing but a tiny cage floating in a black void filled with laser lights, his only furniture a single Wendy's grill, and his only food an endless supply of cheese, buns, and talking meat patties.

Maybe if you had some real furniture you wouldn't need to make your meat look pretty, Duke.

What happens next is one of the most painful moments ever recorded to video: a two minute rap about hamburgers. To be fair, the Duke isn't the worst rapper I've ever heard, though that's mostly because Bill tries to rap too. To be unfair, it doesn't matter how good he is, because either way he's still rapping about Wendy's hamburger patties. Snoop Dogg may have been able to name himself after a cartoon character without losing street cred, but even he would look like a jackass doing this rap.

Over the course of the longest two minutes of your life, the Duke explains the proper way to cook a Wendy's burger. The first thing you may notice is he's not wearing any sort of gloves. This is not a mistake. The grill worker doesn't wear gloves for safety reasons. If you accidentally touch the grill or get a grease splatter on your hands then latex gloves will melt and stick to you, turning what would be a mild first-degree burn into a hospital stay. As for cleanliness, well, they're supposed to wash their hands. Personally I always washed my hands before work, but to be totally honest I think I was the only one.

Anyway, on to the actual preparation First you lay it on the grill with the help of an arrow on a piece of paper, because meat has grain (just like wood) and if you lay it down improperly it will turn into deadly poison and murder your dog while it sleeps. Anyway, he then explains about the four corner press. This is where you crush the meat into the grill to spread it out and make it cook faster. As the name implies, you press the meat four times, and you do this twice for a grand total of eight smashes. Usually pressing meat out on a grill like that dries it out, but Wendy's burgers have so much fat in them that even after being smashed out eight times you still have to drain it off, as shown.

Finally the Duke finishes up his rap. Unfortunately, Bill then does the exact same rap again, only with infinity times less enthusiasm. After a gloriously failed attempt at a fist bump, the Duke goes into *shudder* a second verse, this time about how to add cheese to a burger. Defying all logic, this process somehow manages to be longer than one step.

He also mentions that you must never serve burnt, dry, broken, or incomplete patties because "quality is our recipe." But because they use a different recipe for chili, they are allowed to put the burnt, crappy meat into that. That may not sound very appetizing, but to be fair they do shove said meat into a drawer over the grill for several hours before someone finally comes to get it and stick it in the chili pot. Eat up, chili fans!

Finally we cut back to the real world, where Mary snaps Bill out of his smoke-inhalation-induced hallucination by screaming in his ear. As they leave, the camera hangs on the TV way too long in a segment that makes me think the thing is about to transform and eat everyone. Sadly, it doesn't.

Instead we get a montage of Mary teaching Bill the same thing he just learned on the video, then spending the rest of the day watching over his shoulder like a crazy person while taking notes. Clearly after watching the kid stare slack-jawed at a malfunctioning TV for what must have been hours she realized he couldn't be trusted to operate a spatula without close supervision.

Finally, we're back to Dave, who has just received his old fay-shioned hamburger from a girl wearing gigantic nerd glasses. Dave almost bites into his skimpy little burger before realizing what an awful idea that is and putting the horrible greaseball down. He then rephrases the opening speech, this time making sure to assure us that cooking a burger is a very difficult and extraordinary talent that takes lots of practice. You keep telling yourself that, Dave.

"You have to eat it, Dave. The cameras are on you. No, you can't go hang out in the freezer again instead."

We end on a two-minute music video for an awful song called Grill Skill, over which we see clips of hideous people cooking hideous burgers while simultaneously flexing their scrawny muscles, lip synching badly, and playing air guitar with their spatulas.

I actually feel a little bad about making fun of this video, because it's obvious that some poor, misguided person really tried his best on it. That person was the geek who played the Duke of the Grill. As for the other "actors," Bill and Mary's performances are almost good enough to be called phoned in, but the real shining star of half-assedness is Dave Thomas himself whose performance is somewhere between "smoke-signaled" and "100-character tweet without bothering to capitalize the 'I's."

As for the special effects editor (and never before or since has the word "special" been more appropriate), he seems to have tried his best given that a head of cabbage has more brain matter in it than his head.

That's really all there is to say about this video, but there is one last thing I want to leave you with...always remember: Wendy's 100% real ground beef is pattied into squares so the meat hangs off the edge of the bun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Hey boys and girls, have you ever played a truly great game? I mean the kind of game that you could actually say, in perfect honesty, is one of the best games of all time? I have. It had an excellent story, a fun and functional combat system, and a fully open and immersive world that made me feel as if I was really a part of it.

I can still remember the first day I played it. I spent that entire day almost in a daze, completely captivated by the scope of the game. I can still recall the moment I realized that I didn't have to do some special quest or defeat an evil wizard before I could leave the first town. I could just go whenever I felt like it. I had total freedom, for the first time in any game I'd ever played. If there was a plate sitting on a table I could take it. If there was a man on a street corner, I could kill him. If there was a book on a shelf I could read it, and not just a one-sentence excerpt either but the entire thing. The game I'm referring to is, of course, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

Sadly, I can't quite say the same thing about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Allow me to explain why not. By this point you might have heard of a little controversy surrounding the children of Skyrim, or more specifically the fact that they can't be killed or even damaged in any way. Granted "I want to kill kids!" is a weak argument to make against the game, as Bethesda Softworks has so condescendingly pointed out time and again, but the thing is it's just the tip of the iceberg. A sizable percentage of NPCs in Skyrim are considered "essential" to the story and therefore invincible. Unlike Oblivion -the fourth game in the series for those who've been under a rock- this extends beyond just main quest NPCs, to basically every NPC who is involved in any quest at all, no matter how minor. It gets to the point that evil characters will find themselves having to save the game before attacking any NPC because of the relatively high chance that the NPC (or another nearby NPC) will be unkillable.

And that's pretty much The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in a nutshell. Skyrim is beautiful, expertly written and designed, and set in an interesting world with a rich history and culture. Every dungeon has been handcrafted, often with its own hook, story, and special reward. I could praise the game until I'm blue in the face, because it's easily one of the best games I've played in years.

But that's just the thing: that word, "game." Like most video games, it keeps reminding you that you're only playing a game. Every time you try to murder an annoying NPC only to have them jump back up from 0 HP and call the guards on you, every time you want to pick up an item off a table only to discover you can't because it's only decorative; every time, it just serves to remind you again that you're only playing a video game.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

This was actually a fairly hard rating to give. Yes, the various questlines are much shorter in Skyrim then they were in the older games, but that seems like a hollow argument when you can beat Morrowind in less than 15 minutes without cheating. Also, yes, this game has more bugs in it than an anthill, but at worst that just puts it on par with basically every other game to come out in the last few years, and at least in Skyrim's case it can be justified thanks to the game's massive scale.

Judged all on its own, Skyrim deserves a rating of 5, but I just can't in good conscience give it one when I know that it could be so much better. Not every game has to measure up to the bar set by Morrowind. I wouldn't hold, say, Final Fantasy up to that standard, for example. The difference is that in this case the company that made the game is the same company that set that standard in the first place. We know what they can do. Yet, rather than expand, they choose instead to make each new game smaller and more limited than the last, with less content and less customization, and instead more arbitrary restrictions and more invisible walls.

And that's the story of how the best game of 2011 only earned a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holy Crap, Where Was I?!

For those of you who've been wondering where the Heck I've been for basically all of October and the first half of November, the simple answer is I've been trying to fix up the blog and make it nice. I've been working on new graphics, including a title picture and new rating images, with more in the works.

I've also gone back and added annotations to some of my older blog posts, so feel free to go back and read them again. I've added especially lengthy annotations to my reviews of Final Fantasy X-2 and Sonic Gems Collection.

I intend to restart the regular reviews ASAP, most likely tomorrow. In other news, I currently have Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on pre-order and intend to have a review up for that shortly after getting my hands on it.