Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Touched by an Angel; you'll be hearing from my lawyer

The Buffy comics have been out on shelves since March (see my thoughts on the first two issues by CLICKING HERE) and I had myself a nice little Buffy DVD marathon back in March to celebrate 10 years of Joss Whedon giving us the true Buffy on TV. I have the Chosen collection of the Buffy DVDs, all 144 episodes in a single large box. I have been waiting and waiting for a similar release from Fox for the Angel DVDs, but 3 years and a month (1126 days, but who's counting) after the series finale of Angel, no box has been released, announced, or even rumored as far as I have heard. So after watching the TNT reruns lately, I finally decided to purchase a few seasons. I decided on seasons 4 and 5, as the 3rd season was just wrapping up on TNT.

In case I never mentioned this before, TNT has the WORST HD quality (picture is literally warped) and their editing of the show, both in scene editing (where the commercials air) and the visual editing (why get rid of the widescreen?) is something that could have been done by a high school student with free editing software, and that student would have failed his editing class. Yes, I am assuming his school had an editing class of some sort. Either way, TNT sucks at editing. They quickly kill the pacing set up by the episode's director, and some people's faces are half in the shot, or entirely gone in many scenes. Not wanting to deal with this horrible version of the show, I had Amazon send me the 4th and 5th seasons. New slim sets are out now (smaller boxes, less fancy) and only cost me $25 a piece. Great deal.

Let me start of by saying that my most favorite to least favorite seasons of Angel are 1, 2, 5, 3, 4, with 4 being my least favorite. After watching all 5 seasons again the past month or so, that order has changed. The 5th season is easily my favorite now, with 1 being 2nd favorite, then 2, 3, and finally 4 again. Let me say that I did not DISLIKE the 4th season, and absolutely loved that they were able to take EVERY single event from the previous seasons (mainly everything that happened to Cordy) and make it into a single plot device for bringing out the big bad. I did not dislike any season, but now realize how incredible the 5th season was compared to the others. This probably had a LOT to do with Buffy having ended, Firefly cancelled, and Joss being able to pour more of himself into the season compared to others. His lack of handsonedness is very clear in the 4th season.

The 5th season of Angel starts with Angel becoming the new CEO of Wolfram & Hart, the evil law firm that has been the thorn in his side since the first episode of the show. Angel and company sorta ended world peace at the end of season 4, long story short, and Wolfram & Hart decided to give Angel control of the LA office because of this. Almost everyone comes along for the ride as well, with Fred in charge of the science/R&D department, Wesley in charge of prophecies and mystic information, Lorne becomes head of the PR and entertainment side of W&H, and Gunn becomes a lawyer (they pump his head full of the law during his first week there). The deal Angel made before taking the job was that Connor be given a new life, a normal life, and his existence erased from everyone's memories. Hoping that they can make a difference by "changing things from the inside" the team jumps right into their roles at the law firm. Finally, Spike joins the crowd when the talisman he used to destroy the Hellmouth on Buffy shows up in a package for Angel. He starts off as a "ghost" but is recorporealized by mid season.

For the most part, the show goes back to it's "monster of the week" theme of the 1st/2nd season instead of the serialized storytelling from the 4th season. This is a welcome change, as the show flows much smoother than it did in the late 3rd and all of the 4th season. Yes, storylines carry over from episode to episode, but each episode is unique and can easily be enjoyed without having to know exactly what happened the episode prior. The writing for this season is superb. No character is ever "out of character" like in the 3rd and 4th seasons, and there is an equal focus on everyone on the show. The relationship between Angel and Spike is fun to watch re-evolve (they realize how alike they truly are, and have a good father and son chemistry) and everyone falls into their roles very nicely. There are also some incredible episodes in here, like "Smile Time", "You're Welcome", "Hell Bound" and of course, "Not Fade Away." Yes, there are one or two less than stellar shows (I am looking at you "Why We Fight") but there is nothing bad in sight.

It is hard for me to describe exactly what it is about the 5th season that is so spectacular. It is just like every other season, but everything about it is tight and done exceptionally well. Other than the story itself, there is nothing truly new here, it is the same show as the last 4 years, but everything is written, performed, and shown so well, that it quickly becomes the best of the series. This season has a certain "Firefly" quality about it, in that everything looks, sounds, and is done to perfection, with very little that is not enjoyable. The 5th season of Angel truly perfected the formula that Joss and David Greenwalt were after in the series' concept. The show not only went out on top, but it went out in a blaze of glory, fighting whoever else was trying to get to the top. Joss has said he wants to do a Season 6 comic in the relative future, and that brings me great joy (I do the dance of joy!). This season is just more proof that networks really has absolutely no grasp over what is quality programming and what is utter crap. Cancelling the show during it's best season could be viewed as some as a good thing (go out on top) or a bad thing (we want more). Either way, Season 5 of Angel is easily the best of the series.

Amazon.com: Angel Season 5 Slim set

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I will admit it, I am a fan of lolcats pictures. Memes can be fun folks. This one had be giggling:

Picture courtesy:

See also:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You get me closer to Richard Cheese

Into every generation a Lounge Singer is born.
One man, in all the world, a chosen one.
He alone will stand against the Old Spice executives, demons (inner ones), and the forces of bad music.

He is the Lounge Singer.

I FINALLY got to see Richard Cheese live on Sunday night, June 10th, and what a show it was! This was easily the best show I have been to in ages, and next to Billy Joel, the greatest concert I have ever attended. But fans of Richard Cheese already know that his concerts are the best, so why don't we just fill in those who are less familiar with the power of Dick.

Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine is a cover band/lounge singing/comedy act. Formed in 2000, Dick Cheese, as he prefers to be called, has had nominal success, especially with the alternative rock crowds, thanks mainly to the DJs of the alt rock stations playing Dick's material. I first learned of him from Preston and Steve on Philadelphia's now defunct Y100 back in late 2000 when the first album, Lounge Against the Machine, was released. The album contained lounge versions of popular songs including "Wrong Way" by Sublime, "Suck My Kiss" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, my personal favorite "Creep" by Radiohead, and what is arguably one of his most famous covers, "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. With a 7th on it's way, Dick already has 6 albums under his belt... or tuxedo jacket...

Enough about the past, you came to hear about the RECENT past, meaning Sunday night. As I said before, and you should already know, the show was AMAZING. It took place in AJ's Steakhouse in the Hard Rock Hotel, a place that ordinarily would hold roughly 30-50 people. I would estimate that there were 100-150 people present, but Dick's website says 255 tickets were available, and the only reason I doubt that number is because there isn't enough space in that room to fit that many people. This was a small, personal gathering, not a big concert, and Dick took advantage of this fact.

The band consists of Richard Cheese as the singer, a piano player, bass player (stand up, not electric) and drummer. I was only 3 feet from the stage, but everyone got to see the same show, more or less. The stage was small, maybe 15'x15', but Dick didn't spend a lot of the show up there, he wandered around the entire room (as you can see in the pictures below), singing to people directly (singing to women that is) and using the restaurant's features to perform. Dick climbed up into the booths along the back wall, walked on top of the serving station, and hung out at the bar quite a bit. He also had several costume changes as well. The songs and styles are not only very funny, but Dick himself is hilarious too. The show was many times less about the music, and more about the jokes and humorous situations. He plays a smarmy womanizer, and the women in the audience seem to enjoy the jokes just as much as the men. I have never laughed this hard in all my life.

This is supposedly the final tour before Dick puts down the mic and returns to... whatever it is he does when not performing, so I urge everyone to check out his touring schedule and see when he will be near you. They were recording a "movie" at this show, I don't know if this is a national thing or just a one time recording, but I can't wait to see what the movie will be. Tickets are usually only around $30, which is a steal, especially in Vegas. You can find links to his site and MySpace profile below, and I hope you visit them. Buy a CD or two, check him out on iTunes, just listen to his material and ATTEMPT to go see him before he "retires." Please don't leave us, Dick, you would be missed.

Richard Cheese on stage
Richard Cheese in the audience talking to woman
Richard Cheese standing on top of the banquet seating
Richard Cheese back on stage, new tux jacket
Richard Cheese with martini glass
Richard Cheese staring me down
Richard Cheese tshirt- the shirt is condensed into this shape!

Richard Cheese's My Space

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Wii Virtual Console Game of the Month: MAY 2007


The month of May was a pretty good month for the Virtual Console. Act Raiser, Final Fight, Kid Chameleon, DKC2, all good games. My favorite for the month is Ninja Gaiden. The very close runner up is Act Raiser, and will 100% be the next VC title I download, but Ninja Gaiden holds a very unique place in my heart. Act Raiser brought a blend of sword swinging platform style and a "god game" Sim-City theme along with it. A fantastic game that should not be missed by anyone, but Act Raiser doesn't have the emotional reaction that Ninja Gaiden brings to me.

Ninja Gaiden, developed by Tecmo, was released for the NES in March of 1989. Two sequels follow, and the 2nd game, The Dark Sword of Chaos, is my favorite of the series, thanks in part to Shadow Clones and wall climbing. The game stars Ryu Hayabusa of the Dragon Ninja Clan. He comes home to find a letter from his father Ken (yes, Ken and Ryu, not a Capcom game). His father has left to go fight an unknown battle, and requests Ryu go to America with the Dragon Sword if he does not return.

The story telling is the first thing that set Ninja Gaiden apart 18 years ago. Not only did the game have a story, but it wasn't just text and a snippet in the manual. This game brought forth the use of the cut scene. Between each level (and at some other points) Ninja Gaiden presents animations to move the story along. We aren't talking full animation, but still pictures with limited movement and text, but at the time, it was something not done on this level. Getting to the next level to find out what is going to happen to Ryu, his father, and "the girl" (I won't ruin her name for you) is a huge motivation to move forward in the game. Doing that, though, is harder than some gamers may like.

Ninja Gaiden is a very difficult game. Growing up in my neighborhood, just getting to the 3rd stage was a testament to your gaming prowess. This was the game you played to show how good you were at games. I remember being 9 and beating Basaquer (finally) and my friends all sitting in awe. Little did we know the game only got harder from there! Ninja Gaiden has fast moving enemies, enemies with projectiles, lots of bottomless pits, tough bosses, and when some of these elements are combined, such as a projectile tossing enemy on the other side of a bottomless pit, the game can become downright frustrating.

In the early stages of the game, if you die (or game over and continue) you will restart at the beginning of the level. For example, if you die halfway thru level 2-2, you begin at 2-2, not at 2-1. For many of the first levels, this is a godsend. However, by the time you get to the later stages, dieing halfway through the level means replaying the past 10 screens, practically replaying an entire earlier level. This is one of the reasons that Ninja Gaiden is regarded as one of the hardest NES games around. It is not impossible to beat (I did, once, right before I got my SNES for the holidays), but you will die so many times, it will not be possible for some.

The actual gameplay is rather simple. The game is similar to Castlevania in that you wander around a level, hit candles/lights/hornets to grab power ups and power, attack enemies, and finally fight the boss. The mechanics are very similar, but Ryu controls much differently than Simon Belmont. One button attacks with the sword, another button jumps, and holding up while attacking uses your special power, all just like Castlevania, but the action in Ninja Gaiden is 5 times faster than the early Castlevania games. Ryu flips thru the air, runs, hangs onto walls, and slices quick, and could take Simon in a fight any day. Ryu is a ninja, and controls and moves like a ninja.

This game is not for the impatient, for the whiny, or for someone who hates their butt getting kicked. This game will cut off your face and serve it to you on a platter; it gets that hard. You will probably not even get to the 2nd stage (the 3rd screen in the game) your first play thru. Luckily, Ninja Gaiden on the Wii VC lets you continue even after losing your lives, so once you DO finally get to the 3rd stage, you can die and continue without restarting the entire game. I have had the game for weeks, and have only made it halfway thru the final stage. I can pick up any Mega Man game (even the X series) and beat it in 2-3 hours. Ninja Gaiden doesn't give me that bragging right. If you love platforming and action, and have enough control to NOT toss the Wiimote against the wall, then $5 is a steal for this NES classic.

4.5 Stars (out of 5)

Images courtesy of Tecmo, Nintendo, VGMuseum

Monday, June 4, 2007

Week in review: May 27th - June 2nd


Another wacky week this week was! Work was crazier than usual (long, sad story there) and the rest of life was no less crazy. Event wise, it was a big week though.

Sunday, May 27th: We saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End today. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it was not nearly as good as the first, and just a little less fun than the second. My biggest complaint for the movie is it's flow. The movie just didn't flow well. Some scenes were long and drawn out, and did not flow smoothly into the next plot point. Also, the whole magical aspect of the movie (Calypso specifically) felt very Deus Ex Machina to me, and just having Tia Dalma be Tia Dalma, and not some supernatural force, would have been a better plot line in my opinion. The movie was very fun though, and a good ending to the first trilogy (don't tell me Disney won't be making 100 more). Don't leave until after the credits roll for a sweet final scene! I would give it 3 stars (out of 5).

Monday, May 28th: Memorial day, so I had the day off. Started playing Tales of the Abyss today. You can read my review of it by CLICKING HERE!!! I miss the days of sitting around all day, doing nothing but playing video games. There is not much I miss about childhood, but this is one thing. There is nothing more fun than just playing a game for 10 straight hours, not a care in the world.

Tuesday, May 29th: The House season finale aired tonight. This episode did not feel like a season finale to me, more like a November/December mid season cliff hanger. Yes, the end of the episode had Cameron, Chase and Forman all quitting or fired, and it was up in the air if and when ANY of them would return. But this didn't feel very dramatic or emotional to me. The episode mainly concerned House's resistance to change, which is something that I see 100% reflected in myself. I hate change and do not tolerate it well. Other than the cynicism and how rude/mean he is to everyone, I am EXTREMELY similar to House. I know that change is very hard and almost feels like a physical force for him to go against, so I am curious to see how things will turn out next season. None of my predictions for the season end came true, and while House is still my 2nd favorite show, it has lost some of it's charm. Let us hope season 4 is less like 3, and more like 1+2.

Saturday, June 2nd: We went to see Knocked Up tonight, the new film by "40 Year Old Virgin" creator/director, Judd Apatow. (CLICK HERE for IMDB info) I liked Knocked Up better than 40YOV, but I should point out I wasn't a huge fan of 40YOV like many. It was a good movie (40YOV) and Steve Carell is an incredibly gifted comedic actor (Daily Show-The Office, everything is great) but I never understood where the huge love from critics and fans came from. Knocked Up, however, is a fantastic movie. The long and short of it is this: an out of work stoner has a one night stand with an up and coming on air hostess for E!, and she winds up pregnant. They live completely different lifestyles and have next to nothing in common, but decide to have the baby, and even let their relationship blossom. Similar to 40YOV, this is not a joke-after-joke-after-joke style movie like Austin Powers or Anchorman. There is quite a bit of drama to be found, and it blends perfectly with the humor. There are 3 scenes that are an instant classic for me, one starring Ryan Seacrest, one in a hotel room here in Vegas, and one in the couples bed halfway thru the pregnancy. The cast is always wonderful. I was nervous about Seth Rogen handling a starring role, but he proved himself right off the bat. Katherine Heigl has always had star power, and I have respected her since her Roswell days (looking for those DVDs on the cheap, btw). Small roles by some great actors like Harold Ramis and Alan Tudyk round out the cast, with Apatow's own wife in the secondary female role. This may also help Paul Rudd get off the "that actor from that movie" list and get some name recognition. I highly recommend this movie to everyone... everyone over a certain age that is, because there should not have been 20+ 12 year olds at this film. 4 stars (out of 5).

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Even the smartest person you know can be the dumbest person you know. Even the changes in life sometimes change. Bad waiters/waitresses can ruin the meal, even if the food was amazing. Dunkin Donuts is FINALLY coming back to Vegas!!! I miss Rita's Water Ice. While walking to my car, I bumped my head on the sun... it is a little warm out there.