Friday, April 25, 2008

Lost Watch: Unleashing The Proverbial Beast

Episode Title: The Shape of Things to Come
Air Date: April 24, 2008


Seriously, wow.

Last night's episode of "Lost" was mother effing epic.

I'm going to split the three different parts of last night's out of this world episode, because damn, a lot happened. A friendly game of Risk (in which Hurley cryptically tells Sawyer and Locke that "Australia is the key to the game,") is interrupted when Charles Widmore's mercenaries attack Locke's camp in an attempt to bring Ben in. Sawyer runs to rescue a sleeping Claire from one of the houses, running into a group of non featured characters... who all get picked off one by one. Note to any characters who want to survive on "Lost..." if you have a speaking role, your odds of survival are much better.

The mercenaries reveal that they are holding Ben's daughter hostage, and threaten to kill her if he doesn't come out. Talking to the lead mercenary over a radio, Ben told him he wouldn't come out, confident that they were bluffing and would never shoot his daughter.

Then they shoot his daughter.

A stunned and hurt Ben uses the last bit of defense he can on the surrounding assault team.

He calls out the smoke monster.

Let me repeat that: Ben calls out the smoke monster.

Seriously, ol' smokey is apparently like an attack dog that Ben can use whenever he feels like it. Which means he lied about not knowing anything about it when Locke asked him.

After smokey takes out the mercenaries- because guns are very ineffective against a monster made of smoke, Ben stops to "say goodbye to his daughter."

Locke's team runs into the woods, where they hope to find Jacob's creepy ghost cabin. After all the insanity, Sawyer decides he's finally had enough of Locke's crazy man shenanigans and decides to head back to Jack's camp with Claire, Aaron, and Hurley. But Benjamin and Locke won't let Hurley go... because he is the only one who can find Jacob's cabin. Hurley mans up and says he will stay with Locke and Ben to avoid anymore bloodshed, and Sawyer touchingly promises to kill Locke if he hurts even one of Hurley's curly hairs. And Locke's response, after a bit of a beat, is priceless... he looks Sawyer in the eye and says "fair enough."

Back on the beach with Jack's crew, things get tense when a body washes ashore on the beach. It turns out to be the doctor from the freighter, whose throat has been slashed (clearly he didn't heed his own warning about "not pissing the captain off.") Jack wants an explanation and gets Daniel to use the broken satellite phone to transmit a signal to the ship in morse code... and then Daniel tries to lie about the freighter's mysterious response. Unfortunately for Daniel, old Bernard knows morse code and calls him on the lie. When Jack asks if the freighter crew ever had any intentions of bringing the survivors back from the island, a freaked out Daniel admits that they never did plan on rescuing them, giving legitimacy to Ben's claims that the crew plans on slaughtering everyone on the island once they have Ben in their possession.

Oh, and Jack is getting sick... which is clearly going to lead to an episode where somebody who isn't a doctor must operate on the doctor. This kind of story turn seems a bit lame, considering all the game altering twists and turns in the last episode, but hopefully the writing team is going somewhere with the subplot.

Anyway, on to the last but certainly not least of the three parts of the episode... Ben's flash forward. The first time we see him, Ben is waking up in the middle of the Sahara Desert, where he quickly kills two men on horseback who discover him. He heads into town and checks into a hotel (where he is a preferred customer who travels under an alias,) and asks the desk clerk the date... and needs to confirm the year.

So somehow Ben got off the island and ended up right smack in the middle of the desert... but is unsure of the year. More time travel stuff, it looks like.

Ben arrives just in time to show up at a funeral... for Sayid's dead wife. Turns out Sayid finally found the woman he had been searching for before he crash landed on mystery island, married her, and less than a year later, had to bury her. She was murdered, and Benjamin claims he is at the funeral to find the assassin who killed his wife. He shows him a picture of a man who was seen driving away right after Sayid's wife was murdered in Los Angeles... at the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica, which is just three blocks from where she was killed. And also my exact neighborhood, which is spooky/ awesome.

Ben tells Sayid that he got off the island using "Desmond's boat." Now, waking up in the middle of the desert probably implies that he didn't use a boat... but Desmond may have something to do with it, since it seems like Ben might have jumped through time somehow.

Sayid, angry and mournful, helps Ben track down and kill the assassin... then asks Ben who is "next" on his list. Ben tries to talk Sayid out of helping him, telling him it's "not his war," but Sayid insists, telling him he has nothing to live for other than avenging his wife's murder. Benjamin finally relents, but when walks away from Sayid, he smiles his evil Ben smile. And we witness how another one of our poor islanders is manipulated by Ben Linus.

At the end of the flash forward, Ben sneaks into Charles Widmore's hotel suite, where the two men finally confront eachother face to face. Ben tells Widmore that he "changed the rules" when his men murdered Alex. Widmore tells Ben that "everything you have you took from me," implying that Widmore was probably behind the Dharma Initiative work that Ben disrupted... by murdering anyone who worked for them. When Widmore asks Ben if he's going to kill him, Ben tells him that "both you and I know that I can't do that." Ben then promises to hunt down Widmore's daughter and kill her as revenge... that's right, Benjamin Linus has a personal vendetta against Desmond's true love, Penny. Widmore tells Ben that he'll never find Penny, while Ben tell Widmore he'll never find the island... and the game is on.

So why can't Ben kill Widmore? What are these "rules" Ben speaks of that Widmore broke? How far back does their association go? How the hell DID Ben get off the island? And just where does one buy food for your pet giant smoke monster anyway?

This was an episode where the patience of "Lost" fans really paid off, as mind blowing reveal after mind blowing reveal added up, all of them building to what promises to be an absolutely explosive finale where more than one of our favorite islanders will probably not make it. It was a fast paced hour with tons of new information that left fans with even more intriguing questions than ever, and most excitingly, it really did hint at the shape of things to come for the show now that the writers have the freedom of knowing just how long the show will go on and that they have an idea of where their endpoint is... we're gonna get more and more answers as the show goes on. Which will lead to more and more questions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hockey PS: They Did It!

I know, I know... three posts in one day, completely without precedent. But I just had to add this mini-update after my earlier hockey blog... my boys pulled it off! The San Jose Sharks won 5-3 tonight against the Calgary Flames in a Game Seven elimination contest, advancing to the second round of the playoffs, where they will face a very good Dallas Stars team.

And they did it on the back of 38 year old veteran JEREMY ROENICK, who scored 2 goals and had 2 assists. The future hall of famer came out of "semi-retirement" to sign with San Jose for one reason only... he's never won a Stanley Cup. He joined the team looking to win a championship, and his veteran play, leadership skills, heart, intensity, and sheer will to win helped the team make their amazing playoff push at the end of the season... and led them to the big victory tonight, a game in which the Sharks scored four straight goals in the second period.

The series against the Flames, seventh seeded underdogs, looked dicey for a little while... but the Sharks pulled it out. Now all they have to do is beat some really good teams.


The Loneliness Of The Lone Hockey Fan, Who Is All Alone

First of all, I know what you're thinking: two posts in one day! My god, this is not the lazy and unproductive Frustrated Dinosaur we've grown to love, (or at least tolerate.) But like I said, it's a whole new ball game. Or Ice Hockey game.

Did you enjoy that super clunky segue? I hope you did, because this post is gonna be all about hockey. My beloved San Jose Sharks are on the brink of advancement or elimination as they face an irritatingly scrappy Calgary Flames team in game seven of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If they lose, they go home after just one round in the playoffs, which would be more than a little disappointing as the Sharks, who have never won a Stanley Cup (or even played in the finals in the franchise's history,) spent the two last months of the regular season looking nearly unbeatable, going 20 games in a row without a regulation defeat, and overtaking the defending champion (and San Jose's rivals) Anaheim Ducks to win the Pacific Division. They've got one of the most talented teams in the league, with master puck handler and long time assist leader Joe Thornton leading the offense and Vezina award finalist Evgeni Nabokov providing a lot of heart between the goal posts, finishing the season as the goalie with the most wins in the league.

But regular season heroics become moot once the playoffs start, as playoff hockey features some of the most exciting and dramatic play in the entire world of sports.

Too bad nobody really cares about hockey in the USA.

It's becoming harder and harder to list hockey as a "major" sport alongside NFL Footbal, NBA Basketball, and MLB Baseball. I mean, Arena Football sometimes seems like it's creeping up on hockey in the ratings... if you can even find a hockey game on television. NHL games are no longer featured on ESPN, and most of the playoffs have been regulated to the sad and dismal Vs. Network, which airs bull riding and fishing competitions when there are no hockey games to show. Come to think of it, ESPN also shows fishing competitions every once in awhile. But not hockey. Neither does ESPN 2, the network that invented the X-Games, and it's a sad day in the world when street luge gets bigger ratings than an exciting, fast paced sport with as long and storied a history as any of the other "major sports."

Being a hockey fan is a lonely proposition. Sometimes I head out to sport's bars in hopes of catching a game, and have to ask a waitress to flip the game on instead of a Spring Training baseball game or coverage of the NFL draft. As much as I love football, and talking about football, I'd rather watch an actual hockey game than people talking about who might be drafted to eventually play in a football game.

It's a shameful feeling to watch the game on the bar as the rest of the patrons shake their head, wishing the bartender would switch on televised poker. Or fishing competitions. Or golf. I mean really, who can watch golf?

But what can I do? I can't fight being a hockey fan. I was born that way. You think I wouldn't rather follow basketball or baseball instead of hockey? You think I don't wish I could actually watch critically important games on television instead of being forced to listen to them over tinny, streaming internet radio broadcasts like some sort of resistance fighter hiding a bootleg radio from the SS as I huddle at my desk and pray for good news?

Standing up and admitting to the world that "yes, I am a hockey fan!" is to become an outsider in sports world. Nobody understands why you would ever want to discuss guys named Nabokov or Ovechkin when you could talk about Kobe and A-Rod instead. People don't understand why you are desperate to see the score in a hockey game, which often ends in 1-0 finals, when you can watch the Lakers score 120 points in one game (though nobody seems to complain when baseball games end with final scores of 2-1 after 22's the "national pastime," after all.)

People don't understand the game. They can't follow the puck, that elusive tiny black disc that moves too fast for the cameramen to keep up with most of the time. And they're not wrong... hockey is probably the sport that translates the worst to television. Plus, the Canadian play by play announcers are much too polite to get Americans excited about the game, even though it's legal (and considered a sound defensive play) to slam another guy headfirst into glass boards and more fights break out than goals are scored.

But if you go to a game as a hockey fan, then you are finally truly with your people. People who share your obsession, your urge to watch a sport that mainstream America doesn't understand. Once you go to a hockey game, you will finally get hockey. You'll understand the intensity, the speed, the excitement, the bone crunching hits. And the fights, which hockey fans encourage with loud cheers. This is a sport played by athletes who play harder and with more heart than the overpaid whiners in more popular sports who complain if they don't think the media is paying enough attention to them. This is probably because superstar players in other sports are paid higher salaries than entire NHL team rosters. These guys are not playing for fame or millions... they are playing because they want to win a Stanley Cup, the most coveted and historical trophy in professional sports.

And if you go to a Sharks game, you'll get to see players skate out of a giant, smoking shark mouth with flashing, light up red eyes. Which is fucking awesome.

Go Sharks!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forgetting The First Quarter Of 2008

Though it's not as good as his best movies, at least in this moment of my life, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is the most personally relatable of Judd Apatow's recent outrageous comedies with heart about slacker man boys growing up. Though it doesn't have as brilliant a leading man as "The 40 Year Old Virgin," it's less coherent overall than "Knocked Up," and not nearly as funny as "Superbad," it's by far the one that that I, as a sensitive, Jason Segal-type Jewish nerd (who would be proud to be the creator of a Dracula puppet musical,) can relate to the most out of his recent hits. I mean, I haven't gotten anybody pregnant, didn't have crazy "American Grafitti" like adventures when I graduated high school, and didn't have to wait to lose my virginity until I turn 40, thank you very much, but I have been dumped. Very recently, in fact.

In my post a few days ago, I made reference to circumstances which "led to a long period of self pity and despair." To keep all of you loyal readers out there who have been wondering and worrying about said circumstances, I will lift the shroud of mystery for all those readers who don't know me (there might be one or two!) and reveal the inner secrets of my painful and tortured 2008.

Basically, as I implied in the opening paragraph which I so gracelessly wrote to try and make this post relevant to the current pop culture zeitgeist, I got dumped.

It's not the first time I've been dumped, nor will it be the last time. But this dumping has been particularly brutal due to a few factors:

1.) My ex girlfriend and I just moved into a new, awesome West Hollywood apartment right before she dumped my ass, an apartment complete with a backyard and a "cute" front patio. The place is a comfortable walking distance from everything a Los Angelino could need, from grocery stores to movie theaters to barber shops to hip bars to various ethnic eateries. You can even walk to Amoeba in less than twenty minutes from the place. What else could you ask for?
Oh yeah, you could ask for a washer/ dryer in the apartment, ridding yourself of the need to horde quarters and stake out your building's laundry machines like a rabid animal. Yeah, this place has that too.

2.) We just got a dog, and one with major abandonment issues and more neurosis than Woody Allen (making him the perfect pet for myself, by the way.) The poor dog probably didn't think he was going to become a child of divorce so quickly, but that's the society we live in today.

3.) We were less than two weeks shy of our 3 year anniversary, which happens to fall on the same weekend as Valentine's day. It totally ruined that movie "Jumper" for me. (Kidding, I didn't see "Jumper." But I did, despite my very acute fantasy movie fatigue, nearly buy a ticket to see "The Spiderwick Chronicles" that weekend, simply because the Indiana Jones trailer premiered with that movie.)

4.) The dumping came just a few weeks after my job writing for the internet for compensation ended (which is why I write for the internet for free these days.) Obviously, this is not her fault, but being unemployed and dumped at the same time is a nice recipe to make you feel utterly worthless.

I don't write all this personal information on this blog, which I normally use as a forum to discuss, debate, and generally overanalyze pop culture ephemera, to try to arouse your sympathy, vilify my ex (she made a decision she felt she needed to make in her life and I can't begrudge her that,) or to reveal to the world that I am becoming a eye shadow wearing, Fall Out Boy listening emo douche. I am not going to start using this blog to whine and complain, or start using this as a forum to tell the world my "mood" at the top of each blog, complete with an appropriate emoticon and a description of what sad music I am "currently listening" to to help illustrate my deep sadness to the world, even though the world will never understand my pain, boo hoo.

No, I revealed this information to you to publicly acknowledge and explain why I've been less than productive in my writing, both on my blog and in general, since 2008 started. It's because the double whammy of being laid off and dumped at the beginning of a new year kind of kicked my ass for awhile, and did lead to more than a little bit of moping around and wearing pajama bottoms until midday. (In my defense, I had cool, and very comfortable, Jack Daniels pajama bottoms. But they recently ripped and became unwearable, which I suppose is metaphor or sign for something somehow.)

And the main reason I'm writing this blog is to officially make a vow for all the world to see: I'm going to start turning this year around, from this moment on. I've got balls rolling on multiple writing projects that I'm very excited about and a few promising job prospects finally popping up. So, as a good (and nerdy) screenwriter, I'm going to consider the last few months of my life the "second act break" of this particular storyline, which is always the low point for the hero of any screen story. We folks who are "in the biz" (or, more accurately, hope to one day be "in the biz,") call it the "all is lost" moment, when the chips are all down for the main character, when everything looks totally bleak, when... well, all is lost. And like any good, interesting, and active hero, it's up to me to write an ending to this story where I turn around all my misfortune, write a kick ass screenplay, get an agent and studio deal, and, because living well really is the best revenge, start dating either Mila Kunis or Kristen Bell (I had to tie it all back in to "Sarah Marshall" somehow, didn't I?)

So, yes, you may have won round one, 2008. But now it's my turn.

And I plan on making the rest of this year my bitch.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ring a Ding Ding: Eight Reasons I Heart Las Vegas

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with Las Vegas. Being a movie nerd who has a blog called "The Frustrated Dinosaur," you might not think of me as the Rat Pack, Sin City type... but man, do I love that ridiculous town. After reading the interesting (though cruddily written) nonfiction book "Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Las Vegas," I decided to finally start writing the Vegas screenplay I always knew I had in me (and besides, it will give me a reason to do some "research trips" to Sin City.) It also made me think about why, exactly, do I love such a willfully stupid place. So here is my list of reasons that I love Vegas so much.

and Vegas appeals directly to that type of person. In the early to mid-nineties, a bunch of the new resorts being built on the strip were designed for "family fun." Quickly casino builders realized a pretty obvious point... Vegas is not really the best place for the little ones, and the pirate themed "Treasure Island," featuring an action packed stunt show starring swashbuckling buccaneers became "TI," featuring a similar stunt show with scantily clad babes. But the "Disneyification" of Vegas was still happening, and the Casino moguls realized they should just keep building mega casinos that appealed to the 21 and over set. This is how Vegas became Disneyland for adults... and man, do I love Disneyland. I've always dreamt of becoming an Imagineer, and Vegas has kinda turned into an extension of that Fantasyland for grown ups (though the rides are not nearly as good as Disney's.) The town is filled with overdesigned fakery, which leads me to...

I don't really know why, but I just do. I love being on movie sets and backlots, I love (as I said) Disneyland and other theme parks that are something more than just groups of roller coasters thrown together, and I love the huge and stupid Vegas mega casinos. I've never been to Paris or Venice, and I'm pretty sure they're much nicer than Paris Las Vegas or The Venetian (though the rooms in the Venetian are super nice,) but I get a kick out of the way the designers try to place you in these different, fantasy locations... even though everything around you is clearly fake and pales in comparison to the real thing. I can't really explain it, but I really enjoy that artifice, that attempt to immerse you in a fantasy world, in a living story. It's what Disney does best, but Vegas does pretty damn well themselves.

I actually look pretty good (and always feel pretty great,) in a tux, and I think I mostly pull it off because I get to live my Frank Sinatra/ Rat Pack dreams when I wear one, and going to Vegas indulges the same fantasy. I get to imagine I'm part of the Rat Pack as I stride down the strip, I get to pretend I'm a way cooler high roller than I really am when I sit down at a Roulette table as a cocktail waitress brings me a free drink. The genius marketers who came out with the "What Happens in Vegas Stays In Vegas" slogan hit it right on the head... it's one of the most honest marketing phrases in history. The town encourages you to cut loose and indulge in vices you would never have imagined yourself doing in the past. Wanna go to a strip club even though you're not a "strip club guy?" Go for it, you're in Vegas! Your regular rules don't apply. And hey, why not, put down forty on black... normally you're uptight with money, but just let it ride. You might win, and if you don't, shrug it off... you're in Sin City, you're supposed to go home with lighter pockets.

This is not a small perk... this is truly awesome. Because in most cities, laws against walking around with open containers are perfectly reasonable and logical. They keep drunken fools from stumbling at sober citizens who don't want do deal with them... but in Vegas, we're ALL drunken fools. Plus, it's really fun to carry your drink with you casino to casino. Helps you feel like one of those Gin swilling Rat Packers (man, could those guys drink at a truly legendary level.)

No matter how expensive Steve Wynn's new mega resorts are, no matter how classy they try to market themselves as, there will always be sleaze in Vegas... this is a town built by mobsters and gambling, a town where prostitution is practically legal, and where you can, well drink open containers of liquor on the streets. As you approach a 2.7 billion dollar casino meant to evoke class and beauty, you pass obnoxious dudes slapping together cards with phone numbers of escort girls in your face. Sure it's obnoxious, but it's Vegas! The old, smoky casinos, many of which have been imploded to make way for big new ones, will never totally go away, and who doesn't love a little old fashioned sleaze, every once in awhile? You don't really get Vegas until you sit down in one of the older Casinos when it's nearing five in the morning, talk to the old bartender serving you cheap Jack and Cokes about how long he's lived there, and observe compulsive gamblers waiting desperately for one of their slot machines they've been pumping full of money for hours to pay out as forty year old cocktail waitresses wearing ill fitting uniforms designed for much younger women keep bringing them watered down free cocktails. Sure, that might sound sad to you... but it's part of the weirdness, part of what makes it Vegas. It always will be, no matter how grand The Wynn, The Bellaggio, or the new planned City Center are. And I love that crazy contradiction.

Though Vegas's reputation as a town for discerning foodies has grown in the last fifteen years, with world famous celebrity chefs opening five star restaurants in the mega-casinos, no Vegas trip is complete without a trip to one of the town's signature culinary attractions... the buffet! Keeping in theme with the town's entire aura of excess, it's always a blast to gorge yourself by going down the line and stacking your plate with various foods that shouldn't usually be eaten in the same meal, whether it be at The Wynn's super fancy and delicious buffet ($34 per person,) or at a cheaper $5.95 buffet that includes stomach problems with the low price. You might be on a diet, but indulge yourself while you're in Vegas. You won't regret it (except for the stomach thing. That you might regret.) Added bonus, on Sunday Brunch buffets... free crappy Mimosas!

You've gotta catch at least one show while you're in town, right? You can check out world class entertainers like Elton John or Jerry Seinfeld or one of the 57 different Cirque Du Soleil shows playing on the strip. But if French Candian gymnasts with $150 ticket prices aren't your bag, there are a whole lot of options for fun Las Vegas discount shows. From Vegas's resident Neil Diamond impersonator, the one who the real Mr. Diamond has said is his favorite in the world, to cheesy magic shows, Vegas has everything. The strip even features a topless vampire show called "Bite," and any town with the balls to open a topless vampire review show called "Bite" is worth visiting in my book.

Almost defiantly, Vegas is tasteless, crude, stupid, and over the top. Basically, it's a pretty good metaphor for America. Maybe you'll say it's a metaphor for what's wrong with America... the super commercialized, loud, and stupid parts of American culture that French snobs in the real Paris (not the gaudy recreation in Vegas) love to turn their noses at. But let's not forget, those people idolize Jerry Lewis. Vegas is all about fun and play, and it is stupid... but why overanalyze or criticize it when you can walk down the street from fake New York to fake Rome, pass a show featuring Prince and Michael Jackson impersonators on the street, drink cheap beer at a dolphin habitat, or order Chicken Wings while lounging by the side of a pool? Even the the progressive minded and glittery new CityCenter complex, with its green friendly hotels and emphasis on natural light over the traditional casino strategy of using ugly flourecents to confuse gamblers about the time of day, also happens to be the most expensive privately funded construction project in the history of the country and ended up kind of looking like a large airport. Vegas is big and stupid, and I love it for that.

Also, you can totally drink on the streets! Did I mention that already?

Monday, April 14, 2008

There Will Be Blog

Earlier this year, when my unemployment checks first started rolling in after the wonderful Broadcaster website went belly up (completely unexpectedly, I assure you. I mean, who woulda thunk that not innovating at all in the world of new media would have led to not making money or gaining a user base?,) I decided to spend my mornings jogging and blogging, in hopes of exercising my brain and real muscles. Circumstances intervened that led to a long period of self pity and despair (which I may get to in a future posting,) and led to me starting each day no earlier than 11 o'clock in the morning, with the sad thought that "at least it's still the morning."

So I've decided to shake off the cobwebs that gather on my blog-space when there are no new "Lost" episodes to write about, and to begin working my brain muscles again (and hopefully my real ones as well... I'm gonna get back on that jogging routine...I swear,) by writing new blog entries at a fairly frequent rate. In that last sentence, I considered promising that I'd start writing entries every day, but who am I kidding, right?

I'm hoping that a new blogging routine will help discipline my brain in preparation for the creation of more substantial writings, writings that I hope are more lucrative than this lone and poorly attended blog (though if I sign up for Google Ad Sense, I might be able to collect a few cents a month!)

So, for any of you out there who consider yourselves friends of this blog, look back at a more regular rate than you have in the past. Understandably, I'm sure your routine at this juncture, if you've ever cared enough to do so, was to maybe once a month curiously navigate your web based browser over to and grumble to yourself "I wonder if that lazy asshole has updated lately?"

Well, now the answer will be, at least a bit more frequently, "why, yes, this lazy asshole has indeed updated lately."

More to come soon. It's a brave new blog.