Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Review: Get Out

Get Out (2017) – Jordan Peele


        When word first hit that Jordan Peele, the funny big-eared half of Key and Peele, was writing and directing a horror film I was obviously intrigued. When I found out it was somewhat a comedy I thought, well sure, yeah. When I heard it was being produced by Blumhuse I went, “Hmmmm,” pleasingly as I tapped the pads of my fingers together in a thoughtful way. When I saw the trailer, learned it was about a suburban nightmare land where seemingly affable white families terrorize black males, it all basically clicked. Oh and then when I found out Bradley Whitford plays the aforementioned patriarch I basically stood up in my chair and screamed “TAKE MY MONEY.”
I am an apologetic lover of horror-comedies. The two genres, when done well, can become a sum that's so much greater than its parts. But it has to be done just right, and I find it's usually best when the movies are treated as horror films that happen to also have comedic moments, rather the other way around. I'll admit the bar was set so high for my expectations of this movie it seemed almost impossible to deliver. I thought perhaps Peele's (hilarious) sensibilities would bleed into the rest of the horror parts too much, and feel uneven.
        Well I am stupid. Because apparently Jordan Peele is REALLY good at making horror films.
The film's hero is Chris, a likable, if not fully developed (not that it detracts from the movie), likable, 26-year-old black man going with his white girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time. “Did you tell them I was black?” He asks in the first scene, immediately setting up the movie's tones of racial awareness. But even when she assures him her parents aren't racist (“My dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could”), once they're on the trip everything feels off. They hit a deer on the drive up, which Chris watches die, before he is hassled by a white police officer (seemingly just for being black). The scene is simple and fast but steeped in dread (Peele has a good eye for staging a shot in a slightly askew way to make them seem just barely strange).
        One of Get Out's greatest strengths is its commentary on race relations: suburban affluent white people's trying to be “cool” with black people, discomfort outside one's own race, having black help, stereotypes about race and horror movies, they all do a great job to make this movie a sharp, relevant satire while not trying so goddamn hard to spell the message. Many times the race differences are down played for laughs (Bradley Whitford, who plays the dad, and thank GOD because he's amazing, keeps calling Chris things like “man” and “bro”). Rose's mother, Catherine Keener, seems off. Kind, but way too into hypnosis, and her brother Jeremy is downright aggressive, trying to wrestle with Chris because of his “fantastic genetics.” It flips the horror movie trope (of a nice-seeming family who are actually killers) just enough by adding the racial element that it feels fresh, but still familiar enough that the “message” of the film never feels exhausting.
        As the weekend progresses and things get weirder, we see Chris (Daniel Kayuula) do his best to stay civil in the face of all these awkward moments, continually telling Rose (Allison Williams) that everything is fine. Like so many movies, it's the main characters own admittance into these situations that becomes his undoing. It just so happens this time it's because of a determination to not assume other people's racism, even when it literally hypnotizes you.
        Which brings to my favorite thing about this type of horror movie: Without giving too much away, there is very little to no supernatural elements in the film. Sure, things go absolutely batshit crazy, and some people are definitely gonna get stabbed (possibly with a deer's head, a recurring image that actually does a nice job of establishing Chris' character), but it all feels creepily possible. There's no gross-outs or cheap jump scares. Instead the movie has a building level of suspense, everything getting stranger and stranger, until it finally snaps and the true horrors are revealed. It's really fucking well done.
        The movie definitely has some comedic beats in it (mostly delivered by LilRel Howery, Chris' proud TSA agent friend), but Peele saves most of them for the second half of the film when things get equally bonkers for our hero. It feels ever-so-slightly uneven, and not because the jokes aren't funny or Howery doesn't sell them perfectly (he does), I guess I just with it was spread out a little more evenly throughout the whole movie. There is also one particular ending fight/death scene that is so badly edited I have to think everyone on set had the flu that day. But these are very small complaints in an otherwise inventively smart, fun, and most of all, creepyscary horror movie that I fucking loved. Jordan Peele has got my vote for all the movies in the future.

Grade: A-

Random Observations:


  • Between this and Cabin in the Woods, can Bradley Whitford star in every self-aware horror comedy movie for the rest of time? PLEASE THANKS.
  • Lakeith Stanfield from Atlanta shows up! Hey Darius! I wish you had shot a poster of a dog in this as well.
  • Daniel Kaluuya (from Black Mirror) is great, and does some super solid straight-faced crying. It was intense. And Allison Williams' (Girls) can go from “sweet everygirl” to dead-eyed SCARY quickly.
  • I saw this movie in a VERY crowded showing in Downtown LA. It was one of the loudest, rowdiest, and most fun movie-going experiences I ever had.
  • I could not stop thinking about this the whole time. I truly hope this is how Jordan Peele makes movies:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Review: John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick Chapter (2017) - Chad Stahelski

          What made 2014 John Wick so great wasn't just it's solid directing and well-executed action/stunt work (thought it helped), and it wasn't just our steely hero, Keanu Reeves, being as Keanu-y as possible (thought it helped), and it wasn't even the fact that the movie is a puppy revenge flick (okay that part SERIOUSLY helped). What made John Wick so surprisingly refreshing was how confident it was in all its cinematic sensibilities. It commits to every narrative choice, regardless of how silly it seems, which in turn makes it so much fun to watch. If the movie believes John Wick is as good at killing dozens of faceless henchman then goddamnit, so do I! It's this kind of commitment to prolonged ridiculousness that gets me so off when I watch action movies. And boy does John Wick Chapter 2 double down on the craziness while embracing it so earnestly.
           If John Wick was already a confident film, then John Wick Chapter 2 is the Matthew McConaughey from Dazes and Confused of movies when it comes to but sure of yourself. From the first scene (containing of the smoothest looking and excellent car chase sequences I've ever seen) it takes everything you love about the first movie and adds more flare, mixes it up just enough to make it not just a retread, but still give you all those delicious familiar notes. A huge body count? You betcha. Is there revenge? Hoo boy! Is there a dog? YES, AND IT'S ADORABLE THERE JUST WASN'T ENOUGH OF HIM.
           Starting off not long after the first movie, John Wick is once again dragged back into the murky and compelling (and apparently all-encompassing) international assassin syndicate known through the Continental hotel. The specifics of why he gets back aren't important (blood oaths, markers, more blood oaths), but what is important is the over-the-top and fantastical world building that the movie does this time around. Not just its international locale (how do you one-up the club scene from the first move? Have another club scene, but this time in Italy so the club can be even fucking weirder! Because Italy!), but we delve deeper into the world that Keanu keeps leaving and coming back to and leaving and coming back to. It gives the movie an interesting depth and sprawling nature the first one couldn't possibly have considered. It's a bigger sandbox with more toys but it never loses sight of what's important: namely Keanu flipping countless dudes over and shooting them in the head.
           There's a great fight scene between John Wick and Common's Cassian that culminates with the two of them crashing through the glass of the Italian Continental building, a safe-haven and murder free zone for all contract killers who arrive there. And in there we see the brilliance of the movie, one that can go from two characters trying their best to stab each other (for dessert) one second and forced to drink bourbon and gin with each other the next is funny, a little silly, and all great.
           The movie goes on maybe a hair too long, but with the amount of fun it keeps adding with each new set piece, it keeps it from ever slogging down too much. Towards the end there is an assassin montage scene(s) that is so ostentatiously insane and hilarious that I almost wish it was even longer. The larger scope of the movie, the revealing more of this worldwide killers club plays well into the ending, which while it doesn't offer much in the way closure (not that we need much), it's clearly there to set up even more of John Wick's future puppy-laden adventures.
           And fantastic I say, fantastic! With an entry like this, I could watch these movies happen every year or two until I die. Or until Keanu Reeves does. But have you seen pictures of that dude? He doesn't age. These movies could go on forever. 

Grade: A-

Random Thoughts
  • I want to see an entire movie about the rockabilly tattooed women running the international assassin hot line.
  • Between the scenes with the tailors, the gun-sommelier, and the guy who must've made maps for Indiana Jones, this movie had more of a Bond feel. But then John Wick stabbed a guy in the dick and it all sorta evened out.
  • I could have used more dog. But I can honestly say that about any movie ever.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Top Ten Shows of 2015

TV is really awesome right now. Seriously, you guys, it’s so good right now. Have you seen it? The shows? From the TV? It’s really good! There are more good shows now than I can remember all existing at once in my entire lifetime (and I am one hundred and eighty-two years old). There is almost an oversaturation of quality shows being produced, most likely due to the new streaming platforms of Netflix, Hulu, and the likes. But while still having to bow to advertisers like the nasty little subservient whores they are, they are not so obfuscated by hack television network executives and Neilsen’s ratings bullshit, and therefore are drawing unique talents to make original programs that wouldn’t survive on NBC or CBS. And Cable programming (HBO, Showtime, even FXX) are still bringing it with super great shows.
TV is awesome right now, you guys, that’s all I’m saying. (Also, binge watching is awesome. Let’s just all accept it, and accept that as a culture, we would all rather lie in bed watching nine hours of one TV show than actually having to go interact with other humans. Ugh, just the thought…I have a bad taste in my mouth.)
I quickly became overwhelmed when going through the TV shows and seasons released in 2015, realizing that parsing this massive list of wonderful programming would be a daunting (albeit completely self-serving and in that regard SUPER fun) task. Lucky for you however, I have done the Lord’s work, watching and re-watching endless hours of television, painstaking research and analytical inspection, to make you this definitive list of TV shows from 2015 (Ya know, except for all the shows I don’t watch, the ones I forgot, and also assuming that you don’t read anything on the Internet, ever.)
            Here are the shows I have not seen but are probably really good therefore cannot be included:
  • Game of Thrones (Suck it, everyone in the world!)
  • Transparent (Just started Season 1 and I like it. But I have not gotten to Season 2 yet, which was released this year. Whoops. Jeffery Tambor’s mouth is SO sad.)
  • The Americans (It’s about spies or something!)
  • Rectify (One of my favorite shows of the year MENTIONS this show as being great, so I must adhere.)
  • Key and Peele (I love these guys and have seen a handful of skits, just have never sat down and watched entire episodes).

      Here is the exhaustively long list of shows that aired or released this year that, while not in the coveted Top Ten Spot, are still good to great and therefore get an honourable mention. These shows are honourable indeed, you can tell because I spelled with a “u” to make it look more proper and English.
  • Man Seeking Woman
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Jessica Jones
  • Louie
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Drunk History
  • Mr. Robot (One of the best First Seasons of the whole year)
  • Veep
  • Silicon Valley
  • Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
  • Broad City
  • South Park (Who woulda thought that after nineteen fucking seasons this show would still be doing its best work, it’s bonkers, right?)
  • The Last Man on Earth (I struggled with this one a lot, wanting to include it in my top ten, but it just got edged out. I do really, really like this show, as infuriating as it was at times during its first season. It has proven itself to be a great, oddball comedy sitcom, and its second season shaped up wonderfully, and Will Forte and Kristen Schall should do everything together for all times, but it juuuuust missed out. TRY HARDER NEXT YEAR, FORTE. Kidding, I loved Macgruber.)    
         AND NOW, ON TO THE REAL MEAT AND POTATOES OF THE LIST! THE TOP TEN SHOWS OF 2015:

    Number 10 - The Meat and Potatoes Variety Hour (Lifetime, Werner Herzog, Season 6)


   This, unfortunately, is not a real show, But yes, I would watch it. Now on to the real list of top ten shows of 2015!

   Number 10 (For real) - Master of None (Netflix, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Season 1)
    Of all Netflix's original programming to come out this year, this one hit me the hardest. Obviously influenced by "Louie," Ansari and his Parks and Rec co-worker Alan Yang have created a Tom Haverford alter-ego, one that is still obsessed with Instagramming his food, but now also takes on the traits of an actual human beings. What makes the show so great is its relatability on relationships, friendship, family, and growing up, but Ansari and Yang are also able to do that through the specific lenses of being a first-generation immigrant, and the show's best moments come from exploring that. The show balances honest with funny very well, and makes plenty of smart casting choices (Noel Wells as the romantic interest and Ansari's own father as his TV father). 
     Notable Episodes: "Parents," "Mornings"

     Number 9 - Show Me a Hero (HBO, David Simon & William F. Zorzi, Mini-Series)
      This one was a six-part HBO miniseries starring Inside Llewyn Davis as the real-life youngest mayor ever of Yonkers, New York. The Wire's creator David Simon is back for another absolutely infuriating look at how inefficient government laws and employees can harm the lower socio-economic citizens they are supposed to be governing, as well as the minute percentage of lawmakers actually trying to do the right thing. Sounds SUPER FUN, RIGHT? Well, it's not, but the show still somehow makes local town hall meetings (snore) ridiculously compelling (weird, right?) It's incredibly well-made, well-written, and well-acted television, with just that right dash of inner-city humanity that made The Wire the best television program ever.
     Notable Episodes: I watched all six one-hour installments in exactly six hours, so I can't really remember what happened in which episode. (I liked the part where minorities are disenfranchised!)

     Number 8 - Review (Comedy Central, Andy Daly, Season 2)
      This is one of the most bizarre, darkest comedy programs I have ever beared witness to (Beared? Bred? Borded?) Andy Daly plays Forest MacNeil, a man with such, blind, overzealous commitment to his job as a reviewer of all things life has to offer, saw himself in the first season of the show get divorced, addicted to cocaine, and killing his father-in-law on a spaceship with Lance Bass. And that was the FIRST season. They somehow came back to make the second season even darker, even more twisted, and with even more horrific reviews. In case you were wondering, yes, that is a picture of Forest getting a blowjob through a glory hole. This show is insane, and Andy Daly commits so perfectly to the misguided enthusiasm of its host, the more and more it tops itself, the more horrible his acts, the more sense it makes.
     Notable Episodes: "Brawl, Blackmail, Glory Hole," "Cult, Perfect Body," "William Tell, Make a Wish, Rowboat"

     Number 7 - BoJack Horseman (Netflix,  Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Season 2)
     BoJack Horseman is an animated show about an anopomorphic horse who used to be a TV dad on a popular 90's sitcom a la Full House. It is also about love, friendship, loneliness, self-hatred, alcoholism, Stardom Hollywood culture, and figuring out who the fuck you are. It can have episode-long arcs that end in our main character almost taking advantage of a barely legal teen, and then throw some of the best visual gags and animal puns imaginable (Marlin Brando works at a restaurant called Stella's, I mean, come on). The first season finally started getting into the nitty-gritty about BoJack's self-loathing, but this season really delves into the loneliness that makes him him, all the while keeping it's absurd visual humor rip roaring.
      Notable Episodes: "Hank After Dark," "Let's Find Out," "Escape from L.A."

     Number 6 - Nathan For You (Comedy Central, Nathan Fielder, Season 3)
      Nathan graduated from one of Canada's top business schools, with really good grades. In this mock-reality show where Nathan plays a smore awkward version of himself out to help small-business owners with, in truth, TERRIBLE ideas (poo-flavored frozen yogurt?), and it might seem like he is shitting on everyone he comes in contact with, no one else in on his grand joke, but it is actually quite a sweet show about odd human nature and people not wanting to be rude. Nathan puts real life people in absolutely bizarre and morally questionable situations, but he doesn't do it to make fun of them, if anything he does it to make fun of himself. It's hilarious, outrageous, at times unbelievable, but mostly, a sweet show about average people's inability to be impolite. 
     Notable Episodes: "Electronics Store," "Smokers Allowed," "The Hero"

     Number 5 - You're the Worst (FXX, Stephen Faulk, Season 2)
      You're the Worst came out of nowhere for me, binge-watching the first season and-a-half in a day or two after coming across it in the inner-bowels of the internet, and it immediately caught me. A thin premise, two people start dating each other who are both "the worst," but as the first season went on, the sharp writing, quick jokes, and great performances held me in. Then the second season started and holy shit. Without getting too deep into it, the show realistically portrays depression and how it affects the people around them, specifically the people dating them, in a way no one thought a raunchy rom-com sitcom could be capable of. The most amazing part about that? It still manages to be funny. Like, really funny. "Last time he got this upset he cried for a month and burned down my mom's tool shed, and now she's gotta keep all her rakes in the kitchen, like a chump." Oh my god, it's so funny. Watch it. Watch alllll of it. 
     Notable Episodes: "The Sweater People," "There is Currently Not a Problem," "LCD Sound System"

     Number 4 - Better Call Saul (AMC, Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, Season 1)
     I really feel like there's not much to say about this one that people who love Breaking Bad don't already know. It is a prequel, spin-off of the much beloved Meth show, but it's one that quickly separates itself from his parent show, giving us a new tone, new characters, and an all new Saul (really named Jimmy McGill, and played to absolute perfection by the already perfect Bob Odenkirk, who is doing the best work of his whole career). It reminds you just enough of its parent show while still creating all new stakes, and in my opinion, had a way more successful first season than Breaking Bad did, and I can't wait for more.
     Notable Episodes: "Mijo," "Five-O," "Marco"

     Number 3 - Rick and Morty (Adult Swim, Justin Roiland & Dan Harmon, Season 2)
      To say that Rick and Morty blew me away this year, when I finally started watching it, the second season having just started, would be an understatement. This show kicked my ass all around town. It is animated and set in alternate realities, lending itself to out of this world animation and amazing visual jokes in every episode, but more than that, and more than how funny it is, it is SO dark, and so pessimistically scorned about everything in the world today. It is the darkest, most complex animated series ever created, and the fact that it is FUCKING HILARIOUS really helps the rough pill to be so easily swallowed. This show drags you down further and further until you find yourself wishing you hated everything as much as Rick, but still hopefully a sliver as hopeful as Morty can be. It's great, really.
     Notable Episodes: "Total Rickall," "Look Who's Purging Now," "The Wedding Squelchers"

     Number 2 - Mad Men (AMC, Matthew Wiener, Season 7 Part 2 (Gross))
     Mad Men is one of my all-time favorite programs (pronounced progrim if you know me), so it i might be a bit surprising that it didn't top the list with its final, and very good, season. And hey, it was very good! It was seriously a good season with a strong finale which actually somehow found a way to be not so polarizing to audiences and critics alike. It was a welcome and just finale to a show that I have loved for years and years. It also was not a complete season, and instead just a seven-episode little sprawl towards the finish that I feel like could have been better explored with a regular thirteen-episode order, and not this stupid half-season bullshit AMC is trying to tell us is a fair way to air television. After all, Mad Men is a show known for taking its sweet-ass time with every single character and emotional beat. And for eight years they did it great. God bless ya for it, Matthew Weiner. Also, your last name, while more Jewish in pronunciation, is slang for a penis, and I like that. Hooray for TV!
     Notable Episodes: "Time & Life," "Person to Person"

     Number 1 - Fargo (FX, Noah Hawley, Season 2)
        The idea that there is a Fargo show shouldn't work. It was a movie that came out 19 years ago and was singularly perfect: Minnesota nice characters with streaks of brutal violence, all set aback a white, snowy, tundra. The fact that the first season was SO good, a perfect continuation of the universe the Coen brothers created, shouldn't make sense. The fact that the second season was EVEN BETTER makes less sense. The second season so perfectly captures the strange American collective consciousness of the late 70s. No gas, Vietnam just ending, no REAGAN yet. The second season has the grooviest songs, the coolest criminals, and the nicest cops, all vying for power and safety in a massive turf war between the Gearhardt family in Fargo versus the huge conglomerate mafia in Kansas City. This show succeeds so hard in everything it tries to do, that even when it gets OUT THERE they still find a way to ground it in the reality of the show, and I loved it.
      Notable Episodes: Every single one. Watch every, single, episode.

     Thanks for reading! There might be a top ten movies of the year list coming soon, IF YOU'VE BEEN GOOD THIS YEAR.


Monday, 6 April 2015

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 8, "Severance"

   
          

            With only 7 episodes of the entire series left, people have been wildly anticipating where our beloved mad men (and women) of SC&P would be. Is it the 70's? Has Don got his shit together? And just like a good episode of Mad Men is won to do, it quickly reminded you asking those questions is not important. Like most season openers (or mid-season openers, because barf) of this show, or really, like most episodes of this show in general, not much happened plot wise. This season opener dropped us in the midst of the company's newest shake up from last season. But "Severance," like all of Mad Men's most successful episodes, isn't as concerned with the "what" as it is the "how." This was one of the most Mad Man-iest episodes you can muster: people attempt to adjust to the ever changing business of SC&P. Roger acts shitty. People try their best to change and then don't. Don fucks a lot of women and then ends the episode solemnly looking off into the distance. Could this episode get any more Drapery than that?
          No, it couldn't. And that is a great thing.
          Mad Men is not unlike a collection of short stories. Every episode is self-contained enough to operate on its own merits. What makes it so good, however, is the accumulation of any given character's trajectory. We don't need a flashback or stumbling exposition to remind us that Joan and Don are not exactly "friendly" anymore, the show is too smart, too cunning for that. Instead it just lets the pre-existing relationships from previous seasons to play out naturally.
          "Severance" is about what happens to people when they lose something important. How do you deal with a sudden loss? Do you chalk it up to fate, something that is totally out of your control ("It wasn't meant to be," Peggy says of a missed date opportunity)? Do you shut down instead of dealing with it, or do you try to make sense out of the chaos? Or, like in the curious case of Kenny Cosgrove, do you go in full attack mode, say "fuck you," and turn that loss into a gain?
          Ken's father-in-law retires from Dow Chemical. Since he's no longer a client, McCaan, who now owns SC&P, can finally fire poor, one-eyed Kenny (McCaan apparently held a grudge after Kenny called them all retarded and quit with four million dollars in billing). But Kenny can't wrap his mind around circumstances under which it happened. His wife had just told him to quit his job and focus on his writing, and he was even pretty sure he was going to do it. And then the next day, the very next day, he gets fired? At first you can't tell if Kenny is pleased or going to vomit. But he should be pleased as punch, right? His wife's family is well off, and he can afford to actually give his writing career a chance. For a moment, it seemed as though a new door was opening for Mr. Cosgrove. A real chance to change his life for the better. So, of course, since this is Mad Men, he didn't do that.
            Instead he took his father-in-laws old job, making him SC&P's newest client. And he promises to be a real sonofabitch about it, too. In Matthew Weiner's world, people don't change that easily, and people rarely do what's best for them. Instead of closing the door on a toxic part of his life, Ken doubles down and takes a position he describes as "a cog in a massive machine that makes weapons and poison," simply to stick it to Roger, Pete, and all the other assholes who have wronged him. It's almost poetic right? Like a one-eyed Hamlet or something.
          Ken's story mirrors Don's in the way he deals with a bizarre coincidence as well. He has a dream about Rachel Menken (his jewish love interest all the way back from Season 1), and when he calls for her the next day to "discuss panty hose" he finds out she's died. Don is left rattled, unsure where to put his grief. Now, this would normally be the perfect time for Don to retreat emotionally as he always does: go into a self-destructive bender, drink away his feelings, and hurt those closest to him. And that leads us to the most interesting part of the episode: He doesn't do that.
          The most telling thing that happens in "Severance" happens very early on, while Don is out drinking with (a very mustachioed) Roger and some lovely looking whores. When the scene starts Don is in the middle of a story about his step-mother and uncle Mac, who he lived with in the whorehouse of his youth. In the one major piece of Don Draper progress revealed tonight (it is not major news that he and Megan are getting divorced because that is an entire season overdue at this point), we find out that Don has actually begun to embrace his Dick Whitman origins. Telling a story about an old toaster electrocuting his step-mother's husband is not inherently a big deal, but for Don this is MASSIVE. Getting him to talk about himself is like pulling teeth, or in his case, like getting Don to get his actual teeth pulled. He just doesn't do it. Even when he talks to Rachel's sister at her shiva, he shows a tremendous amount of candor, telling her about the dissolution of both his marriages (the lack of surprise on the sister's face and the look of shame on John Hamm's are both great). Has Don possibly begun to open up to his past and who he really is?
Meep morp.

        Like the rest of us, Don is just trying to make sense of the world around him. But that's a waste of time. At the end of episode the waitress at the diner who reminded Don of Rachel says, "when someone dies you want to make sense of it, but you can't." And she's right. Don gets lost in thought and looks off wistfully, like Don is won to do. Maybe he actually heard what the waitress said? Maybe he is letting the great mysteries of the world wash over him, because that's all you can do. You can't make sense of this world, and trying too hard will only keep you stuck dwelling on the past.

Arbritrary Episode Grade: A-

Random Observations
  • McCaan has bought SC&P and things seem...pretty much the same but...worse? The scene with Joan and Peggy talking to the assholes about panty hose was so painful it was reminiscent of season 1.
  • It's incredible that even though we haven't seen Rachel Menken since Season 2, her death still holds a great amount of weight to Don without him ever having to say anything. That is how great the character building in this universe is.
  • I didn't mention it up top even though it took a decent amount of screen time, but I liked the scenes involving Peggy's date. It's rare we actually see her connect with someone quickly, on a blind date no less. But at the same time, the second she started talking Paris, we KNEW she was full of it. You could almost see the disappointment in her face when she actually finds her passport later. She wants to be someone who can go on vacation, but she can't just up and let herself go on one, either. It's that whole people don't change thing.
  • Don is back to his philandering ways post-Megan break-up, but didn't he seem so much happier than he did in Season 4, post-Betty? He enjoyed going to sexy casting calls. He went out for drinks with Ted Chauogh. He even had some playful-ish banter with his adorably dumb secretary. Is it possible? Is Don evolving?
Jesus, Roger. You should own a boat. A creepy boat.
  • Those mustaches. Holy SHIT. It's the 70's, man. Aggressively so. If my google researching skills are any good (and they probably aren't), based on the speech Nixon gives at the end of the episode it's April, 1970?
  • Welcome back Mad Men! I'm happy to see you again! But you're going to be leaving us so soon! Such bittersweet agony!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7 (2015)

Fast and Furious 7 -- Or -- James Bond with Fast Cars That Also Skydive

When this franchise started 14 years ago (That's right...fourteen.) it was about muscleheads that stole DVD players, made shitty tuna sandwiches, and caught the interest of the LAPD for theft. They drove fast cars in glamorous street races with scantily clad (often Asian, I seem to remember) chicks. They stole off the highway. It was all kind of quaint, really. Fast forward a decade and a half and six sequels later, add international locales, the governmental support of the highest “secretive” agencies, and insane cars and gadgets us joe schmoes could only dream of, and you’re left with a weird action movie hybrid; The Fast and the Furious Meets James Bond: The Man Who Drove Too Fast (And Also Too Furious). The franchise has been building this way since its fifth (and best) installment, and is finally realizing its full hollywood blockbuster potential. It’s big, it’s grand, it’s fun, and it’s a million different things all rolled into a high speed engine mixed with NOS and cocaine and whatever else producers could throw at it. With a movie this BIG, its difficult to see it as its own entry as opposed to a (possibly necessary) transition into the ever-continuing future of a big studio franchise. Since the Fifth movie (directed by franchise regular Justin Lin, who took the series into the necessary direction of ridiculous it so desperately needed to remain relevant) they have depended on exotic locations and new international threats, only peppering in the racing silliness that became requisite to the movies afterwards. So the plot should be painfully simple this time. As the tag lines and trailers LOVE to remind us, “Vengaence Comes HOME.” And in this segment, it does so in the form of Jason Statham, a British-Secrets-Op-super-blah-blah-blah-he’s-angry-about-his-brother-blah-blah-dude out to kill Dom and Brian and their family. Sure. Let’s come home. And then we go to Adu Dhabi to retrieve a worldwide surveillance device used to spy on every living human on earth. What the fuck? What rejected James Bond script did we just stumble onto? Where are we? Why is Kurt Russel here? And why am I so happy to see him? 
One of the main complaints of Fast 6 was that “using wolves to catch wolves” was a thin premise for needing Vin Deisel and the Fast Car Gang to get involved in stopping an international terrorist group. Furious 7 hears your complaints and proudly points a middle finger right in your face as it speeds in reverse out of an airplane and skydives into a military operated safe zone in the middle of a war torn enemy territory. For no other reason than “YOU’RE VIN DEISEL!” the whole gang gets information and access to the world’s most sensitive software known to man and given carte blanche to the world’s most powerful Secret Ops Agency. And the director, Kurt Russell (playing white Nick Fury) even make quippy little jokes about how ragtag this gang is! (Why is Kurt Russell even there? And WHY am I SO happy to see him?) The movie takes two completely separate plot lines, the revenge-Stath-aspect (or RSA as we’ll call it) and the Ridiculously-Stupid-World-Surveillance-Device-Retrieval-Bit (RSWSDRB does not sound sexy, sadly) and strangely combines both of them into every action set piece. Dom and the crew, A, have to get B, the surveillance blah-blah, to get C, the Stath, but C keeps busting into every A and B scene there is. At first it seemed stupid to have to completely different missions, and it almost seemed to stupider to just have both of them conveniently intervene, but it actually did the movie well, kept the action on both fronts coming, and didn’t neglect either ridiculous movie trope in favor for the other. But even still, it’s paper thin. None of us, Vin Diesel hanging around on his tree stilts growling, “Yo Soy Groot” included, give a shit about this new technological super threat. Not in the hands of these people. The movie ends up somewhere in-between brilliantly overstuffed and grasping to evolve the franchise in its future direction. The movie, at best, is akin to the newer entries of the Mission Impossible series. The characters play off each other’s group dynamics in a cool and collected way (until: cars) to collect information and whoop ass in big, fantastic set pieces that wonderfully defy logic and sound driving laws. At its worst, it becomes a bad Ocean’s Eleven (or Twelve?) rip-off, throwing too many bad guys, too many dumb plot devices, and the desire to play certain things off as comedy without anyone being actually very funny. After four movies together as this particular gang, they have a wonderful repoir together, but quippy comedy and complex plots have never been the movies’ strong point. But then...Vin Diesel and Paul Walker do drive a four milliion dollar car through not one, not two, but three skyscrapers in fuckin’ Dubai or some shit. And you know what? Ask me if it was awesome. It was awesome. So who cares? It was great fun. Vin Deisel growled about family. People drove cars in stupid and fun ways. I saw girls in thongs. It had all the parts of a Fast and Furious movie I have come to expect, and it didn’t even fuck up all the other stuff it crammed down its overstuffed gullet. We only have two more movies before they go up in space, so let’s just keep this good thing going, amirite?


Arbritary Grade: A- Random Thoughts • Yes, this was Paul Walker’s last film, and they needed to use CGI composite shots mixed with his brothers as stand-ins to complete some of his scenes. To just get it out of the way: Yes, the movie was very tasteful with how it handled Walker’s death, and the scenes that were added after his death (some where noticeable or obvious script-wise, some I’m still not sure) were done respectfully and it was a very loving send-off to an actor and character that, for obvious reasons, could no longer go on in the following movies. And yeah, okay, I absolutely cried at the end of the movie, and thinking about it again is making me teary eyed. I need to put on some more Sopranos. Get me tough. • James Wan directs action well, if not a bit too much rotating camera CGI-y. But you can see a specific desire to keep shots going on for more than 2 seconds when possible. There were moments where fights seemed rushed, but overall it felt like the cameras were carefully placed. Given the fact he had so many big set pieces to get wrapped around he did a fine job, a fine job indeed. However, I can’t help but miss the paintball-sharp sensibilities of Justin Lin. • Three Awesome Action Moments:
Paul Walker has become the de facto bare knuckle fighter of the gang (solidified with the awesome prison cell scene that in Fast 6 that even preceded The Raid 2), and his brawl in the moving jail truck with Thai star Tony Jaa was particularly fun. Man, could Brian O’Connor kick ass. Enjoy your life with Dom’s sister and your cute kid, Jack.
As much as they make a big fucking deal about it in all the trailers, the car skydiving scene was effectively awesome. Six movies later, escalated to levels higher than anyone could have ever imagined, they found a way to pay homage to their original creator (the skydiving without a parachute scene in Point Break), but still stick up a stiff middle finger as to how ridiculous people think these movies can get. “LET’S HAVE CARS SKYDIVE” is possibly the most coke-fueled sentence Hollywood ever created, but the scene was done with a refreshing air of recognition as to how dumb it was really getting. And was fun.
And finally, let’s face it. Dom drove through THREE SEPARATE SKYSCRAPERS. The trailers, as terrible as they are at revealing an action movie’s big set-pieces, didn’t quite reveal that there was an entire other building they went through.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 7, "Waterloo"

RIP Bert Cooper. You were a giant! A giant I say!

This episode was all over the place, wasn't it? A messy end to the the Mid-Season Finale (Mid-Season Barf is more like it) that takes good news, bad news, the infinite hope and wonder of man's first steps on the moon, and a major character death and mixes it up how Mad Men does best: very well-executed, and more than a bit perplexing. And another firm merger, because of course. They have had too many of those. And you know what they haven't had enough of? Ghost musical numbers! Oh wait!
Bert got to see man walk on the moon (a WHITE man, no less! What a good day for Bert. Aaah, I kid, he's obviously not that racist, he lets his housemaid watch the picture show with him!) and then he walks (dances?) into the grave. But that Bert Cooper, he was a leader. It's his last words to Roger that will have the biggest impact on the agency he helped found after he's dead. He never had any kids himself (if there is an afterlife, I hope that Bert will be reunited his long lost testicles. I hope they greet each other at the pearly gates, share a big sloppy kiss, and both trot off, hand-in-hand, excited for the new adventures to come), so it makes sense for him to put all that unrequited parenting (i.e. disappointment) on Roger's shoulders. He tells him he has no vision, unlike Cutler (who has vision, but not Bert's vision. Vision vision vision. Sounds weird right? Venison. Vision.)
So once he's in the ground Roger faces off with his CGC doppleganger, Cutler, for the future of the agency. Is it going to be President Sterling and his best buddy Don? Or is it bug-eyed Cutler and his fancy supercomputer? There are…ya know, meetings. And agency talk. And…blah blah blah, wouldn't ya know it? Roger's side wins! They are now a subsidiary of McCaan, which is the agency everyone hates. But Don gets his old job back (which will surely mean SEE YA LATER SCOUT'S HONOR) and everyone gets more money! Hooray, Joan! It looks like you actually don't need a homosexual to take care of you!
Honestly, whatever. Sterling Cooper, PPL, SCDP, SC&P, SC&P Macaan? It's not that important. Not at the prescribes, it isn't. I don't think it was ever the most important thing that Don get back to being Creative Director, that he prove to everyone in the office that Lou is a big stupid baby head and that he's the defacto genius in advertisement. What was important was for him to deal with the issues in his life that made him blow up in the first place. He needed to be humbled, and he needed to remember why he wanted to keep this job more than go with Megan to California. He shares with Ted what really is important, and that's doing the work. Creating something. Everything can be such a big damn mess, but when you stop dealing with the bullshit, you can still recall what made you love it in the first place. We've seen both Don and Ted at their absolute lowest this season, but that doesn't stop people from wanting the team that won Chevy.
Then they win Burger Chef! Hooray! Then they vote to get bought out by McCaan! Hooray? Don will get his old job back! That's a hooray, right? But it wouldn't be a Mad Men finale (Mid-season finale, hurl) without exuberant emotional ambiguity! Don's victory over Cutler and Stupid-Baby-Head-Lou are overcast by Don's vision (or maybe a hallucination? A brain aneurism?) of the freshly dead Bert singing and dancing along to "The Best Things in Life Are Free." I gotta admit, when it first started I let out a very genuine "what the fuuuuuuuck?" But then I noticed that statement was coming out gleefully grinning lips. It was so bizarre. So polarizing. I had to sit and think on that ending hard. The song and his dance number (shoeless, because duh) were so bright and happy, but left an eerily disconcerting blanket over everything that was happening at the agency and in Don's life.
Don just beat Cutler, so all should be sunshine and blow jobs right? But Don has a knack for looking at the negative side of everything happening in his life, and maybe the biggest problems still lay in front of him. Getting tossed over to McCaan, being stuck with a five-year-contract, and more money are not what is going to bring Don Draper peace. Bert spells it out for him pretty clearly: best things in life are free (just ask your mom). And then he tells Don that the moon belongs to everyone (kind of like for mom). Everyone is feeling such hope and excitement over the moon landing (I mean hell, it literally killed Cooper). It's an event that people can bring people together in awe and celebration. I think Don tried to feel hope, but if that last shot in the episode is any sort of indication, it all got gut-socked right out of him. Cooper looks like he's taunting him as he waves goodbye, leaving Don looking straight up wrecked (just like your mom).
Personally, I've been saying since the beginning of the season I don't really care that much about where Don ends up working. He tells Ted pretty much the same thing, that he doesn't have to work for them, he just has to work. Perhaps he spent too much time this season trying to get the right job back when he should have been focusing on important things like his children, and other less important-but-still-kind-of-important-I-GUESS-sorta-things. Like his wife.
There were plenty of other important things going on in this episode, so let's just all be adults about it and give them sonsabitches some bullet points. Pow pow!
  •   I think MVP of the episode goes to Peggy. She Don Draper'd the fuck outta that Burger Chef pitch. It was one of the most successful pitches in the entire show, I think. Beautiful hopeful, and just a small hint of sadness underneath (she mentions the ten-year-old waiting for her at home, and doesn't mention it's not her son. Which prompts a suspicious look from Pete. Really good stuff.) I think this was the most honest pitch Peggy could have ever come up with, and it made more sense for her to give it than Don. It was her emotional breakdown/breakthrough that led her, Don, and Pete to the glossy restaurant at the end of last week's episode. Not only was Don looking out for her in a number of different ways when he told her to do it, she dominated it. And awww, isn't she so sweet with that little kid in her building? Well ain't she just the sweetest? I hadn't liked Peggy so much since she stabbed Abe.
  • Speaking of killing it, don’t you all wish we could have seen Bert Cooper dance and sing waaay before it happened in this episode? It could have been a finale tradition.
  •  Meredith, the world's worst secretary, is also a bit of a floozy, eh? That was the funniest kiss in the whole show. I love how slow she always talks. And it's also hysterical how clearly she sees herself as a person of great importance in Don's life. And then Don is like "haha gtfo bitch call my lawyer BUHBYE."
  •  When Pete clasps his chest to tug on his pearl necklace and squeals out “I have ten percent!” at the partners meeting. Watch it again. And again and again. It’s amazing.
  •  It bums me out a little that so much of the episode covered the agency issues when there was such a hilarious subplot about Sally Draper’s hormones (and hairstyle, good god child) going all over the place. But I can’t blame her, even Betty was checking out that shirtless hunk of man candy.
  • “What do I do now?” That’s what that kid asks after Sally kisses him. He makes Glenn seem normal.
  •  Megan, you and Don don’t belong together. Stick to it this time, kid. Go see The Wild Bunch with your annoying friend. It’s an awesome flick. So long kiddo. Focus on your acting. Stop being crazy some of the times.
  • This seems like the second finale in a row Don has given something up for Ted Chaough. Last year it was going to California, and this year he is letting Ted stick only to the creative side of the job, while Don, presumably is going to be dealing with McCaan and more bullshit. Ted sure talked about killing himself a lot this episode. It was funny. I like his sad jokes about his sad life.
  • “Marriage is a racket.” Pete Campbell with the zingers. Pew pew!
  •   They all kicked Harry out of the partners meeting, saying he didn’t sign in time. Which means they just left him out of probably around a million dollars. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH good.
           So that was the first half of season 7 of Mad Men. What did y’all think? Good? Bad? Pete’s hairline not receding enough? Overall I thought it was a very good season. I felt like it was all some of the strongest writing and directing of the show’s run, but some of the storylines (i.e. Megan, the firm mergers) did kind of backtrack on themselves quite a bit. AND MORE DANCING BERT! THE MAN WAS SO NIMBLE.

One more for good measure.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7, Episode 6, "The Strategy"

        
"I have authority. Don has emotion."
Luckily, this week slows down the crazy from last week quite a bit. No one self mutilates in this week's episode, "The Strategy." Don doesn't bring Stan into a threesome with Megan in an attempt to bring them closer (although that happens every week in the Mad Men in my mind). But even so, a lot happened this week, and the episode balanced itself between at least four different storylines very well. Oh, and a GM executive tried to fellate an undercover cop. So, thank god for that. Let's get into it.
Everyone's excited to see Bob Benson's glorious (read: weird as fuck) return! He's SC&P's favorite sexual deviant/saboteur/enigmatic/identity-thief (he got bumped up to the top spot after Don left). I wasn't sure if Ol' Bobby'd be back for this season. Was he coming back? How's he doing in Detroit? There were a lot of questions surrounded the weirdo.
        And after tonight's episode I am totally positive that Bob Benson is fully capable of murder. As in, he could, and would murder another person if he saw it necessary. Probably with a knife. Bob Benson will stab and murder you with a knife. His proposal to Joan is seemingly well-intentioned enough, but holy hell, that was some sociopath talk coming out of his mouth. He tries so hard to make people think he's one way (i.e. not a gay sociopath) but people can still figure it out pretty easy (the gay part, anyway). The new GM executive could smell it on him from a mile away. That's why he calls Bob to bail him out when he gets arrested for trying to suck off an undercover cop (Poor guy's just trying to have a good trip to New York, give him a break). In one of the most weirdly hilarious scenes of the season, the two share a cab back from prison, and the GM exec drunkenly pines for his home in Detroit where the temptation isn't so strong, where he has a system of blow-and-go buddies already set up, and where even his wife is okay with him going on and slurping down some man-sperm. Now doesn't that sound enticing, Mr. Benson? "Why yes, it certainly does!" So he gets it in his head that the best way to continue forward in this business is to get himself the prettiest, chestiest beard he could find. 
But Joan thinks too highly of herself for that (and damn right, sister!), and promptly refuses. Not only does she believe in the pursuit of true love (aww, kind of), but she knows it's all just a facade. "You shouldn't be with a woman," she tells him. To which he hilariously responds, "I have been before." Haaahahahahaha. Yep. Love it. I imagine they were 18, while he stiffly thrusts himself into her on the carpeted floor of his walk-in closet, eyes shut as tight as he can, stomach uneasy. It lasts for about three minutes before he goes soft and begins to cry. "This isn't going to work," she asks an 18-year-old weeping Bob Benson.
"I've totally touched all the girl parts before! I'm a real good sex person!"
Case in point, you can't always hide who you are. You can do a pretty great job of it, and maybe go at it for a long time, but sooner or later your past is going to come back into the picture. It's one of the most ubiquitous themes of the entire show: You can't escape you you are. It's all we've got, right? We're all just one big prologue. Something about…boats and...I don't know, beating against the currents. Or some fucking shit. Who cares.
I just can't help it, I love Pete Campbell. Ok, yeah, maybe I don't love him, but his stories are always some of my favorites of any episode (Pete Campbell and Sally Draper are my two MVPs this season, whodathunkit). There wasn't much out of the ordinary for a Pete storyline in this week's episode, but it's all told from a slightly different perspective. Because now he is California Pete. The one who talks about vibrations. On the plane he tells his real estate girlfriend (Brittany Snow, oof) he wants her shopping all day and screwing all night. How am I not supposed to love Pete Campbell? He has the unsexiest sexy game ever. But then it even works! Earning him a full invitation to the mile high club. ("I've always wanted to do that." *Shudders. Laughs out loud. Shudders again.*)
But once he's back it takes him about three hours to slip effortlessly back into regular 'ol New York Pete Campbell. He finds the first shitty reason to get upset and yell at Trudy (Trudy! Alison Brie! Six Seasons and a Movie! Sad Emoticon!) when he should be enjoying the very small amount of time he's getting with his daughter. Oh Pete. He's still just a petulant child who wants what he can't have. He spends the whole next day pouting, so much so that he drives his lady to extreme irritation, in only the wonderful way Pete Campbell can do. "I don't like you in New York," she tells him, which Pete  rightfully professes is his real self. He is New York Pete. He's not Hippy Dippy Pete. It doesn't work for him. He's a bit of a worm, and I can totally understand if people don't like him, but that's who he is. There ain't no changin' it. 
So what if he's an asshole? So what if he only sees his daughter once a year and tries to emotionally blackmail his ex-wife? So what if he whines and bitches like a child who didn't get to buy a new toy? So what if---eh, you get the point, he's a total dick. And that's why I love him. Never change Pete Campbell. Pssh, like ya even could, ya blue-blooded prick in the grass. 
He did do one other thing of significance this week, and that was basically pitting Don and Peggy up against each other for Burger Chef. I don't think he suggested Don make the pitch to be adversarial, quite the opposite. Pete is invested in getting Don back up in the agency, but I also think he is trying to do what's best for the account. He's even quite polite when he meets with Peggy and Lou, assuring Peggy that it's her decision because it's her account. And oh boy does that piss Peggy off. And it's not Pete's fault because deep down she knows having Don make the pitch is the best way to go. He has that perfect baritone in his voice, that sense of longing and wistful hope for a simpler tomorrow that really drives his presentations home. The ad is about mother's pleasing their husbands, and Don can be the man to drive it home. 
So Peggy starts spazzing OUT, calling Don at home and telling him he ruined everything again. It looked like the episode could be on its way to a full Peggy blow-up, most likely in front of Don. She thinks he brought up having a different idea for the pitch to purposefully screw with her. That he thinks the work is crap and that she can't trust him anymore. It wouldn't be strange for, at this part in the episode, Don to scream derogatory and belittling things to Peggy, maybe even throw some crumpled up tag lines in her face. But this episode of Mad Men goes for something very different. They put Don and Peggy into one office, and let them work together. Just the two of them. 
Don seems resigned, too beat to be anything but honest with her. He apparently does still hold Peggy in the highest of esteem, even if his new work situation has put a strain to that. And she still knows she can learn a lot from him, as much as she hates the way he does things sometimes. I think this is the closest we've ever gotten Don to describe his actual thought process. He is so honest with her in his answers, too. I wasn't expecting such clarity in his answers. He abuses the people who's help he needs. Check. Then he takes a nap. Check. Then he starts over. Check. We have seen Don do all these things countless times. It's interesting to learn that this is actually a process he knows he has to go through to get the work that needs to be done. It makes it seem as though he has had slightly more control over himself and his relationships than he's led on. 
But the same time, he has no control. He worries about everything, and so is Peggy. They're worried that they haven't done anything, that they have nobody. She's even started to lie about her age. Gosh, who else does that? These two are really two sides of the same coin. He understands the pain she feels because he still feels it every day. You like to think as you get older you understand more, but maybe things don't really change like that. I think you're always going to worry about something to some degree. Maybe Don is realizing that as he has to work his way back up the ladders at SC&P. Maybe that's what Freddy Rumsen made him realize when he told him to jsut do the work, and maybe that's why he finally shut up and started listening to Peggy. Because deep down he knows he isn't any better off than she is. They both are still "living in the unknown," as Don puts it.
Watching them work side by side again is wonderful. Peggy lets herself break down enough, start fresh enough, to put a new spin on the ad, one that feels real. And watching them get to it together was an extremely satisfying moment. It was so nice to see them being buddies again that I will even let go of the almost-too-saccharine-ending of them slow dancing to music coming from…somewhere. It almost gave me a cavity, but fuck it, it was a nicely earned moment.
And perhaps…that was the strategy all along!
Ha, nah. Pete Campbell's not that smart.

Stray Observations

  • I didn't mention Megan yet. Oh, Megan, it took her about eight seconds (upon hearing "I didn't know he was married!") for her to put on her bitch face. And as she visited she seemed...distant. Packing up more of her stuff, seeming uneasy about Don visiting in August… it all seemed very suspicious. I mean, I know the showrunners have said she's definitely not getting murdered by Charles Manson…but at this point I think it's the best storyline ending for her. She gets pregnant during the threesome, decides to keep it because she's jealous of Stephanie, and then gets murdered while at a dinner party in the canyons. Woah. That's dark, Nick. I know, other Nick! *High fives self. Stares into the mirror with steely eyes*
  • Don says 1955 was a good year. If my math is correct, that means he was just about thirty years old in 1955, which is exactly how old Peggy is now. Ooooo, Mad Men math! Hopefully things for Peggy can start picking up so that she can have a good year as well (This Will Be Our Year!)
  • Cosgrove speaking of his little son: "You really have to keep an eye on him." DEAD SILENCE. This show is funny sometimes. 
  • Peggy hasn't gone to see Ginsberg yet. I cannot blame her. I also like the way she sounds super jealous of Stan's "baby." Poor Peggy. Look at that, this episode actually made me feel empathy for her. Wow, it's been a while. 
  • "It's nice to see family happiness again!" Lou says of the Burger Chef ad pitch. If he had it his way, of course, there'd be a spazzy little monkey hocking the burgers. I've said the word "spaz" more than once in this review. I'm not upset about it, I just thought I'd mention it, because it's kinda weird. Spaz.
  • "The Jews close everything on Saturday!"
  • Harry Crane is a partner. While it was nice seeing all of the partners (spare Ted Chaough, because he's useless now) at the meeting where they voted Harry in, the fact that Harry is now a partner makes me want to vomit White Castle all over my desk and lap. I know he's on Don's side (at least he says he is), but he's such a wormy little fuck--scratch that, a wormy fat-fuck.
  • The last shot of the episode is fantastic. The soft, strangely dreamlike music, the slow pull back, all just lovely. Really drives home the idea of Peggy's new pitch. "Every table is a family table." Not bad. 
  • Of course Pete hates the word "family." Ha, I wonder why? The bit where his daughter didn't recognize him was pretty sad.
  • "And hit the tag like you just thought of it," Peggy tells Don to do. "Do I do that?" Don asks, doubtably in earnest. "Yes, you do," Peggy responds flatly. Those two...I like those two together.
This week saw a pretty big revival in one of Don's relationships. With next week the end of this little halfseason (A midseason finale, or as I like to say, a barf), what relationships with Don can still be repaired (SC&P?) and which are just too fucked to save (Megan?), who knows!