Mad Men s4e7: The Suitcase

“My uncle Mac said he had a suitcase that was always packed. He said, ‘A man has to be ready to go at any moment’..

“..Jesus, maybe it was a metaphor.”

Where do I even begin with The Suitcase? What can I say? It’s probably my favourite episode of the entire series, one of the best for sure. I’ve got a lotta feelings here.

In life, who truly knows us? Sure, you can be close with people, but you’re never inside their head. What happens when the last vestige of who you really are through a human connection fades away? The hell do you do next?

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Peggy and Don both terrified of the phone and what news is on the other end. Stephanie rings and leaves word from California, and Don knows it’s not good news. Picking up the phone, he hesitates.. and picks up a bottle instead. Here we go.

It’s Peggy’s birthday, and drunkass Duck is on the line, begging her to meet up and throw him a bone via manipulation.

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I SEE YOU.

Megan and Peggy have a fun interaction in the ladies’ room; the forward thinking Megan compliments her for being 26, lets her know that she’s doing a-OK in life. Whereas Trudy emphasises that “26 is still very young”, reminding her that she’s unmarried and without some baby. Woof. As Trudy goes off with Pete to enjoy her evening, Peggy goes back to Don’s office to wrap up. Or maybe not.

Bland boyf Mark is surprising Peggy with dinner at a fancy Italian place.. and has invited her mother, sister/brother in law, and roomate along for the ride. Equal parts awkward and infuriating, Peggy finds out as she delays the dinner repeatedly to help out with Samsonite. When he reveals he’s there with all those people she can’t really stand, Peggy is enraged. 

Has this guy learned a good goddamned thing about her during their time together? Not bloody likely, but it’s also unclear what she’s offered; after all, she was doing a virgin impression for him at first. They break up over the phone.

I feel like I understand the aspect of Peggy that is a little tonedeaf to other people’s feelings, because I can certainly be like that in life. Pegs is whip-smart and can be very kind and empathetic, but she can also be oblivious, especially when it comes to other people’s subtle reactions. It’s clear that she wants marriage and a family in the abstract, as these things she Should Want(TM), but the actual realities of being in a long-term relationship are too much for her. She feels more drawn to her career and the office than she does to Mark, and let’s be real, Mark sorta blows anyway.

Peggy knows Don at least as well as Anna, and I think just a shade better. The details of how Dick became Don don’t matter as much as who Don is now due to all those deets. She’s seen him at his best and at his worst. I don’t think Anna ever really did, since California was Don’s New York palate cleanser. On the west coast, he was neither Dick nor Don, but sort of a hybrid; the person he might have been if not for the intense self-loathing and running. And I’d say it’s a lot harder to know and love Don in New York than that vaguely breezy California guy. But Peggy does.

And we’re right back to The Hobo Code, with Uncle Mac’s escapist advice ringing true to Don. But come on.. you can’t run forever, as much as you may try. Your problems will follow you everywhere if you don’t face that shit head on and fucking deal with it. It’ll hit you all at once.

Both Don and Peggy have painful memories that bubble up in mental reruns, things they’d rather forget, just like the rest of us. It’s revealed that Peggy witnessed her father’s violent death, just as Don did. Two people who know each other exceedingly well can articulate entire paragraphs by saying very few words. They sort of dance around what they’re trying to say, but the other person understands it intrinsically.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

Peggy lets him know that her mother thinks he’s the one who knocked her up in Season 1, since he was the only person who visited her in the hospital. People make fun of her at work, assuming she got the damn job by banging Don. Humiliating and sad, but Peggy persists. The evolution of Peggy and her creative career is absolutely fascinating. And it’s worth noting that Don is interesting because of his past, but Peggy is interesting because of her future.

Meanwhile, Drunk Duck pops to SCDP to take a shit in Roger Sterling’s office, mistaking it for Don’s like a truly gross maniac. In one of the best drunk sad sack man fights ever (spurred by Duck referring to Peggy as a whore), Don badly throws a punch and Duck then throws him to the ground, boasting about killing a bunch of people in Okinawa. Jesus Christ dude, simmer down.. why you gotta make it weird?

Apologising for Duck’s behaviour and about how long ago all that gross sex was, Don doesn’t judge. He gets it.

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Waiting to ring Stephanie and get confirmation of what he knows must’ve gone down is killing him. Anna is such a special person to him, and Peggy can see he’s clearly in pain. The thing is, Anna needed Don/Dick at that point in her life. Her husband was dead, and she was alone.. and then she tracks down Don and he’s just as alone and in need of a connection. It would take a far more cynical person than Anna to turn him in once she heard him out all those years ago.

I think what’s so great about Don and Anna’s friendship is that it’s a mutual relationship where each is able to get something from the other and give something in return. A sense of comfort, no judgement, ease. Being faced with the reality of these things disappearing in her death is haunting Don.

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image courtesy of MadMenWiki

With Peggy asleep beside him on the couch, a vision of Anna appears to Don. She’s holding a suitcase and smiling, radiant, as she walks off. Don finally rings Stephanie around 5.30a, confirming the worst; Anna passed away in the night. Putting the phone down and making level eye contact with Peggy, he wholly falls apart, sobbing.

“What happened?”

“Somebody very important to me died.”

“Who?”

“The only person in the world who really knew me.”

“That’s not true.”

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image courtesy of Fanpop

As the morning stretches on, SCDP is back to the usual bustle. As he shows her an idea for Samsonite, Don holds Peggy’s hand for a beat, subtly acknowledging their night. The gesture alone speaks volumes as they both take a moment.

“I know what I’m supposed to want, but it just never feels right.. or as important as anything in that office.”

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Mad Men s4e6: Waldorf Stories

“Make it simple, but significant.”

Ever wanted to see a drunk fucked out version of the iconic Carousel pitch? Welcome to Life Cereal and the Clios. We get a peek at Don’s advertising origin story, the introduction of the nude Stan Rizzo, Roger’s writing a book, and.. Don is back to being a human landfill. Ah, shit.

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“I GOT DIS” || image courtesy of Giphy

Everyone’s seeking out some sort of credit. Don laments that it’s been so long since Glo-Coat premiered that it feels like he didn’t even do it anymore.. and apparently this is a half-truth. Turns out Peggy came up with the initial idea and Don slapped the old west gimmick on it to make it Iconography(TM), and she’s feeling forgotten. Granted, that’s what he literally does as a Creative Director, but Peggy still wants a nod.

Eternal chip-on-shoulder newbie Art Director Stan complains that his last agency didn’t give anyone credit where credit was due. And of course, Pete Campbell worries that everything he’s worked his ass off to build at SCDP will be eclipsed by the return of Kenny and his haircut.

And then there’s Roger, who wants credit for discovering Don all those years ago at the bottom of a box of furs– though that’s not entirely true, either. Roger writing his memoirs is pretty great, because he likely knows the book may be shit. He doesn’t even have anything particularly profound to write about, no real story to tell; he’s just seeking validation that he offers some kind of value.

We all wish we could rewrite history to suit our own narrative, but shit doesn’t always pan out that way.

“Donald Draper”, a persona invented by Dick Whitman, is rapidly disintegrating in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of booze. What we saw in the “I got this” apocalypse Life Cereal meeting was Dick himself handling a pitch; his sweaty, overtly keen cockiness can be seen shining through the shattered fragments of Don Draper’s Mysterious & Suave(TM) persona.

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 Drunk mess Don, high on the Clio win and a million old fashioneds, jacks an idea that idiot Danny came up with.. though Danny actually ripped it from Alka Seltzer. Cure for the common ‘insert word here’. I mean, it’s way better than “Enjoy the rest of your Life….. Cereal!”, but it’s certainly not as hilarious. What a fucking gauche mess; Don is lightyears away from his more masterful pitches.

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After ordering Stan and Peggy to be sequestered to a hotel room all weekend to work, it’s time to head back out and celebrate. Don’s bender starts off sort of hilariously (and with a patriotic blowjob), but rapidly devolves into sad mess territory. He fucks it up by blacking out for what appears to be an entire day and sleeps through to when he’s supposed to pick up the kids in Ossining, waking up to an understandably pissed off phone call from Betty. And he’s in bed with a rando lady he doesn’t recognise.

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.” || image courtesy of Fanpop

This Don Draper, cowering from a lady he boned in his goddamned bathroom, is not the guy we know. But then again, he’s been incredibly off his game. The mystery diner waitress even calls him Dick.. Christ on a cracker.

Lord knows things get stuck in my head all the time, and I don’t know from whence in the fresh hell it came; Peggy strikes that creative chord with Don when she finally reaches him at his Hiroshima apartment regarding The Cure for The Common Breakfast.

Don does not acknowledge Peggy’s work on Glo-Coat; but then again, we only have her version of how it went down and it’s entirely possible that she’s blowing out her role just as much as Roger does when yapping about how Don came to be at Sterling Cooper. At the end of the episode, Don does let her talk to him like he’s the subordinate re:Danny cockup, and she gets to enjoy having the power position with Stan. So, Peggy’s making strides bit by bit.

Grown-ass men acting like children, and the ladies have gotta keep em in line. TALE AS OLD AS TIIIIIIME. Look at the way Peggy handles Stan and calls him on his shit; working nude in a hotel room just to call his bluff, but at the same time, they bond and he learns to respect her a little more and be less of a dick. Look at how Joan sarcastically calls out Roger’s mopey mood; miles away from the gleeful girl who was so impressed with him and his Mink.

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image courtesy of Todoseries

During his bender, turns out Don lost his damn Clio at the bar. Roger retrieves it, and wants Don to admit that he couldn’t have done it all without him. Don doesn’t even say that, but vaguely acknowledges Roger’s role in the whole thing.

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Just like young enthusiastic Don bugging Roger like a fly on shit, Danny is overeager and eerily persistent in getting what he wants. And just like Roger back in the day, Don can’t recall ever being that outwardly tacky or hungry to grab an opportunity.. though we know better. It’s also funny to see the tonedeaf Don of yore with Roger, completely shit at reading his audience when he innocently inquires if he ever needed to be cut a break.

Both Don and Danny snag their jobs because the man they’re trying to impress gets too fucking blotto to realize what in the hell they’re doing. Up, up, up the ladder of success!

“Award or no award, you’re still Don Draper.”

“Whatever that means.”

Mad Men s4e2: Christmas Comes but Once a Year

“In a nutshell, it all comes down to what I want versus what’s expected of me.”

Just about sums up life, eh? Let’s see how much of a piping hot mess Don is in this episode..

Sally runs into creeper Glen at the Christmas tree lot. Hating living in the house on Bullet Park Road without her dad there, she expresses how strange everything is; Glen can relate. He takes it into his own hands when the Francises are all out one night, trashing the house with food and junk.. save for Sally’s room, where he leaves a friendship keychain similar to the one she complimented him on at the lot. He tries to make the house as uncomfortable for everyone as it is for Sally.

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At the office, enter Dr. Faye Miller, one of the psychologists SCDP is using for market research. In an intro with a personality test for the senior staff, Don dodges another opportunity to divulge any sort of information about himself.

A man allergic to intimacy, it’s clear that Don’s in a darker place than his usual existential loneliness.. and this is his first real Christmas sans family to boot. He ain’t handling it well; he’s hitting everything too hard. Women whom he would otherwise effortlessly charm are rebuffing his sloppy advances with ease and a touch of pity. Score one for Faye and neighbour Phoebe, I guess.

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Allison reads out Sally’s letter to Santa (c/o Don Draper), and it’s a heartbreaking reminder of the damage the divorce has caused. She tears up at Sally’s wish to have Don there on Christmas morning, knowing that it’s not a possibility.

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image courtesy of Huffpo

The vile Lee Garner Jr is in town, and is miffed he wasn’t invited to the SCDP Christmas party.. which now has to become an actual party much to Lane’s dismay. Faye and Don spar about how someone’s past can influence them today, a point with which Don disagrees. She aptly brings up that his celebrated Glo-Coat commercial is heavily steeped in nostalgia, a certain longing for someone’s childhood.. but not Don’s. He tries to change the conversation by asking her to dinner, and gets shot down.

Natch, he forgets his keys at the office, and Allison does him a favour by running down to the Village to let him in. It’s noteworthy that younger employees have always gossiped about Don, but it was always in the admiring from afar sense, with some sense of wonder; mimbo Joey calling him ‘pathetic’ sheds light on how trash Don is at this point in time. And I guess in an effort to feel something (or anything at all), Don comes on to Allison; she reciprocates and they have a bang on his couch. Awkward.

The next morning is nothing short of a disaster with how Don handles (and not handles) things. He goes to his rhetoric of “this never happened”, so much so that he doesn’t acknowledge anything in the least, and gives Allison her Christmas bonus of a hundy in cash. You can tell he doesn’t feel great about it as she walks out of his office, but not guilty enough to not be a prick. And plus.. you shouldn’t shit where you eat.

So Freddy Rumsen is back, and he’s dry as a bone– but Peggy is thrilled to see him and to work on Pond’s. Freddy has some comically oldschool ideas for the cold cream, whereas formerly oldschool Pegs has moved forward quite a bit. He’s focusing on the marriage aspect of Pond’s, but Peggy wants something more, something deeper that speaks to women.. women like her whose be-all end-all isn’t getting fucking married. She wants to make an ad that speaks to everyone!

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image courtesy of AV Club

BUT, even though her life in the office is super forward thinking and progressive she’s being weirdly old fashioned with her boyfriend Mark. Apparently they aren’t banging because she’s playing virgin.. yikes. Last I checked, she ain’t been no virgin since 1960.. maybe she’s just not so sure about the guy?

Why is Peggy dating this dolt anyway? Freddy peppers her with some absurdly old fashioned advice, firmly saying that she shouldn’t bang the guy if she wants to marry him, since he’ll never respect her.. Y I K E S.

I guess that cemented her opinion of Mark, cause she throws him a bone that night.

Maybe Allison is that gal looking to get hitched, and thought there was something deeper to her tryst with her boss.. as she stares off into space while typing, it’s hard not to feel her pain and humiliation. So uncomfortable. Don may have fucked it up with his best and most competent secretary yet.

“I don’t hate Christmas.. I hate this Christmas.”

Mad Men s3e8: Souvenir

“New York in August? It’s like a great big melting wax museum.”

It’s the dog days of summer. Sweaty Don goes to catch lightning bugs with his kids at Betty’s suggestion, while Pete comes home to an empty apartment. Trudy has gone to spend some time with her parents.

While Betty works on some reservoir shit, Hilton rings the house; Don has been bounced around all sorts of American cities/toilets checking out hotels and getting to know the brand, and now Connie wants him to hit up Rome. Betty is intrigued by the idea, as Don scribbles down the Pan-Am flight details on her cold call list. Her eyes light up at the idea of an international trip, but then the reality slaps her in the face; they have a 2-month old baby (not to mention 2 other young kids) here at home. Boo-urns.

Bachelor Pete seems pretty content watching Davey and Goliath and eating cereal, laughing to himself; then he passes out later in the day. Eventually imitating a real person, he heads to Gristedes for some groceries and spots the neighbour’s busty German Au Pair frantically stuffing a stain-dress into the trash chute. Pete tries to help her out, and hey-o, Joan works at the department store now!

Turns out Joan had to take something of a trash job while things are tough at home; Greg is changing his specialty to therapy. Sigh. The good news is that she’s mastering her job at the department store, but she’s still deflated once Pete leaves, thinking of the life and prestige she had at Sterling Cooper.

Betty goes about her day, applies her lipstick in one fell flawfree swoop, while Sally gazes on in awe. It’s time for that reservoir hearing, and Henry makes shit happen. As he walks her to her car, Betty is driving her father’s Lincoln; she thought it would be good luck. Hank goes in for the kiss, and Betty reciprocates though she stays quiet and vaguely mysterious.

“They should just do it up in Newburgh. It’s already disgusting.”

At home, Betty is on a happy high from winning (and snogging Henry), and jumps at the opportunity to hit up Rome with Don. There, she can have the chance to feel smart and interesting, and hey, she speaks fluent Italian. The reservoir hearing was a good step in the right direction, a place where she could feel like she was more than just the housewife or Don’s shiny better half for some work dinner.

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Landing in Rome, Don and Betty look exhausted. Speaking Italian without missing a beat, Betty side-eyes Don for overtipping their bellboy. Post-nap, she makes an appointment to get her hair set, and emerges totally stunning for their dinner with Conrad Hilton. Taking a seat outside, she orders an Asti. In the midst of being hit on by some Italians, Don approaches her as if they don’t know one another and they indulge in some flirtatious role playing.

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image courtesy of Mad Men Wiki

“To whatever they were saying.”

“They said you were ugly.”

“Does that bother you?”

“You think because of the way I’m dressed that I’m shallow?”

“I was just hoping you were easy..”

“They said that too.”

“What brings you to rome? Seen anything interesting?”

“I could take it or leave it.”

Having done a nice favour for the neighbour’s au pair re:dresspocalypse, Pete creeps on her expecting something in return. In a scene that mirrors that of Ladies’ Room in Season 1, when he creeped on Peggy’s doorstep latenight, his sauced frat boy faux charm is a little stale now. Woof, it’s super fucking uncomfortable.

In the following days, his neighbour comes home and he ain’t pleased with Pete’s shenanigans while the cats are away; he’s had some peaceful weeks, and now it’s been disrupted since the au pair is upset about cheating on her boyfriend and ya know, ~Women’s Emotions~. Yikes on bikes all around, but he imparts some valuable advice to Pete; don’t shit where you eat. Philandering 101.

When Trudy comes home, Pete is pretty shellshocked. He doesn’t communicate what actually happened, but he lets Trudy know he doesn’t want her to vacation without him again. Seems like they have an understanding, and they are both happy to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Vacation seems to be so easy for Betty and Don, so effortless; but once they crossed the threshold of their home, they were confronted with the bullshit of the day to day and resume their New York roles in their real life together. Don immediately leaves as Carla starts yapping about the kids while Betty furrows her brow. Life resumes.

How can Don and Betty bring that Roman romance stateside? It takes a lot of work, but Betty may be out of steam at this point. As the wonder wears off from their brief holiday, it’s back to reality at casa Draper; Betty has to address Sally kissing Ernie (and then Sally’s temper– beating the shit out of Bobby for making fun of her). Glancing at the whacking great fainting couch, she thinks of Henry. In one of her better parenting moments, she has a frank conversation with Sally about kissing boys.

“I don’t want you running around kissing boys. And you don’t kiss boys, boys kiss you. The first kiss is very special.”

“But I already did it.. it’s over!”

“You’re going to have a lot of first kisses. You’re going to want it to be special, so you remember. It’s where you go from being a stranger to knowing someone, and every kiss after that is a shadow of that kiss. Do you understand?”

“I think so.”

Betty might have a different opinion if she was married to someone whom she really connected with, someone who understood her and loved her no matter what. But this is what she’s got for the time being, and imparts her wisdom to Sally.

That night, Betty expresses her total exasperation and frustration with their everyday life in Ossining, brought on by Francine’s small town nudging towards Henry Francis in an effort to further stir the pot. In Rome, it was as if they had no problems, no kids bothering them, it was wholly magical. Vacation rules!

But unfortunately, that’s just not real life no matter how much Betty desires that to be; “Aw, Bets– we’ll go away again.” It’s a shame to see just how much of her personality and flair for life Betty suppresses in the interest of being a housewife, to fit into that specific suburban mould. In Italy, she was alive, she was happy, and able to show off how intelligent and vibrant she really is. How can she translate that to work at home?

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Don surprises Betty with a little Colosseum charm for her bracelet, and she is entirely nonplussed. Fed up with her life, she takes it out on Don. Yikes.

“I saw how happy you were in there.. And I thought, ‘Dear God. Did I have anything to do with that?’ Because that would make me happy.”

Time to Yell about: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This marks the beginning of an ongoing series of posts “Time to Yell about _____”. Sometimes, I see a movie or watch a TV show and just feel compelled to yell about everything I think is wrong about it like a nutcase on a street corner yelling the end is nigh. How badly it’s written overall, how dumb the writers think the audience is, how horrendous the costuming choices are, general laziness, truly terrible dialogue/acting, or whatever the hell else is ratchet about some piece of entertainment. Here we go!

Having just seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and feeling spectacularly underwhelmed, I felt compelled to slap some of my thoughts and opinions on here. Now, understand that I didn’t go into this flick with absurd expectations of soul-stirring art; I’m a normal-ass human woman living on the planet Earth, and wanted to see some fun, loud action and a character I love from the comics I read as a kid. Easy, yeah? Cool. I enjoyed the first movie of this series just fine, and was looking forward to see where the story was heading.

ASM2 opens with what can only be described as a horn fanfare from the goddamned 10 o’clock news. It rang as very Movie(TM) to me and almost immediately took me out of the experience. In fact, the whole movie is reminiscent of those horrendous 1990s superhero movies we all cringe over; I kept thinking to myself, the hell is this? Joel Schumacher’s Spider-Man?

Now, I’ve always been consistently indifferent to Spider-Man’s villains. Unpopular opinion, I know, but whatever. They’ve never really grabbed me, save for Venom, whom we all saw get the shaft in Sam Raimi’s famous mess, Spider-Man 3. In ASM2, we get Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin. Oy. DeHaan’s Harry Osborn on the other hand, is pretty spot on, and a real smarmy delight! Too bad his scenes with Peter reconnecting (and in general) are super rushed, but I guess that makes his turning on Peter easier to swallow since we don’t really give a shit about him. Osborn also embraces becoming a complete dick really quickly, thanks to his magnificent daddy issues.

Foxx’s Max Dillon starts off as a Lifetime Movie character trope: the obsessive manpain-plagued pathetic bookish dude who just can’t take a hint. There’s even distractingly awful “Bumbling Character Who Can’t Catch A Break” goofy music playing during his scenes! Then he becomes Electro in a pretty cool and horrifying accident, and immediately uses his powers for butthurt. Seriously. So much Jim Carrey Riddler realness, I can’t even. Once he’ s Electro, he’s sent to one of those movie mental institutions straight out of the 1940s, where a miscellaneously German Eraserhead/Dr. Strangelove hybrid doctor performs “tests” on him.

Now, let’s talk about Jamie Foxx for a second. An absurd movie done right is White House Down, a simultaneously delightful and vacuous Roland Emmerich romp with Channing Tatum’s hero guy saving Foxx’s President. Great actors like Jamie Foxx can be in otherwise silly movies like WHD and make them worth seeing, for sure; just so long as that character is at least decently written, and if not, semi-believable as a person in that world to the audience. WHD is an unequivocally ridiculous movie, but the plot is simple, well-paced, and to the point: because of that, it works. Channing Tatum has to save the President and AMERICA from Supersmart Hacker Terrorists taking over The White House for Some Terrorist Reason, it’s extremely straightforward. This is where ASM2 truly fails – the writing is a goddamned mess.

I guess the thing that confuses me the most about this movie is that the script truly sounds like a draft. Things either didn’t work, or were colossally clunky. It was like the writers took out the damn Oxford Dictionary, looked up things like SYMBOLISM and THEME, slapped some lipstick on a mule and called it a pretty lady. And then, I realised these guys were the same team responsible for actual abominations such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, Cowboys & Aliens, and the surprisingly unwatchable Transformers series. It all crystallised in that moment. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, however, are brilliant. Their scenes together are great – their dialogue rings true to life, and they have excellent banter and rapport. This leads me to believe that their scenes must be ad-libbed, because in comparison, the rest of the movie is really uneven and essentially tone deaf.

One simple thing that got royally fucked was the passage of time. High School Graduation Day is typically in June, or maybe even late May. What’s meant to be a few weeks/months later? Peter is watching Gwen from afar, and she’s dressed for October in a blazer and hat.. not the summer. The summer in Manhattan and the Tri-State Area is akin to a more humid version of hell, it’s absolutely foul. Even when she’s headed to the airport she’s dressed for straight up pleasant autumn in a medium weight car coat! What in the world? It’s even referenced that she got into some “summer class” at Oxford and was flying out for it that very day. Weird inconsistencies like that make me wonder what in the hell was going on in that writing room.

And I almost forgot! In a small role, Paul Giamatti has a flop forehead tattoo and a miscellaneous Eastern European accent because, ya know, Bad Guy(TM).

So.. that happened. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, though not a great movie, is perfectly adequate. It’s a thing that exists and that’s about all I can really say. Maybe see it in one of those fancy theatres where they serve booze to make the overall experience more enjoyable.

OH, and there’s also a truly bizarre X-Men: Days of Whatever teaser/blatant ad in the credit sequence. What?