Terms and Conditions May Apply, opening at the Quad Cinema via Variance Films, tackles the searing topic of the U.S. government's and corporation's invasion of our privacy that we give up when we agree to the terms and conditions that are part of many websites, including Facebook. If you're the average American, you probably barely read any of those terms and conditions. Director Cullen Hoback takes you step-by-step as he informs you of the details found within the terms and conditions which gives the companies and the government the legal right to surveil essentially your every move you make on the computer---even the words that you searched on Google are monitered. You'll be surprised at what kind of harmless words raise the government's eyebrows and could lead to a knock on your door from the FBI. The Patriot Act, following 9/11, opened the door for the government to boost their use of serveillance of their very own citizens. Although not mentioned in this doc, Naomi Wolf who wrote The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot once asked the frightening question: Can you name one society with a secret prison system whose government did not eventually turn against its own people? That question is quite pertinent in Terms and Conditions May Apply because stripping us of our essential freedoms and invading our privacy can be used against us in the future to suit our power-hungry government's needs no matter what they may be. Is there any real privacy left these days? That's an important question that you'll find very interesting and disturbing answers for in this doc. What's even more disturbing although not very surprising is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and many others including politicians invade our privacy, but won't let others invade their own privacy. Will Terms of Conditions May Apply wake up the American sheeple to take action against the increasing invasion of privacy? Perhaps the most accurate and honest answer to that question is: I don't know. At least, though, it will raise awareness in an entertaining, easy-to-follow fashion that includes comic relief and doesn't resort to merely one talking head after another.
The Hot Flashes
Beth Humphrey (Brooke Shields) lives in the town of Burning Bush, Texas with her unfaithful husband, Laurence (Eric Roberts), and teenage daughter, Jocelyn (Charlotte Graham). Upon learning that the town's mobile mammogram unit needs $25,000 or else it will close down, she decides to start a basketball team called The Hot Flashes with former basketball players to compete against the girls' high school basketball team for charity. The Hot Flash team members include, namely, Clementine (Virginia Madsen, who exudes as much charisma and sexiness she did back in the 80's in the cult classic Electric Dreams), Florine (Wanda Sykes), Ginger (Daryl Hannah), Roxie (Camryn Manheim) and Beth. Mark Povinell plays their coach.
While The Hot Flashes does follow a standard, cookie- cutter formula replete with contrived turn of events and some dirty, foul-mouthed humor, it does offer something very refreshing for a modern-day dramedy: characters who are grounded in enough realism so that they're not merely caricatures. Screenwriter Brad Hennig balances the comedy with just the right amount of human drama, i.e the marital problems that Beth is going through, her menopause and her relationship with her daughter who happens to be playing on the opposing basketball team. Admittedly, the transitions between comedy and drama feel a tad abrupt and thereby lead to some unevenness, but those are minor issues. All of the actresses appear to be having a great time playing off of each other, and it's a real pleasure to watch them feeling so great and liberated on screen in roles that don't objectify women. Both Hennig and director Susan Seidelman have tremendous respect for their female protagonists and give each of them a chance to sparkle in their own way.
This isn't a mean-spirited, vomit-inducing comedy in the vein of Bridesmaids; it's more of a drama with amusing albeit uninspired comedy sprinkled with some warmth, tenderness and even a few inspiring, empowering messages about the importance of friendship, teamwork, and persistence.
Jaegers are giant machines co-piloted by humans. Kaiju are giant monsters that threaten to destroy mankind. Jaegar pilots neurally connect themselves to their co-pilots while inside the machines. That's pretty much all you need to know to grasp the essence of Pacific Rim's plot which follows Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a Jaeger pilot who teams up with a new co-pilot, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), to defeat the Kaiju. Both Raleigh and Mako suffer from traumatic experiences in their past: Raleigh lost a brother during a battle with the Kaiju, and Mako nearly died during Kaiju attack when she was little before Pentecost (Idris Elba), the commander of the Jaegars, saved her. Meanwhile, two scientists, Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Geiszler (Charlie Day), try to find ways to gather more info about the Kaiju, i.e. by neurally connecting to their brain. After the first connected succeeds, Geiszler hopes to find another Kaiju brain which leads him to organ-seller Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman).
With a less over-simplistic, dumbed-down and stilted screenplay, Pacific Rim could have been a suspenseful, memorable, smart summer blockbuster. If it has exhilarating action sequences, it could have been fun---dumb and shallow fun, perhaps, but at least it would have been enjoyed enough on a purely superficial level a la Transformers. Instead, director Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham have created a loud, inane sci-fi action thriller with many plot-holes and tedious, increasingly exhausting action sequences. Those sequences have impressive and clearly expensive CGI effects, but the action itself is too hard to see clearly because most of it takes place at night in the rain while the camera moves too quickly for you to absorb or even comprehend what you're watching. The attempts to add some depth to the characters via flashbacks don't effectively increase your emotional investment in these characters' lives; the flashbacks regarding Mako's traumatic past are tacked-on here in a rather contrived fashion. Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi all have decent acting skills and charmisma, but they're underserved by the weak screenplay. Only the cameo by the scene-stealing Ron Perlman adds any kind of oomph to the film; Pacific Rim could have used more of him.
There's no denying that brilliance can be found within Guillermo del Toro as a filmmaker (case-in-point: Pan's Labyrinth). Unfortunately, his brilliance has been washed away here and overrun by the blandness of Hollywood that dumbs everything down for the masses and repeats too many similar scenes over and over. Perhaps there'll be a director's cut in the future that will include some of del Toro's brilliance. For the time being, though, you won't find any of it in this underwhelming version which overstays its welcome at 2 hours and 11 minutes. Please be sure to stay through the first few minutes of the end credits for an additional scene.
Pawn Shop Chronicles