Set on another planet some years in the future, Avatar delivers a thundering indictment of colonialism (of people), exploitation (of natural resources) and militarism that is old news, frankly, to anyone who's seen a Western from Hollywood's heyday.
As disaster movies go, 2012 is an over-the-top blast of pedal-to-the-metal, 100 percent unadulterated hokum. It works on the nervous system, the retinas and the gut, largely avoiding the cerebral cortex and, thankfully, the tear ducts.
Like every other identity-oriented festival on the crowded Bay Area film calendar, the annual survey of movies by and about indigenous peoples is of substantial interest and value to nonmembers of the tribe (so to speak).
The Informant! takes us into the executive suite to introduce us to the puppet masters pulling the strings of our corrupt economic system. The joke is that they aren't sleek masters of the universe but complacent Midwestern schlubs with expanding waistlines.
Dark comedy, done properly, requires a scabrous view of human nature and a mordant affection for human fallibility. Bobcat Goldthwait is simply too nice for the job. His latest, World's Greatest Dad, has a softness at its center that leaves us with an unsatisfied appetite for blood.
Identity film festivals actively seek out images beyond mainstream movie and television strictures, yet typically gravitate toward positive portrayals. The SFJFF takes a more aggressive and risky approach.
Working in an investigative journalism tradition once honed and now abandoned by U.S. television networks, Robert Kenner's Food, Inc. is a non-sensationalist yet quietly infuriating exposé of U.S. chicken, cattle and corn production. If the phrase "essential viewing" still has any meaning, it applies to this documentary.
For a good many years, the S.F. International Film Festival displayed what might be called casual indifference to the output of local filmmakers. This year, the fest is loaded with Bay Area features, including the opening night selection, Peter Bratt's La Mission.
Ben Rivers cultivates an air of intrigue and mystery in his films, with no intention of providing answers or resolution. You can't accuse him of being calculating or clever, coy or cruel. Not when he's providing so much droll, delicious pleasure.