Opens Fri June 30
South Korea has been the hot button of world cinema for the past few years, with films such as Oldboy and Shiri stirring up the jaded palates of rabid fan and casual moviegoer alike. Given the rush of attention and hunger for continued product from the area, it's perhaps inevitable that a dog will occasionally slip by.
Unfortunately, Typhoon feels like just such a canine. A native blockbuster, director Kwak Kyung-taek's movie certainly aims high, but its low-impact bombastics just suggest Bruckheimer, anesthetized.
Following the hijacking of a cargo ship, a clean-cut South Korean Navy man is assigned to follow a charismatic North Korean pirate suspected in the crime. As he begins to form a reluctant bond with his prey, he catches wind of a plot to seed an upcoming typhoon with nuclear goop. The possibilities in a nuke-fueled natural disaster are tantalizing, but the larger stakes are quickly shoved aside in favor of tired espionage gimmicks and sub–John Woo male bonding. Toss in some major structural and narrative deficiencies (foreign movie viewers are a necessarily forgiving bunch when it comes to translation snafus, but having the bulk of significant plot points delivered in an incomprehensibly accented, non-subtitled voiceover is just unpardonable, particularly in an import handled by a major studio), and the results hardly warrant more than a shrug. The US already generates too much of this sort of thing. ANDREW WRIGHT
The Future of Pinball
Opens Fri June 30
Clinton St. Theater
The Future of Pinball is for intense pinball freaks only. And I don't mean you who enjoy drunkenly playing the Sopranos game at the Bonfire now and then—I'm talking to the ones who build the things in your basement; who know the difference between a wire gate switch and a roller actuator.
Director Greg Maletic's hour-long film revolves around a forgotten invention called Pinball 2000, a hybrid of CGI and traditional pinball that flared up a few years back, had a modicum of success, then mysteriously disappeared. With an impressive avoidance of drippy nostalgia, Pinball hypothesizes what that innovative game could have meant to an industry that is slowly, sadly dying.
Maletic's narration of this little tale is nasal, muckle-mouthed, and annoying, but otherwise, the first-time filmmaker has an obvious passion for his subject matter, and shows a keen eye for the craft of documentary. For a film that's almost entirely about the detailed creation process of one, specific pinball machine, The Future of Pinball snaps along pretty well—but it also is very much about the detailed creation process of one, specific pinball machine. If that's not your thing, I suggest you settle for dropping some quarters at Bonfire and calling it a night. JUSTIN W. SANDERS
Sons of Samurai
Fri June 30-Sat Aug 12
Fuck this heat, man. You assholes who go out and play football and ride bikes and get tans make me sick. Me, I'm hermetically sealing myself inside an air-conditioned theater until Portland reverts to a less stultifying climate—and there's arguably no better way to do it than with the Northwest Film Center's "Sons of Samurai" program, which features some killer samurai flicks, all presented in new 35 mm prints.
First up are perhaps the series' best bets: 1967's Samurai Rebellion, starring Toshirô Mifune, and 1968's Kill!, Kihachi Okamoto's action/comedy that brings a welcome sense of humor to the usually dour genre.
Also on deck for the next few weeks: 1962's Harakiri, Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Saga, which stars Mifune in "a comic, stirring adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic play Cyrano de Bergerac," and another Mifune entry, 1966's Sword of Doom. Also, two films from Hideo Gosha: Three Outlaw Samurai (1964) and Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron (1978). Enjoy the sun, suckers. ERIK HENRIKSEN