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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #269  (Vol. 6, No. 20)  This edition is for the week of May 16--22, 2005.

The Saga That Is Star Wars
 by Mike Smith
And for those who missed Mike's preview in #267:
"Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith"  by Mike Smith
The Quest For Decency In America
 by Nick King
Why I Hate Star Wars....He's Dead, Jim
 by Vinnie Blesi
Chan-wook Park....Matango
Inaugural column  by Peter Card
Sith For A Buck
 by John Lewis
One Pope To Go!?
 by Matt Drinnenberg
May 19th....Frank Gorshin....Money In The Bank....Jaws: The Story, Part 19
 by Mike Smith
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Asian Film Update by Peter Card

Hello and Welcome to my first edition of the weekly Asian Film Update. This week I will be discussing the possible remakes of two Chan-wook Park films as well as reviewing Ishiro Hondaís 1963 masterpiece Matango.

Chan-wook Park
Chan-wook Park, one of Koreaís most visually and intellectually stunning directors of today, is best known for his revenge trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and the yet to be released Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Parkís mise-en-scene relies heavily on depth of field and he uses this to great effect in moments of great action or great drama. I was hesitant before my first encounter with his work because I expected his films to be like most of Asian movies these days, flashy, overindulgent, and filled with base shock value over content. At first glance Oldboy falls into the category of shock cinema, although this film hardly if at all ever goes to simple shock tactics. Its unknown what type of film Oldboy is for at least 30 minutes because it starts out as an escape drama for the main character and hardly any ďactionĒ has happened yet. My point is that Parkís films are special and he has proven himself as a skilled director.

American studios have heard the buzz around Parkís films and seizing on the popularity(?) of Asian film remakes for America, they have planned an Oldboy remake and now a remake of Joint Security Area (2000) is remoured as well. This is most unfortunate and highly offensive in the case of Joint Security Area. Iíll admit that Hollywood could remake a comic book adaptation like Oldboy quite easily. Iím sure it will do halfway decent in box-office and Iím even willing to bet that the remake of Oldboy will feature clever nods to the first revenge movie ever made, Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003).

Iíll be lazy and quote IMDbís plot description of JSA to bring you up to speed. ďIn the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier. But the 11 bullets found in the bodies, together with the 5 remaining bullets in the assassin's magazine clip, amount to 16 bullets for a gun that should normally hold 15 bullets. The investigating Swiss/Swedish team from the neutral countries overseeing the DMZ suspects that another, unknown party was involved - all of which points to some sort of cover up. The truth is much simpler and much more tragic.Ē As for Joint Security Area, this film is supposed to be changed from an emotionally charged political drama discussing the line between North and South Korea and brotherhood to the USA/Mexico border. Is this set in 1848? because unless we are at war with Mexico how will this even logically make sense? Oh, I know! Letís do like a Tom Clancy thing. We will have an isolated situation filled with paranoia and xenophobia while learning an important lesson. Thatís a prediction, maybe that sounds a little silly but you never know in todayís world of 3 remake announcements a day.

Moving on to Matango and a more enjoyable subject, praising a wonderful film! Ishiro Honda directed many Toho special F/X powerhouses such as Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Destroy All Monsters. The idea about monsters from radiation carried political overtones however the idea became a little lost in translation when Godzilla got a kid, there were monsters from Space and so on. However, I do understand that the Burr-less Godzilla is a brilliant critique on war and atom bombs. Perhaps of less acclaim but better writing is Matango. Iíll try not to ruin too much of the plot for you, however Media Blasters chose to release this film with the title, Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People. This ruins the first act and some of the second actís suspense. Fortunately itís not the monster that is important here, itís the characters and their reactions to their situation. Matango features some dynamic characters without resorting to stereotypes. Being shipwrecked on an remote island has been used many times by beach party type movies although they never work since the characters are uninteresting and without sympathy. Matangoís drama alone propels the story along quite smoothly without making us wonder when the next scare is coming. Watching this, I often thought of Romeroís dead trilogy, Carpenterís The Thing and oddly enough Fulciís Zombi. I wonít say how this stacks up to those films but I would say that Matango is Japanís Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The film was highly entertaining and both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. Matango is out on DVD in America by Media Blasters and should most likely be at your local best buy. With such a low price and a great presentation there is no reason not to buy this gem. Well thatís all for this week.

"Asian Film Update" is ©2005 by Peter Card.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.