Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: February 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Korea Weekend Box Office – Feb. 23-25

Not much time to write about box office this week. And not much to say about this week’s numbers.

This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
1. Miracle on 1st Street 2.14 335 106,000 1,697,000
2. Dreamgirls 2.22 110 85,000 242,000
3. Highway Star 2.14 265 62,700 1,109,200
4. A Day for an Affair 2.08 270 45,500 1,675,500
5. Babel 2.22 111 39,900 111,400
6. Voice of a Murderer 1.31 243 22,000 3,162,000
7. Hotel M 2.22 229 18,900 136,200
8. Bridge to Terabithia 2.15 127 17,500 347,200
9. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Zero 2.22 124 13,600 63,200
10. Flag of Our Fathers 2.15 96 9,200 199,700

(Source: Film2.0)

Oscar Notes:

  • Congratulations to Martin Scorsese on getting his Best Director trophy at last. Too bad he got it for such a mediocre movie. Definitely a make-up call by the Academy voters.
  • Looking forward to seeing Oscar winners Helen Mirren (whose THE QUEEN fell to No. 15 this weekend in Korea, but might get a bump now) and Forrest Whittaker (whose LAST KING OF SCOTLAND opens here in a couple of weeks).
  • When is CHILDREN OF MEN coming to Korea? I really want to see it.
  • Thanks to C&M Communications, my cable company, for having the cable die right before the top awards were announced. Bah.

  • Wims of Desire

    I forgot to mention over the weekend, but independent distributor Sponge House has announced it will be putting on a Win Wenders retrospective on tour through Korea this spring. And Wenders himself will be coming, too, to meet with audiences and talk about his works.

    Sponge will be showing ALICE IN THE CITIES, IN THE COURSE OF TIME, THE AMERICAN FRIEND, PARIS TEXAS, TOKYO-GA, WINGS OF DESIRE, BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB, THE SOUL OF A MAN, LAND OF PLENTY and DON’T COME KNOCKING. Wisely, there is no sign MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL. Plenty of good stuff though, and several films I have not seen yet. Although I would have liked to see UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD again.

    The main festival will be March 15-28, with Wenders making appearances March 15-22ish (exact details have not been worked out yet). If you are not in Seoul, you are still in luck, as the festival will go on tour — Busan at the Gukdo Theater on March 29-April 11, Gwangju at the Gwangju Theater on April 13-19, Daegu at the Dongseong Art Hall on April 26-29, and Daejeon at the Daejeon Art Cinema on May 3-9.

    Wenders has a bit of a history in Korea. He attended the Pusan International Film Festival in 2000, where he talked for 90 minutes with the audience after a screening of his MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL. And before that, he came to Korea in 1977 to give a lecture at the Goethe-Institut in Seoul.

    My history with Wenders’ work is somewhat mixed. The first time I saw WINGS OF DESIRE (foolishly, on video), I thought it was a pretentious mess and turned it off after less than an hour. But then I got a chance to see it on the big screen and liked it much more. Not long after that, I got to see it in 70mmm, at the gorgeous Capital theater in Baltimore (one of the great old cinemas), with Wenders himself at the screening and answering questions after. At this point, it is definitely my favorite Wenders film. But I like a lot of his other films, too.

    Something I have always found very interesting, though, is the contrast between WINGS OF DESIRE and the follow-up film, FAR AWAY, SO CLOSE. Wenders made WINGS — which I think is a wonderfully spiritual movie — when he was an atheist (or at least not very religious). But not long afterward, he had a major conversion experience and became a strong Christian. He made FAR AWAY as a Christian, and the film definitely has much more explicit religious themes… but I have always considered the film spiritually dead.


    Looks like Korea’s best rapper is back, after a far too long absence — Tasha (also known as “T” and Yoon Mi-rae) had her new album released on Friday (Feb. 23).

    Tasha (or I guess I should call her Mi-rae now) has long been a favorite of mine, with a strong voice and a great hiphop voice. Unfortunately, she had a big problem with her last record label, and has basically been in limbo for the past four years. Great to see her back, though. Congratulations.


    Interesting article in the New York Times today about Deepa Mehta and her Oscar-nominated film WATER. I still have not seen the film myself, but would like to check it out. I mention it because Ms Mehta has signed on to direct Prime Entertainment’s $25-million JULIA PROJECT, starring Cate Blanchett as Julia Mullock, an American woman who married Korea’s last crown prince. You can read Ms Mehta talk about both films here and here.

    24/7 Party People

    Just went to the opening party last night for Chin Won-suk‘s new production company 24/7 Pictures (website will be, but it has not been built yet). Chin was the director of TOO TIRED TO DIE and E-DREAMS, and is currently working on EXPATS, a movie about gangsters, disreputable English teachers and a cunning plan down in Busan.

    Anyhow, it was a nice little shindig, with a pretty amusing cross section of guests from the industry. A few of actors, a bunch of production people, and a few odd hangers-on such as myself. And, of course, the compulsory pig head. Good luck to Won-suk and his new company.

    Otherwise, not much to report. Just been working on the book recently. It is rather amusing the whole book process. Surprisingly different than writing spot news or even longer features for a magazine. I am wrapping up another chapter now and will be starting either SM Entertainment or the Online chapter next (have not decided yet).

    Korea Weekend Box Office – Feb. 16-19

    Another holiday Monday, another extra day to juice the box office. Seollal (Lunar New Year), however, is not a big movie-going holiday, especially this year when it fell on a Sunday, minimizing the amount of free time people would have (most people spent Sunday and/or Monday in the car, coming and going to their families).

    Nevertheless, a pretty big wave of new releases hit this weekend, opening to ride the holiday to a little extra revenue. A full six of the top 10 films this week are new releases.

    Ha Ji-won’s MIRACLE ON 1ST STREET landed in the top spot this week, taking in just under 1 million admissions, or about $6.5 million, from its early Wednesday night opening until the end of Monday (which is much closer to an opening week than weekend).

    No. 2 went to Cha Tae-hyun’s HIGHWAY STAR, where he played an aspiring rocker turned trot star in a wrestling mask. Is anyone else as annoyed by this manufactured trot comeback as I am? I have been known to enjoy a little ppongjjak music from time to time, but the sudden flurry of press and other trot-related product feels really forced and artificial to me.

    VOICE OF A MURDERER is nearing the 3-million-attendance mark, which is not too shabby at all.

    FLAG OF OUR FATHERS was the biggest foreign film, coming in at No. 5 overall (up nicely from its No. 7 early projection), with a little over $1 million in revenue. Undoubtedly MASTER KIMS performed better nationwide, though. I was almost tempted to go see ROCKY BALBOA, which opened in No. 7… but only almost.

    I was nicely surprised by the success of THE QUEEN. Always good to see Helen Mirren doing well, thanks to a little Oscar buzz (at a guess). So was that the first movie ever in which Ms Mirren did not get nude?

    What the heck is a Terabithia?

    And, amazingly enough, 200 POUND BEAUTY finally fell out of the top 10 (it was No. 11). YOBI, THE FIVE-TAILED FOX was twelfth.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Miracle on 1st Street 2.14 390 207,000 962,000
    2. Highway Star 2.14 332 128,900 646,900
    3. A Day for an Affair 2.08 326 127,500 1,389,900
    4. Voice of a Murderer 1.31 285 92,000 2,961,000
    5. Flag of Our Fathers 2.15 102 58,900 151,100
    6. Master KIMs 2.08 294 56,700 915,200
    7. Rocky Balboa 2.14 201 51,800 170,200
    8. Bridge to Terabithia 2.15 134 43,000 193,200
    9. The Queen 2.15 43 21,600 43,300
    10. Charlotte’s Web 2.08 129 18,000 250,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Weekend Box Office – Early Edition

    Oh, what the hey. Here is a fast list of the top-10 over the weekend (via KOBIS).

    1. Miracle of 1st Street
    2. Highway Star
    3. A Day for an Affair
    4. Voice of a Murderer
    5. Master KIMs
    6. Bridge to Terabithia
    7. Flag of Our Fathers
    8. Rocky Balboa
    9. Charlotte’s Web
    10. The Queen

    First We Take Berlin…

    A couple of small Korean connections at the Berlin Film Festival, which announced its awards over the weekend. The big winner at Berlin was the Chinese film TUYA’S MARRIAGE, about life in Chinese Mongolia. TUYA is not a Korean film, however it is being sold internationally (except in Chinese and French territories and Indonesia) by the very Korean Cineclick Asia. So congratulations to them. This is Cineclick’s first non-Korean title (although they have been working on the latest Siddiq Barmaq film OPIUM WARS for a while).

    Park Chan-wook’s I’M A CYBORG, BUT THAT’S OKAY also picked up a small award, the Alfred Bauer Prize for innovation.

    Btw, movie box office report will be a day late this week, thanks to the Seollal lunar new year holiday.

    Btw II, sorry for not posting the January CD sales numbers. I wanted to post them at the same time as the 2006 annual figures were released, but those totals seem to be delayed.

    Black Rain’s Gonna’ Fall

    So, Park Jin-young, the very talented singer/producer and founder/CEO of JYP Entertainment (and management company for the singer Rain), spoke at Harvard U., talking about the Korean Wave and how he would be much happier seeing less mindless nationalism in the media’s coverage of the success of Korea music outside of Korea. Good for him. The Chosun published a brief precis of his speech here.

    First of all, as a pretty strong anti-nationalist, I liked Park’s basic position:

    …[T]here was no Korea. Korea exists neither in my music nor in the hearts of the Americans who recognized me. They just liked my music and bought it. Is this the Korean Wave? Am I a patriot? I became confused. Is the duet by Korean singer Rain and American singer Omarion really Korean music? If Min succeeds in America, could we say the Korean Wave has now swept the U.S.? Or will I be derided as a singer who imitates American singers and a composer who imitates American music?

    So far, so good. What does it mean to be Korean? What is imitating, and what is co-opting? Good questions. But then Park also said things like this:

    I am, in fact, not a man who is making products that can be called Korean culture. Actually, I am making African-American music. I started liking it when I was seven and I have been engrossed in it all my life.

    So, downplaying nationalism in his success abroad, good. But saying he has been making “African-American music”… That is not so impressive. First of all, “African American” is hardly a monolith. American blacks have been instrumental in forming a whole spectrum of music, not just R&B/hiphop. Frankie Knuckles and others were the founders of techno and house. Sure, it bounced off of Europe and Kraftwerk and whatever… but there is no denying the core role African Americans played in developing techno. And rock music. And other music forms (including classical).

    As for soul and R&B and hiphop, all those genres have a great and wide array for sub-genres, and great underground scenes, just like “white” rock/alternative music.* Calling mainstream, poppy R&B/hiphop “African-American music” is pretty lame, imho. Usher? Kayne West? Ugh. There is so much better stuff than that.

    Park is somewhat reminding me of the French-Canadians and French-French and others who have exoticized the sound and culture of the “ghetto” and the suffering the black man… While it is nice to know good music is being appreciated, it also seems to me to be somewhat condescending and stereotyped.

    Anyhow, I guess my bigger point is that Park, like so many musicians in Korea in 2007, does not seem to be digging very deep in his exploration of world music. Still very much in the well. He is obviously very talented and smart and has a lot going for him. But there is a world of difference between being a first-rate follower and a leader. And leaders are what is needed to make a difference. JYP’s singer Rain (or “Bi” or whatever we are calling him) is nice enough, but he is a follower of a follower. Which is the main reason he will never be a significant force in pop music/pop culture.

    I wish Korea had more people trying to lead. To experiment. To try different things. There are a few, but they are not popular and they are very few and far between. And what is truly perverse, if you explore the history of Korean music, you will discover that Korean traditional music was in fact extremely diverse and free-form for hundreds of years, different from anything happening in the rest of East-Asia. Even in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, there was so much amazing stuff going on. But the bureaucrats and mindless military leaders of the modern era deliberately and systematically tried to stamp out those styles, turning Korean music into enka and marching songs and pablum. Korean music for the last 20 years has nothing to do with Korea. Square pegs and round holes. Very frustrating.

    * (Major apologies for all the quotations and slashes… And ellipses… Totally overdone, I know. But that’s the way I roll… and punctuate).

    ** (Oh, a little gossip to end this mini-essay… Maybe everyone knows this already, but Rain’s contract with JYP Entertainment is nearing its end. Just 2-3 months left. And right now most people think he will not resign with JYP. Which is why JYP is pushing so many new acts, like Wonder Girls.)

    Korea Weekend Box Office – Feb. 9-11

    Just a top-nine list this week, at least that’s all Film 2.0 is sharing with us.

    Leading the way is A DAY FOR AN AFFAIR, Kim Hye-su’s first film since re-igniting her career with TAZZA last fall. An R-rated sex-comedy about bored housewives looking for a little fun outside of their marriages… Not a bad opening, heading into the big holiday weekend next week, with 685,500 admissions, or about $4.62 million.

    Last week’s big hit, VOICE OF A MURDERER, lost some steam in its sophomore weekend, dropping to No. 2 and losing about 50% of its box office. VOICE was the first big hit from the new production company Zip Cine. They are a really good, small production house, and I’m quite happy to see them doing well. Zip’s next release will be the new Hur Jin-ho film, HAPPINESS… coming out some time in the summer or fall (date not set yet, although the filming is done).

    Third went to the debut of THE MASTER KIMS, known in Korean by the more elaborate title KIM GWAN-JANG DAE KIM GWAN-JANG DAE KIM GWAN-JANG. CHARLOTTE’S WEB was the other big debut this week, hitting the chart in fourth.

    And… nothing too exciting happening in the top-10 this week. YOBI held on, at No. 9, so has a decent shot at getting a little Seollal holiday bounce next weekend.

    Oh, and No. 10 was APOCALYPTO, in case you were wondering.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. A Day for an Affair 2.08 413 166,000 685,500
    2. Voice of a Murderer 1.31 440 131,000 2,400,000
    3. Master KIMs 2.08 397 104,300 504,600
    4. Charlotte’s Web 2.08 150 37,000 150,000
    5. Click 2.01 151 31,000 333,300
    5. The Perfect Couple 1.25 228 27,000 1,257,100
    7. 200-Pound Beauty 12.14 155 21,700 6,561,800
    8. Curse of the Golden Flower 1.25 162 13,900 897,400
    9. Yobi: The Five-Tailed Fox 1.25 105 10,000 420,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

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