Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: March 2007 (page 1 of 2)

To Bae or Not to Bae…

Friday I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Bae Doona‘s travel photography book DOONA’S LONDON PLAY (big thanks to Taste Factory for that). LONDON PLAY was published by Taste Factory together with the entertainment company Yellow Media in summer last year, and features pictures by and about the actress Bae Doona as she traveled in London.

Of course, Bae Doona has been in a lot of TV shows and movies, including THE HOST, LINDA LINDA LINDA, BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE and TAKE CARE OF MY CAT (although the less said about TUBE or SPRING BEARS LOVE the better).

I would never claim to know any celebrities based on their characters or how they appear at press conferences, but I have long liked Ms Bae. Not sure why, but there has always been something appealing and real about her. A little odd, but in a good way.

If you are a big fan of Ms Bae, good news, she has another book coming out soon — BAE DOONA’S TOKYO PLAY.


So I checked out the Slacker show on Friday, and I must say it was really good. Not just Slacker, but Kingston Rudieska and Suck Stuff, too. And I am not a ska/punk fan, either. Good crowd, too… A very nice mix of Koreans and foreigners, old and young, cool and me. Hopefully Matt and the DGBD crew will have more shows like that in the future.

Suck Stuff was the punk band… but either they have really gotten better since I last saw them, or else I am remembering a totally different band. Usually I quite dislike punk, but I thought they were solid.

Kingston Rudieska, on the other hand, I outright enjoyed. Nice brass section, mellow, hipsters without being annoying. Very much in the mood of Asoto Union, although different genres. Their homepage is here, and their Cyworld page is here. Their CD was recorded at Cavare Studios, of course, where so much of Korea’s most interesting stuff is done (although they are not a Cavare band, I think, given their non-status on the Cavare website).

And The Slackers were also very good. I do not know much about the band, but I gather they have quite a following. Really reminded me of the neo-hipster scene that used to hang out in swing circles a few years ago (not that I am intimately acquainted with either scene… but that was the impression I received).

Will try to get some pics up from the show some time soon.

UPDATE: Here is an image of Kingston Rudieska that their manager just sent me.

Random Notes – Vol. 2, No. 5

  • THE HOST just topped $1 million in revenue in the United States, in just its 17th day of release there. Production company Chungeorahm is claiming this is the fastest that any Korean film has hit the $1 million mark in the United States… not that there is much competition. SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER … AND SPRING was the most successful Korean movie in the US, earning $2.4 million, but taking six months to do so. TAEGUKGI made $1.1 million in three months (most of that in the opening couple of weeks, but I guess it took a while to hit $1 million. OLDBOY never made it to $1 million, earning just $707,391.

    One good sign for THE HOST — the number of screens it is on has increased. It opened on 71 screens and has moved up to 94 now. In comparison, SSFW&S opened on just 6, but grew to 71 during its run. TAEGUKGI opened on 29 and made it to 34, but declined pretty quickly. OLDBOY grew from 5 to 28.

  • More interesting, imho, is how well THE HOST is doing in China. Chungeorahm says it has now made about $1.5 million on some 280 screens (the most ever for a Korean movie). The press release claimed this is the first time a Korean film has been the top movie in China for over a week (it kept the top spot for its first two weeks, but was overtaken last weekend).
  • American ska band The Slackers will be playing at DGBD on Friday night. Tickets are just 20,000 won. Sign claims the show starts at 8:30, but I have never seen a show start on time there.

  • Art Gallery Ssamzie Space (in the Hongik University area) has a new show by Global Alien opening on Friday (March 30). Titled “Freedom of Speech”, the show will run until April 14. I do not know much about Global Alien, but I feel like I should be talking about art shows more. Will try to mention them from time to time.

  • Chung Jiho asked me to mention the kickoff of the first Subtitle Film Festival from April 12 to 15 at the MPark 4 Theater in Los Angeles. Do I have (m)any readers in LA? Anyhow, it will feature nine Asian films, including AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, HANGING GARDEN and MEMORIES OF TOMORROW. Check out Subtitle Media‘s homepage for more information.
  • Aye! Of the Tiger

    Hi all. As you can see, I am giving advertising a try out on my site for a while. I’m sure there will be plenty of fiddling with the design and such over the next day or so while I work the bugs out (and get those ad links to work). Please be patient.

    And drink lots of Tiger Beer.

    Korea Weekend Box Office – March 23-25

    300 continued its reign of terror this week, accounting for over 38% of all tickets sold and easily taking the No. 1 spot. The $3 million it took in over the weekend brings its 10-day total to around $12.7 million.

    The second place film, PERFUME was a big surprise to me. I had barely heard of the movie before, although I have been quite enamored of its poster for the past few weeks…. Hrm, apparently the ignorance was mine. I bit of Googling revealed this was quite a big movie. The $65 million period movie has made over $120 million around the world. Mostly in Europe, though. Just $2.22 million in the United States since its release at the very end of 2006. In only three days in Korea, however, PERFUME pulled in around $2.1 million.

    Jim Carrey’s THE NUMBER 23 made about $1.3 million, good enough for third. Better than I might have guessed, considering the movie’s reviews and how Carrey’s films have rarely done well in Korea.

    Jennifer Aniston’s THE BREAK-UP opened quite tepidly in fourth.

    Much more interesting is the No. 6 debut of MUG TRAVEL. Is this Korea’s first computer 3D animated feature film? I think it is. Clips from MUG TRAVEL have been scattered around the Internet for quite some time now, and I cannot recall how many years I have seen segments at trade fairs. According to the movie website, MUG TRAVEL is the story of little Bebe, who gets a magical pendant one Christmas, then travels to magical lands in a big magic mug. Or something like that. The movie also features a bear named Backkom, but I do not know his relationship with Bebe. It looks well rendered, but I don’t know about the story. I might check it out this weekend if it is still around. I am rather curious about it.

    You can check out stills here. And clips of animation here. From the website, it looks like its creators, Aaron Lim and RG Animation, will be making more.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. 300 3.14 318 191,900 1,912,500
    2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 3.22 232 85,200 317,600
    3. The Number 23 3.22 170 62,400 203,800
    4. The Break-up 3.22 150 46,000 132,000
    5. Lyrics and Music 2.28 131 35,400 984,900
    6. Soo 3.22 244 25,500 136,600
    7. Mug Travel 3.22 37 14,200 50,400
    8. The Illusionist 3.08 179 13,400 565,800
    9. Big Bang 3.14 237 10,600 332,300
    10. The Painted Veil 3.14 84 6,800 113,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Hong Kong Filmart – Mini Report

    Well, so much for posting daily reports on the Hong Kong Filmart. I intended to, but I have just been way too busy. Which is a good problem, I guess.

    The big news, from opening night, was that South Korea’s THE HOST was the big winner at the inaugural Asia Film Awards, picking up awards for Best Cinematography, Best Actor Best Effects and Best Film.

    As for the market itself, it has been fairly hopping, especially the opening day. It does tend to lose a little steam as the week goes on, but there is still plenty happening. Filmart is housed in the Hong Kong Convention Center, a huge, bulbous structure built on reclaimed land in the Hong Kong harbor.

    Filmart is quite different from the Pusan International Film Festival and market. Although there are films being screened and an accompanying film festival, it is much quieter than PIFF. The market is bigger, or at least it feels a lot bigger, since it is held in that huge convention center (PIFF’s film market is held in a beachfront hotel). Just the vibe in general is different — more business, less art, perhaps. Still, I quite like Filmart, and I quite like coming to Hong Kong.

    The most personally notable part of the market for me was the surprise visit of a big nose pimple, right on opening night. Nothing like having a thousand meetings lined up, and suddenly having this nasty red thing growing in the middle of your face. Sigh. Luckily, the harsh convention center lighting made it a little less visible.

    Korea Weekend Box Office – March 16-18 Hong Kong Edition

    Greetings from Hong Kong! The Hollywood Reporter has graciously sent me to the Hong Kong Filmart, to spend the week writing about movie deals and industry schmoozing and the like. For my money, the Pusan International Film Festival is more fun, but HK Filmart has perhaps more in terms of movie business. This week is always incredibly busy, but I will try to check in once or twice to comment on how things are going.

    Meanwhile, back in the world of Korean movies, 300 had the big opening, just like we suspected — took in just over $7 million, counting from the early Wednesday night opening.

    MUSIC AND LYRICS BY continues to chug along, once again in second place.

    Otherwise, not a whole lot to note. 300 kind of overpowered most of the competition… plus I need to get some sleep for a long day tomorrow. Cheers.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. 300 3.14 353 262,800 1,031,500
    2. Music and Lyrics By 2.28 131 60,600 837,500
    3. The Illusionist 3.08 240 39,700 467,100
    4. Big Bang 3.14 224 34,300 210,100
    5. The Painted Veil 3.14 105 28,000 76,000
    6. Pursuit of Happiness 2.28 140 21,900 573,600
    7. Miracle on 1st Street 2.14 222 14,000 2,683,000
    8. Dreamgirls 2.22 66 11,000 700,000
    9. Little Runner 3.14 135 8,900 29,200
    10. Smokin’ Aces 3.08 133 5,200 147,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Sam Baek

    Just checked out 300 last night and it was a total blast. Totally over-the-top, totally violent and totally fun. Totally unhistorical, too, but that was not the point.

    Even though just about everyone has heard all about 300 already (and probably seen it, too, judging by its monstrous opening box office), and even though it has nothing to do with Korean pop culture, I liked it enough that I am going to prattle for a bit.

    In fact, I think most critics (judging by comments over at Metacritic) have been really off base about 300, calling the film a video-game wannabe or a glorification of fascism and militarism. In fact, the 300 is a celebration of spectacle for its own sake, very much in the vein of Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, with its beautiful excess and blood-drenched style.

    There is a definite Frank Frazetta thing going on, too. Compare these two images. First from the movie:

    And Frazetta:

    Rather liked this image, too:

    It amazes me how often movie critics do not “get” was some films are about. Like how so many people thought STARSHIP TROOPERS was a defense of fascism, when it was clearly a parody of it.

    Frank Miller revolutionized the comic book industry back in the 1980s and 90s with his crazy violence and sex, and then he kept turning up the volume (until reaching the SIN CITY books). People are going to his comics as source materials for their movies, not because of the plots, but for their style, tone and atmosphere. In the process, they are creating something new (at least for movie-goers). Which is something a lot of jaded, over-movied critics seem to forget sometimes — the average movie fan wants not only spectacle, but also new kinds of spectacle. Which is one reason that comic books are such a fertile source of new ideas… not only do they have visual stories, but they suggest a whole visual vocabulary and atmosphere.

    (Amusingly enough, many critics go in the other direction. After seeing too many (bad) movies, they often prefer originality in story, with less interest in technique and style. Same basic urge, but expressed in a very different way.)

    Anyhow. 300. Liked it oodles. But your results may vary.

    UPDATE: It is looking like 300 will be big here in Korea, too. On Wednesday alone, on less than 300 screens, 300 pulled in around $820,000. Sounds like it should top 1 million admissions by Sunday night (which for March is pretty impressive).

    Korea Weekend Box Office – March 9-11

    Well. This week’s box office could have been posted three hours ago. But as I was compiling it, I was confronted by the question: “What the heck is SMOKIN’ ACES?” Never heard of the film. A quick Metacritic search later and I had my answer: A dumb mobster/hitman movie, starring Jeremy Piven. Lots of guns and insubstantial style and, again, dumbness. So I did a quick check on the Internet and discovered a screening was starting in 20 minutes near my house. I went. I saw.

    I was mildly amusing, but not as much as I had hoped. I am still relying on 300 to slake the violence-loving-nerd beast within. In the meantime, I am back from the theater, ready to report on the top-10.

    Anyhow, leading the box this week, once again, is MUSIC AND WORDS BY, now having earned about $4 million since its release. At least it lead this box office report. KOBIS had the No. 1 spot going to THE ILLUSIONIST (like SMOKIN’ ACES, lots of technique and style, but rather dumb). But on this chart, THE ILLUSIONIST was No. 2.

    In general, not a lot happening on this chart. MIRACLE ON 1ST STREET had now sold over 2.5 million tickets, making it a solid (although not spectacular) hit. Even YOBI: THE FIVE-TAILED FOX made a mini-surge, rising to 12th this week (up from 19th last week), having now topped 458,000 admissions.

    Look for lots more excitement next week, as oodles of new releases hit the screens. Will 300 be as big a surprise in Korea was it was in North America last weekend (where it made $70 million)? I doubt it. But I know I will be sending at least $7 to Warner Bros.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Music and Lyrics By 2.28 136 87,400 609,900
    2. The Illusionist 3.08 242 73,900 255,300
    3. Pursuit of Happiness 2.28 140 55,000 482,300
    4. Miracle on 1st Street 2.14 274 44,000 2,551,000
    5. Dreamgirls 2.22 114 44,000 650,000
    6. Smokin’ Aces 3.08 136 33,000 111,000
    7. Highway Star 2.14 237 20,100 1,601,700
    8. Shim’s Family 3.01 168 18,500 290,500
    9. Hannibal Rising 2.28 182 12,900 247,500
    10. Hoola Girls 3.01 69 5,000 45,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Monday Morning Host

    Early word coming in THE HOST, which was released in the United States and China last weekend. Box Office Mojo reports that THE HOST pulled in $320,000 in 71 theaters. That works out to No. 23…

    But since it was on a relatively small number of films, that gives it the 8th best per-screen average. And 4th best among films on over 20 screens.

    China numbers will not be out until later today or early tomorrow… will update as soon as I know.

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