Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: April 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Korea Weekend Box Office – April 27-29

Totally anemic box office this past weekend. Call it the calm before the storm, as SPIDER-MAN 3 is set to be unleashed on Korea in just two hours from now (as of posting time, of course). With the unofficial holiday tomorrow, oodles of theaters around Seoul (and, I would presume, around Korea) will be launching the third webslinger film at 12:30 am.

My prediction? Certainly the film will top 1 million attendance on the Friday-to-Sunday cycle. But as for the week-long “weekend” opening… I would be willing to guess 1.7 million (around what RETURN OF THE KING and TAEGUKGI did). Maybe even 2 million. But I am pretty sure THE HOST’s 2.6 million record opening is safe.

PARADISE MURDERED was the No. 1 for the third week in a row, but it did so with just 80,100 tickets sold in Seoul (figure around $537,000). In nearly three weeks, PARADISE has made about $11.4 million.

SHOOTER (or DOUBLE TARGET as it is known in Korea) was the top new film, in the No. 2 spot. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (I am not about to call it TMNT) had a pretty weak opening, way down in sixth. MY TUTOR FRIEND 2 is definitely a big flop, with just 443,000 tickets sold in 10 days.

Outside of the top 10, Kim Ki-duk’s new film, BREATH, had a pretty tiny opening, with just 2,811 admissions (way down in 21st).

MEMORIES OF MATSUKO has now pulled in 15,765 admissions (and was in 19th last weekend). Not a runaway art-house hit, or a hit at all, I guess. But a reasonable success, which is pretty nice to see for such a quirky little film.

This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
1. Paradise Murdered 4.12 313 80,100 1,703,100
2. Shooter 4.26 149 54,000 191,000
3. The Reaping 4.19 127 57,900 439,100
4. Bunt 4.26 253 40,700 179,100
5. My Tutor Friend 2 4.19 242 33,000 443,000
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4.26 243 19,700 76,000
7. Meet Mr. Daddy 4.19 233 13,400 264,900
8. The Show Must Go On 4.05 121 12,400 985,300
9. The Good Shepherd 4.19 81 10,000 86,000
10. Meet the Robinsons 4.19 97 7,000 78,400

(Source: Film2.0)

Jeonju Film Festival

I just spent a couple of days down at the Jeonju International Film Festival (which runs until May 4, so you still have time to check it out, if you are in the area).

The key “gimmick” JIFF offers each year is a digital triptych film they produce. The give three directors from around the world some funding to make any kind of digital short film, then the three are shown together. This year, for the first time, instead of using Asian filmmakers, JIFF organizers approached three European directors — Eugene Green, Harun Farocki and Pedro Costa.

Farocki made RESPITE, a silent documentary using real 16mm footage from the Westerbork transit camp, where 100,000 people passed on their way to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Costa made THE RABBIT HUNTERS, about a shanty town on the outskirts of Lisbon. It was the most narrative of the three, following a copule of old guys as they sniff snuff and try to get by.

Eugene Green made CORRESPONDENCES, about a young man and woman emailing after meeting at a party. This was more of a poem, with the two characters’ thought juxtaposed by nicely composed, artsy shots of them sitting around their apartments. The French people I was sitting beside were not much impressed by their attempts at poetry or philosophy or whatever.

Overall, most people seemed to think this year’s short films were a little weaker than usual. But I have only seen a few of the previous years’ films, so it is hard for me to say.

Although all three digital shorts were European this year, Korean filmmakers still got some juice, as JIFF introduced a second triptych this year. Called Short! Short! Short!, this uses only up-and-coming Korean directors. But I did not get a chance to see that film. Hopefully it will be shown in Seoul some time soon.

I also saw Mamoru Oshii’s latest, TACHIGUI: THE AMAZING LIVES OF THE FAST FOOD GRIFTERS, which was pretty painful, although somewhat interesting stylistically. Oshii used a style somewhat like the realism/animation hybrid of AVALON, but made it a lot more cartoony. And with a lot of dead spots, where nothing happened as the narrator went on and on and on and on. Like GHOST IN THE SHELL 2, but much worse.

Outside of the movies, there were concerts at night. I saw the very weird Japanese band YMCK, which has music that sounds like an old Atari video game (kind of like this). Not the kind of music I would like to listen to for hours on end, but weird enough that they were pretty amusing. The crowd (mostly Korean high school and college kids) seemed to quite like them.

Anyhow, even if you could not make it to Jeonju, many of the JIFF films will be playing in Seoul soon, particuarly at the Cinematheque. In fact, there will a Harun Farocki special from Tuesday to Sunday.


In unrelated news, I just checked out Danny Boyle’s science fiction movie SUNSHINE. And the film is real mess. At times an amazing mess, but definitely a mess. Why does it seem like almost every science fiction movie these days turns into a serial killing horror film? One character in SUNSHINE actually jokes about that cliche, and then the movie falls right into the same trap. It is like the filmmakers did not trust that audiences would find a serious science-fiction story to be interesting enough, so grafted on a totally unnecessary additional story arch. Very disappointing.

Actually, it felt like the studio had really mucked around with the movie, cutting out key information and turning the movie into a real muddle. But who knows, maybe it was just Boyle’s mess. I would say it is almost worth seeing, just for the visuals and music…

Random Notes – Vol. 2, No. 7

  • I just received my copy of THE KOREAN WAVE: AS VIEWED THROUGH THE PAGES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES IN 2006… which was sent to me because I have a story in it. Actually, I have the very first story (my May 28 feature on Bong Joon-ho’s THE HOST), which made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Published by the Korean Cultural Service New York, THE KOREAN WAVE is a fairly handsome volume, full of some really good stories (if I do say so myself) by a wide variety of writers. In fact, of the 52 stories in the book, only three are by local correspondent Norimitsu Onishi.
  • One funny point/criticism about the book, though. It does not contain my other feature that appeared in the NYT last year — the one about North Korea. I wrote a feature on the documentary CROSSING THE LINE (which you can read on my blog here). In fact, in the index in the back of all the Korea-related cultural stories in the NYT over 2006, it did not get mentioned. Was Daniel Gordon’s little documentary about am American defector to North Korea not “Korean” enough? I don’t think so. There were stories on Korean-Americans in America and a whole bunch of things only tangentially related to Korea. My guess is that the subject matter was too sensitive. Oh well.
  • The Party Pooper’s play-by-play about the Rain vs. King Bhumibal, Korea vs. Thailand feud over some Time magazine online poll is too funny.
  • Whatever happened to the big plans for Seoul City Hall? The City announced this grandiose plan for a giant new building, tore down the old City Hall side building and put up a big, construction-like fence… and now, from the best I can tell, they are installing a parking lot and small park.
  • Good news — Hongdae is about to get its very own Quiznos sandwich shop in May. I will mention the location as soon as I find out where it will be myself.
  • Korea Weekend Box Office – April 20-22

    Sorry I am late this week, but here is the proper box office listing. Not a whole lot to see… PARADISE MURDERED was No. 1 for another week, but it was hardly an overwhelming victory. Just $8.4 million in ten days.

    The Nos. 2 and 3 films are once again a good example of the Seoul/countryside split. Even though THE REAPING won quite handily in Seoul, with 27% better attendance than MY TUTOR FRIEND 2, TUTOR 2 won nationwide by 15%.

    Im Kwon-taek’s BEYOND THE YEARS has dropped out of the top-10 already. And 300 is on the verge of doing the same. But for the most part, the industry seems to be treading water until SPIDER-MAN 3 comes out on Tuesday. Oh, and Kim Ki-duk’s BREATH on April 26.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Paradise Murdered 4.12 353 109,700 1,251,300
    2. The Reaping 4.19 129 64,900 196,700
    3. My Tutor Friend 2 4.19 249 51,000 228,000
    4. Meet Mr. Daddy 4.19 246 32,600 149,000
    5. The Show Must Go On 4.05 238 26,300 937,900
    6. Sunshine 4.19 129 19,800 68,100
    7. Ghost Rider 4.12 229 18,600 330,100
    8. The Good Shepherd 4.19 90 18,000 50,100
    9. Meet the Robinsons 4.19 103 13,900 49,700
    10. 300 3.14 96 13,600 2,952,800

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Sorry for the late box office this week. Deadline looming like the Sword of Damocles. Will update tomorrow. But for now:
    1. Paradise Murdered
    2. Reaping
    3. My Tutor Friend 2
    4. Meet Mr. Daddy
    5. The Show Must Go On

    Music Execs Killed the Radio Star

    Okay, so the movie industry can be pretty dumb at times. But why is the music industry so actively and aggressively evil? And stupid. So very, very stupid.

    I complain based on the decision in the United States to dramatically raise royalty payments on Internet radio. Over the last couple of years, I would say that well over half of my CD purchases have come from acts I have heard via Internet radio. No Internet radio means no purchases, and no money for the record labels. How is that equation difficult to understand?

    Time to re-listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”….
    Everybody knows that the fight is fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich stay rich,
    That’s how it goes…
    Everybody knows.

    Btw, there is on online petition to save Internet radio over here.

    (UPDATE: I don’t seem to have “Everybody knows” on my computer. So instead I listen to “My Secret Life”. Which is apropo of nothing… but it is a good song.)

    Oldboy and a Young Killer

    Wow. The New York Times (and others, doubtlessly) is linking Cho Seung-hui’s murder spree in Virginia to the Park Chan-wook film OLDBOY. Read about it here (while you still can, anyhow). The pics in question:

    Hrm. The photo is not displaying properly here, for some reason. Anyhow here is the OLDBOY picture we are talking about:

    [… Okay, so I cannot post pictures at all right now? Is something broken over at Blogger HQ? I have no idea. Will try to fix later. In the meantime, use the links.]

    What does it all mean? Sadly, I doubt it means much of anything. Mentally ill people are capable of latching onto just about anything. The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” was, after all, “inspiration” to Charles Manson. OLDBOY was a gripping, violent film, but it certainly was not a cause of anything. Nevertheless, it is a disturbing image, in a story full of disturbing images.

    Random Music Notes

  • A pretty decent show shaping up at club DGBD in Hongdae on Saturday night:
    Cocore, 3rd line Butterfly, Bulssazo (all beginning at 9pm, I believe)

    Actually, I do not know much about Bulssazo, but I am a big fan of 3rd Line Butterfly, and Cocore just had a new album. Is this their album release party? If it is not, then they had their album release party very recently.

  • Friday could be okay, too (although not so much to my taste):
    Hooligan (21:00~), The Rock Tigers (22:00~), Copy Machine (23:00~), No.1 Korean (24:00~), Groupie (01:00~)
  • There is also a new show starting at Ssamzie Space in Hongdae on April 24 called SOUND ART 101. From the exhibition announcement:
    …the exhibition offers an introduction for the general audience to the joy of contemporary sound arts by focusing on the very foundation of sound art.

  • It has already been a fairly busy week for live shows for me. Checked out RIGOLETTO on Sunday. Seriously underwhelming. Gilda was quite good and I am told the Rigoletto is one of Korea’s best-known tenors (although he was suffering from the lingering effects of a cold, or so I was told). But the art design seriously left me cold.

  • Last night I finally saw my first Cirque do Soleil. Cirque has its QUIDAM show in Korea at the moment, and it was great. I was even dragged out of the audience to participate in the show. I think nothing like that has ever happened to me before. They have been written about to death over the past three decades, so there is nothing I can add. QUIDAM is playing in Korea until June, so plenty of time to check it out.
  • Korea Weekend Box Office – April 13-15

    Not a lot to report this week. Things were generally slow, I guess (typical for April).

    A new No. 1 film this week, PARADISE MURDERED. Seems like an interesting story, although I have not seen it yet.

    THE SHOW MUST GO ON suffered a pretty big second-week decline, plunging 58 percent. I guess people did not like it much.

    Nick Cage’s GHOST RIDER opened in third. Was never a fan of the comic book.

    Im Kwon-taek’s 100th film, BEYOND THE YEARS, might be an impressive achievement, but it scored a less than impressive opening, way down in seventh. SOPYONGJE (the 1993 prequel) never pulled in anything like 70,000 admissions in Seoul in its opening weekend… but that film ran for a year when it racked up its then record at the box office. That said, I still want to check out the film in the theaters while I can. I had to miss the big preview at the beginning of the month, which was very disappointing.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Paradise Murdered 4.12 383 154,400 660,200
    2. The Show Must Go On 4.05 374 61,200 805,100
    3. Ghost Rider 4.12 240 50,600 204,200
    4. 300 3.14 187 31,400 2,883,300
    5. Smalltown Rivals 3.29 260 30,000 1,161,000
    6. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 3.22 186 19,000 982,600
    7. Beyond the Years 4.12 201 18,800 70,200
    8. Because I Said So 4.05 141 16,400 192,100
    9. Black Book 3.29 36 6,500 182,500

    (Source: Film2.0)

    It was not one the Film 2.0 list, but KOBIS says that the No. 10 film was MUG TRAVEL. That animated film has now sold over 120,000 tickets.

    French film LES CHEVALIERS DU CIEL is in 11th, with 48,000 admissions.

    MEMORIES OF MATSUKO opened down in 13th, with around 4,000 admissions. But it was on just a few screens. Not a huge opening, but I hope it catches on.

    Numbers were a little off this week, but March and April are usually slow periods. There were the slowest two months in 2004, and the Nos. 2 and 3 slow months last year (November was even slower).

    March’s 9.77 million attendance nationwide, however, was the highest on record (up around 5,000 from last year). Korean films had a pretty bad month, as their 21.6% of the box office was the lowest percentage since December 2004.

    Overall, the first quarter’s attendance of 39.56 million represents the second-best total of all time, although down 12% from last year’s 44.99 million.

    Yongsan Crackdown?

    Had a bit of a surprise when I went to Yongsan Electronics Market today. When I walked down the main road, where all the pirate DVD vendors are, I discovered a distinct lack of pirate vendors. Instead, I found this:

    (Sorry for the crappy quality… I only had my mobile phone camera with me)

    There were no vendors at all on the street. Not anyone selling anything. Instead, they were playing that familiar Korean protest music and sitting on aluminum foil mats, protesting.

    From what I can gather, a private company, Najin Industries, has taken control of the street vendor racket in Yongsan, and has given the boot to all the black market merchants who used to line the road. The DVD pirates were, of course, not taking this lying down. Well, they were lying down on their mats, but they were not going without a fight. They put up posters on the new vendor stalls, voicing their rage.

    Fast crappy translation:
    “Street Vendors of Iron”
    Under flag of the national street vendor association, come together and fight through blood and sweat to get our things back. Only by getting together can we live….
    Ugh. It repeats the same silliness over and over.

    Hey, it’s the street vendor liberation song! You will have to imagine the martial tunes blaring on the loudspeakers, but here are their heartfelt words:
    1) The more we are stepped on, the more we will stand up. We are fighting street vendors.
    2) Even the if government will try to kill us, a million street vendors will march forward together.
    Chorus: We will not retreat, to be human. We will get back all the disrespect at once.
    Ahhhh. A million street vendors’ brothers, the promise we made, let’s win liberation.

    And we had this handwritten sign:

    “We’ve been here 10 years. We’re very poor, barely able to get by. As a father of my family, for 10 years, Najin Industries has been oppressing us, so we have nowhere else to go. We have to fight. Najin Industries has been lying to street vendors and they tried to make a fight between store vendors and street vendors. Najin Industries should receive our challenge.

    “Najin should immediately stop removing the street vendors without offering alternatives. Guarantee our lives. Najin should be responsible for where we stay.”

    Okay, I told you my paraphrase was fast, loose and crappy. But the original material is not going to win any poetry awards either. From the department of redundancy department.

    There is something pretty special about so much self-righteousness coming from people whose entire livelihoods are built on stealing intellectual property.

    So what does this all mean? Is Korea finally getting serious about cracking down on piracy? Nothing would make me happier if that were the case. Getting serious about combating pirate bootlegs would do more to help the local media business than any number of screen quotas or government-sponsored investment funds. However, a quick walk through the basement of the building right next store to the demonstrations revealed this:

    Yep. plenty of places where you can buy all your usual Japanese anime and American TV shows. So if you need to stock up on your DVD collection, do not worry, there are still plenty of good locations.

    Not that I bought any illegal DVDs. No, that would be wrong. Even for the shows that have not been released in Korea but that my girlfriend and I really want to see, that would be wrong.

    And in an unrelated note, THE WIRE is the best television show, period. I quite enjoyed watching several episodes of season 2 this evening.

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