Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: May 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Heh. Got some love from THE KOREA TIMES today.

Good Posters (And Bad or Weird)

Here are a couple of early posters for Kim Jee-woon’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD. I would say that the images are good, the cut lines are somewhere between bad and weird (or at least clumsy). Enjoy.

In case the posters are too small for you to read well, they say:
Poster #1 – Never be sure who is good, bad or weird in 1930s Manchuria
Poster #2 – A man who was too proud to be bad
Poster #3 – A man who desired too much to be good
Poster #4 – A man who was too wacky to be good or bad

Korea Weekend Box Office – May 25-26

We have a new champion for the title of biggest ever opening in Korea. Kind of. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3: AT WORLD’S END sold 2.71 million tickets since it opened on May 23, good for about $19.6 million.

The previous champ, THE HOST, opened to 2.63 million admissions and about $17.5 million. However, POTC:AWE (okay, PIRATES is easier) got the benefit of a longer opening, hitting screens on Wednesday and then getting a holiday Thursday. Just to compare, PIRATES 3 in Seoul, Friday to Sunday, had 474,500 admissions. THE HOST had 540,000.

But that is academic. As far as the studios are concerned, an opening can begin Wednesday, so it all counts. Congratulations PIRATES 3, you can collect your prize at the door.

Want more data? I have got oodles. PIRATES 3 had the biggest percentage of the box office ever, accounting for 71.3% of all tickets sold last weekend. And its 912 screens is just ridiculous (nearly half the screens in all of Korea): easily a record. In fact, Korea was nearly PIRATES 3’s most successful non-USA opening in the world.
Worldwide – $205.5 million
UK – $25.8M
Korea – $19.6M
France – $16.7M
Germany – $16.9M
Japan – $15.7M
Russia at $13.7M
(Figures courtesy Deadline Hollywood).

Lee Chang-dong’s SECRET SUNSHINE won a much more interesting prize than just bags of money at the box office — it picked up the Best Actress Award at Cannes, for the lead Jeon Do-yeon. This is the first time for a Korean actor to win the top prize at one of the three major European film festivals (Cannes, Berlin, Venice) since Kang Soo-yeon won at Venice for THE SURROGATE WOMB, way back in 1987 (although Moon So-ri did win the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best newcomer at Venice in 2002 for another Lee Chang-dong film, OASIS).

Anyhow, SECRET SUNSHINE opened at No. 2, with 350,000 admissions nationwide. Much better than Lee’s OASIS did was back in the summer of 2002, which opened with 200,800 admissions. OASIS eventually pulled in about 1.2 million admissions when its run finished, about two months later. The Korean film market is a very different place than it was back then, but I still hope SECRET SUNSHINE does well.

No. 3 for SPIDER-MAN 3. Of course PIRATES 3 was going to devastate its numbers, but, wow, what a one-week drop. From 627 screens around the nation to just 290 (“just” 290), and a 75% drop in admissions. I am sure SHREK 3 will do much the same to PIRATES 3.

In fourth we have the first Korean horror film of the summer, THE EVIL TWIN (a revival of THE LEGENDARY TOWN television series).

The Japanese film TEARS FOR YOU made it over 100,000 admissions, a fairly rare occurrence for Japanese films. Good for TEARS.

MARIE ANTOINETTE made the top 10, despite appearing in just two theaters. In general, PIRATES gutted the rest of the top-10 this week.

This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
1. Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End 5.23 912 474,500 2,713,300
2. Secret Sunshine 5.23 266 73,300 350,000
3. Spider-Man 3 5.01 290 31,100 4,830,100
4. The Evil Twin 5.23 202 29,700 240,400
5. Next 5.17 140 22,000 402,000
6. Unstoppable Marriage 5.10 238 21,400 1,135,100
7. Tears for You 5.17 55 3,000 111,300
8. Shooter 4.26 11 1,500 516,000
9. Marie Antoinette 5.23 2 1,400 5,900
10. The Reaping 4.19 18 1,200 705,600

(Source: Film2.0)

Calling All Artists…

I just received a rather interesting email from the very cool art gallery Alseorim. Located in Bukcheon Hanok Village, Alseorim in a new gallery that is housed within a beautiful restored hanok. Just a great setting.

Alseorim is looking for foreign artists who would want to participate in an exhibition there. This particular exhibition will be held in November, but the folks at Alseorim will be having an initial meeting for anyone interested on May 30. If you are interested (or know someone interested), the gallery can be contacted at

Live Music in Tokyo

I am a little late, but I just read a really interesting post at Ken’s Japan Live blog about the Tokyo underground scene. Ken’s blog is always a fun read and a good way to learn about Japanese music. I wish I had half his energy and dedication to the local live scene here in Seoul (not to mention half as many interesting bands). One of these days, I am going to put together a listing of the coming concerts in Seoul…

The Secret’s Out, and Other Random Notes

  • The first reviews of Lee Chang-dong’s SECRET SUNSHINE are in. And they are quite positive. Kirk Honeycutt at The Hollywood Reporter gave the film an extremely glowing review, while Derek Elley at Variety was generally supportive, praising Jeon Do-yeon a lot, but also thinking the end was long and unfocused.
    (NOTE: Edited to fix my crappy writing. I is writer, so I writes good).

  • A very good story about Lee Chang-dong and SECRET SUNSHINE here at the International Herald-Tribune. Most exciting for me, the story confirms my long-held suspicion that PEPPERMINT CANDY was inspired by a Harold Pinter play. I was sure Pinter wrote a play with a similar structure (going backwards in time), but I could never remember the name. Now I know — BETRAYAL.

  • Reuters also has a story on SECRET SUNSHINE. Yet more praise for Jeon Do-yeon. Dare we hope for a best actress award for her?
  • Depressing news about Korean movies at Cannes. Not sure what I think of that article, though. Of course pre-sales are down — most of the films that pre-sold well in the past were complete dogs. I guess Korean filmmakers lost a lot of trust in the international marketplace, and now buyers want to see what they are getting before committing resources to any project. But when those good projects do come out, then the buyers will be back.
  • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END is about as muddled as POTC: DEAD MAN’S CHEST. Not as inventive, more action, and equally long and dragging. Too bad neither film was able to catch lightning in a bottle the way POTC: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL did. That first PIRATES film is still one of my favorite Hollywood action films of the last 10 years. Great writers’ commentary track on the DVD, too.
  • The convenience store near my house just started selling cans of Guinness beer. This makes me very happy.
  • Korea Weekend Box Office – May 18-20

    SPIDER-MAN 3 was on top again this week (raising its total take to $31.4 million), no great surprise there. But it is definitely losing steam, now accounting for 31.9% of the box office. Two films are closing the gap, with over 22% of admissions each.

    SHREK 3 does not open until June (to sync with the local school schedule), so that behemoth did not challenge Spidey here last weekend… But PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3: WORLD’S END should provide strong competition when it opens Wednesday.

    In the meantime, No. 2 was UNSTOPPABLE MARRIAGE again, with 0% dropoff from last weekend (at least in Seoul). That is right, it sold 86,700 tickets in its opening weekend in Seoul and the exact same last weekend. That is rather impressive, and good counter-programming by Lotte Entertainment (its distributor).

    After the strong showing by Ken Watanabe’s MEMORIES OF TOMORROW a week ago, I was surprised to see another Japanese film, TEARS FOR YOU, do much better this weekend. Over 89,000 admissions already (about $600,000). In fact, in just three days, it lapped MEMORIES OF TOMORROW (now with 83,000 admissions). TEARS FOR YOU was something of a surprise hit last fall in Japan, earning just over $30 million there, making it the ninth biggest Japanese movie of 2006.

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Spider-Man 3 5.01 627 122,500 4,577,000
    2. Unstoppable Marriage 5.10 315 86,700 1.008,500
    3. Next 5.17 140 85,000 259,000
    4. Tears for You 5.17 136 26,600 89,200
    5. Paradise Murdered 4.12 196 13,800 2,244,100
    6. My Son 5.01 235 11,300 478,300
    7. Shooter 4.26 82 11,000 478,300
    8. Sorrow Even up in Heaven 5.17 83 10,000 29,200
    9. The Reaping 4.19 75 7,800 697,700
    10. Memories of Tomorrow 5.10 95 7,100 83,000

    (Source: Film2.0)

    Actually, MEMORIES OF TOMORROW was in 11th, according to the official KOBIS chart. But the No. 10 film was not really a film at all, it was some sort of promotional event for the On Style cable TV station. I guess FILM 2.0 does not count such things.

    BREATH, Kim Ki-duk’s latest film, was waaaaaay down in 31st. It is one of the films in competition at Cannes, and so far it has gotten pretty good reviews in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY, although not enough to register on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic (as I write this, anyhow).

    The other Korean film in competition at Cannes, SECRET SUNSHINE, does not open in Korea until Wednesday.

    Korea Poop Wars

    As a member of the press (well, kind of), I find myself on all sorts of mailing and emailing lists. Some are quite helpful, some are less so, and some are just sort of odd.

    So I open my mailbox a few days ago, and what do I find? TOILET WORLD #1 (meaning the first issue, not an issue dedicated to number one-ing). They even have a website, handily available in Korean, Spanish, French and Arabic.

    The World Toilet Association, that newsletter tells me, grew out of the Korea Toilet Association, which was founded in 1999. The newsletter features a Q&A with toilet ambassador Jeffery D. Jones (on page 10, although the About Jones section at the end is nearly as large as the interview) and a related AP article by Burt Herman (page 11).

    Although the urge to make dumb jokes is high (toilet humor), the WTA points out the 2.6 billion people in the world are without access to adequate toilet facilities, which is a direct contributor to several nasty infectious diseases.

    (Coincidentally, Korea is also home to one of the more important groups tackling those very diseases, the International Vaccine Institute, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year. A great group, that is really making a difference around the developing world. Believe me, you do NOT want to catch Shigella ever).

    Anyhow, if you would like to learn more about toilet culture, the WTA is having its inaugural general assembly meeting at the COEX Convention Center in Seoul on Nov. 21-25.

    Playing and Arting Around

    Apparently publishing books of your photography, travels, fashion and whatnot has become something of a trend, at least among some of Korea’s more interesting celebrities. First came Bae Doona with her book LONDON PLAY. And now the singer Lee Sang-eun has written the book “ART & PLAY.”

    Last night was the book launch for ART & PLAY, over in the Hongik University area. The official event was at some basement club, and was incredibly crowded and hot, so I made only a quick appearance, then ran to the unofficial after party at my friend’s bar.

    Lee Sang-eun is one of Korea’s more interesting singers, in my humble opinion. Like so many before her, she won a talent contest when she was just 18 and quickly became a big pop star. However, some time in her 20s, Sang-eun decided that she was not interested in being a dumb pop plaything and got out of the game. Instead she started writing her own songs, traveling around the world, and being the generally eclectic person that she is.

    What made last night so much fun for me was that her book is in large part about her friends, most of whom were at the party. Many of the pictures in her book were also taken at the after-party bar. So looking around and talking to people, it was almost like living the book, or being in a tableau vivant, or something like that.

    Anyhow, Sang-eun is gone already… back to Japan, where she is recording her newest album with some famous Japanese producer whose name I have already forgotten. But I imagine her new album will be out before too long.

    ART & PLAY is being published by a pretty small company, M&K Books. But with Sang-eun now signed to Ssamnet, hopefully we will be seeing more of her and her book.

    UPDATE: I looked around Sang-eun’s website and found out that she is recording at Kaneda Studio in Okinawa. Okay then.

    Korea Weekend Box Office – May 11-13

    An interesting week for seeing the difference between local blockbusters and foreign blockbusters in South Korea. SPIDER-MAN 3 had another strong week on top of the box office, accounting for an impressive 57.1% of all admissions, bringing its two-week total to 3.9 million admissions, or about $26 million. Very impressive.

    Compare that to THE HOST. Sure, SPIDER-MAN 3’s opening weekend was comparable to THE HOST’s. But at the end of THE HOST’s second weekend, it had taken in 6.7 million admissions. That is 72% MORE than SPIDER-MAN 3. On around 150-200 fewer screens, too.

    The moral is, Hollywood can open films in Korea as big as any Korean hit, but the box office power of Korean films comes from their staying power and their ability to draw big outside of Seoul. Remember, it was not that long ago that TERMINATOR 3 set an opening weekend record in Korea (then just a wimpy 1 million admissions), but it was not even on the year’s top 10.

    In No. 2 this weekend was that comedy UNSTOPPABLE MARRIAGE, about a meeting of the nightmare in-laws-to-be. PARADISE MURDERED is still chugging along in third, a month after it was released.

    Fifth spot is more interesting, with the opening of Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s MEMORIES OF TOMORROW. Ken Watanabe won a Japan Academy Award for his role as an advertising agent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (Russell Edwards wrote a good review here). 45,000 is pretty good for a Japanese melodrama (last year, only one Japanese movie had more than 100,000 admissions, a level MoT should reach) (that was THE SINKING OF JAPAN, which had around 250,000).

    The Hong Kong action film DRAGON TIGER GATE opened down in eighth, with just 8,800 admissions in Seoul. However it was more popular in the rest of Korea, with its 51,000 admissions beating MEMORIES OF TOMORROW. Last year, only one Hong Kong film beat 100,000 admissions, Jackie Chan’s ROB-B-HOOD (108,000 admissions).

    This Week Title…………………………………. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Attendance (Seoul only) Total Attendance
    1. Spider-Man 3 5.01 745 259,600 3,894,000
    2. Unstoppable Marriage 5.10 300 86,700 409,700
    3. Paradise Murdered 4.12 231 24,300 2,142,600
    4. My Son 5.01 257 19,700 398,700
    5. Memories of Tomorrow 5.10 100 18,000 45,300
    6. Shooter 4.26 104 15,000 443,000
    7. The Reaping 4.19 97 12,400 652,200
    8. Dragon Tiger Gate 5.10 143 8,800 51,900
    9. Bunt 4.26 135 4,600 374,500
    10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4.26 105 2,900 186,400

    (Source: Film2.0)

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