Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: April 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Silly Sex Tale Limps Along

I went to see an early screening of A TALE OF LEGENDARY LIBIDO (Garujiki in Korean) last night. Man, it really reminded me of why I do not write more reviews and stuff about the movies themselves on this blog — because so many of them are so very, very bad. And I really do not want to spend my time slamming one terrible film after another.

LIBIDO is the latest retelling of a well known smutty song from the 19th century. It is the story of Gang-soe, a tteok-seller in a remote mountain town, famed for its libidinous women. Gang-soe is miserable, though, because he has such a small penis that the town’s women laugh at him constantly.

So one day Gang-soe drinks a magic potion that gives him superhuman virility. And he drinks waaaaaay too much of it. Comedy ensues, followed by the inevitable (for a Korean comedy) 30 minutes or so of crying and tragedy.

Seems like an easy set-up for some easy, sex-based laughs, right? Wrong. I think I half-giggled once and smirked maybe twice, but overall this movie is witless and dull. Director Shin Han-sol is remarkably incompetent, with no idea how to tell a basic story or a joke. The film shifts tones constantly, although remaining generally torpid throughout. On the rare occasions the movie is not lousy, it is actually offensive.

Korea Weekend Box Office – April 25-27

Not a great weekend for the movie business in general. Even worse for Korean film, with local pics getting just the No. 7 and No. 8 spots (unless you count THREE KINGDOMS, which Taewon Entertainment invested in, but I do not).

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Forbidden Kingdom 4.24 439 3.13 3.59
2. Taken 4.09 277 2.21 9.28
3. Street Kings 4.17 233 0.40 1.62
4. Untraceable 4.17 231 0.37 1.30
5. Three Kingdoms 4.03 255 0.29 6.55
6. Bucket List 4.09 66 0.29 1.35
7. The Guard Post (GP 506 – Korean) 4.03 231 0.26 6.23
8. The Chaser (Chugyeokja – Korean) 2.14 126 0.20 33.73
9. Pathology 4.17 156 0.16 0.50
10. Definitely, Maybe 4.09 134 0.13 1.11

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

IRON MAN opens tomorrow. SPEED RACER the week after that. Pretty much some giant Hollywood film opens every weekend for the next month or two. Could be an ugly stretch ahead of Korean movies.

Pentaport Website Open

At last, this year’s PENTAPORT website has opened, with an early (and incomplete) list of the acts playing at the three-day summer festival in July. You can read about it over at the Korea Gig Guide.

Korea Weekend Box Office – April 18-20

Kind of a miserable weekend at the box office, with only one movie topping $1 million, TAKEN. Everything else is mostly sputtering, waiting for the summer movie madness to begin.

(FYI, this year, summer begins April 30, with the release of IRON MAN).

Not a good weekend for Korean movies, either, with only two films in the top 10 — THE GUARD POST at No. 5 and THE CHASER down in ninth.

If it makes you feel any better, it was not even a good weekend for Hollywood. Most of the foreign films on the chart this week were from other parts — TAKEN is French (from Luc Besson’s crew), THREE KINGDOMS and EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS are from Hong Kong.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Taken 4.09 292 2.07 5.97
2. Street Kings 4.17 313 0.75 0.92
3. Three Kingdoms 4.03 336 0.65 6.04
4. Untraceable 4.17 252 0.57 0.68
5. The Guard Post (GP 506 – Korean) 4.03 276 0.42 5.79
6. The Bucket List 4.09 90 0.27 0.90
7. The Empress and the Warriors 4.09 268 0.18 1.13
8. Pathology 4.17 166 0.20 0.25
9. The Chaser (Chugyeokja – Korean) 2.14 150 0.17 33.43
10. Definitely, Maybe 4.09 0.15 0.91

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

For those keeping track at home, the current overall standings are:
– Korea at 52.2 percent of the year’s box office
– United States at 36.6 percent
– Europe at 6.6 percent
– China and Hong Kong at 4.1 percent
– Japan at 1.2 percent

When Life Gives You Lemons, Do Not Make Lemon Cass

So, CASS has a new beer available — Cass Lemon. While the original Cass is probably my Korean beer of choice, most of Cass’s other brands have not impressed. Cass Light is as bad as Capri. Cass Red tastes like the water in my sink after I’ve washed a lot of dishes.

And now there is Cass Lemon. Tonight I tried my first one. The weather has been warm lately, the kind of weather you might like a Corona with a wedge of lemon or lime in it. Good time for a lemon beer, right?

Wrong. It was bad. Bad bad bad. The first thing that came to mind? That scene in ANCHORMAN, when Paul Rudd tried Panther cologne and one woman compared the smell to Bigfoot (or, more specifically, a part of Bigfoot’s anatomy). That is what Cass Lemon is like.

To be more specific… it is a light Korean beer, with less flavor than usual and an overwhelming fake lemon flavor infused into it. It tastes like they took Cass Light and mixed it with Lemon Pledge.


Why cannot one Korean beer company make a good beer? Just for variety… Just to see what would happen.


I Come With the Rain

The Twitch website has dug up a five-minute promo from Tran Ahn Hung’s I COME WITH THE RAIN. Apparently they found it at Daum, but their link appears to be faster, so that is what I am using.

Judging by the promo, this could be one good-looking movie. But what makes it more relevant to me is that you get a few glimpses of the gangster being played by Lee Byung-hun.

When I talked to Lee last year, it was right just before he went to Hong Kong to shoot the film. He was in the middle of a months-long workout/ low-carb program to buff up for the role. You can see the results around the four-minute mark.

Click on the above link to see the promo, or you can just watch it below:

Has He Lost His Mind? Iron Man Invades Korea

I checked out the IRON MAN press junket in Seoul a couple of days ago, which was a pretty amusing event. Last year I missed out on the TRANSFORMERS fun, but CJ Entertainment and Paramount similarly threw another press bash this year. Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. were on a power tour of the world to promote the film — Australia, Korea, Paris, Berlin, New York, LA, and New York again. Kind of neat to see such a big marketing campaign up close.

CJ and Paramount invited about 30 journalists from around Asia for the one and only Asia press event at the Shilla Hotel. And of course there were dozens of local journalists. There were laser lights and b-boy dancers and a whole bunch of bells and whistles. Mssrs. Favreau and Downey Jr. both seemed legitimately surprised by all the hoopla. Kind of annoying, actually, to have 15-minutes of mindless noise and then having less than 20 minutes of Q&A. Only three questions came from the audience, including one from the Korea Times and one from the JoongAng Daily.

(One of whom asked “What do you think of Korea?” and “What do you think of Korean movies?”. I was kind of shocked no one asked if they liked kimchi).

Later in the day, Jon and Rob (because we became that close) had a more sedate Q&A with us foreign reporters, high up in the rooftop lounge of the Shilla Hotel. That was more useful and interesting. Only TV reporters got any one-on-one time with them, but even then, they had barely five minutes. Really fast, in and out.

Fortunately, both Jon and Rob were pretty interesting in their short interviews. Jon seemed especially surprised how much freedom he had to do what he wanted, with little studio interference. I guess one the suits had their advertising campaign mapped out, actors cast, Iron Man armor designed and fights laid out, they had little interest in the talky bits.

It was especially interesting hearing their thoughts because both of them are from a more art-house background, so creating a $180 million action film was an odd change of pace. Rather intriguing to hear their reasoning about why they made the change. Basically, in this day and age, they said, the art-house film isn’t really an art-house film anymore. Even “small”, artsy films are huge exercises in marketing and financing. If you are going to put yourself through that kind of hell, why not do it for a film that lots of people will actually see? Can’t say that I disagree with their logic.

As for the film IRON MAN, I was lucky enough to see that in IMAX earlier in the week. Not sure what kind of embargo there is supposed to be, but you can easily find dozens of reviews all over the Internet already. The story is pretty faithful to the IRON MAN mythology. Downey is great. The armor looks cool (with a tinge of manga to its design). The story is told with some intelligence (at least by the sliding scale that is the superhero movie) and wit. The action itself was perhaps a little underwhelming — not terrible, but not the orgiastic overkill that Michael Bay would do (thankfully).

Korea Weekend Box Office – April 11-13

Nothing really notable to say this week. Except that I just realized that last week I wrote FORBIDDEN KINGDOM when I should have written THREE KINGDOMS. I need to change last week’s chart, but in the meantime, sorry about the error.

Otherwise, nothing too exciting. But will be interesting to see how IRON MAN does at tthe end of the month. Less than two weeks away until IRON MAN hits the screens, signifying the start of the summer movie season.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Taken 4.09 322 1.95 2.78
2. Three Kingdoms 4.03 332 1.18 4.95
3. The Guard Post 4.03 346 1.00 4.94
4. Empress and the Warriors 4.09 291 0.43 0.77
5. Definitely, Maybe 4.09 171 0.31 0.63
6. The Bucket List 4.09 78 0.29 0.47
7. The Chaser (Chugyeokja – Korean) 2.14 224 0.27 33.07
8. The Air That I Breath 4.09 204 0.26 0.48
9. Do Re Mi Fah So La Ti Do (Korean) 4.03 190 0.17 0.89
10. The Other Boleyn Girl 4.30 164 0.19 4.17

(Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 97% of nationwide box office)

Hey Ladies, Get Festy

Last night was the opening of the WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL IN SEOUL. I had missed the festival for a couple of years, so it was nice to return… especially since this year’s opener featured several people I know.

The opening film was called TEN TEN, a collection of six shorts made to celebrate the festival’s 10th edition. Most interesting to me personally was HERS AT LAST, which was directed by Helen Lee, produced by Hanna Lee, and starring a couple of friends of mine (including the not-very-Korean So Ron-go). I just hope all the fame and fortune will not go to their heads too quickly.

BLIND DATE by Jang Hee-sun was the best of the short films, about an overweight, 30-year-old woman being pressured by her mother to go on a blind date. That turns into one of the worst blind dates ever, but perhaps not unredeemable. Quite funny and well done.

DRIVING MISS GRANNY and RABBIT had some good moments, too.

This year’s WFFIS opening was held at the National Museum of Korea, which is quite a venue. I had not been there since the huge building was finished and I was rather impressed.

But most of the rest of the film festival will be held at the Art Reon theater in Shinchon, a much more convenient location. Worth checking out. The section on Fantasy and Fantastic Films looks especially interesting.

(Btw, sorry for the terrible headline. All I could think of).

RAIN Returns to the TIME 100

What is it with RAIN (aka Jung Ji-hoon) and TIME magazine? For the third year in a row, RAIN is competing in the TIME MAGAZINE DORKY EXCUSE TO BOOST ITS HIT RATE, otherwise known as the TIME 100. Actually, as I write this, he is not just competing — he is dominating.

1. Rain – 87 avg. rating – 208,455 votes
2. Stephen Colbert – 81 rating – 43,206 votes
3. Britney Spears – 80 rating – 84,560 votes

11. Nelson Mandela – 71 rating – 6,729 votes
13. Dali Lama – 70 rating – 7,089 votes
29. Nikki Finke – 56 rating – 4,223 votes

If you want to submit questions for Rain, you can do so here.

TIME’s write up for RAIN is kind of funny:

He’s training his successor? At 25? That’s either the smartest or the saddest thing ever.

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