Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: June 2008 (page 1 of 2)

I’m Your PiFan…

The organizers of the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) made their official announcement of this year’s fest earlier in the week. And as usual, it looks like a pretty loaded festival, with oodles of special sections for just about every taste.

PiFan will open on July 18 and run until July 25. Opening film is WALTZ WITH BASHIR by Ari Folman. Closing film is the world premiere of CYBORG, SHE, the latest by Kwak Jae-young. All told, PiFan will screen 205 films from 39 countries.

Highlights this year include:

  • Codename Dorans: Korean Hwalguek Cinema in Japan in Hong Kong. A look at eight actions films from the 1960s to the 1980s that were coproductions with Japan and Hong Kong.
  • 100 Years of Nikkatsu. Eight films from the famous Japanese studio, ranging from 1934 to 1975 (and one new film).
  • Grindhouse Revisited. Four “classic” sexploitation films, complete with crappy trailers. Includes CHAINED HEAT.
  • Q-Rious. A collection of queer films.
  • Gregg Araki.Four of his films.
  • Contemporary Russian Genre Films.
  • A restored print of Kim Ki-young’s THE HOUSEMAID.
  • OM SHANTI OM, the big Bollywood hit from last year.

    As usual, PiFan will also have several concerts going on, all held in the grass courtyard outside of Bucheon City Hall.

  • July 19: Windy City, Kingston Rudieska
  • July 20: Crying Nut, YNot
  • July 21: Gopchangjeongol, Sato Yukie, Mina Jung
  • July 22: Limer, Drifters (b-boy team), Bubble

    In addition, PiFan has started an industry section called NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films), which will feature a project market, industry screenings, seminars and the like. Most of that stuff will not be open to the general public, but it will make my life busier.

    Anyhow, there is way too much to see, depending on your tastes and interests, for me to list everything. Check out the PiFan website to see it all.

  • Phoo-E

    Just found out that the newest Pixar film, WALL-E, has had its opening pushed back to July 31. Buena Vista bastards. The film had been scheduled to open nearly at the same time as North America (July 3 in Korea), but now they expect us to wait a month? Terrible. Looks like the DVD pirates around Seoul just found a major winner for the next month.

    Suffice it to say, this had been the Hollywood film I was most looking forward to seeing this summer. WALL-E looks like it will be solid writing combined with several attempts to push the envelope for a mainstream movie. Plus it looked like really smart science fiction. If you don’t believe me, you can check out the trailers for yourself.

    And now I have to wait. Bah.

    Kim Ki-young DVDs Coming!

    Great news — the Korean Film Archive is finally putting out a 4-DVD box set of Kim Ki-young’s movies. It’s about time!


    Kim, of course, is one of Korea’s most famous directors from the 1960s, most notably for his 1960 thriller THE HOUSEMAID (which also featured a young Ahn Sung-ki).

    The box set will feature GOREOJANG, PROMISES, CHUNGNYEO and, best of all (imho), I-EOH ISLAND.

    Now, you may notice that Kim’s best-known film, THE HOUSEMAID, is not included in the box set. But do not fear — I was told today that THE HOUSEMAID is going to be released very soon on its own.

    You might also like to know that the Korean Film Archive’s screening room in Sangam-dong is in the middle of a Kim Ki-young retrospective, with most of the films being shown with English subtitles.

    If you want to learn more about Kim Ki-young, Seoul Selection published a book about the great director recently. You can order a copy here.

    Korea Weekend Box Office – June 20-22

    At long last, a Korean film is back on top of the box office, Kang Woo-suk’s PUBLIC ENEMY RETURNS. Like you would expect from a Kang film, it opened strong, with 1.4 million admissions over the weekend (around $7 million). The big question is how well it will hold up over the next couple of weeks. Kang’s SILMIDO kept on strong to 11 million admissions, but ANOTHER PUBLIC ENEMY and HANBANDO fell off more sharply, ending up with 3.9 million million admissions each.

    The other Korean movie in the top-10, CROSSING, is quite interesting, considering it has not even been officially released yet. Release is set for June 26, but already the film is on 100 screens. In case you have not heard, director Kim Tae-gyun’s CROSSING is about North Korean defectors and the terrible dangers that await then as they try to get out of North Korea, through China, to freedom.

    With so many thousands of people taking to the streets in recent weeks over American beef and Lee Myung-bak, it will be interesting to see how much of a response an actually important subject draws.

    This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
    1. Public Enemy Returns (Gangcheoljung – Korean) 6.19 806 7.53 9.16
    2. Kung-fu Panda 6.05 604 4.05 21.66
    3. Incredible Hulk 6.12 415 1.25 5.68
    4. Get Smart 6.19 249 0.64 0.75
    5. Sex & the City 6.05 285 0.54 6.43
    6. 21 6.19 87 0.39 0.45
    7. Doomsday 6.19 264 0.36 0.44
    8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 5.22 217 0.23 26.59
    9. The Happening 6.13 293 0.21 2.27
    10. Crossing (Korean) 6.26 110 0.10 0.13

    (Source: KOBIS – Figures represent 98% of nationwide box office)

    Is Rokon Off?

    Just heard about an odd announcement on Facebook — looks like the magazine Rokon is having a farewell party on June 27 at Sortino’s in Itaewon. Does that mean Rokon is no more?

    Seoul has several free English-language magazines — ROKON, GROOVE, and ELOQUENCE (not to mention one not-so-free magazine, SEOUL). While Rokon was definitely the prettiest of the freebies, it was not exactly a fountain of music news or cultural insight. Probably for the best that the few people writing useful articles move over to the remaining mags and try to make something more substantial.

    The history of English-language ‘zines and publications in Korea is a sad but long one. The best way to learn about it is to pick up a copy of J. Scott Burgeson’s book KOREA BUG, which has a great 70-page essay about English-language publications in Korea, from Ernest T. Bethell’s KOREAN DAILY NEWS to Skunk Hell’s BROKE IN SEOUL.

    For an overview of more recent indie publications, like K-SCENE and ROKON, Scott has another essay here.

    They Should Have Done ‘Atlantic Princess’

    Okay, this is strange. American rock group WEEZER has apparently covered a Boa song. The ballad MERI KURI (aka, MERRI CHRI) is supposed to appear on the Japanese version of Weezer’s newest record, THE RED ALBUM.

    When I went to Amazon.co.jp, I could not find the song listed on any of the versions of THE RED ALBUM, however I found a download of Meri Kuri here. (Video of Boa’s Korean version is here. Japanese version is here).

    The mind boggles.

    Korea Weekend Box Office – June 13-15 (late!)

    Sorry for putting this week’s top-10 up so late. Crazy busy week here.

    KUNG FU PANDA is really on a tear, beating out a couple of big new entries in its second weekend. Nearly 1 million tickets in its second weekend? With $16 million so far, if PANDA keeps it up, it could become the most successful animated film ever in Korea (assuming you don’t consider films like RETURN OF THE KING to be animated).

    IRON MAN finally dropped out of the top-10 this week (it was xxth), giving it a final total of 4.3 million admissions, or $27.8 million.

    I was surprised that the two Korean films, LIFE IS COOL and LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, had such limited releases (just a dozen screens or so). Are their distributors trying a soft release? Or did they just give up?

    This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
    1. Kung-Fu Panda 6.05 633 5.88 15.90
    2. Incredible Hulk 6.12 529 3.00 3.45
    3. The Happening 6.13 304 1.39 1.62
    4. Sex & the City 6.05 362 1.18 5.22
    5. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull 5.22 351 1.01 26.07
    6. What Happens in Vegas 5.29 192 0.28 4.43
    7. Black Heart (Heuksim Monyeo – Korean) 6.12 216 0.23 0.27
    8. Flash Point 6.12 175 0.12 0.14
    9. Girlscout (Korean) 6.05 223 0.10 1.38
    10. Prince Caspian 5.15 ?? 0.072 9.22

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

    TV Studio Burns

    The Chosun Ilbo has pictures of a fire that engulfed a historical drama set at a KBS-TV lot in Suwon on Thursday (June 12).

    (HT: Korea Beat).

    Korea Weekend Box Office – June 6-8

    Holy crap! Korean movies in May had their worst month on record — just 7.8 percent of the boxoffice. KOFIC says that is the lowest level they have since 2000 (when they started tracking). Ouch.

    Just one Korean film in the top 10 this week, GIRL SCOUT, so the bad news is going to continue for at least a little while longer.

    Oh, and I am going back to tracking attendance, at least for this week. For some reason KOBIS is not updating, so I am using Film 2.0 stats, and they only track attendance. Not sure yet what I am going to do going forward.

    (UPDATE: KOBIS finally updated its website. And this week’s numbers were slightly different than the earlier estimate, so I have updated below)

    This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (billion won) Total Revenue (billion won)
    1. Kung Fu Panda 6.05 632 7.40 8.09
    2. Indiana Jones and the Bored Our of My Skull 5.22 527 3.78 24.43
    3. Sex & the City 6.05 412 2.41 3.02
    4. What Happens in Vegas 5.29 299 1.01 3.83
    5. Girl Scout (Korean) 6.05 292 0.88 1.05
    6. Prince Caspian 5.15 236 0.57 9.09
    7. The Eye 6.05 123 0.35 0.41
    8. 88 Minutes 5.29 236 0.32 1.76
    9. Iron Man 4.30 99 0.15 27.75
    10. Body 5.29 118 0.079 0.69

    (Source: Film 2.0)

    As bleak as things are at the moment, they should start looking up soon, as some of Korea’s biggest films of the summer start to unroll — PUBLIC ENEMY 3 on June 19, CROSSING on June 26 and THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD on July 10 17.

    Not so big but potentially interesting is the rotoscope romantic comedy SHE WAS COOL on June 12, Kwak Jae-young’s latest exercise in too-much-is-just-enough MY MIGHTY PRINCESS on June 26, and the historical epic THE DIVINE WEAPON on Aug. 7.

    Will Korea Ever Get the iPhone?

    Apple head honcho Steve Jobs just announced the brand-spanking new 3G Apple iPhone, and it looks quite nice. NY Times story on the announcement here. One quibble on the story, though — it ends with:

    The only major countries without an iPhone distribution agreement are Russia and China.

    Does that mean the iPhone has a distribution agreement with South Korea? Or that Korea is not considered a “major country”? Apparently the second instance is true, and Korea is not getting the iPhone yet (last paragraph in that link).

    For geopolitics, I agree that Korea is not a big fish. But for telecom and mobile services? Please. The Korean market is so much bigger than China’s. The Korean market is a major one.


    It gets tiring dealing with dimwitted editors in New York or wherever that don’t get this. Like how everyone squeals about how big the China movie market is growing, when Korea’s is well over twice as big. Of course, at the rate China is growing (assuming you believe their statistics)(which I do not), and the rate Korea has stopped growing, China could overtake the Korean movie market in three or four years. But still… the point is Korea has been a bigger movie market than China for a decade (which, considering China’s past, essentially means that Korea has always been a bigger movie market than China).

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