Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: September 2008 (page 1 of 2)

Korea Weekend Box Office – Sept. 26-28

After three weeks of being the bridesmaid, MAMMI MIA was at last the bride last weekend. Or, to be less annoyingly cute, MAMMA MIA took over the top spot in the box office after three weeks of landing in second, behind THE DIVINE WEAPON. Pretty amazing staying power for the ABBA tribute film and yet another sign of the power of the musical in Korea. Just imagine how well the film might had done if Pierce Brosnan could sing?

Just 60,000 admissions behind THE DIVINE WEAPON, could MAMMA MIA end up being the more successful film by the time their runs are over? Oh well, I guess the horserace really does not matter much… but still, it has been fun to watch.

As for new films, TRUCK, HELLBOY 2 and MY DEAR ENEMY all opened this weekend, with TRUCK doing the best. Not surprising HELLBOY 2 did not do so well, as the theater I saw it in was pretty much empty. Still, it did much better than the original HELLBOY, which opened in seventh with just $250,000, and dropped out of the top 10 less than two weeks later.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Mamma Mia 9.04 413 1.84 20.68
2. Truck (Korean) 9.25 337 1.41 1.66
3. Divine Weapon (Shingijeon – Korean) 9.04 439 1.41 21.67
4. Hellboy 2 9.25 355 1.20 1.36
5. My Dear Enemy (Meotjin Haru – Korean) 9.25 389 1.15 1.36
6. Rough Cut (Yeonghwaneun Yeonghwada – Korean) 9.11 305 0.92 7.60
7. Our English Teacher (Ulhakgyo Iti – Korean) 9.11 219 0.21 4.08
8. Don Quiote 9.25 87 0.18 0.19
9. Mirror 9.18 245 0.14 1.28
10. In Bloom 9.25 128 0.10 0.12

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

Plenty of interesting looking Korean films at the moment, but I am going to try to catch them at PIFF, I think. If I have any strong opinions about them, I will try write about them soon.

Korea Weekend Box Office – Sept. 19-21

Another neck-and-neck weekend for THE DIVINE WEAPON and MAMMA MIA!, with WEAPON winning by just 12,000 admissions and only $10,000 (I guess WEAPON sold more student tickets, giving MAMMA MIA a revenue advantage). After three weeks, both films are doing quite well, both on the verge of zipping past the 3 million attendance mark.

Similarly, OUR ENGLISH TEACHER beat THE MIRROR by attendance, but since I rank by revenue, THE MIRROR came out on top. THE MIRROR is, of course, the Hollywood remake of that goofy Korean horror film INTO THE MIRROR.

I wonder how HELLBOY 2 will do in Korea. I saw it last night and the theater was just about empty.

Johnny To and Wai Ka-fai’s violent cop thriller MAD DETECTIVE opened in 15th, so did not make this chart. Just $15,000 on 8 screens.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. The Divine Weapon (Shingijeon – Korean) 9.04 568 2.74 19.34
2. Mamma Mia! 9.04 468 2.73 17.52
3. Rough Cut (Yeonghwaheun Yeonghwada – Korean) 9.11 367 1.61 5.99
4. The Mirror 9.18 248 0.76 0.89
5. Our English Teacher (Ulhakgyo Iti – Korean) 9.11 360 0.75 3.67
6. The Children of Huang Shi 9.18 278 0.46 0.57
7. Loner (Oetoli – Korean) 9.18 241 0.29 0.35
8. Earth 9.04 149 0.14 1.2
9. Flower Over Boys 9.11 190 0.11 0.81
10. Bangkok Dangerous 9.11 196 0.11 1.25

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

Late…

Sorry for not updating. Crazy week. Hopefully I will have more time tomorrow evening to do the box office and make a couple of comments.

But if you must know, THE DIVINE WEAPON and MAMMA MIA are once again neck-and-neck at the box office. Both are doing quite well.

C’est Fini

At long, long last, it looks like I finally finished my book, POP GOES KOREA. I mean, sure I had “finished” it several times before… But there is finished and then there is finished, if you know what I mean. There are so many phases to making a book, it can be a little drawn out and frustrating.


First you finish your writing. Then you finish the editing (or answering your editor’s questions). Then you finish the color insert. And just now, I finished going over the galleys and re-checking everything.

By the way, the color insert looks really great. It took a little work and some back-and-forth, but the final product looks sharp and cool. I like the design concept for the section, and, despite space restrictions, I think we did a decent job at getting a large array of actors, singers and other entertainment icons in there.

Now POP GOES KOREA is off to the indexer, which will likely take a couple more weeks. Then my publisher, Stone Bridge, just needs to prep the book for actual printing.

Current plan calls for the printed book to be ready by November, and on store shelves by December. In time for the Christmas gift season (hint hint).

I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor

Well, looks like Boa is finally ready to make her big push into the United States. The teaser video for her first American song and video is online. It’s called I’ll Eat You Up.

American Version:

Asian version:

Or you can go here for the American version. Or here for the Asian version.

Certainly respect in the American market has been the Holy Grail of the Korean music industry for some time. But with the exception of the reggae singer Skull (and, back in the 1950s and 60s, the Kim Sisters), there has been very little success by Korean pop singers over there.

I cannot claim to understand the tastes and trends of hip young people anywhere in the world, so I will refrain from speculating about how Boa’s American promotion will go. But best of luck to her.

Korea Weekend Box Office – Sept. 12-14

Much like last weekend, THE DIVINE WEAPON and MAMMA MIA! fought neck-and-neck for the top spot at the box office. And just like last weekend, THE DIVINE WEAPON won (although for some strange reason, Variety and Hollywood Reporter box office stories claimed that MAMMA MIA won. But not true).

FINAL CUT, the movie-within-a-movie tale of gangsters in the film business, had an okay opening, landing in third. Kim Soo-ro’s latest comedy was fourth.

Two Japanese films in the top 10 — 20TH CENTURY BOYS in sixth and BOYS OVER FLOWERS in seventh.

Looks like THE DARK KNIGHT is pretty much finished. But it did crawl past 4 million admissions, for a solid showing (although far, far from the records it set in North America).

WALL-E fell out of the top 10 this week, coming in at 11th. WALL-E’s run in the theaters is nearly finished, but at least the film topped 1 million admissions. Would be a crime for a film that good to have done anything less.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. The Divine Weapon (Shingijeon – Korean) 9.04 598 3.97 12.04
2. Mamma Mia! 9.04 516 3.70 10.83
3. Rough Cut (Yeonghwaneun Yeonghwada – Korean) 9.11 402 1.85 2.23
4. Our English Teacher (Ulhakgyo Iti – Korean) 9.11 383 1.23 1.41
5. Bangkok Dangerous 9.11 231 0.53 0.64
6. 20th Century Boys 9.11 269 0.45 0.64
7. Boys Over Flowers 9.11 185 0.27 0.34
8. Dark Knight 8.07 121 0.20 26.48
9. Earth 9.04 213 0.17 0.77
10. Star Wars: Clone Wars 9.04 249 0.098 0.48

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

Oh, Hell(boy) Yeah

I was pleasantly surprised a couple of nights ago when I suddenly started to see a flurry of ads on TV for HELLBOY 2. I was getting worried the film might not be released in Korea.

Anyhow, here is a little list of some notable films coming out in the next couple of months:
Sept. 18
– Mad Detective

Sept. 25
– Hellboy 2
– My Dear Enemy (the new Jeon Do-yeon film)

Oct. 2
– Burn After Reading
– Gogo 70s
– Modern Boy

Oct. 8
– Dream (the new Kim Ki-duk film)

Oct. 16
– Sagwa (will the three-year-old film finally see the light of day?)

Oct. 23
– Body of Lies

Nov. 5
– Quantum of Solace

Btw, I am really curious about a lot of the coming Korean films. MY DEAR ENEMY is the latest by Lee Yoon-ki, who directed the much praised THIS CHARMING GIRL and the absolutely lousy LOVE TALK (and AD-LIB NIGHT, but I did not see that). So I consider MY DEAR ENEMY to be something of a tie-breaker. In ENEMY, Jeon Do-yeon plays a jobless, broke 30-year-old who tries to collect some money from an ex-boyfriend. But he is broke, too, so together they meet up with his various ex-girlfriends and try to get money from them. Intriguing set up and Jeon looks great in the trailer.

Why MODERN BOY and GO-GO 70’S are being released head-to-head, I have no idea. They are both looks back at Korea’s past — MODERN BOY at the 1930s and GO-GO 70’S at the 1970s (obviously).

I was really looking forward to MODERN BOY when I first saw some still images in the spring. Plus I quite like its director Song Hae-sung (FAILAN) Chung Ji-woo (HAPPY END). However, advanced word I heard from the film was not good, which is allegedly why the film’s release was delayed five months. Regardless, I think the trailer for MODERN BOY looks pretty promising — great cgi of Seoul from the 1930s, great clothes and production design. I still have hope for this film.

The trailer for GO-GO 70’S does not inspire confidence. The music sounds way more like Korea’s 1980s music than 1970s. And the clothes and concert scene looks like a hyperactive cabaret. Very, very dubious.

As for SAGWA, I saw it at the Tokyo Filmex in 2005 and quite enjoyed it. Not a great film, but definitely worth a watch. Moon So-ri is great, as always. No idea why it took Chungeorahm so long to get it into the theaters.

Korea Weekend Box Office – Sept. 5-7

Whoops. Forgot to click “Publish” after writing this post. It has been sitting on my browser for hours.

Anyhow, CJ Entertainment’s historical drama THE DIVINE WEAPON was the top film in its opening weekend, taking in a respectable $4 million. Well, quasi-historical. The hwacha was a pretty interesting piece of military hardware that was cooked up in the 15th century. But it was not terribly effective on the battlefield. Personally, I was more impressed by those big wooden spike cannons that the Joseon armies used to use.

THE DIVINE WEAPON has now topped 1 million admissions, including the advanced screenings that were held last weekend. With Chuseok holiday weekend coming and no major competitors on their way, THE DIVINE WEAPON could end up a decent haul.

The screechy giggle-fest MAMMA MIA! also had a pretty decent opening (and, like THE DIVINE WEAPON, had many advanced screenings the previous weekend), with $3.5 million over the weekend to bring its total to $5.3 million. But I have ABBA bred in the bone, so I enjoyed it. Especially the encores at the end (Pierce Bronson’s voice, not so much).

I was pleasantly surprised to see the documentary EARTH open in No. 4. Few documentaries do well in Korea these days, so it was nice to see do well. If you like that sort of thing, be sure to check out the EBS Documentary Film Festival, opening Sept. 22.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. The Divine Weapon (Singijeon – Korean) 9.04 667 4.15 6.56
2. Mamma Mia! 9.04 516 3.68 5.49
3. Dark Knight 8.07 333 0.92 26.07
4. Earth 9.04 211 0.45 0.51
5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars 9.04 261 0.31 0.34
6. Wall-E 8.07 175 0.20 6.70
7. Blood Bell (Gosa – Korean) 8.07 175 0.14 10.24
8. An Eye for an Eye (Nunenuen Nun Ieneun I – Korean) 7.31 111 0.083 13.39
9. The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Joheun Nom, Nappeun Nom, Isanghan Nom – Korean) 7.17 132 0.084 45.84
10. Midnight Meat Train 8.14 84 0.053 1.94

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

Random Notes – Vol 3, No. 4

  • An interesting little story on Mongolian hiphop in the UB Post. Unfortunately, it does not mention many bands (just Tartar and Har Sarnai, who have been around forever). But interesting to hear that hiphop continues to spread its influence.

    The first time I went to Mongolia, back in the 1990s, the live bands were mostly rock. But each time I go back to Ulaanbaatar, it seems like there is more and more hiphop. I can still remember sitting beside my van once, in the middle of nowhere Mongolia, as this family on horseback rode by; the teenage kid in the family takes one look at me and reflexively said “Yo, gee!” and made a bunch of hiphop-esque sounds.

  • I’m sure you have heard by now, but the Wonder Girls have been named by Virgin Media as one of the top up-and-coming girl groups to watch. Kind of neat that they are getting noticed abroad. The cynic in me will try to overlook the difference between “groups to watch” and “groups to listen to.”
  • Congratulations to Sangsang Madang, the arts space in Hongdae that is run by the Korea Tobacco & Ginseng. Until Sept. 7, Sangsang is holding the Sangsang Festa, featuring outdoor concerts, art exhibitions, movies and more.
  • What the heck? I just went to the Sangsang Madang website and found a post for a free Hongdae tour for foreigners. The tour is Sept. 28 at 1:30 and goes to 5pm. Tour will be lead by the singer for Band the Mu:n (never heard then, although I have heard of them, I think). Tour is limited to 20 people, and you need to apply by Sept. 15.
  • Tale of Two Festivals

    A couple of big festivals coming up this week — the CHUNGMURO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL IN SEOUL and the GWANGJU BIENNALE. Both are looking quite good this year. You can read more about them over at the Korea Gig Guide.

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