Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: October 2008

Korea Weekend Box Office – Oct. 24-26

A top-11 this week, in honor of Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, one-third of the triptych TOKYO!, which opened in eleventh.

But the top film this week was a Korean film, MY WIFE GOT MARRIED, pulling in just over 500,000 admissions since its release on Thursday. I think I am too depressed by the dollar-won exchange rate to convert its revenues into US dollars… suffice it to say, though, 3.42 billion won is worth a fair bit less than the $3.42 million it would have been worth a couple of months ago (fine, it converts to about $2.36 million at the current exchange rate).

Then you have a bunch of Hollywood films. Followed by CRUSH & BLUSH, and then the opening of a Korean film that I do not know much about, HEARTBREAK LIBRARY. And, way down in eleventh, TOKYO!

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. My Wife Got Married (Anaega Gyeolhonhaessda – Korean) 10.23 504 2.85 3.42
2. Eagle Eyes 10.09 359 1.79 11.33
3. Body of Lies 10.23 311 1.39 1.61
4. Mamma Mia 9.04 280 0.59 27.40
5. Crush & Blush (Misseu Hongdangmu – Korean) 10.16 321 0.59 2.90
6. Painted Skin 10.23 208 0.46 0.54
7. Heartbreak Library (Geu Namja-ui Chaek 198-jjok – Korean) 10.23 289 0.30 0.36
8. The Dutchess 10.16 244 0.23 1.32
9. Death Race 10.16 183 0.17 0.89
10. Under the Siam Moon 10.16 76 0.079 0.31
10. Tokyo! (one-third Korean) 10.23 59 0.073 0.087

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

Korea Weekend Box Office – Oct. 17-19

It must a strange week when the most interesting movie is a 9th place debut. But that is what we have this weekend, when the coolest film in the top-10 is a stunning four years old.

I am talking about APOLOGY/APPLE, the Moon So-ri film that was ready way back in December 2004, but finally made it to the theater last Friday. Nearly four years. Bizarre. I saw the film in November 2005 at the Tokyo FilmEx and quite liked it. APOLOGY opened in just No. 9 (No. 11 by attendance), but it is probably the most interesting film in the Korean box office at the moment. Go see it, you’ll be happy you did.

Wish I had more to say, But Shia LaBouef is No. 1 for a second week, so I am less than pleased. Go see APOLOGY or rent something good.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Eagle Eye 10.09 441 2.82 8.54
2. Crush Blush (Miss Hongdangmu – Korean) 10.16 351 1.40 1.70
3. Mamma Mia 9.04 289 0.76 26.35
4. The Dutchess 10.16 241 0.63 0.75
5. Death Race 10.16 179 0.44 0.50
6. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People 10.16 239 0.33 0.41
7. Modern Boy (Korean) 10.02 306 0.24 4.86
8. Gogo 70s (Korean) 10.02 262 0.22 3.70
9. Apology/Apple (Sagwa – Korean) 10.16 131 0.17 0.21
10. The Divine Weapon (Singijeon – Korean) 9.04 191 0.16 24.23

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

If you like old films, you will have another chance to see a long-delayed film beginning Thursday, when the two-year-old ONCE UPON A TIME IN SEOUL opens.

Btw, we are now about 10 days away from the Joy Division song, CONTROL from being released. Everyone should check it out. Great band. Very good film.

Dancing About Architect

Hey there, aspiring architects. Korea’s coolest architectural house, Mass Studies, is looking for interns. Come work at the firm that is designing the new Seoul City Hall (and oodles of interesting stuff all over the world).


Korea Weekend Box Office – Oct. 10-12

Hey, six of the top 10 films this week were Korean. I cannot remember the last time that happened. Not long ago, Korean dominance at the box office we usually typical, but for most of this year, there have been many fewer films released than in past years, making it harder to fill the top 10 most weeks.

Despite having six Korean films in the top 10, the top two movies last weekend were both from Hollywood. No. 1 was the Shia LaBeouf thriller EAGLE EYE. Seems like the ads have been on TV non-stop for the past couple of weeks, but I know very little about it.

No. 2 is the “Waiting for a Girl Like You” of movies, the musical MAMMA MIA. With one week’s exception, the ABBA musical has been stuck in the No. 2 spot since it opened six weeks ago. Kind of remarkable, I guess.

(Foreigner’s “Waiting” is remarkable for being the song to spend the longest at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 without ever reaching No. 1… which makes it a pretty imperfect comparison, in addition to being pretty obscure. Oh, forget about it. Sigh.)

MODERN BOY tumbles to No. 3 and looks like it will not be doing much at the box office. But its distributor, CJ Entertainment, cannot be too sad, since their films currently occupy three of the top 10, including EAGLE EYE.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Eagle Eye 10.09 390 3.70 4.22
2. Mamma Mia! 9.04 290 1.08 25.08
3. Modern Boy (Korean) 10.02 403 0.87 4.31
4. Gogo 70s (Korean) 10.02 312 0.72 3.21
5. The Divine Weapon (Shingijeon – Korean) 9.04 276 0.48 23.91
6. Dream (Bimong – Korean) 10.09 121 0.27 0.34
7. Truck (Korean) 9.25 234 0.24 3.53
8. The Women 10.09 151 0.23 0.28
9. Babylon AD 10.02 197 0.18 1.41
10. Rough Cut (Yeonghwaneun Yeonghwada – Korean) 9.11 129 0.18 8.82

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

Oh, some stuff about Kim Ki-duk’s DREAM that I forgot to mention in my write-up yesterday. One of the most surprising things about DREAM, given how it was released on Oct. 9, was the film’s non-appearance at this year’s Pusan International Fantastic Film Festival. I do not recall seeing it even at any industry screenings. Very odd for a director who is usually the king of the film festivals.

The story as I heard it is that Kim got upset at PIFF when they refused to give DREAM a top spot, in one of the major categories. He was so upset, in fact, that he refused to let PIFF screen his film at all.

Of course, Kim is no longer the festival darling he once was a few years ago. But, still, it seemed strange to have a Kim Ki-duk film opening in Korea in the closing days of PIFF, but the film was not on the bill at PIFF at all.

Btw, with DREAM opening on over 100 screens, that is the biggest rollout for a Kim film that I can recall. With over 50,000 admissions for DREAM since it opened, I am guessing Kim isn’t exactly crying in his haejangguk over missing PIFF.

Last Night I Dreamt That Kim Ki-Duk Loved Me

Kim Ki-duk’s films are famous for their cruelty and violence — fishhooks, broken glass, golf clubs and good, old-fashioned beatings all feature prominently. His emotional violence is even more graphic and brutal. I think he makes fun, comic films.

Perhaps I should explain. Back when Kim and his movies were considered fashionable and trendy — some time between THE ISLE and BAD GUY — I really was not a fan at all. His callous cruelty did not excite me, and listening to film festival dorks rattle on about whatever is hot at the moment is always a turnoff.

But Kim, along with Hong Sang-soo, was one of Korea’s top art-house directors, so I suffered through his films and his regular appearance on the film festival circuit. I did my best to deflect queries from editors who asked for a story on Kim, preferring instead to profile others who were fascinating me at the time.

Gradually, Kim fell out of favor. Korean audiences disappeared after BAD GUY, finding his silent, Orientalism boring. I always am fascinated how SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER … AND SPRING was the biggest Korean film ever in the West (before D-WAR), even though it sold barely 35,000 tickets in Korea. Then international audiences grew tired of his repetitive brutalities and Orientalisms.

Around this time, I began to like his movies again. One day I was flipping around the TV dial, when I came across a re-run of BAD GUY (by far Kim’s most successful film in Korea). For some reason I left it on, and for once, instead of being annoyed at how it did not accurately represent Korean society, I thought it was funny. Not that forced prostitution, stabbings, rape and assorted trauma are funny. But when I listened to the soft musical cues and suggestive edits, I suddenly realized that, despite the film’s brutality, in fact it was at heart a romantic comedy. A sick, twisted romantic comedy, but a rom-com nonetheless.

The more I thought about his films, the more I began to rethink them all. Instead of taking them so seriously and getting upset about them, I now viewed them as parodies, violent subversions of typical Korean storytelling. I have no evidence that Kim ever intended any of his films to be parodies or funny at all, but that is how I look at them. I think it makes them much more interesting.

Which is a long way of saying that I caught the new Kim Ki-duk film, DREAM, the other night.


DREAM is about two people who become linked through their dreams. A guy named Jin (Odagiri Jo) dreams something, then Ran (Lee Na-young) sleepwalks and lives his dream. He dreams of an accident, she drives her car and gets into an accident. He dreams of meeting his old girlfriend, then Ran… well, that would be telling.

Soon Jin and Ran figure out their connection and try to take steps to sever the unwanted bond.

At first, the audience in my theater was really put off by this story. Most of all, they disliked Kim’s main conceit, of having Jin talk in Japanese, Ran speak in Korean, but have both understand each other. The film moves slowly and illogically, too, which they did not like.

But about halfway through the film, people seemed to decide that this was also a comedy. And as soon as they started laughing, the movie was much more enjoyable. Seeing Ran struggling to avoid sleep by holding her eyelids open was pretty funny. Jin’s more extreme methods were even funnier (well, at first).

Given that the film is called DREAM (or BIMONG in Korean), it seems unfair to me to criticize the movie for its dream logic. In fact, my criticism is that it was not weird enough.

DREAM also features plenty of Gahoe-dong Korean traditional houses and exoticisms. Designed to appeal to Westerns with a “thing” for Asia, I guess. Who are these characters? No idea. Where are their friends? Backstory? Is anyone weirded out by the dream merging thing? All details that Kim glosses over in order to focus on pretty interiors and general misanthropy.

Personally, I think Kim’s high point was THE ISLE, with its gorgeous cinematography that worked with its bizarre story. Everything since then has felt like a pale imitation of that better film.

Although it is safe to say that the poster for DREAM is the most gorgeous Kim Ki-duk poster ever. Really great looking.

Btw, with about 50,000 admissions since it opened on Oct. 9, it looks like DREAM is Kim’s most successful film since BAD GUY (I think… I don’t have all his movie’s numbers in front of me, but that is what I remember).

Korea Weekend Box Office – Oct. 3-5

The long-awaited, big historical drama MODERN BOY opened in the No. 1 spot. But it was not a big opening — just 330,000 admissions over the weekend (400,000 since it opened last Thursday), and 2.72 billion won ($2.06 million, thanks to the lousy exchange rate).

MAMMA MIA finally overtook THE DIVINE WEAPON, with about 3.55 million admissions. Actually, WEAPON is still slightly ahead with admissions, even though MAMMA MIA is winning at the box office.

GO-GO 70’S had a bit of a disappointing opening in third, with just $1.13 million over the weekend. Very sad to think that more people tried out MODERN BOY. With any luck, GO-GO will win out in the long run.

BABYLON AD had an even more tepid opening, with less than $800,000 since it opened.

Sad to see MY DEAR ENEMY drop to No. 9 so quickly. Would have been nice to see it get better word of mouth.

This Week Title…………………………………….. Release Date Screens Nationwide Weekend Revenue (bil. won) Total Revenue (bil. won)
1. Modern Boy (Korean) 10.02 429 2.24 2.72
2. Mamma Mia! 9.04 306 1.65 23.29
3. Go-Go 70s (Korean) 10.02 423 1.50 1.93
4. The Divine Weapon (Shingijeon – Korean) 9.04 302 0.95 23.17
5. Babylon AD 10.02 175 0.85 1.00
6. Truck (Korean) 9.25 249 0.74 3.03
7. Hellboy 2 9.25 249 0.55 2.26
8. Rough Cut (Yeonghwaneun Yeonghwada – Korean) 9.11 199 0.46 8.48
9. My Dear Enemy (Meotjin Haru – Korean) 9.25 256 0.35 2.16
10. The Club 10.02 149 0.26 0.32

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

PIFF Report and Random Notes

Kind of a strange Pusan International Film Festival this year. Usually the festival opens on a Thursday, and the Asia Film Market then opens the following Monday. The result is that the first three days of the festival are more about the movies, with film fans flooding the theaters and snatching up all the tickets, then the business stuff kicks in.

But this year, with the Film Market running Friday to Monday, the business was going on during the busiest days of the festival, overshadowing the movies and making tickets extremely hard to find. I have returned to Seoul now, but from what I have heard, the festival is quiet empty now. I think PIFF made a mistake moving the Film Market and have disrupted the event’s equilibrium. My vote (not that I have one) is to move things back the way they were.

  • On the other hand, the weather this year was almost perfect. Aside from a little rain on Sunday afternoon, the weather was sunny and warm by day, slightly cool at night. Just right.
  • Park Jin-young and Lee Byung-hun were the main celebrities to show up this year, attending the opening party briefly. Moon Bloodgood was there but the Marmot was not (nyeh). There were plenty more actors, of course (like Kelly Lin), but I am more a dork for directors and producers than for actors, so missed most of the actor-heavy events.
  • I think Kim Jung-eun got the biggest response on the red carpet walk during PIFF’s opening ceremonies. I was a little surprised, as I never really considered her A-list, but people really went nuts when she showed up.
  • Also, there was so much construction going on in Haeundae, I was really surprised. Had not seen the area like that before. That neighborhood is going to be totally transformed (yet again) in a couple more years. Minus — losing the old character, and many cheaper lodgings. Plus — losing the old character and lousy lodgings, and gaining a much better selection of bars and restaurants.
  • Rumor has it that the “technical difficulties” that occurred during the outdoor screening of THE SKY CRAWLERS was actually the equipment operator forgetting to gas up the generator that powered the outdoor projector.
  • I also heard someone say that the Busan city government has told the Pusan Film Festival folks to get with the times and start spelling the festival the same way as the city. Which would make it the Busan International Film Festival, or BIFF.
  • MODERN BOY is not a good film. At all. I wanted it to be good. I hoped it would be good. It is not good. It looks wonderful — great re-creations of Seoul in the 1930s. But the story is shallow, the history puddle-deep (typical 386 generation nonsense), and the editing a mystery. Plus Kim Hye-soo is totally wrong for her role.
  • This KUNSTHALLE artist thingy looks like it could be interesting. Certainly a well made website.
  • John McCain is the shortest candidate for US president since 1920. If he won the race, he would be the shortest president since William McKinley in 1900.
  • Random Notes – Vol 3, No. 5

  • Just getting ready to head down to this year’ Pusan International Film Festival. Which for me principally means ironing a lot of shirts, then stuffing them into a suitcase to get all wrinkled anyway.

    I was thinking that I would be able to cut back on my time there this year, just go for a few days during the film market, but some additional work suddenly turned up and now I need to go down for the opening night, too. But for various reasons, my workload should not be too bad. I might even have the time to watch a few films (what a crazy thought).

  • At the moment, the weather forecast for Busan says warm (but not brutally hot) and sunny… at least until Sunday or Monday, when that typhoon down by Hong Kong now might start moving up this way.
  • The Chosun Ilbo recently had an article on the grand old Dansungsa movie theater going bankrupt. Except that it was not the grand old Dansungsa, at least not in my mind. The original building was one of the great movie theaters (I saw BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS there, soon before it was torn down), but the ugly multiplex that replaced it was not. Anyhow, here is a pic of the original theater and its replacement.
  • PJ O’Rourke has cancer. Odds are he will survive it, but in the meantime, it is good to see him tackling the subject with all the wit and bad taste that O’Rourke is famous for. In fact, that is probably the best column of his that I have read in years.

  • © 2017 Mark James Russell

    Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑