Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Korea Weekend Box Office - March 27-29

Sorry, no time for comments this week. But here is the latest box office report, courtesy of KOFIC. Congratulations to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE for coming in No. 1... despite the pirated DVD being available everywhere in Korea for months. Not a bad achievement.

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One random note, unrelated to anything: South Korea apparently got a "shout out" in gossip-monger Liz Smith's most recent column. Kind of funny, though:
And if you’re determined to live beyond your means but afraid of being judged, move to South Korea. They love to spend unashamedly there. Time quotes a Seoul graduate student: “Many Korean girls like to have luxury brands. Even if they live in a box, they spend.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Korea Weekend Box Office - March 20-22

Okay, I'm rather late to the game, but I must say that SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is really great. I saw it last weekend and thought it would be okay; but it wasn't okay, it was great. High recommend.

In Korea, though, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE opened only in the No. 2 spot, with 234,000 admissions and 1.59 billion won ($1.14 million) over the weekend.

In first place was some Hollywood film called PUSH. PUSH had 280,000 admissions and 1.88 billion won ($1.34 million), enough for first place.

Top Korean film was the No. 3 movie MISSING (Siljong), which had 213,000 admissions and 1.49 billion won ($1.06 million). In fourth was A SAD STORY THAN SADNESS (Seulpeum-boda Seulpeun Iyagi, and a bunch of alternative English titles) with 129,000 admissions and 865 million won ($618,000) to bring its total box office to 3.62 billion won.

OLD PARTNER (Wonang Sori) was in sixth, earning another 425 million won to bring its total to 18.3 billion won ($13 million). And that was it for Korean movies, just three in the top-10 again this week.

Actually, no one film particularly dominated last weekend, with the biggest film (SADNESS) on only 355 screens and the smallest (Gran Torino) on 138. Not a big range compared to usual.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Daytime Drinking

Hey, the trailer for DAYTIME DRINKING is now up on the Apple website. That is kind of cool. Check it out here.

DAYTIME DRINKING also has a pretty decent English website here.

K-Music Komes to iTunes

At long last, K-pop comes to iTunes. Fifty acts make their debut on Apple's music service, thanks to DFSB Kollective, starting today.

Actually, most of the acts here are not really K-pop; most of them are more interesting, rock and electronic stuff. Vidulgi OoyoO is there, along with Huckleberry Finn, Sung Kiwan and Cocore, Chang Kiha and the Faces, No Brain, and more. Not a bad selection at all.

On the more pop side, you do have Tasha (aka "T", aka Yoon Mirae) (who is great, btw), Drunken Tiger, Epik High and bands like that. Oh, and g.o.d and Moon Hee Jun, who are definitely big pop names, although more of yesterday.

For a complete list, you can check out this site. More importantly, buy buy buy, buy their music.

Thirsting for Park Chan-wook

Looks like the marketing campaign for Park Chan-wook's THIRST (aka, Bakjui) is getting started at last. Here are a couple of posters from the film (via the Chosun Ilbo):

And here is the movie trailer:

No signs of a subtitles trailer yet. Will post one if I find it.

Marmot Shrugged -- aka Architecture in Korea

In keeping with the architectural theme today over at the Marmot's Hole, I thought I would link to the March issue of Wallpaper magazine, which featured a look at 19 major buildings in and around Seoul, either in the works or recently completed.

Another link is here (almost the same, but also includes a link to a gallery about the Seoul Design Olympiad of last fall). And here is one more story from that issue, but that I could not find on the actual Wallpaper website.

Don't forget, Seoul is on deck to become the World Design Capital in 2010, taking over from Turin, Italy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gladness for Sadness -- English subtitles around Korea

Lotte Entertainment is presenting its latest melodrama, A SAD STORY THAN SADNESS (Seulpeum-boda Seulpeun Iyagi) in several locations with English subtitles, at least for the next little while.

Locations include the Lotte Cinemas in Myeongdong (the Emmanuel Cinema in the Lotte Department Store), Goyang, Ansan, Miryang and Busan.

I wish I could provide times and advance ticketing information, but the Lotte website is horrible to navigate. But if you live in one of the above locations, you probably know your theaters already.

(Since it is so nice to get new Korean films with subtitles, I will refrain from taking shots at the grammar in that bizarre title.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Little Rain Must Fall

Pop singer Rain and JYP Entertainment have apparently lost their US court case and have been ordered to pay over $8 million in damages for canceling Rain's 2007 concert in Hawaii. Ouch!

You can read all about it in The Hollywood Reporter (and many other newswire sources).

Rain and JYP Entertainment must each pay $2.4 million, with an additional $2.3 million for breach of contract and $1 million for damages related to the cancellation.

Because Rain canceled other tour dates that year, this could see a bunch of additional lawsuits. The most pressing one, $30 million for the LA concert cancellation, seems quite different than the Hawaii case and I think Rain should be in better shape.

But even if he wins in LA, that loss in Hawaii has got to hurt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Korea Weekend Box Office - March 13-15

It was neck-and-neck last weekend between the action film DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION and the South Korean melodrama A SAD STORY THAN SADNESS (Seulpeum-boda Deo Seulpeun Iyagi), but in the end, SADNESS won out. Just barely, with 256,649 admissions versus 252,625.

Revenues were a little wider apart, thanks to DRAGONBALL appealing to the kiddies. SADNESS made 1.74 billion won ($1.23 million) over the weekend, and a total of 2.1 billion won ($1.48 million) since Thursday evening. DRAGONBALL made 1.60 billion won ($1.13 million) and 1.76 billion won ($1.24 million) total.

Coming in third was everybody's favorite cow, OLD PARTNER (Wonang Sori). It made another 1.03 billion won to bring its two-month total to 17.52 billion won ($12.34 million).

WATCHMEN dropped all the way to fifth, earning just 921.9 million won to bring its total box office to 3.64 billion won ($2.56 million).

The only other Korean film in the top 10 last weekend was THE SCAM (Jakjeon), which landed in eighth. It has now made 9.63 billion won ($6.78 million).

Six of the top 10 films last weekend were new releases. Korean films have accounted for 46.8 percent of the box office so far in 2009.

(Courtesy of KOBIS and the Korean Film Council. Figures represent 98% of the nationwide box office).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Summer Releases

Does the opening of WATCHMEN last week mean the summer movie season now starts at the beginning of March? Let's hope not. However, the real summer releases are beginning to fill the calendar, and this year looks like one of the more interesting in quite some time.

If you follow Korean movies at all, you know the pattern -- Korean films start the year pretty strong, thanks in part of the Lunar New Year. But by March the balance flows back to Hollywood. Then May and June and much of July are completely dominated by Hollywood. But by the end of July, Korean films make a comeback and usually do very well in August. Korean films do well again for the Chuseok holiday in late September/early October, then finish the year strong.

Will 2009 be the same? Certainly Hollywood's rhythms fit that schedule. But this year there are several really big Korean films challenging Hollywood's turf, so there is at least the potential for a different result this year. It is still a little early to be talking about summer, but what they hey -- here's a look at the coming season's movies:

April 2
- PRIVATE EYE (Geurimja Sarin). A thriller set early in the Japanese colonial period. So far colonial era films have had rather lackluster results at the box office, but this film looks interesting.
- FAST & FURIOUS 4 (or whatever number this one is).

April 30
- THIRST (Bakjui). The new Park Chan-wook film. Starring Song Gang-ho. Religion, vampires, sex. What else do you need to know?

Some time in May (tentative) - MOTHER. Bong Joon-ho's latest. Distributor is waiting to see how the film does at Cannes, hoping it gets some good coverage and a bounce. Early word on this film is very strong.

- TRANSFORMERS 2: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. The first TRANSFORMERS film was the most successful foreign film ever in Korea. How will the sequel do?
- GI JOE. Officially slated for August 2, word is Fox has moved this film up to June, although there is no exact date yet. (UPDATE: Nevermind. I'm an idiot. August release it is.) Features Lee Byung-hun has one of the bad guys.


Sometime in July
- HAEUNDAE. Big tsunami hits the sound coast of Korea, in particular the popular beach resort of Haeundae. Big money is going into the disaster effects, plus it stars Sol Kyung-gu and Ha Ji-won.
- JEON WOO CHI. Goblins wreaking havoc on the world? I would be more skeptical, but I am a pretty big fan of Choi Dong-hoon (TAZZA, THE BIG SWINDLE), so I have hope this film could be a lot of fun. Besides, special-effects heavy films coming out in late July/early August have a pretty good record (THE HOST, D-WAR).

No dates yet
- All those Hollywood comedies. Hollywood still pushes its blockbusters hard in Korea, but the vulgar comedies just do not translate well so often get minimal releases (if any at all).

I am sure I have missed more than a few films. I will update this list as summer gets closer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Korea Weekend Box Office - March 6-8

The anti-superhero epic WATCHMEN took the top spot this week in Korea -- but not by a lot. The classic comic book made just 1.8 billion won ($1.2 million) over the weekend, for a quite tepid opening. Especially considering the film opened on nearly 400 screens (although, to be fair, it was nearly three hours long).

Meanwhile, the cow movie, OLD PARTNER (Wonang Sori) continues to do well, taking in another 1.5 billion won ($1 million) over the weekend to bring its eight-week total to just over $10 million.

(Kind of funny and interesting, btw, how seriously OLD PARTNER's producers and the police are treating piracy of this film. I mean, I am happy that the powers-that-be are trying to protect anyone's intellectual property... but with the endemic piracy in South Korea, why is this film so special? And why don't everyone else's films deserve the same protection?)

BENJAMIN BUTTON was third, and has now broken the 10-billion-won mark ($6.6 million). Korean film THE SCAM (Jakjeon) was in fourth, with 774 million won to bring its total to 8.8 billion won.

The only other Korean film in the top-10 was HANDPHONE, which was sixth with 314 million won, bringing its total box office to just over 4 billion won.

Not a lot of arthouse love in Korea, as the much acclaimed THE WRESTLER opened in eighth, and the Colin Firth crime caper IN BRUGES opened in 10th.

(All numbers courtesy of KOBIS, and the chart is from KOFIC).

Not that anyone asked, but I liked WATCHMEN, albeit with a lot of reservations. It certainly was not a perfect film, or even great. And it has the worst use of a Leonard Cohen song in a movie soundtrack that I can recall. But I did like the movie's ambition, and that it followed the comic's peculiar rhythms instead of the usual three-act Hollywood blockbuster cliche.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trotting With the Conchords

FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS is a rather unusual HBO comedy, featuring a couple of singing New Zealanders running loose in New York City. Each episode is a mix of odd jokes and odder musical numbers.

Season 2 featured one of the most unusual songs yet -- a Korean noraebang-style trot tune. Complete with a rockin' karaoke beat, subtitles, a cheesy background video. It made me do a happy dance. Watch it -- you'll happy dance, too.

(Thanks to All K-Pop for the catch).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Korea Pop Wars in the News (sort of)

Hrm. There was a little writeup yesterday in the Joongang Daily about me. Just a short piece that touched on this blog, the Gig Guide, POP GOES KOREA and whatnot.

I would point out that the description of the IndiefulROK blog at the end of the story was Anna's own words, not mine. For a moment I thought the reporter was quoting me, and I did not recall saying anything like that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Korea Weekend Box Office - Feb. 27-March 1

I guess this really is the year of the cow -- OLD PARTNER (Wonang Sori) was the No. 1 film in the land for a second week. The low budget documentary made another 2.4 billion won ($1.55 million) to bring its total box office now to 13.3 billion won ($8.4 million). In fact, OLD PARTNER has now topped 2 million admissions. Pretty amazing for a film that did not sell even 6,000 tickets in its opening weekend.

In second, once again, was BENJAMIN BUTTON, followed by Korea's THE SCAM (Jakjeon). The top new film was Clive Owen's THE INTERNATIONAL, down in fourth. Other new openers were THE UNBORN in sixth and Korea's GUSEJU 2 in ninth.

December's big hit, SCANDAL MAKERS (Gwasok Seukaendeul) finally dropped out of the top 10, falling to 12th. But don't feel too bad for the silly Cha Tae-hyun comedy: now that it is topped 8.2 million admissions, SCANDAL has become the sixth-biggest film ever in Korea. And, even better, it has apparently had its remake rights picked up by Hollywood.

Monday, March 02, 2009

More North Korean Music

The great international music site Radio Diffusion has a brief posting on North Korea. Sadly, the website that has managed to find interesting music just about everywhere around the world finally met its match with our friends in the DPRK.

Great site, though.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Devils Are in the Details

A few days ago I picked up the reissue of the first two albums by Devils, a Korea rock band from the 1970s best known today for being the inspiration behind the movie GO GO 70'S.

Devils were a six-man band founded in 1969, and started playing in Itaewon bars like 007 Club and American Club, or sometimes played in Paju at the Paradise Club. They released their first album in 1971 and went on to record three more albums by 1977. The CD re-release that I bought includes the first two albums, along with a couple of bonus tunes.

There is not much information available about the band, though, and until the GO GO 70'S film, I think they were not really well known (even by the forgotten standards of Korean classic rock). You can read a bit about them in Korea here.

To be honest, this is not my favorite band from the era. They have some good songs, but nothing that really blows me away like Shin Joong-hyun's best stuff can. There is not any crazy guitars or heavy drums solos. No, most of the Devils songs were more straightforward rock, with the layering you would expect from a six-man band. I am not bashing them -- they certainly have some solid songs. I am just saying they are a little more sedate and modest than my favorite bands from the 1970s.

Also, there are a couple of cover tunes on the albums, such as a cover of Proud Mary. Strangely, one song is described as "Theme Sound From Shaft," but I hear few similarities between the song on the Devils album and the famous Isaac Hayes tune.

So call this an interesting album. Not a must-buy, but worth your time if you like listening to old Korean music.

R-O-C-K in the D-P-R-K 2, Plus Links

I just ran across this little article about a Western musician who has played in some unusual locations around the world, including in North Korea. Kind of an amusing story.

While I linking there, I should note that is a pretty good website, not so much about pop music as the interesting stuff. There are a whole bunch of articles translated from the Weiv Korean music website, interviews and more.

Also worth a read is Inter-Asia Pop, which is a more scholarly look at music around Asia, with a lot of Korean stories.