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Foreign films lead weekend

2009/01/24 Source

The Lunar New Year's holiday is traditionally a big season for Korean filmmakers. This year, however, only one Korean movie opens up to confront the onslaught of foreign rivals, reflecting the protracted slump of the domestic film industry.

"City of Damnation" (Yugamseureoun-dosi), directed by Kim Dong-weon, is the one Korean film hitting theaters on the weekend but it faces an uphill battle against foreign blockbusters such as "Red Cliff: Part 2" from China and "Valkyrie" from the United States.

Instead, earlier releases such as "A Frozen Flower" and "Speedy Scandal" are expected to fare better, providing a much-needed minimal market share for Korean filmmakers during the four-day holiday period that starts today.

"City of Damnation" features Jung Joon-ho, a Korean actor widely known for his subtle but hilarious role in the 2002 hit gangster comedy "My Boss, My Hero". In fact, this new film plays a sequel to the hit comedy because all the familiar characters show up to work on a similar gangster-oriented plot.

In the movie, Jeong plays Chung-dong, a traffic cop who is ordered to infiltrate into a gangster network, while Jung-dae (played by Jung Woong-in), a low-level gangster, attempts to work his way into the police squad. The two main characters explore their skills of camouflage and betrayal in a plot that centers upon a double-crossing strategy.

"Red Cliff: Part 2", the long-awaited follow-up to the Chinese blockbuster, is leading at the box office ticket reservation scores, according to the Korean Film Council. The performance reflects not only director John Woo's influence but also Koreans' penchant for the Three Kingdom saga.

The historical movie, armed with plenty of spectacular scenes, picks up where the first one left off: a few days before the all-or-nothing battle at the Red Cliff near the end of the China's Han Dynasty. While the first installment is all about building up necessary tensions and subplots, the second and final part dashes into the large-scale battles where key characters are engaged in interesting deceptive strategies.

Another blockbuster to note is "Valkyrie" starring Tom Cruise, who recently visited Seoul to promote the film.

"Valkyrie", directed by Bryan Singer, involves German military men who attempt to to assassinate Hitler. During World War II, Colonel von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) joins a secret group of officers and civilians planning to take him down, trying to turn Operation Valkyrie, Hitler's emergency plan to save his government, into an elaborate coup.

Though not a large-scale film, "Bedtime Stories", directed by Adam Shankman, is expected to draw some attention from local moviegoers because this comedy features Adam Sandler, who plays a hotel handyman confronting a bewildering situation in which the tall tales he's been telling his niece and nephew are somehow coming true.

"Changeling", directed by Clint Eastwood, also joins the pack for the holiday competition. Inspired by actual events that occurred in 1920s-era Los Angeles, the movie depicts a single mother named Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) who makes desperate efforts to find her lost child.

According to the Korean Film Council, "Red Cliff: Part 2" has secured a No. 1 slot for ticket reservation scores, grabbing a 37.68 percent share, followed by "Valkyrie" (24.37 percent) and "City of Damnation" (11.07 percent). What's notable is a relatively strong performance of "Speedy Scandal" (6.32 percent) and "Ssanghwajeom" (5.07 percent).

"Speedy Scandal", released in December last year, emerged as the biggest hit movie in recent months, drawing in 6 million viewers. Cha Tae-hyun's refined performance and an interesting plot contributed to the surprising box-office sales.

"A Frozen Flower" sold about 3 million tickets so far, thanks largely to its bold take on the homosexual relationship in a royal court. Explicit descriptions about the relationship between the two male characters, played by Jo In-sung and Joo Jin-mo, sparked keen interest among Korean moviegoers.

By Yang Sung-jin

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