LOVEHKFILM.COM
- reviews - features - people - panasia - blogs - about site - contact - links - forum -
 
 
Search LoveHKFilm.com
Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The FAQ Page
 
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit YesAsia.com
 
 
 
 
 
… On this day, I see clearly, everything has come to life.

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with 聚言莊﹕The House Where Words Gather.

Archive for the ‘Isabella Leong Lok-Si’ Category

News Links: April Fool’s Day 2009

Happy April Fool’s Day!  Alas, there won’t be an April Fool’s Day joke from me today.  I was thinking of doing a fake story on EEG and Sexy Photos Gate.  Something like this …

EEG announces co-operation with Japanese porn studio.  First releases to be:

EEG-001: Former Teen Idol’s Scandalous AV Debut starring Gillian Chung

EEG-002: Sexy Accidental Public Exposure Tsimshatsui Edition starring Yumiko Cheng

… but you’re probably all tired of Sexy Photos Gate so I figured that I should devote my time and energy elsewhere.

Speaking of time and energy …

From the comments on News Links: March 27th, 2009

Sara Lee writes: You said that you didn’t have the time or inclination to chase down other sources for confirmation about the Gigi Leung story. I’m curious, what would you have done if you had the time and the inclination? Do you have connections of some sort?

First, I would have asked to speak to the fired flight attendant directly to ascertain the facts (date, names, flight number, etc.).  I would also ask for a copy of the photo.  Then, I would have put together a story then contacted Cathay Pacific and Gigi Leung’s management for a reaction.  After that, I would write a final version of the story and publish it.

MANI SPEAKS:

Xinhua ran an interview today with EEG’s Mani Fok Man-Hei. Known as the “Mother of Emperor”, she has managed the likes of Nic Tse, Joey Yung, Isabella Leong, Twins and Yumiko Cheng over the course of her 16 years with EEG. Excerpts from the interview:

On the inspiration for Twins:

“I have a twin sister. Our company signed Ah Gil first then we signed Ah Sa. I thought to myself: ‘why don’t we pair the two young girls together?’

In the beginning, we dressed them the same then we slowly began to dress them differently. The only thing that didn’t quite work was that their personalities were completely different. Ah Sa is a lively extrovert while Ah Gil in an introvert.”

On Gillian Chung:

“I treat my artistes like they were my own family. When they have problems, I treat them like my own. At the beginning, I told her that ‘he (Edison Chen) is not a person you should be involved with’. However, when a young person is in love, they don’t listen to anyone.”

“Ah Gil’s mistake was that she didn’t think of her bottom line. She should have remembered that she was a public figure. In the end, though, the person who made the biggest mistake was Edison Chen.”

On Gillian Chung’s comeback:

“In the past year, I’ve had Ah Gil study dancing, acting and gymnastics to prepare her for her comeback. The only thing we didn’t plan on was that Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi would do her interview first. But, it doesn’t matter who was first and who was second.”

“Work is very hard for Ah Gil now because she’s been out for so long. She didn’t sleep much in the days before her comeback. I’ve been with her the whole time. It was very gratifying to see all the support she received at her events in the Mainland. Her attitude is to come back slowly. Besides, restoring her confidence she’s winning back her respect.”

On Isabella Leong:

“I’ve worked with more than 30 artistes and the only who’s walked away is Isabella Leong. Although she left, I feel that I’ve done right by her. When I was working as her manager, I feel that I did the job to the best of my ability.”

RETIRED ACTRESSES NEWS:

The latest edition of East Weekly suggests that retired actress Cherie Chung Chor-Hung is experiencing some financial difficulty and that a comeback to the entertainment circle is imminent.

Yammie Nam seen panhandling

Former TVB leading lady Yammie Nam Kit-Ying was spotted outside of a Shau Kei Wan Circle K convenience store on Monday morning. She was smoking and asking passersby for money. Nam, a popular actress for TVB in the 1980s and early-1990s, has a history of mental illness. 

SHINJUKU INCIDENT:

Derek Yee Tung-Sing: In the yakuza’s grip

Saving the world is still on Jackie Chan’s agenda

Not just any Hollywood role for Daniel Wu & Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan pitches his ‘different’ side in new movie

REPRINT: The Mirror’s (UK) review of SHINJUKU INCIDENT

IN PRODUCTION:

Hong Kong-Mainland producers announce “5510 Big Movie Plan”

Related Photo Gallery: Lee Lik-Chi, Li Bingbing, Zhou Xun among those who attended event

Photos from the IP MAN 2 press conference in Shanghai

A press conference was held yesterday in Shanghai formally announcing the production of IP MAN 2. Wilson Yip Wai-Shun returns as director while Sammo Hung Kam-Bo will, once again, handle the action. Donnie Yen, Xiong Dai-Lin, Fan Siu-Wong and Gordon Lam Ka-Tong will all reprise their characters. The sequel is set in late-1940s Hong Kong so the Bruce Lee character will not be appearing. 

John Woo’s Titanic runs aground

Production Stills: TREASURE HUNTER

Taiwanese stars Jay Chou and Lin Chi-Ling began work last week on their new film TREASURE HUNTER.  The time travel romantic/action/comedy is being directed by Chu Yen-Peng (KUNG FU DUNK) and co-stars Eric Tsang Chi-Wai.  Producers hope to have the film ready for the Christmas 2009 holiday movie season.

Confirmed: Chow Yun-fat plays Confucius

Related Photos: Chow Yun-Fat, Zhou Xun attend opening lens ceremony for their Confucius biopic at a Confucian temple in Beijing

Stranglehold Movie Apparently Won’t Star Chow Yun-Fat

‘Karate Kid’ redo retitled ‘Kung Fu Kid’

GENERAL NEWS:

Fans Pay Tribute to Leslie Cheung on Sixth Death Anniversary

Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow named Asia’s best selling actors & directors

Jackie Chan to sing in bird nest

Jet Li, Zhang Yimou Named “Chinese of World Influence”

Daniel Wu willing to sacrifice privacy for movies

Miriam Yeung: Miriam’s girl-next-door charm

Tang Wei: “Lust Caution” is history

ASHES OF TIME REDUX: Lovers and Fighters

HK pop star Kelvin Kwan released from police custody

Stefanie Sun’s new boyfriend exposed!

Rain confident of winning appeal 

SEXY PHOTOS GATE:

Eason Chan: Edison Chen missing Hong Kong badly

HKIFF: Edison Chen sex scandal sure to make Sniper a hit

Edison Chen ‘tests water’ with role as sex pervert

MOVIE REVIEWS:

Variety reviews Ann Hui’s latest NIGHT AND FOG (Simon Yam, Zhang Jingchu)

Variety review of Feng Xiaogang’s IF YOU ARE THE ONE (Ge You, Shu Qi)

California Chronicle reviews Oxide Pang’s BASIC LOVE

FEATURES:

Chow Yun-Fat Talks Dragonball Evolution

Chow Yun-Fat: DRAGONBALL’s Dirty Old Sifu

Jolin Tsai: Jolin talks about scandal and Mr Right

Super Band: ‘It’s really not about money’

PHOTO GALLERYS:

ASHES OF TIME REDUX event in Hong Kong

Director Alan Mak Siu-Fai marries

This past weekend, director Alan Mak Siu-Fai (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, LADY COP AND PAPA CROOK) married his longtime girlfriend Chung Wai-Tak. Reportedly, Mak met Chung, eleven years his junior, at an event five years ago. To celebrate the nuptials, a 20-table banquet was held at the Aberdeen Marina Club. Among the attendees were Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Shawn Yue Man-Lok, Michelle Ye and Jade Kwan Sum-Yin. 

Wong Jing and his latest “Jing Girl” Natalie Yao Meng

Following in a line that includes Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching and Kelly Lin, Natalie Yao Meng is Wong Jing’s latest “Jing Girl”.  Wong spotted Yao in Mainland director Huang Jianzhong’s SILVER ORNAMENTS and imported her to Hong Kong where she can now be admired in such films as THE VAMPIRE WHO ADMIRES ME and BEAUTY AND THE 7 BEASTS.  Yao can next be seen alongside Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, my other cousin Tony, Eason Chan, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Kate Tsui and Wong Jing himself in I CORRUPT COPS.  The film opens in Hong Kong on April 23rd.

Shu Qi, Aloys Chen and Sylvia Chang shoot ad for Cartier

Related: Shu Qi, Syliva Chan promote Cartier

Cecilia Cheung shoots ad for a bedding company in Guangzhou

Michelle Reis Poses for Marie Claire

Tang Wei poses for Chinese edition of Vogue

Ada Choi Siu-Fan and hubby attend event promoting Moiselle

Promotional stills from the upcoming Mainland film WHEAT (Fan Bingbing, Wang Xueqi)

Jane Zhang debuts in Japan

A-Mei Chang performs in Taipei

Say Goodbye To Hollywood

I was going to do a post about watching my first TVB series in many, many years but, for once, I thought I’d be timely and share a few thoughts on THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR.

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
Official Site: http://www.themummy.com/
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Brendan Fraser (Rick O’Connell), Jet Li (Emperor Han), Maria Bello (Evelyn O’Connell), Michelle Yeoh (Zi Juan), Luke Ford (Alex O’Connell), Isabella Leong (Lin), Russell Wong (General Ming), Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (General Yang)

Synopsis (from Yahoo! Movies): Explorer Rick O’Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor in an epic that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the frigid Himalayas. Rick is joined in this all-new adventure by son Alex, wife Evelyn and her brother, Jonathan. And this time, the O’Connells must stop a mummy awoken from a 2,000-year-old curse who threatens to plunge the world into his merciless, unending service. Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend eternity in suspended animation, China’s ruthless Dragon Emperor and his 10,000 warriors have laid forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army. But when dashing adventurer Alex O’Connell is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber, the reckless young archaeologist must seek the help of the only people who know more than he does about taking down the undead: his parents. As the monarch roars back to life, our heroes find his quest for world domination has only intensified over the millennia. Striding the Far East with unimaginable supernatural powers, the Emperor Mummy will rouse his legion as an unstoppable, otherworldly force… unless the O’Connells can stop him first.

Craig from THE MOLEPRE-CONCEIVED NOTIONS: Due to a “life’s too short” situation, I haven’t seen the first two Mummy movies. I’ve always intended to see them as I like goofy action movies and Rachel Weisz but I’ve always had other things to do or other things I wanted to see. Quite simply, I just haven’t gotten around to watching the movies. Case in point, in anticipation of the August 1st release of THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, I borrowed the DVDs for THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS from my friend Roger. However, I got caught up watching episodes of THE MOLE that I recorded while I was away in Europe. (By the way, I think Craig is the mole.) As a result, I went into THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR completely cold — I had no idea about the back story of the O’Connells or the whole Mummy saga. I’m going to the movie mostly to check out the Hollywood debut of Isabella Leong and the work of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh. Before I went to the theatre, the movie was sitting on a 9% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes so I was not expecting much.

AFTER THE MOVIE: Unlike the majority of the critics at Rotten Tomatoes, I don’t think the movie stinks. It’s not as bad as the 9% rating suggests but I wouldn’t go much higher than 49%. It’s a pleasant diversion that’s definitely not worth theatre money or even new release video rental money. It’s the type of movie you wait to watch on TV or save for when you need a movie to complete a “four for $10″ bundle deal at the video store. The action scenes are competent but uninspired and the comedy reminded me of some of the slapstick and wordplay that Jack Tripper did on THREE’S COMPANY — good for a small chuckle or slight smile but not much more.

MORE THOUGHTS: Before I get to my thoughts on Isabella Leong’s performance, I have to say that the one thing that really bothered me about the film was its depiction of 1940s Shanghai. I think the glamorous Shanghai shown in the movie died around 1937 after the Battle of Shanghai between the Japanese and the Kuomintang. If I recall my Chinese history correctly, by the 1940s, ballrooms and nightclubs were turned into places where people were being interrogated, tortured and killed. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, I’m just saying that if you know your Chinese history, this is something that might stick in your craw during the movie — that and the notion of Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello being old enough to have a son that looks like Luke Ford.

Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

Now, for the centrepiece of today’s post, how did Isabella Leong fare in her Hollywood debut? As a fan of HK entertainment, I always hope that an entertainment circle talent makes it big in Hollywood because, in a rising tide floats all boats sort of way, it invariably brings attention and exposure back to the HK entertainment industry. Therefore, it saddens me to say that Isabella Leong’s performance in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR was unimpressive and, barring a huge stroke of fortune or favour, it’s unlikely she’ll develop a solid Hollywood career.

To make any sort of splash in Hollywood, a “foreign” actress has to give an outstanding performance that makes people run to their computers, go to IMDB or Google, and look up every thing they can find about her. I think this happened with Michelle Yeoh when POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP was released in North America and certainly when TOMORROW NEVER DIES came out. It definitely happened with Zhang Ziyi after CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON and, to a lesser extent, with Shu Qi and THE TRANSPORTER. The only thing that is distinctive about Isabella Leong’s work in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is that it is distinctly unremarkable. I don’t think Jessey Mengtoo many people will be doing computer searches trying to find out who played “Michelle Yeoh’s daughter”. In fact, if there was a bookie who took action on this sort of thing, I’d bet that Jessey Meng (the actress who plays the dedicated girlfriend of Anthony Wong Chau-Sang’s General Yang) gets more Google/IMDB hits out of this movie than Isabella Leong.

I think the movie highlights the major flaw in Isabella Leong’s game: she has low screen charisma. She doesn’t have that intangible quality that makes viewers sit back and take notice. Her lack of screen magnetism is something I sensed in ISABELLA and I don’t think it improved with SPIDER LILIES even though a lesbian tattoo artist should have been a charismatic, attention-grabbing role. When she popped up for her cameo in SIMPLY ACTORS, it took me a couple of seconds to recognize her. It’s still early in her career but, if this was an election, the NBC News Decision Desk would be getting ready to declare that Isabella Leong has no screen presence.

With the exception of THE EYE 10 and MISSING, I believe I’ve seen all of Isabella Leong’s work and I can’t think of an instance where her screen chi pierces the screen, commands your attention and demands that you fixate your eyes on her. Most great actresses have at least one of those moments during their careers. I think I can safely say that Isabella Leong hasn’t had one yet. I’d be happy to be proven wrong about this so if anyone out there in HK entertainment nation can point out a moment that Isabella Leong captivates the viewer’s attention, I’d love to hear about it.

MISCELLANEA:

- If you are at all familiar with some of the intense work that Anthony Wong Chau-Sang has done in HK, it’s hard to accept him as a villain in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. Something in the way he delivers his lines in English robs him of his menace. I don’t know if you’d notice it if you haven’t seen his HK movies but, if you have, it’s quite noticeable. When he spoke for the first time in the movie, the three Chinese guys sitting two rows behind me laughed out loud. I knew what they were feeling because I was having a flashback to Wong’s goofy “all the world’s a stage” bit in SIMPLY ACTORS.

- There isn’t much to be said about Jet Li’s performance in the movie. To say that he “mailed it in” isn’t exactly accurate. I’d call it a “living off the fat of the land” situation. Over the past ten years, he’s established a reputation, a brand over here in the West and THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is a case where he is harvesting the crop he first sowed back in 1998 with his work in LETHAL WEAPON 4. You can’t fault a guy for reaping the benefits of past hard work.

I will say I’m happy to see that, like the final fight scene in LETHAL WEAPON 4, it still takes more than one good guy to overpower a villainous Jet Li.

Michelle Yeoh in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

- Michelle Yeoh continues to show why she is the class of entertainment circle actresses working in Hollywood. In the hands of a lesser talent, the scene where she calls on the dead to rise up and fight would have seemed cheesy. Michelle Yeoh actually makes it seems kind of cool.

Also, going back to the Isabella Leong has no screen charisma discussion, the opening scenes for Michelle Yeoh in THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR define screen presence. Isabella Leong does not have that kind of screen magnetism and that’s why I don’t think she’ll make it in Hollywood.

Image credits: ABC (Craig from THE MOLE), Universal Pictures (Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong), MGM (Jessey Meng)

From The Headlines …

An amuse-bouche of a post today before the start of a series of posts previewing the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards.

Rumours of a relationship between HK starlet Isabella Leong Lok-Si, 19, and 39 year-old Richard Li Tzar-Kai (李澤楷; official site), the son of legendary business magnate Li Ka-Shing has put the dead horse of “Sexy Photos Gate” squarely in the rear view mirror of Hong Kong’s entertainment media. Earlier this month, reports surfaced alleging that Leong and Li have been involved for months and that Li has nobly declared that he will take care of Leong and her family for as long as Isabella Leong and Richard Lihe lives. Reportedly, Michelle Yeoh — Leong’s co-star in the Summer 2008 release THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR — introduced the pair.

Neither Li nor Leong have responded publicly to the rumours but flames have been fanned by news of a contract dispute between Leong and her management company EEG (Emperor Entertainment Group). According to numerous reports, Leong has hired lawyers to help her extricate herself from the long-term contract she signed with EEG. As EEG typically holds all the cards when it comes to contract situations with their talent, observers of the HK entertainment circle speculate that Leong must be emboldened because she has the powerful backing of Li. Indeed, there are rumours that Li is ready to offer EEG HK$10 million for Leong’s contract but Leong’s lawyers believe that the contract can be voided because Leong signed it when she was younger than sixteen — the legal age in Hong Kong for entering into contracts.

To be continued …

* * * * *

Long-term contracts between entertainment companies and their talent is quite common in the HK entertainment circle. Creating an “idol” takes a serious investment so companies protect themselves with long-term contracts in case one of their “idols” becomes unwieldy and wants to leave for greener pastures. For the talent, the trade-off for this modern-day equivalent of indentured servitude is having the benefit of the tremendous star-making resources of a company like EEG on their side. Joey Yung Tso-Yi, for instance, is reportedly in year nine of a fifteen-year contract she signed with EEG in 1999. She won’t become a free agent until she is 34 years-old in 2014.

If a prospect does not turn out to be profitable like Joey Yung, the company can simply terminate the contract and release Grace Yipthe talent. Worse yet, a prospect can end up in a situation like Grace Ip (葉佩雯 aka Yip Pui-Man). Between 1998 and 2000, EEG heavily promoted Ip — giving her roles in high profile projects like GEN-X COPS. Then, the company reportedly discovered that she was dating Eric Kwok Wai-Leung of the band Swing. According to speculation, EEG felt that a relationship would hinder Ip’s ascension to superstardom so the company asked Ip to break things off with Kwok. When Ip refused, she was “frozen”. To add insult to injury, EEG supposedly refused to release Ip from a seven-year contract she signed in 1998. As a result, she was forced to wait until late-2005 before she could sign with another record label. Ip was finally able to release an album, ON MY OWN, in August 2006.

Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be entertainment circle celebrities, make ‘em doctors and lawyers and such …

* * * * *

And so it begins …

EEG is apparently taking the first steps at rehabilitating the humiliated Gillian Chung Yan-Tung. This weekend, Ming Pao Weekly reported that Chung had a meeting recently with “Hollywood producer” Elliot J. Brown. Supposedly, EEG and Brown are helping Chung plan a career in Hollywood. The news would be somewhat impressive if it was not for the fact that Brown’s accomplishments in Hollywood are less than impressive. As was the case with the “naive and foolish” press event, this “news” has probably done more harm to Chung’s career than good. Reaction on discussion boards is comprised mostly of jokes that Chung is going to star in Western “remakes” of Hong Kong movies with titles like ERECTION and THE MISSION-ARY POSITION.

IMAGE CREDITS: Sina.com (Isabella Leong), RichardLi.com (Richard Li), File Photo (Grace Ip)

The 26th Hong Kong Film Awards

Updated at 10:52 pm

The 26th Hong Kong Film Awards were presented Sunday evening at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsimshatsui. AFTER THIS OUR EXILE was the big winner with five awards (Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best New Performer). However, its lead actor, Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, was not able to capitalize on the film’s winning momentum as the favourite going into the evening was upset by crowd favourite Lau Ching-Wan (left). Lau, 43, won the Best Actor prize over Kwok for his performance in MY NAME IS FAME. A twenty-four year veteran of the entertainment circle, Lau finally broke his shutout in the Best Actor category after being nominated seven times previously for LOST IN TIME (2003), VICTIM (1999), THE LONGEST NITE (1997), FULL ALERT (1997), BIG BULLET (1996), C’EST LA VIE, MON CHERIE (1994) and THOU SHALT NOT SWEAR (1993). A thunderous round of applause erupted in the Cultural Centre when Lau’s name was announced. After shaking hands with fellow nominee Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Lau made his way on to the stage and joked: “I hope I’m given a little more time. After all, I’ve waited so long.”

He went on to say: “I had a feeling I would win when I saw that the HKFAA (Hong Kong Film Awards Association) picked ‘passing the torch’ as its theme this year. Because of that, I knew the award would go to a youngster like me. I want to thank Brother Chau-Sang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), Brother Sing-Sing (Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing) and Brother Chiu-Wai (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai). I will take the torch and work hard.”

Related images:

Gong Li and her cleavage (right) won the Best Actress prize for their work in CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER. Gong, who did not attend the ceremony, won her first Hong Kong Film Award after being nominated previously for her roles in A TERRACOTTA WARRIOR (1990) and TEMPTRESS MOON (1996). In a phone interview with Oriental Daily News, Gong said: “I’m very surprised. I didn’t think that I would win. I thank the HKFAA for giving me something that I’ve longed many years for. Although I’ve won many international awards, this is the first time I’ve won in Hong Kong. Every time I win an award, it has something to do with Zhang Yimou. He really brings me good luck. I have to clarify one thing: There are rumours that I didn’t go to the awards because I didn’t like the way the HKFA booked my accommodations. I want to let people know that I have a house in Hong Kong and don’t need to stay in a hotel. I didn’t make it to the awards because I’m working in America.”

AFTER THIS OUR EXILE was Patrick Tam Ka-Ming’s first directorial effort in sixteen years. His last film was 1989’s MY HEART IS THAT EXTERNAL ROSE. Accepting his directing award, Tam told the crowd: “Thank you to the HKFA for supporting me. I wish to thank the cast and crew as well as God for giving me such an excellent gift.”

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Tam was asked for his thoughts about the successful night for AFTER THIS OUR EXILE. Tam: “I can’t say getting all the awards was expected or unexpected because there was no way to predict but I feel disappointed for Sing-Sing (Aaron Kwok). He really did a lot for this film. However, awards aren’t our main goal. The main thing is for everyone to see the hard work we put into the movie.”

Eight year-old Gouw Ian Iskanda won two awards, Best Supporting Actor and Best New Performer, for his role in AFTER THIS OUR EXILE. He was the first actor to win both the new performer award and an acting award in the same year since Karena Lam Ka-Yan (JULY RHASPODY) did it five years ago. To the suprise of many, Iskanda beat out veterans Simon Yam Tat-Wah (ELECTION 2), Nick Cheung Ka-Fai (ELECTION 2) and Liu Ye (CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER) in the Best Supporting Actor category. Surprised himself, Iskanda had to be prompted to go on stage to collect his second award of the evening. Shellshocked, the child actor was at a loss for words and managed only to say: “I never thought I’d win twice … I learned a lot from making this film. I’m very happy. I’ll continue to work hard.”

More composed when speaking to reporters following the ceremony. Iskanda told reporters that he was looking forward to the spoils of victory. Iskanda: “I was going to get a reward of a Nintendo Wii and ten games for winning. Now that I’ve won twice, I think I should be getting twenty games.”

Asked if he was going to be an actor when he grows up, Iskanda replied that he wanted to be a “tennis player” instead.

Related images:

Daniel Wu (Ng Yin-Tso) took home the award for Best New Director (THE HEAVENLY KINGS). He accepted the award with his Alive bandmates Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Terence Yin (Wan Chi-Wai) and Andrew Lin Hoi because he views THE HEAVENLY KINGS as a group achievement rather than an individual one. Asked if winning the directing award means that he will focus more on directing rather than acting in the future, Wu said that he probably wouldn’t because he “feels more comfortable acting”. Related image (courtesy Ming Pao Daily):

Sir Run Run Shaw (Siu Yat-Fu) was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Hong Kong cinema. The 100 year-old Shaw did not accept the award in person, however, because he was not feeling well enough to attend the ceremony. Flanked by a contingent of Shaw Studio veterans that included Ti Lung, Gordon Liu (Lau Kar-Fai) and Jimmy Wang Yu, Shaw’s eldest son and presumptive heir, Siu Wai-Ming, accepted the award on Shaw’s behalf. Related image (courtesy Ming Pao Daily):

A reflection, perhaps, of his sometimes stand-offish relationship with the Hong Kong Film Awards, acclaimed director Johnnie To Kei-Fung was shut out at this year’s award despite receiving nine nominations for his films ELECTION 2 and EXILED. To, as he has done regularly in the past, did not attend the ceremony.

Big names Zhang Yimou, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li were also not present at the awards.

More from the awards ceremony following the list of results.

RESULTS FROM THE 26TH HONG KONG FILM AWARDS

For a detailed list of the nominees: See the official Hong Kong Film Awards website

BEST FILM: AFTER THIS OUR EXILE 父子

  • Presented by: Vision Film Workshop, Black & White Films Ltd.
  • Executive Producer: Chiu Li-Kuang (邱瓈寬)

BEST DIRECTOR: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming (譚家明) for AFTER THIS OUR EXILE

BEST SCREENPLAY: Patrick Tam Ka-Ming, Tian Koi-Leong (田開良) for AFTER THIS OUR EXILE

BEST ACTOR: Lau Ching-Wan (劉青雲) for MY NAME IS FAME (我要成名)

BEST ACTRESS: Gong Li (鞏俐) for CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (滿城盡帶黃金甲)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Gouw Ian Iskanda (吳澋滔) for AFTER THIS OUR EXILE

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Zhou Xun (周迅) for THE BANQUET (夜宴)

BEST NEW PERFORMER: Gouw Ian Iskanda for AFTER THIS OUR EXILE

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung (劉偉強) , Lai Yiu-Fai (黎耀輝) for CONFESSION OF PAIN (傷城)

BEST FILM EDITING: Eric Kong Chi-Leung (鄺志良) for BATTLE OF WITS (墨攻)

BEST ART DIRECTION: Huo Tingxiao (霍廷霄) for CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

BEST COSTUME AND MAKE-UP DESIGN: Yee Chung-Man (奚仲文) for CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

BEST ACTION CHOREOGRAPHY: Yuen Woo-Ping (袁和平) for FEARLESS (霍元甲)

BEST ORIGINAL FILM SCORE: Peter Kam Pui-Tat (金培達) for ISABELLA (伊莎貝拉)

BEST ORIGINAL FILM SONG: “The Chrysthanthemum Terrace” (菊花台) from CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER sung by Jay Chou (周杰倫)

  • Composer: Jay Chou
  • Lyrics: Vincent Fang Wenshan (方文山)

BEST SOUND DESIGN: Nakom Kositpaisa for RE-CYCLE (鬼域)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Ng Yuen-Fai (吳炫輝) , Chas Chau Chi-Shing (鄒志盛), Emil Yee Kwok-Leung (余國亮) , Alex Lim Hung-Fung (林洪峯) for RE-CYCLE

BEST NEW DIRECTOR: Daniel Wu (吳彥祖) for THE HEAVENLY KINGS (四大天王)

BEST ASIAN FILM: RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES (千里走單騎) from Mainland China

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Sir Run Run Shaw (Siu Yat-Fu, 邵逸夫)

NOTES FROM THE CEREMONY:

- Despite rumours suggesting that their 18-year relationship was in peril, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Carina Lau Ka-Ling attended the ceremony hand-in-hand. The two also presented the Best Film award together. Of late, the couple has been plagued by rumours that Leung left Lau over Lau’s alleged “friendship” with Taiwanese tycoon Terry Guo Tai-Ming (Taiwan’s richest man and, according to Forbes, the 176th richest man in the world).

Related images:

- Teresa Mo Shun-Kwun was the first celebrity to show up on the red carpet. Mo: “I got here at 6:50 pm and waited around for a while before stepping out yet I’m still the first one here. Showing up early is a bad habit that I have to correct.”

For the record, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Carina Lau Ka-Ling were the last celebrities to arrive. Related image (courtesy Oriental Daily News):

- The boys from Alive, their musical director Paul Wong Kwoon-Chung and an entourage of twenty to thirty people arrived on a big yellow bus. Daniel Wu brought his girlfriend model Lisa S., Andrew Lin Hoi had his wife on his arm and Conroy Chan Chi-Chung was accompanied by his wife Josie Ho Chiu-Yi. Paul Wong performed during the cermony.

Related images:

FASHION NOTES:

- “Tube dresses” and “clutch purses” were all the rage at this year’s ceremony.

- Kelly Lin (Lam Hei-Lui), Huo Siyan (MY NAME IS FAME), Eva Huang Shengyi and Shu Qi turned heads with their eye-catching fashions. Related images:

- Rene Liu (Lau Yeuk-Ying) shocked many by dressing like a man. Related image (courtesy Ming Pao Daily):

- Oriental Daily News asked fashion designer Dorian Ho (official website) to comment on some of the fashions worn by the stars. His thoughts:

- Miriam Yeung Chin-Wai wore an elegant dress designed by Tomas Chan. However, her “rough demeamour” at the ceremony was not a match with the outfit’s elegance. Speculating that Yeung is still into her character as a fishmonger for her new film HOOK ON YOU, Ho remarked: “She might as well have done like Rene Liu and dressed like a man.”

- On South Korean star Song Hye-Kyo, Ho commented: “Her hair style is old-fashioned and her dress was just average. She doesn’t look a bit like a big star. She’s very pretty but the way she presented herself tonight was just a disappointment.”

- Ho had high praise for EEG personalities Isabella Leong Lok-Si and Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin. Ho: “Ah Sa (Choi) usually gets criticized for what she wears but she looked pretty good this time. She has a body type that’s very hard to dress so what she’s wearing is not bad. Besides, she’s wearing a brand, J. Mendel, that I really like.”

As for Isabella Leong, Ho said: “She frankly deserves some praise. A dress like that, with all those levels, can be very intimidating to wear but, with her height, she pulls it off. It’s a good fit. I think she’s really improving the way she dresses. Her fashion sense is starting to match the potential that she shows.”

Related images:

OTHER IMAGE LINKS:

Courtesy Oriental Daily News: THE BANQUET’s Zhou Xun; Chapman To Man-Chat and his wife Kristal Tin Yui-Lei; Stephy Tang Lai-Yan; Tang, Alex Fong Lik-Sun and some of the other former Cookies

Courtesy The Sun: Fellow winners Zhou Xun and Lau Ching-Wan exchange pleasantries; Jay Chou and Tony Ching Siu-Tung; Matthew Medvedev from ROB-B-HOOD; Kara Hui (Wai Ying-Hung)

Courtesy Ming Pao Daily: Zhou Xun accepts her award from presenter Miriam Yeung; Zhou; Anita Yuen Wing-Yi; Jay Chou

Oriental Daily News Photo Gallery Slideshow (Macromedia Flash Required)

Thoughts on Isabella: The Movie, The Dog and The Girl

Though they have improved since I last mentioned them back in December, my mind-grapes are still not yet producing any sweet wines. My attempts at a formal review of ISABELLA all turned out to read like they were written by the guys who write CAT-III movies for Sophie Ngan Chin-Man and Grace Lam Nga-Si rather than the refined prose of Cicero. I have to hand it to Kozo, Tim Youngs and Kenneth Brorsson up in Scandinavia for consistently churning out review after review of Hong Kong movies. (I should also mention the crew from Hong Kong Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge: Big Brian and YTSL.) After starting and stopping a few attempts at an ISABELLA review, I developed a deepened respect for those who can express their opinions without giving away what happens in the movie.

Abandoning the formal review, I have decided to go with the new-fangled, 21st Century, “running diary” format. A few words of warning: The running diary contains spoilers (so click here if you want to get to the non-spoiler part) and my “observations” are only slightly more insightful than Paris Hilton saying “that’s hot”. Instead of offering penetrating analysis, I’m hoping to create the sense that you are sitting on the couch watching the movie with me — a pot of Ti Kuan Yin tea on the coffee table in front of us. I would offer you some potato chips, nachos, pretzels, popcorn and wasabi-flavoured rice crackers but, these days, I don’t have enough saliva to lick a stamp so I don’t keep that stuff around any more. There is, however, some strawberry ice cream in the freezer.

On with the show (timings are approximate):

isabella_1.jpg

0:00:36: The “Not Brothers” logo is so big, I thought for a second that I put the wrong movie in the DVD player. Speaking of production company logos, I’ve always thought the one for One Hundred Years of Film is pretty cool — with the spikes and the picture of Guan Yu.

isabella_6.jpg

0:02:45: See, the “Isabella” title card is 1/3 the size of the “Not Brothers” logo.

0:02:57: Who’s that creepy glasses-wearing guy hitting on Isabella Leong Lok-Si? Shawn Yue Man-Lok? Man, those “I usually don’t like these places” and “give up the forest for a tree” pick-up lines are so lame. What’s next? “If your right leg was Christmas and your left leg was Easter, would you let me spend some time up between the holidays?”

“There’s a quiet cafe in Taipa” … but by “cafe” I mean my bedroom and “Taipa” I mean my flat.

0:06:04: Look at all those bottles of Carlsberg beer on the table. I wonder if they are sponsors.

0:07:21: Is that Isabella Leong lying naked next to Chapman To Man-Chat? Ewww … she’s 18, 19 years old so she’s of age, but still, ewww …

0:08:08: Wow, look at that gut on Chapman To. You can tell this isn’t one of those disposable “idol” films, no idol would let themselves look unflattering on screen unless it was for a serious film or they were going for an acting award.

0:09:48: An intertitle advancing the plot by using history. Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung used history and intertitles in AV as well. I wonder if this is going to become a part of the Edmond Pang movie drinking game, joining such Pang staples as the main characters smoking like a chimney and brief shots of the back of Tim Youngs’ head.

0:10:42: Watching Anthony Wong Chau-Sang eat is making me hungry for hotpot. This scene between Wong and To is an interesting way to fill-in plot though.

0:12:59: Isabella Leong’s character isn’t 18 yet. Great, statutory rape. Are we supposed to like Chapman To’s character? If we are, then this isn’t the way to make him sympathetic.

Ordering her to deny ever sleeping with him? What a gentleman.

0:14:07: Hmm … she’s his daughter and her name is Cheung Bik-Yan. Hmm …

0:15:08: That looks like one of the Boy’z — Stephen Cheung Chi-Hang. I wonder how Boy’z are doing. If I recall correctly, Kenny Kwan Chi-Ban left and EEG got a new guy to work with Stephen Cheung. Boy bands, the kind that are pre-fabricated by music studios and not the ones that start up organically in a garage band or something, are so hard to get going. After all, you just have to go see the definition for “boy band” in the Urban Dictionary to get a sense of how most people see them. I wonder if Boy’z are still riding Twins’ coattail. Things to add to the “got to Google” list after the film.

0:16:37: Now Isabella Leong is making me hungry for spaghetti.

0:16:47: Did Cheung Bik-Yan just admit to having sex with someone she knew was her father? Incest. I haven’t been this grossed out since Octavia went down on Octavian.

0:17:36: Now we have a shot of Chapman To smoking next to a slot machine. This is one of the things that bug me about Edmond Pang films — a lot of smoking. I think the characters in AV did this too. I’m with Paul Fonoroff on this one — it’s neither sexy nor cool.

isabella_2.jpg

0:17:47: Hmm… simplified Chinese on the slot machine buttons. I thought traditional Chinese was used in Macau? Oh well, another sign of simplified’s growing encroachment on the territory of traditional. The only time I was in Macau, 1987, I was too young to be allowed into casinos so I can’t say for sure that they haven’t always been simplified. I seem to recall that there were slot machines on the ferry to Macau as well but, again, I was too young to be allowed in the roped-off section. Another thing to Google after the film.

0:18:23: For a guy who just found out he slept with his daughter, Shing (Chapman To) is taking it pretty calmly. If it was me, I’d be all nauseous and looking desperately for the memory-wiping service from ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.

0:19:18: Ah, so Shing didn’t sleep with Isabella, er, Bik-Yan. It was a hooker. He’s already a crooked cop who fathered a kid when he was a teenager. Incest would have made the character completely unsympathetic and virtually irredeemable.

0:21:54: Isabella Leong’s doing a pretty good job of acting. I don’t think she has a huge screen presence though. Her “screen magnetism” isn’t leading lady level screen magnetism. Your eyes aren’t immediately drawn to her when she’s on screen. Nevertheless, she’s pretty good. A pleasant surprise because with the EEG and pop idol baggage, you sort of expect something different than what you are getting here.

0:22:25: Hey, it’s Jim “you f–kin’ stupid generation” Chim Sui-Man playing the landlord. The “Jim Chim appearance” is another addition for the drinking game.

Still waiting for the Tim Youngs appearance.

0:23:03: Maybe I’ve watched too many years of LAW & ORDER and NYPD BLUE but I can’t believe the Jim Chim character let Shing up into Bik-Yan’s apartment because it was “police business”. Let’s see, Shing has got a bandage on his forehead and blood on his shirt. How many cops do you see walking around like that? You’d think as cantankerous as that landlord was, he’d tell Shing to come back with a search warrant instead of caving in to Shing’s demands.

0:25:25: Isabella Leong is yelling out “Isabella” without a “Chinglish” accent. I’m guessing this means she didn’t grow up in Hong Kong.

0:28:12: The “Missing Dog” poster is written in traditional Chinese so I guess that Macau doesn’t use simplified after all. Then again, this is a movie so who knows? I’m still going to have to hit Google after the show.

0:28:21: Seeing all those “Missing Dog” posters on the wall just gave me a flashback to the scene in CRAZY N’ THE CITY where Eason Chan Yik-Shun and Joey Yung Tso-Yi are taking down posters as Francis Ng Chun-Yu is putting them up. Good times. Do yourself a favour, if you haven’t seen CRAZY N’ THE CITY yet, look for it. Time well spent.

0:29:25: Shing shows that he’s willing to let Bik-Yan stay with him by just handing her a pillow and a blanket.

Communicating without talking. They’re already a normal Chinese family!

isabella_3.jpg

0:31:06: Is that Josie Ho Chiu-Yi? She looks so different here than from what I’ve seen of her before. Then again, I haven’t really seen her in anything but the papers since TVB’s A ROAD AND A WILL (香港人在廣州) and that was, gosh, ten years ago.

0:33:00: Here’s Anthony Wong eating again. Now, I’m hungry for noodles. I’m not sure if moving the story along using intertitles and these Anthony Wong scenes is such a good idea. It’s making the movie a bit nebulous.

Looking at the photo of Isabella, Bik-Yan and Bik-Yan’s mom in the “Missing Dog” poster, Anthony Wong’s character says: “Which one am I looking for?”

Anthony Wong kills me.

0:35:29: Shing: Condoms? I don’t use them.

Bik-Yan: I know, or else I wouldn’t be here. I don’t want a sister.

Burn!

0:36:32: Here’s Shing buying a gun. Are the Gods of Foreshadowing making an appearance? Introducing a gun in the story … this can’t be a good development for Shing.

0:38:11: Carlsberg beer again. They’ve definitely got to be a sponsor.

isabella_4.jpg

0:38:55: Nice symbolism with Bik-Yan and Shing lugging her bags, in unison, down the street. Father-daughter starting to click and get in rhythm.

0:40:00: Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung as a nerdy-looking student. He also looks off enough to whack Shing. Another appearance by the Gods of Foreshadowing?

0:40:09: Bik-Yan is ironing her school uniform.

Does this mean we’re going to get a shot of her wearing it? You know, for the uniform fetishists out there?

0:40:39: There’s the gun again. The Gods of Foreshadowing are starting to rumble …

0:40:47: … and here’s the uniform shot for the fetishists. The way Bik-Yan is referring to Shing as “her man” is a little creepy.

0:47:28: Bik-Yan: “I won’t say anything until my lawyer arrives.”

Nice.

isabella_5.jpg

0:48:18: This is a nice little scene with Isabella Leong singing along to Anita Mui Yim-Fong’s 夢伴 (Dream Companion). The lyrics, about not being able to recapture the past, matches up quite nicely with the plot points of the movie.

Is anyone else having a flashback to the scene where Natalie Portman sings to Jean Reno in LEON (aka THE PROFESSIONAL)?

0:51:58: More father-daughter bonding … more Carlsberg bottles.

0:52:56: Shing helps a drunk Bik-Yan to bed.

Nice parallel to the stumbling-to-bed scene at the beginning of movie.

0:56:53: Bik-Yan is singing “Dream Companion” again. “Mom loved this song.”

Not surprising since it dovetails perfectly to the situation Bik-Yan’s mother found herself in. Ugh, this is making me feel old. I remember getting the cassette — back in the ancient times before CDs and mp3s — that “Dream Companion” is on — 壞女孩 (Bad Girl). I was at the HK Coliseum for one of the then record-setting 28 concerts Anita Mui held in late 1987. I can’t remember if she performed “Dream Companion” but I remember she did “Bad Girl” and “Why, Why, Tell Me Why?”. I also remember her “Arabian princess” look and Grasshopper making an appearance. Man, this means that I may be old enough to be Bik-Yan’s father. Sigh …

1:05:17: I know Bik-Yan is trying to drive all the other women away but acting like Shing is her lover is creepy.

This “Bik-Yan and Shing’s women” sequence is going on too long. I just paused the DVD to see who’s winning the curling game at the Tournament of Hearts between Team Prince Edward Island and Team Manitoba. Jennifer Jones of Manitoba is leading Suzanne Gaudet of PEI by a score of 8 to 2. It’s the seventh end so it’s pretty much over for PEI. OK, back to the movie …

isabella_8.jpg

1:08:16: Carlsberg has definitely got to be a sponsor. A girl wearing a Carlsberg shirt has just shown up at the door carrying a bag filled, naturally, with bottles of Carlsberg beer.

isabella_7.jpg

Actually, the Carlsberg product integration isn’t that bad. It’s fairly subtle in this movie. It’s not a DRINK DRANK DRUNK situation. In that movie, you had signs for Prime Credit Limited in the background and billboards CGI-ed into the movie. The only way it could have been more noticeable is if the following exchange happened:

Michel (Daniel Wu): Can I have some cash? I need money to buy supplies for the restaurant.

Siu-Man (Miriam Yeung): I just spent our last $1000 on fixtures.

Michel: But how can a restaurant function without food?

Siu-Man: I know, we can get a small business line-of-credit from Prime Credit Limited — a subsidiary of Standard Chartered PLC. I hear they offer low-interest loans geared toward entrepreneurs like us, one of their many innovative financial products and services aimed at delivering tailor-made and flexible solutions to customers.

Michel: Do you think we qualify?

Siu-Man: We should. I’ll check their website, PrimeCredit.com.hk, for details. Or I could talk to some of their friendly and courteous staff at one of the 31 branches they have in Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories.

Michel: Excellent. It would be great if we could get financing from Prime Credit Limited.

1:09:18: That’s some fake-looking vomit. Sadly, I know because I became intimately acquainted with vomiting last year.

1:10:30: A lingering shot of Isabella Leong’s legs. She’s also wearing a school uniform. Am I supposed to be turned on? Because I’m not. Is it because I’m not in the demographic that would find Isabella Leong sexy or is it because Isabella Leong doesn’t burn up the screen? I think it’s the latter because a shot of Crystal Liu Yifei in a similar situation would probably seize my attention.

1:11:03: The Gods of Foreshadowing smile as “Portuguese food” (a.k.a the gun) makes another appearance.

1:11:50: This lighthouse sequence is supposed to signify something but I’m too dim to see it. Can someone out there enlighten me?

1:17:09: The Gods of Ominousness have taken over from the Gods of Foreshadowing as some bad guys deliver a message to Shing. I fear we’re headed for a tragic ending. When it comes to dramas, Hong Kong Cinema is the Lucius Vorenus of cinemas — given a choice between a happy outcome and a miserable outcome, always pick the miserable outcome.

1:20:59: More creepy talk, from Bik-Yan, of Shing as her lover rather than her father. Derek Tsang is a pretty decent actor. He’s completely different here than he was in AV. Finally, a “son of …” actor that makes you forget he’s a “son of …” actor. By the way, if you didn’t know, Derek Tsang is Eric Tsang Chi-Wai’s son.

1:21:52: “As long as it is presentable, it’ll do.”

Nice callback to the 拜神 (worshipping spirits) scene at 0:59:00.

1:25:08: Hey, it’s Vincent Wan Yeung-Ming! Miu Yan-Fung (苗人鳳) from TVB’s crappy 1999 remake of FLYING FOX OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAIN. So Shing isn’t Bik-Yan’s father. Interesting.

1:27:20: Ella, Bik-Yan’s mother, comes out from the abortion clinic not seeing young Shing.

I thought for sure we’d see Young Shing hiding behind a wall or something as the camera pulled away. It’d make his seem like less of a jerk and further his redemption arc.

 isabella_9.jpg

1:29:21: Bik-Yan starts crying and says, “don’t leave me”, to Shing after revealing that she found Isabella.

Perhaps the cisplatin has eaten away the sentimentality cells in my heart because this scene is leaving me cold. I know it’s supposed to be a moment of great emotion but I’m just hitting here with my eyebrow cocked like a Vulcan saying: “fascinating”. Again, maybe it’s because I’m dim, but the Isabella the Dog symbolism isn’t doing anything for me.

1:32:05: Shing tosses the gun away into the reservoir.

I guess we aren’t going to get a tragic ending after all.

1:32:55: Derek Tsang’s character, the nerdy school guy, confronts Shing in an alley.

Maybe I spoke too soon. This looks like a “I’m going to save Bik-Yan by knifing her evil boyfriend in the gut” situation.

1:33:50: Ah, so it wasn’t a tragic knife scene but an Oprah “Moment of Enlightenment”™ scene.

isabella_10.jpg

1:35:12: Dinner sequence between Bik-Yan and Shing.

This whole sequence is filed with symbols of change — from the story behind the Rolex to the home-cooked meal (instead of the take-out that they ate at the beginning). It’s a nice scene but it would have been more powerful if the Rolex was introduced earlier in the film. You know, if Shing told one of his lady friends not to touch his Rolex or something. Here, the Rolex bit sort of feels tacked on.

1:36:20: “Promise me, when I get out, let’s quit smoking.”

So the smoking is a symbol too. OK, but it was still a bit annoying to see on screen — especially since Bik-Yan’s mother died from lung cancer. You’d think watching a loved one die of lung cancer would be a powerful deterrent against smoking.

1:43:30: Bik-Yan sobs as she holds Isabella.

This dog thing still isn’t doing anything for me. Why isn’t it working? I’ve got two eyes and a heart.

1:44:35: Bik-Yan is still creepily referring to Shing as her man. What’s that about?

Credits: Pauline Yeung was the “tea lady” for this film. It’s not the kind of credit you’d see in a Hollywood film. One of the things you have to love about Hong Kong.

Tim Youngs shows up in the “producers would like to acknowledge” section. Does this qualify as a Tim Youngs appearance for the Edmond Pang movie drinking game? Yes, I think it does.

By the way, in case you were hanging on the edge of your seat, the Jennifer Jones rink won 9-4.

CLOSING THOUGHTS: With ISABELLA, Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung continues his climb to the top ranks of Hong Kong movie directordom. It is, without question, a well-made film. The music, the lush cinematography and the acting are all first-rate. However, the storytelling left me cold. The father-daughter plot and Shing’s arc of redemption were supposed to be emotionally moving but somehow ended up feeling empty and shallow. My brain registered all the tugs at my heart strings and sent the appropriate messages to my heart telling it to feel something at the end of the film but, somewhere along the way, there was a malfunction at the junction and all my heart felt was that I should watch WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES — another bad man-turns-good movie set in Macau — again someday. I think the problem lies in the writing for the Bik-Yan character. She doesn’t feel authentic. She seems more like a vehicle for the film’s agenda than a credible, actual person and — in a film like ISABELLA that relies heavily on mood and atmosphere — it disrupts the rhythm and flow of the movie.

Nevertheless, watching ISABELLA is an enjoyable experience. You don’t go away feeling resentful about having wasted your time. A sentiment, sadly, that I’ve felt all too often after watching a HK film. Moreover, the scene where Bik-Yan sings “Dream Companion” to Shing is being enshrined in my pantheon of “Memorable Hong Kong Movie Scenes” alongside scenes like: the standoff between Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Mad Dog in HARD-BOILED, Chow Yun-Fat and Ti Lung looking down at Hong Kong’s night-time skyline in A BETTER TOMORROW, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang hitting the top of the car in INFERNAL AFFAIRS, the climactic shootouts in EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and PTU, the almost rape scene in WHERE A GOOD MAN GOES, the scene where Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah reveal themselves to be masters in KUNG FU HUSTLE and Faye Wong breaking into Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s apartment in CHUNGKING EXPRESS.

As for Isabella Leong Lok-Si, it’s too early in her career for anyone to crown her or condemn her. She gave a good performance in this film but I wonder if it’s a case of underpromise and overdeliver. With ISABELLA, you have a situation where a widely-hyped prospect that EEG has been grooming for years (I remember translating articles about Isabella Leong way back in 2002 when she was a mere 14 years-old) coming off the commercial crapfest that was BUG ME NOT! starring in a movie with the cutie-title ISABELLA. Naturally, you go in thinking that this film is going to stink like previous pop idol movies. Imagine Mariah Carey’s GLITTER being called MARIAH or Britney Spears’ CROSSROADS being called BRITNEY. But then, against expectations, you get a serious film with a serious performance and you end up thinking to yourself: “wow, this girl has got game.” I wonder, though, if this perspective is making people overestimate Isabella Leong’s abilities. It’s sort of like how a football team follows-up a 2-14 season with an 8-8 season. An 8-8 record is still mediocre but, compared to 2-14, it’s pretty good.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a “crow-mouth” (烏鴉口) caw-cawing and pooh-poohing Isabella Leong. She’s part of the Leung/Leong/Liang clan so I’m rooting for her and hoping she does well. I’m just saying let’s hold off on anointing her as the next Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk or the next “Box Office Queen”. First, as I said during the running diary, I don’t think she has leading lady type screen charisma. She doesn’t command your attention like Zhang Ziyi or Shu Qi or Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi. Second, I think her singing is more Robin Sparkles “Let’s Go To The Mall” than Anita Mui “Debts of the Heart” (心債). Third, I don’t think she’s as popular as she appears. EEG “froze” her back in October for “temper tantrums”. If she was popular and, more important, profitable, EEG wouldn’t have suspended her. Using another sports analogy, if the star player on a team gets arrested for a DUI, management usually says: “oh, we can’t cut him, ‘innocent until proven guilty’, ‘we have to let due process play out’ and all that”. However, if a back-up player finds himself in trouble with the law, it’s usually: “he’s a cancer on the team, we have to cut him immediately”. The fact that EEG thought they could afford to freeze her means that she probably isn’t raking in Twins money or Joey Yung money. She’s since been reinstated, however, so maybe her clout is growing. EEG initially announced that her suspension was to last a year but it ended up being only three months.

In any event, there is no doubt that Isabella Leong has great potential. Here’s hoping that her management makes judicious decisions that allow her to maximize her potential both artistically and commercially. Here’s hoping that she doesn’t succumb to the “too much, too soon” syndrome and end up finding herself in a Lindsay Lohan situation. So say we all … at least all of us Leungs.

Reader Feedback Time: What did you guys think of the running diary format? Too inane?

I’d love it if someone would share their opinion and enlighten me on the lighthouse scene and the whole dog allegory thing.

Do you think Isabella Leong has high-wattage screen charisma?

Plus, if you were moved by ISABELLA and think that I’m a cold-hearted bastard for not feeling anything, maybe you could help melt my icy heart by telling me how this film got to you.

Image credits: Media Asia (ISABELLA), Long Shong Entertainment Group (DRINK DRANK DRUNK)

 
 
LoveHKFilm.com Copyright © 2002-2017 Ross Chen