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… 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 ‘Michelle Yeoh’ Category

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.

Official Site:
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.


- 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 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: (Isabella Leong), (Richard Li), File Photo (Grace Ip)

The Comeback Post


Roast Suckling PigWelcome to the new home of The House Where Words Gather. I’ll explain my four and a half month absence in a minute but, first things first, let’s start off properly by appeasing the Internet Gods and Computing Spirits with an opening blog ceremony — complete with burning joss sticks and roasted suckling pig.

Since it’s still just me and my staff of ten fingers, no celebrities are around for this shindig. However, if I were to have celebrities, I think I’d go for the 千金小姐 (chin kam siu je, Thousand Pieces of Gold Girls) or the “Briefcase Models” from the Hong Kong version of DEAL OR NO DEAL. I bet that you could get all the models to come to your opening festivities for the price of one Joey Yung Tso-Yi. While having the Briefcase Models is not as awe-inspiring as having a big Cantopop star, being surrounded by a sea of legs and cleavage still presents a formidable image:

Michael Hui Koon-Man and HK’s DEAL OR NO DEAL Briefcase Models

Enough of the hijinks … When I last left you, I was having an angel versus devil debate over buying the LEGEND OF THE CONDOR HEROES 1983 DVD set. Well, the devil won and I ended up getting it. Little did I know that this was a gateway victory for my mind devil that led to a summer where it beat down my mind angel like the New England Patriots have been routing its competition this season in the NFL:

Me: Gee, it’s been two weeks since I’ve posted on the blog. Maybe I should put something together?

Mind Devil: Nah, you don’t want to that. It’s a nice evening, why don’t you enjoy the weather, take in the sunset and go out for a walk?

Me: Boy, it’s been a month since I’ve posted on the blog. I really should put something up.

Mind Devil: But didn’t you want to see KNOCKED UP? It’s 36°C today. Why sit and sweat next to a computer when you can enjoy the air-conditioned comforts of a movie theatre?

And so it went. In my defense, the Summer of 2006 wasn’t the most pleasant of times for me so it may have contributed to my going overboard in enjoying the Summer of 2007. Also, I had a surprising number of family and friends decide to spend part of their vacations visiting me so many days were filled with catching up and reminiscing over old times. Nevertheless, I should have been more disciplined. Looking at the comments that have accumulated on the blog in my absence, some of you were worried that my silence meant that I suffered a setback healthwise. I’m touched by the concern and feel doubly bad for my laziness and irresponsibility. Please accept my apologies.

Britney Spears at the 2007 MTV VMAsNow that I’ve explained myself, I’m going to pull a “Britney Spears” by stumbling and bumbling my way through the rest of the post with some thoughts that are marginally-related to the entertainment circle. My Summer of Sloth means that the HK entertainment circle database in my brain is even more badly out of date than it was earlier this year so don’t expect any piercing insight. I am, however, studying up on burning issues like: Who is Fala Chen and why should I care what she’s up to? In short order, I expect to be able to crack bad jokes about notable, and not so notable, entertainment circle happenings. Until then, these thoughts will have to do:

- In spite of the lukewarm reviews, I went to see RUSH HOUR 3. Initially, I thought it was an OK time at the movies but then, during my walk from the movie theatre to the parking lot, I started feeling a bit sad as I remembered the way I felt during the same walk after RUSH HOUR 2 in August of 2001 and RUSH HOUR in September of 1998.

After RUSH HOUR, I felt incredibly proud of Jackie Chan for finally breaking through in Hollywood. After RUSH HOUR 2, I left exhilarated — excited by the action scene flurry during the finale at the Red Dragon Hotel and Casino. By stark contrast, after RUSH HOUR 3, my feelings of indifference were quickly replaced by a wave of melancholy as I realized that the RUSH HOUR franchise is getting old and tired, Jackie Chan is getting old and tired, Chris Tucker is getting old and tired and I am getting old and tired. ;-)

Chris Tucker seemed, to me, like he was just going through the motions. Jackie Chan has clearly lost a step. In the opening sequence where Chan chases Hiroyuki Sanada’s character into an alleyway, it’s obvious that a stuntman leaped over the dumpster not Big Brother Jackie. I’m not trying to slight Jackie Chan here. The guy is in his 50s and you can only push your body so far. It’s the inexorable course of nature. I’m just saying that it was little things like this that made me feel like the whole RUSH HOUR milieu is old and tired.

What did you guys think?

One last thing about RUSH HOUR 3. In one scene, Jackie Chan’s character is looking at a photograph while pining for his ex-girlfriend Isabella. The first thing that came to my mind was: “When I get home, I got to see if there’s rumours between Jackie Chan and Isabella Leong Lok-Si.”

Then I realized that “Isabella” was Roselyn Sanchez’s character from RUSH HOUR 2. Funny how my mind went straight to rumour and innuendo even though I haven’t been doing a HK entertainment news site for a year and a half.

Maggie Q in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD- I was pleasantly surprised by Maggie Q’s performance in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. She was impressively “bad ass” in the movie. It almost — almost — makes me want to rent MI:3 and check out her work in that film. Sadly, when I see Tom Cruise these days, all I can think of is him jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch and him lecturing Matt Lauer about psychology. As an admirer of Vulcan philosophy, I should be able to overcome such feelings. Alas, I am human so I cannot. ;-)

Anyone out there seen MI:3? Is it worth a rental? Does Maggie Q have more than three lines in the movie?

- When I read that Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung and Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi named their baby boy Lucas, my first thought wasn’t “I wonder if they named him after Geroge Lucas.” Nope, my first thought was: “When Lucas is sixteen years-old and ready to sign a multi-million dollar contract with EEG, his half-brother Nathan is going to suddenly show up and stir up trouble.”

My second thought was: “I used to watch too much bad TV.”

My third thought was: “I can’t believe it took me a season and a half to dump ONE TREE HILL from my TV viewing schedule.”

Bai Ling (left) and Tila Tequlia (right)- Speaking of bad TV, three Sundays ago, I was flipping between three football games when I stumbled across some sort of dating show starring an Asian-looking woman. Not only was she choosing between guys, she appeared to be choosing among women as well. At first glance, I thought this woman was Bai Ling. It turned out to be a woman of Vietnamese-descent who calls herself Tila Tequila. Prior to the dating show (A SHOT A LOVE WITH TILA TEQUILA), her claim to fame was having a lot of friends on her Myspace page. Not to sound like an old fart but it’s amazing how little you have to do to be famous these days. Once you get beyond the initial titillation of the bisexual factor, Tila Tequila and the contestants don’t have enough charisma to hold your attention. I’d definitely be watching the show if crazy, nutty Bai Ling was the one looking for love amongst a pool of male and female prospects. Tila Tequila? I’d rather waste my time watching something else … like MY SUPER SWEET 16. ;-)

Sonija Kwok and Eric Tsang (left); Kwok and Carlo Ng Ka-Lok (right)

LOOKIN’ GOOD: Sonija Kwok Sin-Lei turned some heads on Halloween Night at the Intercontinental Hotel as she did a little song, a little dance and put a little seltzer in some pants during a 43-table fundraising banquet for the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild. Kwok, Miss Hong Kong 1999, is currently under contract with TVB and was associated, earlier this year, with rumours that she was the “third party” behind the marriage breakup of fellow TVB actor Michael Tao Dai-Yu and his wife.

Related images: 1, 2 (courtesy The Sun); 3 (courtesy Xinhua)

Michelle Yeoh and Jean Todt

LOOKIN’ GOOD, PART II: As you can probably tell, I didn’t follow the HK scene too much this summer but, every two weeks or so, I would catch a glimpse of Michelle Yeoh during Formula 1 race telecasts. Yeoh is currently involved with Ferrari head man Jean Todt. I’ve got to rent SUNSHINE one day and check out Michelle Yeoh’s work. Any one seen it? Is it any good?

IMAGE CREDITS: Apple Daily (Michael Hui and DEAL OR NO DEAL briefcase girls), Associated Press (Britney Spears), 20th Century Fox (Maggie Q), Asiance Magazine (Bai Ling), Tila Tequila (Tila Tequila), Wen Wei Po (Sonija Kwok and Eric Tsang), The Sun (Sonija Kwok and Carlo Ng), Formula One Administration/TSN (Michelle Yeoh and Jean Todt) Copyright © 2002-2021 Ross Chen