A COOL FISH (2018) review

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A sleeper hit in China, Rao Xiaozhi’s A Cool Fish interlocks narratives as we follow Cobra (Zhang Yu) and Big Head (Pan Binlong), two hapless criminals who rob a cellphone shop with a stolen gun, run away on a motorbike without knowing the phones they’ve stolen are just non-functioning models for show, and then must keep running away on foot after when their motorbike ends up in a tree due to a clumsy maneuver. They end up in the appartment of Jiaqi (Ren Suxi), a quadriplegic who has given up on life, and is thus not impressed by their attempts at intimidation. Meanwhile, Jiaqi’s brother Xianyong (Chen Jianbin), who was fired from the police and now works as a security guard for property developer Gao Ming (Wang Yanhui), sets off to find his lost shotgun, which is none other than the one used by Cobra and Big Head in their attempt at a robbery. And Xianyong’s daughter, who harbors a world of resentment against him, is trying to cool down her boyfriend Xiang (Ning Huanyu), the son of Gao Ming, who wants to go up against the loan sharks who are threatening his father.

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WHEN A PEKING FAMILY MEETS AUPAIR (2014) short review

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Chen Gang’s When a Peking Family meets Aupair (sic) is a tooth-rottingly maudlin and ear-splittingly shrill family comedy about middle-class Chinese parents (Xu Fan and Chen Jianbin) who hire an au pair from Columbia (Gianina Terranova) to be their daughter’s nanny. Things get off to a shaky start as her recklessness and fun-loving ways clash with the mother’s tightly-wound universe. The film obviously aims to provide some commentary on parenting in today’s China, but remains on a very simplistic level, each character reduced to one dimension: there’s the control-freak, the feisty one, the bitchy one (Fann Wong, of Shanghai Knights), the wise one, and so on. It all unfolds as a series of trite, flatly-shot vignettes, most of which are made unbearable by Gianina Terranova’s truly appalling performance, as she yells out each and every one of her lines in a mix of English and Mandarin, constantly bouncing and dancing around so as to hammer the viewer with the fact that her character LOVES having fun. Xu Fan and Chen Jianbin remain dignified and the film’s only palatable moments are the few scenes they share away from Gianina Terranova. Deceivingly, the film boasts on its poster the presence of Sun Honglei, Guo Tao, Tong Liya and Wang Qianyuan, but none of these estimable actors appear for more than a minute. Sun Honglei, in particular, must have agreed to appear after having lost a bet, so sullen and disconnected he seems in his short appearance. *