Best and worst 2016: Movies


• Captain Fantastic (M18)

This movie is almost too slick for its own good. It feels as if it was made in a laboratory to fit all the Sundance Festival feel-good drama-comedy requirements, from its family on a quest to eccentricity of the sweetest kind.

This story of back-to-nature idealist Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen, pictured) and his brood might be polished to perfection, but its allure is powerful. Writer-director Matt Ross makes the audience fall in love with his family, then confounds expectations by showing that the attraction might be undeserved.

• Train To Busan (NC16)

There is this idea that horror movies are a licence to print money: Stick enough zombies jumping out of the dark and watch the cash roll in. The result is rarely good, let alone profitable. But South Korean writer-director Yeon Sang Ho takes a highly technical and successful approach: He constrains the action within a moving train and makes sure every character follows the rules of the world he has built.

Here, everything that can save you or turn you into a zombie can come only from within this rolling realm. The movie is like a long 1980s Jackie Chan fight scene - ingenious weapons are fashioned from everyday objects, but wielded by city folk as unheroic and clumsy as you would expect them to be.

• Sing Street (PG13)

La La Land might take the limelight as the musical of the year, but this work by Irish director John Carney (Once, 2007; Begin Again, 2013) is better. It pays tribute to a youth spent in a drab Dublin estate and, in doing so, makes the pain of teenagehood universal. The hero is Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teen who does not let bullies, brutal teachers and divorcing parents get in the way of forming a band so he can win the heart of the girl he loves.


• Suicide Squad (PG13)

Everyone was hoping that, finally, the DC comics world would produce a movie with humour and charm, qualities left behind in the chase for ever grimmer movies in the mould of Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise. This pile of chaos was the result: an ensemble piece that could not work out what it is that makes the group tick.

John Lui


• Mr Six

China's Feng Xiaogang is equally at home behind the camera or in front of it. He is tremendous in this compelling character study of the titular Mr Six (pictured), a Beijing old-timer of honour and principles who is out of step with the times, and he deservedly walked away with the Golden Horse Award for Best Actor.

The film packs in plenty of observations about contemporary Chinese society and values and ends with a visually spectacular showdown on a frozen lake.

• Ten Years

The controversial Hong Kong Film Award winner for Best Film paints a disturbing picture of the territory in 2025. The anthology comprises Extras by Kwok Zune, Season Of The End by Wong Fei Pang, Dialect by Jevons Au, Self-Immolator by Kiwi Chow and Local Egg by Ng Ka Leung. The works run the gamut from heavily metaphorical to darkly humorous to overtly political.

The movieis uneven and raw at times, but is also filled with unbridled passion and a sense of urgency and it taps into a very real sense of unease about Hong Kong's future.

• Your Name

The anime flick, which has been smashing records at home in Japan, tells a beguiling story in an unexpected way and deftly ties together strands of humour, romance and mystery.

The movie starts out as a light-hearted high-school comedy and deepens into an existential mystery and a rumination on the nature of time as the appearance of a comet and the Japanese tradition of braiding cords are woven in.

The animation is gorgeous, detailed and vividly coloured.


• A Chinese Odyssey Part Three

Comedian Stephen Chow's priceless deadpan performance in his dual roles of Joker and Monkey King is a big reason the two-part A Chinese Odyssey (1995) is so beloved by its fans.

So a part three sans Chow - and much of the original Hong Kong cast - is absolute travesty in this sequel to the Journey To The West movies.

Even the jokes here are recycled. Did director Jeffrey Lau run out of money and ideas?

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Best and worst 2016: Movies'. Subscribe