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The Fan Carpet share our top 20 of 2014 – What was our Number 1?


30 December 2014

2014 has come to an end, and following our 2015 preview and Phil's top 10 list from 2014, our Editor asked everyone at The Fan Carpet for our top 10's of the year.

We tallied them and here is what we found... There were so many great films this year, so what was our top film? Find out below...

We'll start with our honourable mentions: One Hundred-Foot Journey, Calvary, A Most Wanted Man, Her, Frank, The Raid 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, St. Vincent, Tusk, Chef, Godzilla, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Divergent, The Guest, Under The Skin, Paddington, Get Santa, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wish I Was Here, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Pride, Set Fire To The Stars, The Imitation Game, What We Do In The Shadows, The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, The Hunger Games - Mockingjay: Part 1, Smetto Quando Voglio (I Can Quit Whenever I Want), Non-Stop, The Devil's Knot, No Good Deed, The Judge, Dracula Untold, Locke, Dallas Buyers Club, '71, Omar, Miss Violence, IDA, Nymph()maniac, The Borderlands, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Ruin, Bastards, The Wind Rises, A Story of Children and Film, The Past, 20,000 Days on Earth and The Square.

And now for out top 20, starting with 20...

20. The Maze Runner | Reviewed by Oliver Hayes

If there's one thing that's been proven, movie franchises based on teen novels have scored big bucks at the box office. Twilight led the charge when it came to teen novel/movie adaptations and when that ended, amidst a chorus of pre-pubescent upset, Hunger Games took its place. Even though Mockingjay Part 1 has yet to be released and Part 2 is still on it's way, Hollywood is always on the look-out for the next big thing, and The Maze Runner might just be it.

Adapted for the big screen by Wes Ball, whose short animated film Ruin garnered him enough attention to land the coveted role of director, The Maze Runner tells the story of a group of boys imprisoned by a giant, mysterious and ever changing maze that surrounds them. Every month, a new boy arrives along with fresh supplies of food to keep them alive, but one thing remains the same; none of them know who they are or why they’ve been put here. The film opens with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a new boy being delivered to the maze. Disorientated and with no memory of his past life, Thomas is gradually initiated into the group by Alby (Aml Ameen), the eldest of the boys. As Thomas adapts to his new life within the towering walls of the maze, things start going wrong, and is quickly blamed by Gally (Will Poulter) for the disruption to their peaceful existence. Despite hostility from the group, Thomas is convinced that whatever lies beyond the walls will hold the key to all their questions and sets about attempting to escape the deadly maze in search of the truth as well as his freedom.

Make no mistake, The Maze Runner is not your average tween friendly movie, as the story progresses there are genuine scares and shocks to be had and that's even before we discover what stalks the maze. Part of the intrigue of The Maze Runner is the element of the unknown, why were they put here and by who are questions that underpin the duration of the film. The threat of these anonymous captors serves to drive a wedge between the community of boys and their pre-established pecking order, leading to uprising and mutiny. Throw a girl into the mix, who arrives with a cryptic note claiming she is ‘the last one ever’ and already these are some pretty intense themes for a film aimed predominantly at the 12A demographic.

For a director whose previous credits include a short animation (http://vimeo.com/38591304) the visuals of The Maze Runner are astounding in scope, and you can definitely see based on his short why Ball was hired for job. The maze is an entity unto itself, constantly shifting its boundaries and opening up new segments meaning that for three years, despite trying to map out its perimeters, the runners have never come close to anything resembling an exit.

Casting wise, The Maze Runner pulls together a fantastic international group of young actors, from our very own Will Poulter as something of an antagonist in the group and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, portraying an almost sage like figure, a voice of reason amongst the chaos (why Poulter adopts the American accent and Sangster remains British isn’t totally obvious but it works) to the likes of Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee and the lead, Dylan O’Brien who pulls off the hero role with confidence and maturity. It's refreshing to see a group of disparate, rag-tag looking boys as opposed to the perfectly coiffed, chiselled jawbones of Twilight and Hunger Games, which definitely lends The Maze Runner an air of something more realistic.

The Maze Runner is a wholly satisfying first entry into a franchise that could easily rival Hunger Games for popularity. A sequel is already in the works, and boasts the impressive additional casting of Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito and Game Of Throne's Aidan Gillen. With a run time of 113 minutes, The Maze Runner never feels bloated, nor does it dip in energy. From the opening shot of Thomas arriving in the maze, the film ramps up the tension bit by bit and you too will be clawing to escape the maze.

19. How to Train Your Dragon 2 | Reviewed by Marc Jason Ali

DreamWorks Animations have been going from strength to strength in recent years, and following their recent successes including The Croods, Turbo and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the studio are back with the further adventures of Hiccup and the Dragon Riders of Berk.

The film opens five years after the events of How to Train Your Dragon where the citizens of Berk have fully embraced the Dragons, and live in harmony with these majestic creatures. From the outset we are treated to the thrilling aerodynamics of the Dragons, as the youngsters take part in the breathtaking 'Dragon Racing' where the object is to heard sheep away from their opponents and the game is won by snagging the Black Sheep.

As the game ends, Stoick (Gerard Butler) realises that his son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is nowhere to be found, he's off making a discovery that will have ramifications for Dragons and Vikings alike. While this is going on, Stoick is keen for Hiccup to take his place as Chief, and Hiccup isn't so sure it is for him.

This eagerly anticipated sequel is larger in scope, as Hiccup and Toothless discover new things, friends are made and alliances forged that will change their world forever. The picture is also remarkably well paced and beautifully animated, in what can only be described as an astonishing feat in cinema, that is superior to its predecessor from a visual perspective.

The voice cast are fantastic, giving heart to their characters and strengthening what came before, most notably Baruchel and America Ferrera (Astrid), and with the addition of Cate Blanchett as Valka, Kit Harington as Eret and Djimon Hounsou as the villainous Drago, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a thrilling adventure from start to climactic end.

Writer and Director Dean DeBlois has crafted a beautiful film, and one that is sure to be remembered not only for its spectacle, but for its heart too; since at the centre of this story is the love and camaraderie between Toothless and Hiccup, and his relationship with his father and the reemergence of his mother - as well as his blossoming romance with Astrid. With so much going on it would be easy for it to be bloated and cumbersome, yet this deviates away from that significantly.

The 3D is utilised in an amazing way that doesn't detract from the story and isn't used as a gimmick, with the way that it is used, it feels like you are right there in the thick of the action, riding the Dragons and sharing in the adventure. Dean BeBlois has said this is the second part to a three part story, so with that being the case, the cinematic world are now to fervently await the third production and where this story is to be taken.

18. 22 Jump Street | Reviewed by Oliver Hayes

There's a shifting of the sands taking place in the comedy movie landscape, and two names are at the centre of it all; Lord and Miller. Phil Lord and Chris miller that is, two young writer-directors who have single (or double) handedly injected a much needed sense of fun, zaniness and above all humour into the fledgling, nose diving Hollywood market of comedy films.

For years the name Judd Apatow was synonymous with comedy; Superbad, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virigin were all films that came at just the right time and quickly became the standard. Now the stoner/bromance shtick feels somewhat old hat and predictable. Alongside this you have a string of unimaginative comedies being churned out, where character and narrative are easily supplanted by mediocre gags and tame set ups. Adam Sandler being chief among those responsible for the dumbing down of comedy movies, only recently he was quoted as saying his films are essentially ‘paid vacations’.

Step in Lord and Miller, who since 2009's excellent animation Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs followed by the immensely popular 21 Jump Street, have managed to breathe life back into an ailing genre. Having scored massive success with The Lego Movie, and with the imminent release of 22 Jump Street, could we be seeing a new era in comedy films… high concept and big in budget but without having to compromise a sense of personality.

Following on almost immediately where 21 Jump Street left off, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are assigned to the rebooted Jump Street programme. Where previously they went undercover as high school students, now they must face a whole new challenge... College (University to us Brits) You know the drill, infiltrate the dealers and find the supply. While Jenko blends seamlessly into the jocular, beer chugging, football playing culture of College, Schmidt finds it a little harder to fit in. It’s not long before the pair end up going solo, and while Schmidt is dedicated to busting the case, Jenko finds his calling playing football for the College team and hanging out with his new friends.

If it all sounds a little too familiar and contrived, have faith because although the plot might be as old as time, Lord and Miller have laced the film with a huge number of absurdly meta moments and self referential jibes than turns 22 Jump into something reminiscent of films such as Naked Gun, Airplane and to some extent Sandlers earlier and best work, Happy Gilmore. We’re beyond the stoner shtick of Rogen and cohorts, 22 Jump Street feels incredibly fresh and original. The opening scene alone is one of pure genius as Nick Offerman wryly dissects the shortcomings of sequels “Ladies nobody gave a shit about the Jump Street reboot, but you got lucky. So now this department has invested a lot of money to make sure Jump Street keeps going.

From here on out the jokes come thick and fast, tearing the tropes of buddy cop movies apart piece by piece. Some jokes are so small you may not even catch them, a favourite being Schmidt upon seeing their new hi-tech HQ, “Look at the captains office, it looks like a giant cube of ice” enter frame Ice Cube as the snarling Captain Dickinson. 22 Jump Street is brilliantly layered, with hidden gems peppered throughout.

Part of the problem with comedies is they lack any sense of visual flair, too often filmmakers choose to take the lazy route and what we end up with are a string of ‘funny’ conversations or slapstick moments shot in static camera set ups, the narratives are regimented and precise. But film is a visual medium, more so with comedy. Lord and Miller understand this and 22 Jump Street benefits by not only being funny, its visually funny and there are a number of stand out sequences that play around with these ideas.

Of course the jokes simply wouldn’t work without the right actors to deliver them and Jonah Hill although branching into drama of late, remains one of the finest comic actors of his generation (better than Rogen in my opinion) and Tatum pulls off the slow witted deadpan comic timing like a pro. The chemistry between them on screen is evident, and you can see they’re having so much fun with the roles.

22 Jump Street is so much more than a big summer comedy movie, frankly it’s a game changer from directors Lord and Miller who may just be the Zucker brothers for the 21st century and without wanting to ruin the end credits, and trust us you’ll want to stay for those, it does a great job at poking fun at the prospect of further films to come.

17. Inside Llewyn Davis | Reviewed by Stefan Pape

The Greenwich Village folk scene has always held much promise as a potentially fascinating cinematic setting, with so few films ever delving into such a time and place to great effect, as a movement somewhat untouched in mainstream cinema. Therefore who better to entrust than the Coen brothers, as Joel and Ethan illuminate the period in the only way they know how, with their latest picture Inside Llewyn Davis.

Taking place across an eventful week in the harsh winter of 1961, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a young, talented musician, trying to navigate his way around the popular folk scene, hoping to be discovered at any moment. Playing gigs sporadically, to modest sized audiences, we see the ambitious singer travelling around the city, with his guitar in tow and a friends' cat by his side, as he moves between different houses and sofas, struggling to find a path to follow or a dream to chase. Spending time with the likes of Jean (Carey Mulligan) and Jim (Justin Timberlake) – he weaves between friendships and adversaries, while the line between the two becomes somewhat blurred.

In a similar vein to O Brother Where Art Thou – the Coen's have used a musical narrative to create a memorable atmosphere, with the songs featured in the film narrating the story almost, providing it with a soundtrack to make for an amiable, pensive piece of cinema. That said, Inside Llewyn Davis is something of a departure for the directors, as they are usually so driven by their stories, whereas this particular piece has a distinct lack of narrative direction. However that is by no means a bad thing – as to an extent we follow the same path as our protagonist, and given this is such an intimate character study, it seems only right to shadow that of his position in life, where he doesn't quite know where he's going.

What is consistent of the Coen brothers brand, however, is the sharp dialogue for which they have become so renowned for, with the incredible ability to implement humour in the most inappropriate of places. Meanwhile, Llewyn is an extremely well-crafted character and portrayed lovingly by Isaac, who is a credit to this idiosyncratic creation. Considering Llewyn is the master of his own demise, and his own best enemy, he manages to stay endearing throughout, and we root for him regardless of his naïve actions. Things do just seem to happen to Llewyn too, as he seems to have very little luck – but in a similar mould to A Serious Man – we never once question the situations that arise, as this is thankfully lacking in any form of contrivance.

However on a more negative note, the supporting roles are not nearly prominent enough, and the likes of Mulligan, Timberlake and Coen brothers favourite John Goodman, are severely underused in this film, despite the latter showing off his great comedic ability in his cameo role as abrasive raconteur Roland Turner. Though talking about supporting roles, there is a cat (or two) that certainly deserve being mentioned, playing a key role to proceedings. Not only are they so goddamn cute, but they represent Llewn's protective instinct, as this rare possession – along with his guitar – shoes that he is able to care for something if he needs to, and though he may struggle to look after his own life, he'll do whatever he can to ensure the same can't be said of others.

Having set their own standards incredibly high, the Coen brothers will forever be scrutinised if they don't reach perfection – and although there are certainly faults to be found to Inside Llewyn Davis, it remains a memorable, thought-provoking drama, and one that comes with a real lasting effect, demanding a second viewing. All the while it's incomprehensibly emotional, with a distinct beauty to this elusive, striking piece of cinema.

16. The Babadook | Reviewed by Chloe Catchpole

"If it's in a word, or it's in a look, you can't get rid of The Babadook." This hauntingly hypnotic phrase perfectly encapsulates writer/director Jennifer Kent's debut feature, an unnerving tale about a widowed mother struggling to bring up her son after a brutal car crash resulted in the sudden and violent death of her husband.

Based on Kent's 2005 short Monster, The Babadook takes a recognisable domestic situation (we all know that one child who's intolerably insufferable) and catapults it into the darkest corner of the psychological horror stratosphere. Essie Davis efficaciously portrays Amelia, a single mother under immense strain, worn down by the constant unpredictable, troubling and antisocial behaviour displayed by her six year old son Samuel (played frustratingly accurately by new comer Daniel Henshall).

During the nightly ritual of choosing a bed time story (a fairly innocent childhood past time) Samuel stumbles upon a previously unread book entitled Mister Babadook, a blood red gothic pop-up book that graphically details the fate of those who encounter the curse of the malevolent Babadook. After concluding the world's most inappropriate children's book a terrifying tidal wave of sleepless night ensues for both mother and son.

Kent adeptly orchestrates every parent's worst nightmare, the fright of fearing your own child and what you may do to them as a result of that fear. An intelligent and engaging psychological horror The Babadook sets the bar high for chilling cinematic releases just in time for the rapidly approaching Halloween period.

Verdict - The Babadook is a genre game changer that doesn't rely on the formulaic jump scares that are common place in modern horror. Being one of the best horror films in recent years The Babadook will leave you reeling for days after, and horror fans can finally rejoice.

15. 12 Years a Slave | Reviewed by Stefan Pape

When British auteur Steve McQueen burst onto the scene in 2008 with Hunger, it was hard to envisage where he could go from there; how he could better his fine, debut effort, and enlarge suitably to match his evident ambition. However Shame managed to do just that, being grander in size and yet proving to be a more accomplished feature film. The challenge in doing that again with his third production 12 Years a Slave seemed even more impossible a task – but somehow the immensely talented filmmaker has managed to up the stakes, staying true to his distinct ingenuity, yet taking this move forward in his stride, with arguably his finest picture yet. 

Beginning in 1841, we follow Solomon Northup, played with a devastating conviction by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a free black man living with his wife and two adoring children in upstate New York. However when lured to Washington D.C. with promise of a new job, he is subsequently kidnapped and sold into slavery. Though coming from a relatively privileged background, that soon counts for nothing at all, as he is treated with so much inhumanity and cruelty as he moves between masters, eventually winding up in the Depp South, on the unforgiving ranch run by Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) – where he suffers brutal abuse. However when he meets Canadian abolitionist Bass (Brad Pitt) his luck begins to change.

If 12 Years a Slave was to be the last ever film made about slavery, it would by no means be a bad thing – because McQueen, alongside writer John Ridley, has documented this era so formidably and substantially, with the monstrosities of the human race portrayed as poignantly as can be. McQueen masterfully depicts the devastation of such undignified brutality, with a succinct and yet so powerful subtlety. Not since Billie Holiday penned Strange Fruit has the unrelenting cruelty to African Americans been so eloquently expressed in an art form. Many films may claim to have one or two uncomfortable scenes that you struggle to witness – but 12 Years a Slave has those in abundance, making for a harrowing and uncompromising watch, where you can't help but look away. Though that doesn't make much of a difference, as you can hear every last lash of the whip, as it pounds down against bare flesh. A sound that will haunt you hours after the credits roll.

There is no retribution within this title either, as regardless of any good luck that may arise, you can forget conciliation, as what Northup has to endure makes for a film that guarantees to be devoid of any potential happy ending. The only glimmer of hope we can cling on to during this disturbing piece is the title. Given it's called 12 Years a Slave, it brings some sort of conclusion to anticipate.  Nonetheless, the cruelty and destruction feels infinite at times, despite the evident time frame we have to work with. Meanwhile, Ejiofor turns in a stunning lead performance, and one that should earn him an Academy Award as he plays the role with such sincerity and humility, while he's simply heartbreaking to watch. There isn't a bad performance in the pack, as all the smaller roles are taken up by some of Hollywood's finest talent – with the likes of Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano also offering supporting roles, while a special mention must be reserved for the emotionally shattering performance by Lupita Nyong'o, playing the slave Patsey.

There isn't a wasted second in this masterpiece, as every single moment is essential to making this such an astonishing piece of cinema. If McQueen continues on in this rich vein of form, he could well look back over a career that saw him become known as one of the finest filmmakers to have ever lived. Each of his films are so different to the next and yet are bound by one continuing thread: sheer quality. However when this film comes to an end, you may want to turn your attentions to another director, as Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained would work ideally as a double bill and antidote, as whatever suffering you endure during 12 Years a Slave can be swiftly softened, as you indulge in a tale of revenge and remorse to help ease the pain.

14. The Wolf of Wall Street | Reviewed by Matt Seton

Martin Scorsese's post-millennium output has been a fairly mixed bag. Certainly, all his films have been of a certain standard that has come to be expected from the veteran director, but none of them have really threatened to hit the highs of his early works. The Departed arguably came closest but films like Shutter Island and The Aviator left much to be desired. Every new Scorsese film comes with a lot of intrigue, audiences constantly yearning for the next Goodfellas or Raging Bull. Of his recent films, none have arrived amid as much vehement debate as The Wolf of Wall Street. This dark comedy sees Scorsese working once again with Leonardo DiCaprio to tell a tale of boom and bust in the world of banking. Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, The Wolf of Wall Street doesn't quite reach the standard of Scorsese's best, but still manages to hit some incredibly high highs and some despicably low lows.

Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) begins this film as a wet between the ears twenty-something with dreams of becoming a successful banker. His ideas about the morals and ethics of the banking sector are shattered during his first day on the job by his new boss (played excellently - albeit far too briefly - by Matthew McConaughey). Following the "Black Monday" stock market crash, Belfort is forced to crawl his way up from the bottom and soon learns that there is serious money to be made selling worthless stock to working-class wannabe investors. Belfort starts his own company and uses his extremely manipulative personality to help his company grow, as his life descends into a chaotic frenzy of booze, drugs, and prostitutes.

The first person to be won over by Belfort is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) who quickly becomes his right hand man, we then see his staff grow into the thousands as Belfort evangelises with all the conviction of a TV preacher, convincing his congregation that this anarchic life is the one they want. As an audience, he'll convince you too. For the best part of three hours, The Wolf of Wall Street is pure entertainment, Belfort's world is an absurd cacophony of extravagance as he shoots from party to riotous board meeting to party again. The film has come under fire from critics for glorifying the indulgences of the banking sector, but people who make this criticism have failed to see the message hidden in this film; that despite Belfort's despicable lack of morals and destruction of the world around him, we all want to be like him.

Scorsese has made heavy use of some cleverly hidden CGI to create a highly-polished world reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann's recent Great Gatsby adaptation. Every location looks immaculate, giving everything an air of decadence. The script, too, is polished to perfection, with each hilarious quip or line strongly delivered by the cast.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a joy to watch. Despite its three hour running time it never feels like dragging, even as the frenzied cycle of Belfort's life repeats itself. Party after party we see this character struggling to cope with the life he has created for himself and yet we still hunger for it. As an audience we thrive on finding out what will happen next. The film is, at times, pure ecstasy and at others, vile sludge, yet everyone still yearns to be like Jordan Belfort. Far from glorifying this world, Scorsese has subtly exposed the greed and selfishness in the human condition that allows the Jordan Belforts and Bernie Madoffs of this world to thrive.

13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | Reviewed by Oliver Hayes

Dawn is surely one of the most anticipated sequels in recent years, following on from the excellent Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes back in 2011. Thankfully, Dawn does what most sequels fail to do which is continue the story and bring together new elements to create something ultimately more satisfying than its predecessor.

Set almost a decade after the events of Rise, Caeser, now a husband and father, has built a new home for himself and his clan in the huge redwood forest outside San Francisco. While the apes are under the impression humans have long since been wiped out, the truth is a stronghold of human survivors, immune to the Simian flu that devastated the planet, remain within the crumbling ruins of San Francisco. However what little power they do have is dwindling and in order to restore it they need access to the Reservoir which is well within the domain of Caeser. Despite hostility from Koba, Ceaser's second in command, his compassion for humans gets the better of him and allows the team to do their work.

Things seem to be going well between the two species, power is restored to the human civilisation and they even provide medicine to save Caeser's sick wife. You kind of want things to end here on a happy note but unfortunately the narrative trajectory is well known and soon chaos ensues when Koba, with a passionate distrust of humans takes matters into his own hands and all out war breaks out.

What is so remarkable about this sequel from director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let The Right One In) is how humans essentially play a secondary role to the apes, and what we get are genuinely touching, emotional moments played out on screen by these stunningly rendered CG characters. Particularly with Caeser and the relationship he has with his son, Blue Eyes, which has all the depth and emotion of a human father/son bond, made all the more poignant when Blue Eyes is caught up in the horrors of war.

On the human side of things, Reeves has pulled together a fantastic cast with Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-Mcphee as the group who intially make contact with the apes, as a unit they represent the good in humanity. Gary Oldman turns in a brilliant supporting role as Dreyfus, appointed leader of the group. He is essentially a good man but prepared to go to war at the first sign of unrest. What's interesting about the two factions is how both show demonstrable imperfections, although it looks for a while as if the apes have achieved a more peaceful evolution it transpires there is trouble in both camps and ultimately two chain events caused by both human and ape are responsible for the imminent war.

It's easy to forget that we’re actually seeing the efforts of actors portraying the apes on screen, a testament to the abilities of Andy Serkis who truly brings Caeser to life and has made this character his own. Caeser is possibly one of the most complex characters in the whole film, both loyal to his family and his clan he's also alone in knowing the goodness humans possess, which leads to a lot of friction with Koba,