Favorite TV And Movie Performances Of 2021

We did it, everyone. We made it to the end of 2021. Movie theaters aren’t dead, television continues to thrive, and the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2013. It wasn’t such a bad year, all things considered.

Optimism, baby!

For movies and television, 2021 was far superior to 2020. A lot of the 2020 movie releases that were pushed to 2021 because of the pandemic finally hit theaters (yes, theaters). Prestige television is still rocking thanks to hits like Succession and Mare of Easttown.

Below is a list of my favorite performances of 2021. It’s a mix of Oscar buzz with underrated performances. Enjoy!

Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, Licorice Pizza

As one of the most prolific filmmakers of his generation, Paul Thomas Anderson can work with anyone he wants. In 2021, PTA chose two first-time actors, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, to headline his movie, Licorice Pizza. Haim, known for her work in the band, HAIM, and Hoffman, the son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, were stunning revelations. Whenever the two interacted, I couldn’t look away. Their chemistry was magnetic, and these were two movie-star performances.

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Jeremy Strong gives the best performance on Succession. However, the MVP of Season 3 was Kieran Culkin. I’m sure most of his one-liners are in the script, but Culkin’s comedic delivery and improvisation are superb. Throughout the season, Roman went from an immature suckup to one of Logan’s most trustworthy allies. It’s why Roman’s revelation that Logan will do anything to win even if it means fucking over his children was so heartbreaking to watch. Also, his face after sending the dick pic to Logan is a first-ballot meme hall of fame.

Frank Grillo, Boss Level

I want to give a shoutout to my favorite “B” action movie of the year, Boss Level. The film is a fun, thrilling addition to the time-loop genre. I found it on Hulu on a random Sunday night in the Spring and loved it. I didn’t know Frank Grillo could be this witty and charming. I hope to see him in more of these half-asshole/half-good guy roles aka the Ryan Reynolds.

Rachel Zegler, Mike Faist, And Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

West Side Story / 20th Century Studios

We, as a society, look silly for every doubting Steven Spielberg. The legendary director loves musicals, and yet most people had doubts about his reimagined West Side Story. The egg is on our face because Spielberg crafted one of the five best movies of 2021. For a story set in the 1950s, Spielberg made it feel modern and injected a new energy and fresh reinterpretation of a classic. The three standout performances come from Rachel Zegler as Maria, Mike Faist as Riff, and Ariana DeBose as Anita. These three actors jump off the screen thanks to their charisma and confidence. I can’t wait to watch this again.

CT, The Challenge

CT is pulling a Tom Brady, winning challenges in the latter part of his career. Bananas is still the GOAT with 7 season wins, but things are starting to get very interesting has won 3 of the last 5 challenges, bringing his total to 5 season wins. Does Bananas come out of retirement to put an end to CT’s dominance? MTV, pay CT and Bananas whatever they want because the fans need to see this epic showdown.

Jason Momoa, Dune

Jason Momoa in Dune / Warner Bros.

To quote the kids, Jason Momoa “knew the assignment.” Momoa is having so much fun in Dune. While most of the characters are doom and gloom, Momoa’s Duncan Idaho will put a smile on your face.

Rapid Fire

  • Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino in Loki
  • Florence Pugh in Black Widow and Hawkeye
  • Ana de Armas in No Time to Die
  • Andrew Garfield in Spider-Man: No Way Home
  • Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera in In The Heights
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog
  • Leonardo DiCaprio in Don’t Look Up
  • Evan Peters in Mare of Easttown
  • William Zabka in Cobra Kai
  • Tom Thibodeau on the sidelines at Knicks games

What were your favorite performances this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me, @Danny_giro.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Spoiler-Packed Discussion

Spider-Man: No Way Home

If you’re reading this, then it’s too late. There’s no turning back now. The biggest movie of the year is Spider-Man: No Way Home, and I’m ready to talk about it. Spoilers are on the way. You have been warned.

Seriously, turn around if you haven’t seen the film yet.

I’m running out of videos so this is your final warning.

Spider-Man: No Way Home Thoughts And Reactions

– Wow.

– Where do I even begin? Let’s start with the most obvious talking point. We got the meme.

I knew this moment was coming and it still surprised me. When Ned opened a portal and Spider-Man ran closer to it, you knew it was Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire. Once Garfield removed his mask, my theater exploded like it was a buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. People were screaming with joy, jumping out of their seats with huge smiles on their faces. As Ned tried to open the second portal, the same murmur began as the entire theater waited for Tobey Maguire to enter. Tobey enters the screen, and the theater once again broke the sound barrier. These reactions are exactly why Sony and Marvel choose not to reveal these former heroes in the trailer.

– One of the first swerves of the film occurred when Doctor Strange agreed to cast the spell for Peter, which would make the entire world forget about his identity. However, Strange decided to stop the spell when Peter asked for multiple exceptions as to who would remember him.

Here’s my issue. Doctor Strange is supposed to be one of the smartest and most powerful sorcerers in the world. This is the same guy who went forward in time to view alternate futures to see all the possible outcomes of the battle with Thanos. I’m supposed to believe that Peter’s requests would distract Doctor Strange from completing the spell? Peter asked for MJ, Ned, Aunt May, and Happy to remember his identity as well as anyone else who previously knew his identity. It’s not like he named his entire high school by name. There’s no way Doctor Strange messes this spell up. I refuse to believe it.

– The best part of this trilogy is the relationship between Peter, MJ, and Ned. No Way Home went out of their way to emphasize this three-way friendship. From the college decisions to their final goodbye, you could argue that Ned is just as important to Peter as MJ. These three young stars have such good chemistry that I would love to explore these characters in another film. Perhaps they go to MIT and Peter tries to be Spider-Man in Boston.

– The villains. For me, superhero films are only as strong as their villains. The Dark Knight went from great to iconic because of Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. In No Way Home. The film had five supervillains from previous iterations of Spider-Man including Electro, Lizard, and Sandman. But, the two that deserve the most praise are Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. In my opinion, these two performances are on the Mount Rushmore of Supervillains in the 21st century. When highly-trained actors like Dafoe and Molina get to play in the comic book sandbox, great things will happen.

Dafoe’s over-the-top and downright evil performance as Green Goblin is so effective that it works as the main antagonist of the film. Another swerve I enjoyed involved Molina’s Doctor Octopus. The trailer sets up Doc Ock as a true villain, but once Peter cures the harness, he becomes an ally of the Spider-Men. (Can we call them the “Spider-Men?”)

– Everything about the Spider-Men team-up worked. The inside jokes, the speeches about grief, the interactions during the fight, etc. It was all executed to perfection. Jokes about Tobey’s back and Peter 1’s inclusion in the Avengers were crowdpleasers. I couldn’t stop smiling when the three Peters’ were onscreen.

– Garfield’s dive to save MJ as a callback to when Gwen died absolutely wrecked me.

– Speaking of Garfield, he probably channels the essence of Peter Parker the best out of the three actors. Peter is supposed to be this witty and charming persona and Garfield’s the best when it comes to these characteristics. Tobey had the tough job of going first while Holland played teenage Parker admirably, but Garfield is the best actor to play the role. He stole the show out of the three Spideys. I just wish he had better superhero movies to showcase his talents. As it turns out, he may get the chance!

– Tom Holland is a really good Spider-Man. I’m excited to see where he goes from here since he’s now an A-list actor.

– I liked the ending of this film. I’m a fan of conclusions, and this felt like the ending of a successful trilogy. However, it does leave the door open to see how Peter has moved on in a world post-spell. Did he make new friendships? Did he make new enemies? Can he win back MJ and Ned? I’d be interested in a fourth film.

Overall, No Way Home lived up to the hype. It’s a theater experience that I will never forget.

My official rankings:

What are your thoughts on No Way Home? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

2022 Oscars Discussion, Vol. 2: Licorice Pizza And West Side Story Arrive In Style

Licorice Pizza

In my first column for the 2022 Oscars, I talked about how Belfast and The Power of the Dog were 1 and 1A in the Best Picture race with a lot of unknowns trailing behind. Two of those unknowns arrived this past week and became legit contenders. Buckle up.

Licorice Pizza And West Side Story Have Arrived

Never count out the power of well-respected directors. Coming into the Fall, very little was known about Licorice Pizza and West Side Story besides the two powerhouses behind the camera, Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Spielberg. Projects from two of the best directors of their respective generations will garner a lot of attention.

In both cases, the hype was real.

Licorice Pizza landed the best debut at the independent box office during the pandemic with $335,000. PTA’s coming-of-age story set in the 1970s San Fernando Valley received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with RogerEbert.com calling it the “best movie of the year.

Fittingly, another organization called it the best film of the year. The National Board of Review named Licorice Pizza the Best Film of 2021. In addition to the top prize, PTA won Best Director, and Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman won breakthrough performance.

The win at the NBR foreshadows an Oscar nomination. Since 2010, only two films* that won Best Film did not go on to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. With a Best Picture nomination all but guaranteed, PTA should receive at least one more nomination for screenplay or direction with the former being his best chance to win.

*2014’s A Most Violent Year and 2020’s Da 5 Bloods

While PTA searches for his first Oscar, Spielberg is trying to win his fourth Oscar with West Side Story. When Spielberg first announced he would remake one of the greatest musicals of all time, many questioned why take on this legendary work of art.

Not this guy!

We should know better than to question a 17-time Oscar nominee.

According to the first reactions, West Side Story is a “true Spielberg classic.”

West Side Story quickly inserted itself into the Best Picture race with its inclusion on NBR’s 10 Best Films of the Year. The film is a lock for nominations in Best Picture and Best Director. Expect newcomer Rachel Zegler (Best Actress), who won Best Actress at NBR, Ariana DeBose (Supporting), and Rita Moreno (Supporting) to be major players in their respective races.

Gotham Awards And National Board of Review Results

This past week, the Gotham Awards gave out some hardware. The biggest winner was Netflix’s The Lost Daughter, which won four awards: Best Feature, Breakthrough Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress. Will it translate to Oscar nominations? It will be difficult for Maggie Gyllenhaal to crack the directing category, but she’s a shoo-in for an Adapted Screenplay nomination. Olivia Colman is a guarantee for a Best Actress nomination while the film still has some work to do for Best Picture.

As for the rest of the NBR winners, Will Smith began his “I’m going to win every award in site” campaign with a victory for King Richard.

Until next time, my friends.

After strong premieres, Licorice Pizza and West Side Story are now contenders in the race for Best Picture at the 2022 Oscars.

Previous Discussions:

Tweet me, @danny_giro, with your best Oscar predictions!

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer Shows Just Enough To Keep Us Guessing

Spider Man: No Way Home

So that Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer looks pretty awesome, huh.

It’s hard to put into words how much of grip No Way Home has on pop culture. It’s easily the most anticipated film of the year, and not since Avengers: Endgame have we seen a film dominate the conversation on the Internet to this extent. Between spoilers, leaks, predictions, you can’t go a few hours without another writer or publication posting an article about No Way Home.

The film’s first trailer smashed the record for the most viewed trailer in 24 hours with 355.5 million views. That record will be hard to beat, but the second trailer served more as a preview of what’s to come.

“We started getting visitors… from every universe.”

The big reveal for this trailer revolved around the return of previous villains from multiple movies in different universes. Doctor Octopus, Sandman, and the Green Goblin returned from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films while the Lizard and Electro arrived from Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films. These five supervillains could form the Sinister Six, but that begs the question about the sixth and final member. Will there be a sixth villain?

*A working title.

More importantly, who is the true villain of No Way Home? Perhaps it’s Ned, who arrives from another universe as the Hobgoblin. Maybe, Kang, the Conquerer, shows up to wreak havoc on the timeline once again as he did in Loki. It’s crazy to say this, but could Doctor Strange be the “bad guy” since he’ll do anything to shut the door on the multiverse even if that means taking out Peter Parker?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Here’s what I do know. The trailer revealed just enough to satisfy the audience without giving away too much. Most of the villains appeared, but not every villain. The main idea of the plot is known, and yet there’s still so much on its way.

If No Way Home is a game of Texas Hold ’em, then we just saw the flop. The river, or the fifth and final card, is the end of the movie and how it sets up the future of the MCU. Every fan including myself is focused on the fourth card known as “the turn.” That’s the moment went Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield show up to give us our three Spider-MEN.

Look, it’s going to happen. Do not believe anything that Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield are saying. They are paid to deny this earth-shattering reveal. It’s going to be an awesome moment in the theaters that might rival the moment when Doctor Strange opened the portals to form the Avengers Army in Endgame.

For those still skeptical, the moment when Doctor Octopus pins Spider-Man to the wall and says, “You’re not Peter Parker” is a dead giveaway that Maguire and Garfield will appear at some point. He’s looking for “his” Peter. Marvel will make sure to pay off this moment. Would it have been cool to see the reunion in the trailer? Of course, but this special moment will fucking rule on the big screen.

I can’t wait for December 17. Say your prayer that no leaks or spoilers hit the Internet. I’m looking at you, critics.

Leave your predictions for Spider-Man: No Way Home in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Taste Is His Best Quality

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the best actors of his generation and one of the most desirable men in Hollywood. In other news, the sky is blue and the grass is green.

We know Leo is great at what he does. With six Oscar nominations including one win for Best Actor, the proof is in the pudding. Countless actors who have worked with Leo have praised his talent, with Carey Mulligan calling him “the most incredible actor on the planet.

It also helps to be one of the most attractive men ever, but that’s neither here, nor there.

On November 11, Leo turned 47. First of all, happy birthday to one of my acting heroes. Second, I started to reflect on Leo’s career, and one thing stood above the rest.

It wasn’t his acting ability or good looks or legendary paparazzi photos. All of those things are important, but it’s not his best quality.

Leo’s taste is his best quality.

No, I’m not referring to the time he ate raw bison liver in The Revenant.

I’m referring to his taste in projects. Leo arguably has the best taste in all of Hollywood. He consistently chooses great project after great project with very little misses on his filmography. In a time where superhero movies dominate the box office and streamers churn out new movies every week, DiCaprio continues to play by his rules and only participates in movies that he wants to make.

Leo is one of the last true movie stars in Hollywood. Leo hasn’t made the jump to prestige television just yet and up until this year, never headlined a movie for a streamer. (This will change with Netflix’s Don’t Look Up.) Every Leo movie feels like an event, which is rare. The days of actors being able to generate high box office returns based on their name alone is a thing of the past, and yet DiCaprio still has that power.

I view Leo’s career in two phases. B.S. and A.S. – Before Scorsese and After Scorsese. Leo rarely misses, meaning the film is either received negative reviews or flopped at the box office. Most of his “misses” came before his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese, which occurred in 2002 with Gangs of New York.

Below are Leo’s movies B.S.

Is The Man in the Iron Mask or Celebrity going to be shown on DiCaprio’s highlight tape? Probably not. I haven’t even seen Total Eclipse, but I’d imagine it won’t be on the tape, either. However, most actors would kill for an 11-year span that includes a supporting acting nomination at age 19, a leading role in the highest-grossing movie ever at the time, and a starring role beside Tom Hanks in a Steven Spielberg movie.

Leo had a lot of juice in 2002 and can headline any movie he wants. But he does the smart thing and pairs himself with one of the greatest directors ever, Martin Scorsese. Aligning himself with Scorsese was the smartest thing Leo could have ever done.

Below are Leo’s movies A.S.

Look at this success rate. Time and time again, DiCaprio chose movies that succeeded both critically and financially. The run of Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Blood Diamond is better than Murderers’ Row. There are no bad misses on this list. I’m not a fan of J. Edgar, but that movie was still named as one of the top ten films in 2011 by the National Board of Review.

The man doesn’t miss, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Long live Leo.

2022 Oscars Discussion, Vol. 1: The Race For Best Picture

Belfast / Focus Features

Gentlemen, start your engines. We’re on a one-way trip to the 2022 Oscars.

Right now, we’re about five months away from the 2022 Oscars, which airs on March 27, 2022. That may seem like a long time away, but the races are starting to take off in each major category. “Oscar movies” will be released every single week until the end of the year. which means it’s time to start up the “2022 Oscars Discussion” column.

The first and (probably) last column in this discussion will cover the ceremony’s top prize, Best Picture. Will this year’s winner be the next Parasite or The Artist?

Early Breakdown Of The Race For Best Picture

As of November 5, there is no clear-cut Best Picture frontrunner, which is a change from last year after many experts predicted Nomadland would win the top prize after its victory at the Venice Film Festival in Sept. 2021. Having no true frontrunner isn’t a bad thing. I’m all for a competitive race with a variety of films trading wins at major guilds and festivals throughout awards season. Those tight races lead to wonderful surprises like Parasite‘s win back in 2019.

As of Nov. 5, the favorites to win Best Picture are Belfast and The Power of the Dog. Belfast is a black-and-white period piece from Kenneth Branagh about a working-class family from Northern Ireland in the 1960s. I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s giving me major “Roma in Northern Ireland” vibes.

Some critics have cited the film as Branagh’s most personal film ever, a personal love letter to his childhood. Belfast features performances from Caitr√≠ona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciar√°n Hinds, and great child performance from Jude Hill, the latter campaigning for Best Actor. It’s currently tied with The Power of the Dog for the best odds (15/2) to win Best Picture via Goldderby.

Belfast has history on its side thanks to its People’s Choice Award win at TIFF. Since 2012, every film that won this award received a Best Picture nomination and three of those films went on to win at the Oscars. In other words, Belfast is guaranteed to be in contention for Best Picture.

Belfast premieres in the U.S on November 17.

Speaking of The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion’s western starring Benedict Cumberbatch is the other frontrunner for Best Picture. Without giving too much away, Cumberbatch plays a domineering rancher who torments his brother’s new wife and son, until a secret may tear him apart.

Campion has a good history with the Academy as she was the second woman ever to be nominated for Best Director for 1993’s The Piano. She’ll probably become the first two-time female nominee at this year’s ceremony. Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst are shoe-ins for nominations in Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Plus, The Power of the Dog was second-runner up at TIFF.

Just like Belfast, The Power of the Dog will be a Best Picture nominee come March.

The Power of the Dog streams on Netflix starting Dec. 1.

The Contenders

After those two films, there’s a bit of a drop-off. Some of that has to do with the fact that no one has seen the film yet. I haven’t seen one word from a critic about Licorice Pizza, West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, House of Gucci, and Don’t Look Up. Seriously, not one single word about five films from Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning directors.

King Richard and Dune should make the final list of Best Picture nominees. The Tragedy of Macbeth from Oscar-winner Joel Coen has six Academy Awards between the two stars, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, so expect the film to be in the mix. Other than that, a few smaller films like The Lost Daughter and CODA will try to claw their way into the contention.

My prediction for Best Picture nominees as of 11/5.

  • Belfast
  • The Power of the Dog
  • Nightmare Alley
  • House of Gucci
  • King Richard
  • Dune
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • Licorice Pizza
  • West Side Story
  • Don’t Look Up

Let the games begin.

Tell us your predictions for Best Picture in the comments below or tweet us, @danny_giro.

Dune: Reaction, Comments, And Looking Ahead To Part II

Dune / Legendary Pictures

I went to Arrakis, sniffed some spice, and rode a giant sandworm across the desert. In other words, I finally saw Dune. One of the most anticipated films of 2021 finally arrived in theaters and on HBO Max, and opinions are being thrown all over Twitter.

As the responsible man that I am, I waited a few days to gather my thoughts. Here they are.

Dune
Dune / Warner Bros.

Dune Reaction And Comments

Dune ruled.

– Denis Villeneuve is in his bag. I’ve said it a hundred times before, and I’ll say it again. Villeneuve is one of the five best working directors in Hollywood. He’s in my personal top three. No one besides Christopher Nolan understands the importance of scope and scale more than Villeneuve. The wide shots of Arrakis and Caladan are a wet dream for those who love cinematography. Every single frame is carefully crafted and executed at the highest level. Simply, it was a privilege to watch a master execute his vision.

– This cast might have the highest approval rating ever for an ensemble. Ocean’s Eleven and Knives Out both have an A-list cast, but Dune wears the crown for cast right now.

– Why didn’t Legendary and Warner Bros. market the film as “Dune Part I?” I read an interview where Denis Villeneuve¬†explained how he secured a two-movie deal and he wouldn’t agree to the project unless it was multiple movies. Why not market the film as the first film in a two-part saga? After Warner Bros. upset Villeneuve with the decision to stream the film on HBO Max simultaneously with a theatrical release, you would think they would have greenlit the sequel immediately. But no, the sequel wasn’t guaranteed because of the unknown box office returns and subscriber numbers due to the pandemic.

– Furthermore, had this film been marketed as Part I from the very beginning, it would have cleared up a lot of confusion in terms of the story. There’s A LOT of world-building and exposition in the 156-minute film so much so that it would have been impossible to tell a complete story in one film. This is just a hunch, but critical reception would have improved if it was “Dune Part I” from the start. Many critics would have seen it as the franchise’s version of The Fellowship of the Ring, knowing another film was coming to complete the story.

– The movie is kind of plotless? Now that I wrote it out, plotless is the wrong word. As I said, Dune is a lot of exposition as Villeneuve attempts to explain this complex world throughout the movie. Let me rephrase “plotless.” The inciting incident to the story – the Harkonnen betrayal and invasion – begins more than an hour into the movie. Then, Jessica and Paul wander in the desert for the rest of the film, attempting to survive the sandworms, the Harokonnens, and the Freemans. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but it’s a lot of set-up for very little payoff.

– The sandworms were AWESOME. Super effective.

– The action sequences were incredible. Between the Harkonnen invasion, Duncan Idaho vs. an entire army, and the sandworm attacks, Dune perfectly balanced political thriller to an edge-of-your-seat action-adventure.

– Don’t move your hand!

Timothée Chalamet in Dune / Legendary Pictures

– Best performances:
1. Jason Momoa
2. Rebecca Ferguson
3. Oscar Isaac

– Jason Momoa is the coolest man on the planet. He stole the damn show as Duncan Idaho.

Jason Mamoa in Dune / Legendary Pictures

– Thankfully, our wish was granted when Legendary greenlit Dune Part II.

– I have a confession. I watched this movie on HBO Max. I want to apologize to my Lord and Savior Denis Villeneuve for seeing his work of art on a small screen. Have no fear, I’m headed to a movie theater this weekend to watch the sandworms.

My Letterboxd Score: 4/5.

I can’t wait to spend more time with Zendaya and Javier Bardem as we all watch Timoth√©e Chalamet ride a sandworm in Dune Part II.

Did you enjoy Dune? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Scream: The Brilliant Horror Still Shines 25 Years Later

Scream / Dimension Films

There are two camps involved when discussing Scream, the 1996 slasher film about a killer in a Halloween costume that wreaks havoc on a small town. You either believe Scream is a good movie or a great movie.

Let’s start with the first camp. Why is Scream a good movie? For starters, the story is pretty straightforward to understand. A killer known as Ghostface, who wears a ghost mask and black gown, targets a high school girl named Sidney Prescott one year after the murder of her mother in the town of Woodsboro, California. The killer begins to murder teenagers and townspeople as he fights to get closer to his main target, Sidney.

In two sentences, the main character and plot are established without confusion. It’s a classic “whodunnit,” as the audience seeks to learn the identity of the killer, and why they’re targeting a teenage girl.

Good premise? Check.

Good writing and direction? Double-check.

For the latter, you couldn’t find a better director in this genre than the “Master of Horror,” Wes Craven. As a pioneer in horror, Craven is the mastermind behind the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise as well as cult classics like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and Swamp Thing.

The script was written by Kevin Williamson, who was an unknown writer at the time. Williamson wrote a script called Scary Movie, which became Scream, that combined elements of a slasher film with a black comedy. Though mostly known for his horror projects, I always find it ironic that Williamson created the teen drama, Dawson’s Creek. Imagine a Scream and Dawson’s Creek double feature. Sign me up.

In terms of its cast, Scream elected to go with established actors at the time instead of unknowns, which was typically common in horror. Neve Campbell was on Party of Five, Courtney Cox was on Friends, and David Arquette had roles in Parenthood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to go along with being from the famous Arquette family.

All of these elements (premise, script, director, cast) set Scream up for success. Add in a twist ending where it’s revealed Ghostface was not one, but two killers and Scream was an instant, entertaining thriller.

It’s a good movie.

But it’s not just a good movie.

Scream is a great movie. In fact, I’ll go one step further and describe it as brilliant.

The seismic impact of Scream in the horror genre cannot be overstated. Scream combined the meta-humor of a black comedy with the gore and frightfulness of a horror film. Williamson was clearly a huge horror fan as his script is an homage to Halloween. The concept of introducing characters who were self-aware and in on the joke was ingenious. The teens openly discuss horror films and poke fun at the cliches throughout the film. Everybody is a suspect, don’t have sex, don’t have alcohol or drugs, never say you’ll be right back, etc. Randy even explains the rules for survival in a horror film!

I left out one very important cast member, and her presence adds to the genius of Scream. The actress I’m referring to is Drew Barrymore. In 1996, Barrymore was a huge name in Hollywood. Barrymore was very established in pop culture by 1996, having been in E.T., Batman Forever, Guncrazy, and Poison Ivy. She even flashed David Letterman. Barrymore was about to hit the A+list, which is why it came as a surprise that she signed up for a small horror film after reading the script one night.

Barrymore was set to play the leading role of Sidney but had to drop out due to previous commitments. Most stars would leave the project entirely, but Barrymore stayed on and asked to play Casey Becker, the girl who appears in the opening scene. Although she’s in the film for around 10 minutes, it’s arguably the most important scene in the entire franchise.

As Barrymore mentioned on Hot Ones, she wanted to change the rules of a horror film. Most of the time, you never think the main character is truly in trouble since they’ll never die, and if they are murdered, it’s never at the beginning.

Not Scream.

Here’s your biggest star in the movie and she’s killed within the first 10 minutes. That’s a Red Wedding-type move. Killing Barrymore was jaw-dropping moment that confirmed nobody was safe. Anyone could be killed at any time. Even Henry Winkler (in an uncredited role)!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special shoutout to Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard, who played Ghostface as a duo. To steal a phrase from The Rewatchables podcast, this duo gave the biggest heat check performance in the movie. It’s so over-the-top and filled with memorable one-liners, but it fits their characters. Psycho teenage murders are probably going to be a little dramatic and crazy.

Now, Scream is getting a fifth movie this January. It’s not an official reboot, but it appears to mirror themes and ideas from the first film.

Scream rewrote and revitalized the slasher genre, and its legacy should still be celebrated 25 years later.

Besides, if you remove all the humor and violence, Scream is simply an advertisement for landlines.

Scream / Dimension Films

Leave your thoughts about the movie in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

Say Goodbye: Best Final Movie For A Character Or Franchise

Logan / 20th Century Fox

Endings are so hard to get right. Viewers give so much time and emotions to the characters in franchises that span multiple years and movies that when the ending falls flat, it’s a disappointment all around. The poor reception Game of Thrones received for its final season is why I believe George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished A Song of Ice and Fire.

When certain characters or franchises receive proper endings to their stories, it leaves viewers satisfied. It’s reassurance for all the hours they spent committing to a story, that their time wasn’t wasted. With No Time to Die serving as Daniel Craig’s swan song in the Bond franchise, let’s explore some of the best final movies for a character or franchise.

Note: I tried to stick with characters or franchises with finite endings. I love Return of the Jedi, but Luke, Han, and Leia all returned in the Skywalker trilogy so Episode VI wasn’t a true ending to their story. If Iron Man returns to the MCU, I might have to adjust this list. Toy Story 3 was perfect, but then Toy Story 4 happened so I can’t count the third film as an ending as well.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

When describing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a “masterpiece” is typically the noun of choice. There are little flaws in Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy adventure told in three movies. From the epic action sequences to breathtaking cinematography, LOTR became the gold standard for cinematic storytelling. Return of the King is 201 minutes long, and yet it moves so effortlessly and never drags. Every loose end is tied up and every character gets a proper ending to their story. Not only did fans love Return of the King, but critics and Academy voters praised the film, resulting in a perfect 11 for 11 at the 2004 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avengers: Endgame

Telling a complete story in one film is hard enough. Imagine crafting a story that spans over 11 years and 23 films?* From Iron Man to Captain Marvel, Kevin Feige perfectly pieced together every story in the Infinity Saga, which culminated with Avengers: Endgame. For 7 years, the Mad Titan known as Thanos was built up to be this unbeatable villain, and up until Endgame, he never lost. Not only did Endgame have to conclude the Infinity Saga, but it also had to set up the future of the MCU. Well, the future of the MCU was passed to Spider-Man, Black Panther (RIP Chadwick), and the Guardians of the Galaxy while Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans received admirable endings to their versions of Iron Man and Captain America respectively. Onto Phase 4, we go!

*Spider-Man: Far From Home is included in the Infinity Saga as the 23rd film, but it feels like a bridge between Phase 3 and Phase 4 instead of the last film in Phase 3.

Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight Rises

There are two camps. You either like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises or you hate The Dark Knight Rises. I’m in the former. Dark Knight Rises had the impossible task of following The Dark Knight, which is the best comic movie of all time with the best acting performance of the 21st century, Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nothing could top that masterpiece, and when Rises came out, many compared it to The Dark Knight and picked it up apart. Eight years have passed, and The Dark Knight Rises has aged well in terms of its swan song to Christian Bale’s Batman. Bane’s voice is still confusing all these years later, but Bale’s heartfelt goodbye to the caped crusader is successful. It’s a proper and finite ending to a superb trilogy. With rumors of Downey Jr. and Evans returning to the MCU after Endgame, it’s refreshing to see that Bale’s Batman will never come back. He sacrificed himself for Gotham City and retired to Italy with a beautiful woman. If that’s not the dream, I don’t know what is.

Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in Logan

When comic book movies bring in directors with both dramatic and comedic success as well as a strong affinity for character development, good things can happen. Case in point, James Mangold masterfully wrote and directed Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final film as Wolverine. For such a violent film, Jackman played Wolverine with such nuance and compassion that for the first time, viewers could sympathize with Logan the person as opposed to Wolverine the mutant. Logan is a great movie that doesn’t need to add “comic book” as a qualifier.

What are your picks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @unafraidshow.

Ranking Daniel Craig’s James Bond Films Before No Time to Die

Casino Royale James Bond

Daniel Craig is my favorite actor to play James Bond. If you just heard the sound of glass breaking, that’s because a brick was thrown through my window on behalf of Sean Connery. This is where I’m supposed to say “with all due respect,” and then throw a backhanded insult at Connery’s portrayal of Bond. But that’s not going to happen. Connery provided the blueprint for 007: charming, sophisticated, and an elite spy. He’s second-best in my book.

I compare the Connery vs. Craig debate to the exhausting argument over Jordan vs. LeBron as the GOAT in basketball. If you grew up with and experienced Jordan at the peak of his powers, then you’re going to say Jordan is the GOAT. The same argument can be applied to LeBron with the younger generation. Appreciate the greatness of both instead of tearing the other down to make a point.

Craig’s version of a gritty and troubled Bond who still retained his charm and elegance won me over from Day 1. Many forget that Craig’s casting as the seventh actor to take over this prestigious character was met with a lot of hatred. Craig wasn’t a star by any means. He was a classically trained actor known primarily for his work in the theater. Plus, he had blonde hair, and that pissed A LOT of people off. Guess who supported the decision to cast Craig? Sean Connery!

Ahead of No Time to Die, I revisited Craig’s previous four films. Two are excellent, one is solid, and one just doesn’t belong with the rest. Here are my rankings.

4. Quantum of Solace

One of these things is not like the other, and that’s Quantum of Solace. It’s not bad in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a movie that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The central theme is revenge as Bond sets out to find those responsible for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd. 007 as a bat-out-of-hell, killing all those in his path to avenge his girlfriend is a solid premise, but it’s not exactly a James Bond movie. Revenge is a good theme, but the final mission somehow turns into stopping Dominic Greene from controlling the water supply in Bolivia. Is this a revenge movie or a statement about environmentalism? I left the film with more questions than answers. Craig is still good, and Olga Kurylenko¬†was a badass that deserved better in this franchise. I don’t see myself revisiting this film for a long time.

3. Spectre

Solid is the word I keep returning to when describing 2015’s Spectre. The opening scene is spectacular and one of the best Bond openers ever. Casting Christoph Waltz to play the villain was an excellent decision because of his work as the main antagonist in Inglourious Basterds. However, his use in the film was more of a letdown than a high point. Craig and Waltz barely shared the screen together for the first half of the movie. The showdown between the hero and villain at the end didn’t provide the spark to generate excitement for future films. Essentially, Waltz set a trap and tried to escape before being foiled by Bond. I needed more in the final battle. Overall, Spectre is entertaining, but it could’ve been better.

2. Casino Royale

There are Internet stans, and then there are the stans who believe Casino Royale is the best James Bond film of all time. These fans won’t accept any other Bond argument if Casino Royale is not number one in the power rankings. I respect their ability to stand up and fight for what they believe in. Casino Royale is an excellent film and the second-greatest debut for a Bond actor behind Connery’s Dr. No. It was a return to form for the franchise, and the introduction of a darker, grimmer version of Bond. Craig vs. Mads Mikkelsen is some of the best Bond vs. the villain scenes in the entire franchise. Make no doubt about it, Casino Royale is a classic.

1. Skyfall

There’s only one right answer for Craig’s best Bond film and it’s Skyfall. This film rules from start to finish. It’s a 143-minute thrill ride that never allows the audience to catch its breath. It’s a Bond film at heart, but the story and characters can stand on their own. It’s a complete story with a satisfying conclusion.

Skyfall pulled out all the stops, bringing in the big guns to better the film. Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes was brought in to direct. Javier Bardem played one of the best villains of the 21st century, Raoul Silva. There is no excuse as to why Bardem didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The Academy held the fact that Bardem previously won as a villain in No Country for Old Men against this performance. Adele wrote and sang the spectacular theme song, “Skyfall,” which won Best Orginal Song. Frankly, Skyfall was good enough to receive a Best Picture nomination.

With the best director, villain, song, and Bond, Skyfall is the easy winner.

What is your favorite James Bond film from Daniel Craig? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.