Episodes

Book Reshorts: The Thankening III: The Thankening Thanks Back

Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Thankers are back! This time Danielle and Sam do a little ego stroking to grow their already prodigious senses of self-importance. So enjoy as they discuss some of the media and themes they’ve shared which they’re thankful for, and just have all of the trouble speaking like normal human beings.

Can of Worms

This week Danielle returns to her comfort zone with the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Can of Worms. Mike is your typical angsty teen, he doesn’t feel like he belongs on Earth and no one understands him, especially his parents. He’s on the football team at his dad’s insistence, but he doesn’t like it and isn’t very good at it, though it does give him a chance to ogle the cute cheerleader Katelyn. Mike is also a massive computer nerd, but he gets bullied by Scott, the much more popular computer nerd/football player at school. After a series of insane, and quite lame, computer pranks, Katelyn takes a shine to Mike and asks him to make fancy, electronic Halloween decorations for the school dance. Oh also, Mike likes to tell stories and give PowerPoint presentations in his tree house about an alien baby that was launched into space after his home planet was invaded and the alien baby crash lands on Earth where it grows up and feels out of place. The alien baby is obviously supposed to represent Mike, and everyone knows Mike tells this story and freaking loves it. Anyway, the dance is a disaster and Mike runs home and steals his family’s satellite dish to send a message into space about how he doesn’t belong on Earth and wants to leave. What follows is a parade of absolute nightmares as a variety of grotesque aliens with horrific human teeth answer Mike’s call. One, a dog that speaks out of a mouth on its collar, invites Mike to live on its home planet of Puppis (ugh) to escape the onslaught. Mike refuses, and eventually a series of maddening sit-com level misunderstandings leads to Mike’s best friend’s brother being kidnapped by a frog-like alien for its exotic zoo. Mike, Katelyn, his friend, and even his former enemy Scott all team up to save the brother, though Scott is really more tricked into it than anything. Will they succeed and save they day? Who cares! So long as we can end the movie and get away from the insane, eldritch abominations this movie considers fun aliens for kids, Danielle and Sam will put up with pretty much anything, except maybe Mike’s useless prophetic alien dreams, that is.

Check out the excellent Rewatch Recap podcast on Twitter @dustin_holden, Instagram @dustincanread, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 3

Sam takes Danielle back to Hyperion in part three of his epic journey through the 1990 book The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. We’re off to an amazing start as Danielle struggles to remember anything about the previous episode, but no time for that, we have a lot going on in this episode! The remaining pilgrims awake in the Time Tomb of the Sphinx, and before too long they are shocked to find that, rather than Father Hoyt, the cruciform parasite has resurrected Father Paul Duré. Duré seems rather sanguine about his being alive again, despite his best absolute torturous efforts to die earlier, and the Consul provides him with the records from his comlog so he can catch up on the pilgrims’ stories. Meanwhile, Brawne and Martin set off back to Keep Chronos to retrieve more food and water, but Martin quickly detours them to the dead City of Poets where he plans to stay and write his cantos, which surely won’t go wrong. Kassad, meanwhile, has found Moneta, but she doesn’t know who he is (time-travel shenanigans, don’t worry about it) but they fight and have sex anyway, so really, about as expected. Eventually the Shrike shows up and takes them all through a weird portal, which is a new thing for it to do. Also meanwhile, Meina Gladstone goes on a walk visiting all the worlds of the pilgrims and remunerates on the choices she made, which we’re still largely unaware of, so not much is learned. Martin is writing furiously, approaching the conclusion of his cantos, when the Shrike shows up and drags him away to its massive tree of thorns. Martin, understandably, is absolutely livid that he isn’t allowed to finish his work. Back in the valley, the pilgrims still there find a strange figure coming towards them, it’s Het Masteen, he’s back! Before we can learn more, we cut to Brawne, who wanders through the Keep, grabs some supplies, is briefly waylaid by a rock-slide, before going back to the valley and finding no one else there. That’s when the Shrike shows up and slips a blade surgically behind her ear. Then we cut to Meina Gladstone, at a war briefing, and to the surprise of everyone in the war room, and absolutely no one else, the Ousters have outwitted them again, and are currently invading the web, having launched the invasion decades ago, traveling at sublight speeds to avoid detection. The Web seems absolutely screwed (they really should have purchased a dehubridifier), but Meina steps up, outlines a plan, and then decides to convene the government to declare war on the Ousters (we guess they weren’t at war already?) and also maybe the TechnoCore. What does any of this mean? Absolutely no clue, maybe we’ll find out next time!

Happy Death Day 2 U

Spook Retorts ends with a bang as Danielle shares the second installment of the Happy Death Day franchise with the 2019 movie Happy Death Day 2 U. Everyone’s favorite character is back, that’s right, it’s Fine Vagina Kid, henceforth known as Ryan. He wakes in his car after being evicted from the dorm room he shares with Carter so he and Tree could get freaky. Ryan then heads to the physics lab where he’s working on a magic device that blah blah blah something about time. That’s not important, what is important is that the dean is shutting them down and then Ryan is killed by someone wearing a baby face mask, which is somehow, still, the mascot of this school. Ryan wakes up in his car, he’s in a time loop! Tree is immediately clued in on this and helps Ryan capture his would-be murder, which is also Ryan. But, like, a different Ryan from another dimension? Or the first Ryan is from another dimension? Look, it doesn’t matter, as the movie will completely forget about this entire premise mere minutes later when Ryan One activates his magic science device and accidentally sends Tree into another time loop. However, unlike when this device was apparently doing this in the previous movie, this time Tree ends up in another, slightly different dimension. At this point, Sam is just so angry at this movie for trying, and failing, to explain why all this is happening rather than just getting on with the fun parts of the movie; this is an emotion he will feel continuously for the rest of this episode. Anyway, in this universe Lori is not trying to kill Tree, Carter is dating Danielle which makes Tree jealous, and Tree’s mom is still alive. However, Tree does manage to get herself killed a few times before enlisting the help of this universe’s Ryan to help fix the magic science machine and end the loop. Why doesn’t Tree have a doppelgänger in this universe? Don’t ask questions, that’s why. So join us for another fun filled romp through time looped shenanigans, where the twists are so dumb and out of nowhere they don’t even earn the name twist. At the end, Tree must make the most difficult choice of all: Stay in this universe where her mom is still alive, or go back to the other universe for the boy she’s been dating for, like, twelve hours. I know what choice I’d make.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 2

Danielle’s terrifying month continues as Sam brings her part two of the 1990 Dan Simmons book The Fall of Hyperion. Brawne and Kassad return to the other pilgrims with the rapidly dying body of Father Hoyt, and they decide to call in the Consul’s ship to see if the surgery on board can save Hoyt. However, as they pack to go meet the ship, Kassad’s perimeter alarms go off and he leaves to investigate. The others trudge up the valley but the ship isn’t there to meet them. It seems CEO Meina Gladstone has grounded the Consul’s ship lest they be tempted to use it to abandon their pilgrimage, so the pilgrims decide to seek shelter from the storm in the Sphinx. Meanwhile, Severn is invited to go visit Hyperion, in person, by Gladstone, as she wants a “poet’s perspective” on the situation. So Severn visits and runs into one Melio Alvarez, one time lover of the backwards aging Rachel. Severn interrogates Melio about if he still has feelings for the now infant Rachel, which seems like a real jerk thing to do to the poor man, and then he returns to the web, accomplishing not a whole lot on his trip. Back in the valley of the Time Tombs, Kassad is locked in battle with an unseen sniper he assumes is Moneta. He obliterates one of the Time Tombs, the Crystal Monolith, and then races across the valley floor to it smoldering structure, being heavily wounded in the process, but he sees a figure waiting for him high in the structure. Meanwhile, Severn goes to attend a briefing on the war with the Ousters and things are not looking good for the Hegemony. They will need to commit at least a third of their fleet to Hyperion to secure victory. When questioned about whether such an over-commitment is a prudent idea, Admiral Nashita assures everyone that while they grossly underestimated the Ousters up to this point, this time they’re super-duper sure they got it all figured out and should win the war within a week, what could go wrong? We’ll have to wait until at least next time to learn, as Danielle and Sam wrap this episode with perhaps their best business idea yet: The Dehubridifier, pre-orders are open now!

Happy Death Day

This week Danielle brings the laughs to Spook Retorts with the 2017 time-loop movie Happy Death Day. One day, a sorority sister wakes up after a night of blackout drinking in a random dorm room. So far, so college. The young woman, whose name is Tree (seriously), makes her way back home to her sorority house where her roommate offers her a cupcakes, since it’s her birthday. Tree, being a jerk at this point, tosses the cupcake and seems determined to be mean to everyone around her, except the professor/medical doctor she’s boning on the sly. That night on her way to a party, Tree comes across an apparently magic music box that plays Happy Birthday and is immediately stabbed to death by someone in a baby-face mask. It’s important to take a moment here to explain that this college has a baby as their mascot, and they are apparently so proud of this fact they practically force everyone who even looks at the campus to take one of these masks. Both Danielle and Sam agree, it’s the most horrifying part of the movie by far. Anyway, immediately upon her death Tree wakes up back in that dorm room and relives the day again, this time avoiding the music box, but still being killed later by a killer who is somehow the most impressive stalker of all time. Seriously, best, most dedicated murderer ever. So Tree spends the rest of her loops trying to uncover who is murdering her and how to stop it. She also undergoes some character growth, but that seems mostly incidental to the whole not being murdered motivation. As the movie goes on, you can enjoy Sam becoming increasingly frustrated at a time loop that makes no sense, capped off with a twist that somehow just makes everything more confusing. When all is said and done, however, Danielle and Sam think one thing is clear: Tree is definitely going to prison.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 1

This week Sam kicks-off Spook Retorts by bringing Danielle’s greatest fear: more Hyperion! Get ready to dive in to the 1990 Dan Simmons novel The Fall of Hyperion. The Hegemony is going to war. At a party to see the armada off, we meet a man who claims to be Joseph Severn, the one-time friend of John Keats. He has a meeting after the party with CEO Meina Gladstone, where it’s revealed that he’s not only another cybrid persona retrieval project of John Keats, but also has been dreaming the events of the Shrike pilgrims through his psychic link to the other Keats persona currently residing in the Schrön loop embedded in Brawne Lamia. If that sentence made no sense to you, you should really listen to the first Hyperion book; it won’t help this make any more sense, but you’ll at least know who those people are. Anyway, Gladstone wants Severn (née Keats) to report to her the progress of the pilgrims through his dreams. The pilgrims haven’t really done much since the last book, having been unable to find the Shrike they set up camp and squabble about what to do. Eventually they go to bed, but Brawne wakes up to find Father Hoyt has wandered off to the now glowing Time Tombs, which can only mean one thing: DJ Shrike is in the house! Back in the Hegemony, Gladstone has bafflingly brought Severn to all her war briefings and given him the highest clearance. The Hegemony is supremely confident they can defeat the Ousters and defend Hyperion, though Severn thinks that’s hubris given how little the Hegemony actually knows about the Ousters or their capabilities. Unsurprisingly, things start going south in the war fast. Meanwhile, Severn gets himself seduced, kidnapped, and interrogated all by the same person. In his drugged, expository ramblings, Severn helpfully reminds us that the Hegemony orchestrated the war with the Ousters to get to Hyperion, the only variable that the TechnoCore cannot account for, and thus may save humanity from otherwise certain extermination by the AI civilization. Back on Hyperion, we see that Hoyt, mad with pain, has entered the Jade Tomb where Brawne sees him get his throat slit by the Shrike. Will Hoyt survive? Find out next time (maybe) in part two!

Be sure to check out the Authorized Novelizations Podcast, especially The Starlight Barking episode featuring Danielle and Sam. You can find them on Twitter @authorizedpod, Instagram @authorizedpod, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Also, a shout-out the excellent Dustin Can Read and Watch podcast, you should check it out on Twitter @dustin_holden, Instagram @dustincanread, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

AI Love You

This week Danielle brings the 2022 Thai sci-fi rom-com movie AI Love You. Dob is a sentient AI office building who pines for the woman, Lana, who works inside of him, and if that sentence fills you with a creeping sense of horror, you and Sam have a lot in common.If you’re looking for any rational reason why sentient AI buildings are a thing, this movie will disappoint. After Lana tanks her presentation, Dob helps her make a new one and then confesses his love for her. Lana dismisses it because, and this can’t be emphasized enough, Dob is a building. Instead, Lana goes on a bad date with a creepy guy named Bob, which does not go well. Meanwhile, Dob’s abnormal behavior is noticed and this is apparently just a normal thing that happens, where AI buildings develop human emotions, because the procedure of resetting Dob is immediately settled on. Coincidentally, Bob is the technician that is tasked with resetting Dob and while he’s interfacing with Dob via VR goggles (seriously) Dob somehow downloads his AI consciousness into Bob’s brain, taking over Bob’s body. Now Dob (in the body of Bob) is able to pursue Lana as a human-ish thing. First, though, Dob must learn how to be a human, since apparently he was never programmed with basic human behavior, even though he was designed to be a helpful building for people. No, we don’t understand any of this either. Anyway, Dob now must spend his nights learning about dating and trying to convince Lana to give Bob (who he’s pretending to be) another shot, while by day he’s puppeteering the building, so as not to arouse suspicion about the building not working. Did we mention there’s a (maybe secret) network of these building AIs, including the building Lana lives in, all conspiring to help Dob (as Bob) get with Lana by deceiving her into thinking he’s a better version of Bob. Lana eventually relents and they start dating, but the company the makes the robot buildings, Smart Plus, has dispatched their laser-chainsaw wielding AI hunter to recover Bob’s body and remove Dob from it, because apparently AIs take over human bodies just all the freaking time in this horrific future. So join us for Danielle’s turn sharing a sci-fi rom-com that definitely seems more like a horror film the more you think about it.

Heartbeeps

This week Sam brings the romance with the 1981 robot rom-com Heartbeeps. Val (Andy Kaufman) and Aqua (Bernadette Peters) are two companion model robots currently being stored in a factory for repairs. We’ll leave it as an exercise to the listener to determine what the purpose of a “companion” robot is. However, after talking for a little while Val convinces Aqua and a hack-comedian robot that they all should leave the factory to go look at some trees. Apparently, this factory has no security, so Val jacks a van and they quickly crash into some woods, since he was programmed to drive, but seemingly not very well. Once they’re discovered missing, two factory workers are sent out to recover them, but then also an automated tank called the Crimebuster also goes rogue and breaks out of the factory to chase the fugitive robots. No one in the factory seems to notice this latest robot escape, which is just an incredible indictment of this factory’s operating procedures. Meanwhile, Val and Aqua have built themselves a robot child in the woods, primarily so it could be used as a pack-mule to haul around spare parts in a trailer strapped to it. Shortly thereafter, the troupe of robots finds a cave, and after a convenient helicopter scares away a bear, they hunker down. While alone, Val and Aqua find a new use for their pleasure centers (did we not mention that the robots seemed to be trained using pleasure to reinforce desired behavior? Because they are, and it’s bonkers). However, the factory workers and Crimebuster robot are both separately hunting the fugitive robots, who are now intent on maintaining their freedom. The big question remains: Will our robot lovers succeed in escaping, or will they be returned to servitude? While the surprise reveal of a pet raccoon in a junkyard seems to sever Sam’s tenuous grasp on reality, the stuff going on behind the scenes is equally insane as this movie tapped top talent like John Williams and Stan Winston for its production. So see what happens when you take a bunch of amazing talents and put them into the most insane movie possible, and see if two robots can actually fall in love (no, no they can’t).

Dead on Target – Part 2

This week Danielle brings us the thrilling conclusion of the 1987 Hardy Boys novel Dead on Target by Franklin W. Dixon. The Hardys are on their way back to Bayport convinced that the infamous terrorist known as the Bullet is there to enact the opening night of his previous rehearsal bombing (no, a rehearsal bombing doesn’t make sense, but don’t ask questions). Back in Bayport, the Hardys and Frank’s girlfriend (or maybe Joe’s? Sam still isn’t sure) Callie go to the police. However, the new officer in town, Sam Butler, is not buying their terrorist rehearsal bombing idea, which is really the only reasonable reaction to their story. Undeterred, the Hardy’s decide to sneak into the mall at night to see if they can learn something. Fortunately for them, the mall is guarded exclusively by dogs for some reason, and even more bizarrely, Joe has brought a dart gun, since apparently every in this world just loves a worse version of a gun. While sneaking around, they stumble across the Bullet and instead of tranqing him, Joe shouts his name, alerting him to their presence and getting them all captured. Sam is unimpressed. The Bullet, equally as incompetent as the Hardys, merely ties them up in the mall basement near a pile of plastic explosives set to assassinate the not-yet-but-maybe-soon presidential candidate Walker. Why is this almost presidential candidate so important? Because something, something, anti-terrorism. Luckily, Callie was there with them and manages to escape and free them and Frank goes about disarming the bomb using the classic technique of a human pyramid. That was not a joke. With the bomb disabled, the Hardys still need to save Walker, for some reason, from the Bullet who surely won’t give up that easily. Will they succeed? Will Joe get revenge for the death of whatsherface? Is there a Lion King Mufasa’s death style scene? The answer to all these questions is of course yes, but it all happens in a way that only the Hardy boys can pull off: Hilariously.