This week Danielle brings a movie she has an uneasy history with, it’s the 1990 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film Joe Versus the Volcano. Joe Banks is your typical work-a-day cog, unhappy with his life. Fortunately (?) he learns he has a rare disease called a brain cloud, which is asymptomatic but will kill him in six months. Joe accepts this without question, and so also agrees to help a millionaire superconductor magnate secure the mining rights on a small Polynesian island by jumping into a volcano. None of this crazy plot really matters because this movie has, just, so many Meg Ryans, you guys, so many. It seems Sam and Danielle have uncovered the truth of the Tom Hanksiverse series of movies and it will shock you (it’s Meg Ryan, the truth is it’s Meg Ryan all the way down). Despite these shocking revelations, Danielle and Sam manage to get through this movie about a man dealing with his mortality through encounters with a series of Meg Ryans, but they have one qualm with the film: It needs more Meg Ryans.
Sam introduces Danielle to the 1992 Robin Williams film Toys. Enter a whimsical world where an eccentric Willy Wonka-esque toy maker dies when his propeller beanie connected pacemaker fails. He leaves his wacky toy factory to his brother, three-star general Leland Zevo, instead of his man-child son Leslie for reasons that are unclear. Despite having no interest in toys, General Zevo agrees to run the toy factory, and quickly pivots to making “war toys” and then to making actual weapons of war that he plans to trick children into using for military applications. If that plan sounds insane, then the plan Leslie comes up with to stop this is somehow even crazier (hint: it involves making a highly produced fake MTV music video for no apparent reason). This movie has it all: Creepy murder-toys, unnecessary romance, gratuitous sex, overly complicated plans, eerie music, actually beautiful aesthetics, and more whimsy than a Wes Anderson fan convention. Despite all that, Sam is convinced this movie is actually a thinly veiled horror film and its world is actually a dystopia; Danielle is just plain confused.
This week Danielle has the thrilling conclusion of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish. Adam finally learns a bit about the experimental work of Dr. O’Keefe, and Sam is aghast at the reckless disregard for safety and scientific rigor. Adam seems less bothered by this and is ready to commit to O’Keefe and his work, but O’Keefe, inexplicably, insists that Adam go on dinner date with Kali at her father’s hotel first. Before leaving for the date, Poly has a premonition and insists Adam take a switchblade syringe filled with shark tranquilizer and conceal it in his swimming trunks for when he and Kali inevitably go swimming. It’s difficult to convey how truly crazy this is, and it’s even crazier that they are indeed attacked by sharks but are saved by the kinda psychic dolphin. After that incident, O’Keefe gives Adam the assignment to slip some secret papers about his work to his friends in the embassy right under Typhon Cutter’s nose. It’s a plan that is far too unnecessarily convoluted to get into here, but there are complications, backstabbing, mortal peril, and some truly hilarious attempts at cloak-and-dagger shenanigans. Also, just when this book should be over, there are more shark attacks. Seriously, for a book titled The Arm of the Starfish, there are way more sharks than you’d think, and and way fewer starfish.
This week Danielle breaks out the Madeleine L’Engle classic The Arm of the Starfish. Adam is your typical-sixteen-year old biology prodigy on his way to Lisbon to work with superstar biologist Dr. O’Keefe. While being held up at the airport because of fog, Adam is approached by the attractive Kali who warns him not to trust the O’Keefes. Adam is perplexed by this encounter, but shrugs it off as he jets off across the Atlantic, before making an unexpected stop in Madrid due to yet more fog. While there, a friend of the O’Keefes, a priest named Canon Tallis, is escorting Poly, the twelve-year-old daughter of the O’Keefes, back from a vacation in the U.S. Tallis asks Adam, the teenage boy he just met, to take over the escort duty of this young girl while he does some business in Madrid. This is the first of many bafflingly terrible decisions every character seems to make. On the flight from Madrid to Lisbon Poly is immediately, and expertly, kidnapped. Fortunately, Dr. O’Keefe is nonplussed by the loss of his daughter when Adam arrives. Later, while recuperating in a hotel Adam is magically found by Kali, who just happens to be in the neighborhood and who insists on taking him to meet her mega-rich-totally-not-evil businessman father Typhon Cutter. Typhon has just so happened to have found Poly and is returning her to the O’Keefes on the condition Adam reports to him on the super secret, world changing work Dr. O’Keefe is doing. Sam is annoyed that Typhon gives up a perfectly good kidnapped hostage to instead rely on a stranger of a teenager to get his information for him. Adam, meanwhile, must wrestle with the most difficult question of who to trust: The world famous scientist he’s going to work for, or the kidnapping businessman who wants him to spy on the O’Keefes. Also, there aren’t really any starfish in this part, but there is a kinda psychic dolphin, so that has to count for something.
This week Sam introduces Danielle to the classic 1985 post-apocalyptic film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The Mad Max franchise is well known for telling the gritty story of the collapse of society, a nuclear apocalypse, and one man who attempts to survive alone in the new world. Beyond Thunderdome takes that serious story and makes it delightfully goofy in every way. After having his camel-drawn cart stolen, the titular Max ends up in Bartertown, the most advanced city in the Australian wasteland. He quickly becomes embroiled in a political assassination plot that is wildly over-complicated as the queen of Bartertown, played fabulously by Tina Turner, wishes to have the bodyguard of the mechanical genius behind the city’s success killed. None of that is really important as it’s just an excuse to get Max into Thunderdome with the formidable Blaster for a fight scene that is as delightful as it is bizarre. After some contrived shenanigans and the application of laws that are notable mostly in their ability to be chanted by a mob, Max is exiled to the wasteland but is rescued both by a magic monkey and a tribe of teenagers and children that have formed a cult religion about a savior pilot after being abandoned in an oasis. The crazy only escalates from there as Max and the kids are forced into a conflict with Tina Turner and the Bartertown Bunch mostly as an excuse to have a climactic train/car chase through the desert. That all sounds ridiculous, and it is, but the costumes are amazing, the is action way over the top, and the plot is nonsensical, so really, what more could we possibly ask for?
Danielle brings Sam into the wonderfully strange world of James Bond with the 2002 movie Die Another Day. Although this isn’t Sam’s first James Bond film, it’s definitely one of the weirder he’s ever heard about. When your spy movie starts with James Bond and his team clandestinely surfing into North Korea only to have a helicopter they already control meet them there so Bond can replace and impersonate the diamond/arms dealer inside, you know you’re in for a wild ride. James Bond, with his usual lack of subtlety, proceeds to be captured and held for over a year by the DPRK before being released in a prisoner exchange. Bond quickly does what he does best and takes an unsanctioned trip to Cuba in search of the mole in MI6 that had betrayed him, but mostly ends up just having sex with a criminally underused Halle Berry. There’s some stuff about a de-aging clinic that turns you into the doppelgänger of whomever’s bone-marrow you get, but the movie doesn’t seem that interested in the details because it’s time for a crazy rich guy with a totally-not-evil-seriously-guys-it’s-just-for-peaceful-reasons-I-can’t-think-of-right-now space laser! There are so many crazy villain plots in this that Danielle struggles to finish her retelling in less time than it would take just to watch the actual movie. So come on and join the most famous of secret agents for some delightfully nonsensical action fun. Also, there’s a lot of setup about scorpions in the movie, but that never pays off, sorry.
This week Sam shares the insanity that is the 1991 movie Highlander II: The Quickening, and to deal with it Danielle calls for backup in the form of Emily from I Drink Your Podcast. In the year 2024 the world has been encased in a shield to protect Earth from the intense rays of the sun now able to ravage to planet due the destruction of the ozone layer. For some reason, Connor MacLeod, now mortal and old beyond his years, was involved in the creation of the shield. How exactly his previous career as a sword wielding immortal translates to large scale engineering projects is a question beyond answer. It’s also revealed that Connor is from the past, or an alien from another planet depending on if you watch the director’s cut of the film, and was sent to the future/Earth with the other immortals as punishment for their participation in a rebellion against Michael Ironside as their evil ruler General Katana. All that crazy is before Sam even gets to the plot (such as it is) or the resurrection of Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, played by Sean Connery. About the only thing this sequel seems to retain from the first film is the baffling accent choices, so dive in as we discover there can be only one…again.
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This week Sam helps Danielle up her Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game by bringing her the 1990 film Tremors. Perfection, Nevada is your typical middle of nowhere tiny town from which handymen Valentine McKee and Earl Bassett are hoping to escape to the city. Their big adventure is interrupted by a series of mysterious deaths and a landslide that wipes out the only road out of town. Couple that with some strange seismographic readings from the newly arrived graduate seismology graduate student, Rhonda LeBeck, and you have a recipe for giant, murderous, subterranean tentacle-worms. Danielle is so excited for the worms she can hardly contain herself and Sam can hardly contain his exasperation as she constantly wants to know more about them with questions he is nowhere near qualified to answer. Rhonda, however, quickly proves to be a giant tentacle-worm expert, somehow, and comes up with several plans to try and escape the deathtrap of a worm-filled valley. Unfortunately, the tentacle-worms, appear to be the smartest things in the valley and foil our heroes at every turn, while Danielle is frustrated that this rural town has a dearth of off-road vehicles they could use to just drive away and end this nonsense. In any case, after a worm briefly eats Rhonda’s pants, they make for their big escape using explosives and weapons from the local prepper couple. This movie inexplicably spawned six sequels and half a SyFy original TV show, and Sam and Danielle can only hope that all their questions about the lifecycle and origins of the tentacle-worms are answered somewhere within all that direct-to-video goodness.
Danielle brings Sam a little Halloween in February with the 2001 sci-fi horror film Jason X. Forget everything you know about the Friday the 13th movies and Camp Crystal Lake because it does not matter. Danielle strains her own memory, and her verbal faculties, to tell Sam how Jason has been caught and is being cryogenically frozen in order to contain him. Unsurprisingly, he still manages to kill a bunch of people before being frozen, but surprisingly being frozen somehow does kills him, which is kinda the opposite point of cryogenic freezing. In any case, he’s discovered in the 25th century, and the doctor that froze him is brought back to life, mostly so she can warn them about Jason and be ignored. Jason decides he’s been dead long enough and brings himself back to life to do what he does best: Stab people who are having sex. Now loose on the spaceship (yes, this is in space) Jason will terrorize the rest of the crew which consists of a sexy android, a quippy security guard, a morally bankrupt professor, and some miscellaneous nerds. Will the crew be able to survive Jason and escape? No, of course not, most of them die, but Jason is eventually defeated which results in an ending so nonsensical that Sam and Danielle are still trying to puzzle out what the heck it means.
Sam brings Danielle the show’s first middle grade novel with the Donna Jo Napoli book Shark Shock. Adam is your typical eleven-year-old boy: he likes video games and playing soccer, and is absolutely terrified of sharks. This really isn’t a problem until his family plans a three-week vacation to the New Jersey shore in the same place where the shark attacks that Jaws were based on happened. Adam quickly comes up with a plan to keep himself safe while swimming in the ocean: His talking freckles can keep a lookout and warn him about sharks. Yes, there are talking freckles living on Adam, and no, Sam hasn’t read the first book in this series, Soccer Shock, which may explain some of this. Unfortunately, divisive political squabbling amongst the freckles means they won’t be able to help. Danielle has questions, but even if Sam had answers there’s no time as Adam makes a new friend at the beach by the name of Seth, who was blinded in a boating accident a few years earlier. Adam thinks maybe he can help Seth listen to his own freckles so they can help see for him. Sam is annoyed with Adam’s parents for some pretty blatantly sexist behavior by giving Adam his own room instead of his older sister. Danielle just wants to know where the heck are all the freaking sharks.