This week the kangafus are back as Sam brings the 2002 movie Warriors of Virtue 2: The Return to Tao. What becomes most apparent in this episode is how bad of and idea it was for Sam not to prepare by listening to the previous Warriors of Virtue episode as he remembers almost nothing about the story, the characters, or even what he and Danielle talked about during that episode. This is extra unfortunate since this movie dives right in expecting you’re already a Warrior of Virtue expert as we rejoin Ryan Jeffers, now in Beijing for the international highschool wushu tournament. After the previous captain of the US team had to drop out, Ryan, who hadn’t even made the team, was brought in as the substitute captain, and already this film is bonkers. You might expect Ryan to be very good at wushu if they brought him in as the new captain, but he is, in fact, quite terrible. Anyway, after he and his buddy bop around Beijing for a few days, entirely unsupervised, Ryan once again finds himself in an abandoned building and being sucked through a portal to the land of Tao. There he meets Yasbin, who serves as the exposition machine of the movie and, true to purpose, tells Ryan that Tao is once again under threat, this time from Dogon and his absolutely incredible henchman. Seriously, that man henches better than anyone Sam has ever seen. Anyway, Ryan goes to see Queen Amythis (who knew Tao has a queen?) and learns that the Warriors of Virtue have been nearly all defeated and captured by Dogon. You’d think the mystical land of Tao would have someone better than a not-very-good-at-wushu teenager from Earth to help them, but nope, Ryan is the best they got apparently. If this plot all seems both dull and convoluted, don’t worry, as the movie progresses things make way less sense and thus are way more fun. Also, be sure to stick around to see Sam at the angriest he’s ever been as this film betrays him on a deeply personal level. Fun!
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.
This week Danielle returns to her teen detective roots with the Hardy Boys Casefiles book one, from 1987, Dead on Target by Franklin W. Dixon. Frank and Joe hardy are two young men who Sam cannot distinguish between despite Danielle’s instance that they are, in fact, very different characters. The book opens with a dramatic scene of Joe’s girlfriend, Iola, exploding in a car bomb at a political rally she was organizing for a presidential candidate. We cut back an hour and learn this rally is, in fact, a dress rehearsal for a political rally, which is definitely not a thing. After Iola gets explodified, Joe, who was a terrible boyfriend, is extremely distraught and Frank agrees to help him do what they do best: Incompetently attempt to investigate her murder until they luck into a solution. After talking to some people at the local mall, they’re attacked by unknown evil people with, hilariously, dart guns. They escape in the car of a government agent they met earlier named Mr. Gray. A brief car chase later, where Joe earnestly tries to murder some of their pursuers, and the Hardy bros are told to go hide in South Carolina while Mr. Gray and the secret government organization he works for, The Network, takes care of the terrorist organization that attacked them. The Hardys are not ones to listen to reason, so they muster all the hacking skills that existed in 1987, and hack into an airport computer to determine that Mr. Gray is headed towards London, and they follow him there. They quickly foil an attempted hijacking which, considering the terrorist weapons were a single grenade and a can of mace, wasn’t much of a threat to begin with. But the real mystery of this book, in Sam’s mind, is just one thing: How are these inexperienced bothers consistently able to insert themselves into a secret government anti-terrorism organization? And further, how has this terrorist organization, known as the Assassins, existed since the freaking Crusades? Unfortunately, the Hardys have no answers to these questions, but with any luck they may yet solve the mystery of who killed Iola, and bring them to justice. So join us for part one of this fast-paced reboot of the classic mystery series!
This week Sam shares the made for TV sequel, the 2006 movie The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines. After two very hefty media pieces (and even more hefty episodes) Sam thought a short, fluffy, made for TV movie would make a nice, easy episode, but we can all see how well that worked out for him. We catch up with Flynn (Noah Wyle), the titular librarian with 22 higher education degrees, out in Utah recovering a clairvoyant crystal skull from some truly incompetent artifact rustlers. While Flynn succeeds in this supposedly world-saving quest, Judson (magical Bob Newhart) is less than impressed with his recklessness. But there’s no time for skulls, as Flynn is off to a surprise birthday party thrown for him by his mother, who’s still trying to hook him up with random women, in this case a cousin. What happened to Nicole, the love interest from the previous movie? While The Librarian never provides an answer, Danielle and Sam cook up a theory involving her being removed from time by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which unbelievably somehow makes sense in context. On his way home, Flynn discovers his apartment has been ransacked by an evil dude looking for a scroll that was mailed to Flynn from Egypt. The evil guy manages to find the scroll and vamoose after leaving Flynn unconscious. After Judson revives him, he explains to Flynn that what was stolen was a map to King Solon’s Mines which contain his most magical and powerful artifacts. Luckily, to read the map you need a legend that’s safely hidden in Morocco. Instead of leaving it in safety, Flynn is tasked with recovering the legend first and, ideally, the map as well. So having learned nothing from the mistakes of the first film, Flynn jets off to meet up with a sexy archeologist who has even more degrees than he does, somehow. Together, they hope to recover the map, and the legend, and maybe just take a quick peek inside King Solomon’s Mines despite Judson’s clear instructions not to. Meanwhile, Sam hopes to be able to explain how this story has kept Flynn just as brainy, but also made him into way more of a moron somehow. Bottom line: we really miss Nicole.
This week Sam takes Danielle on an adventure through the 2004 made for TV movie The Librarian: Quest for the Spear. If you take Indiana Jones, mash it up with Warehouse 13, add Noah Wyle and a touch of historical mysticism, you’ll get something akin to The Librarian. Flynn is a perpetual student with an unbelievable 22 academic degrees, a fact Sam refuses to accept. When he’s forced out of school by his teacher, for some reason, he struggles to find purpose until a magic letter invites him to a job interview at a library. At the interview, Flynn spouts some nonsense and then a magical Bob Newhart as Judson appears from a wall to tell him he’s hired. Bob shows Flynn around the library, which is really more a heavily guarded museum of mystical artifacts, and also the Mona Lisa for some reason. This “secure” facility is immediately broken into by a librarian splinter group—which must be the least intimidating kind of splinter group—and a piece of a powerful spear artifact is stolen. Instead of actually trying to recover the stolen spear piece, Flynn is instead sent to track down the two other spear pieces which, until now, have been safely hidden in other locations because the spear was too powerfully dangerous to be kept in one piece. Predictably, things don’t go smoothly as Flynn and his sexy bodyguard Nicole go to the Amazon to recover the spear, but Sam is more upset that they even launched this unnecessary quest to begin with. Things only get more ridiculous as stupid evil plans collide with stupid good plans and no one seems to do any actual librarian work. All we can say is: Snake, Snake! Snake, Snake!
This week Danielle takes Sam through the truly bizarre finale of the 2020 Ernest Cline novel Ready Player Two. Wade Watts is trapped in the OASIS in his ONI VR headset by Anorak and his “infirmware” and is being forced by Anorak to find the seven shards hidden by Halliday on various media worlds Kira—the late wife of Ogden and romantic obsession of Halliday—had a hand in creating. And if that sentence doesn’t sum up Ready Player Two, nothing does. The purpose of this latest scavenger hunt is still unclear, but Wade now has 12 hours to complete it before he dies, so naturally he completely ignores the help offered by his biggest fan L0hengrin. Wade and his friends set off to various media worlds, including the not-much-of-a-challenge school world, and the fever dream of the Prince world. Eventually, Wade figures out that Anorak wants the shards because he—the A.I. consciousness of Halliday—wants to use the shards to resurrect an A.I. consciousness of Kira which Halliday created without her consent. Anorak wants to live in eternal bliss with this A.I. Kira even though she never loved Halliday, even when reconstituted virtually. We won’t spoil how the space ship full of frozen embryos figures into all this, but it’s wild. Anyway, Wade and his friends find a convenient magic sword that Ogden, and only Ogden for some reason, can use to defeat Anorak, and embark on a pretty simple heist to free Ogden and bring him to the Oasis to fight Anorak. All of this is pretty standard, but then Wade discovers there are A.I. scans of every person who has used an ONI device, and his solution to this is probably the most ridiculous, and most irresponsible, part of the whole book, which is really saying something.
This week Danielle starts Sam on a VR adventure with the 2020 Ernest Cline novel Ready Player Two. In this sequel to Ready Player One, Wade Watts is the freshly minted owner of the OASIS, a massive virtual realty universe that dominates the cultural and commercial landscape of a dystopian Earth. That’s when Wade’s late predecessor, Halliday, sends him a hitherto unknown technology: The ONI, a neural interface VR system for the OASIS that kills you if you use it too long. This all sounds great to Wade who immediately launches it as a commercial product, and this is why Danielle and Sam feel that you probably shouldn’t pick the successor to your multi-billion dollar essential planetary infrastructure via pop culture scavenger hunt. At this point, a new scavenger hunt appears in the OASIS, seemingly just for Wade and created by Halliday (seriously, does he have any other ideas?). Wade is tasked with finding seven shards but is stumped by the clue and so kinda just ignores if for a few years, like a true hero. During that time, Wade finds his friends divided over the ethics of the ONI devices, and Wade drifts away from Samantha, his girlfriend for all of a week, due to her reservations. Finally, a fan of Wade’s, L0hengrin, clues him into where the first shard is, and helps him recover this first quest item. Things only get weirder from here, and that’s without mentioning the Olympic swimming pool’s worth of 80’s and 90’s pop culture references to slog through, or the spaceship full of frozen embryos. Sam has many questions, and while there are few answers in part one, we can only hope part two will shed some light on his most burning question: How big a jerk was Halliday? (Spoiler: absolutely massive).
This week Sam shares the conclusion of the supremely weird 1967 Dodie Smith book The Starlight Barking. Pongo and his brood are still wrestling with what’s going on while the rest of the world, aside from dogs, sleeps. Finally deciding Cruella de Vil might be involved, the dogs, a cat, and Tommy sneak into her house, some with the intent of just straight-up murdering her. Although the air is filled with pepper, Cruella is asleep and the dogs are relieved that’s she not involved, and, much to Sam’s consternation, that’s the last we’ll hear of her during the story. Back at Downing Street, a mysterious light appears on the TV and commands all the dogs in England to appear in Trafalgar Square at midnight to receive an explanation for all the strange goings on. When asked questions, the voice provides answers that are less than useless before rushing off. At midnight, the dogs gathered in the Square experience euphoria and then utter terror as a bright light descends into the square. It’s the Lord of Sirius the dog star come to offer all the dogs a permanent home on Sirius to live forever in total bliss. The star lord’s reasons for making this offer are crazy, as is the stipulation that it will be an all-or-nothing deal so all dogs are to go or none at all. For some reason, the dogs elect Pongo to make the decision on their behalf. Despite all the supposedly high stakes, Danielle and Sam are really much more interested in the pressing question: What the heck happened to the missing Roly Poly?
This week Sam brings the little-known sequel to The Hundred and One Dalmatians, the 1967 Dodie Smith novel The Starlight Barking. Dalmatian heroes Pongo and Missis have retired to the countryside at Hell Hall with their massive brood, but Pongo is feeling restless for his previous life of adventure. That’s when he wakes one morning to find the entire world asleep except for dogs, and no amount of barking will wake any other creature. He and Missis venture forth to investigate, and find that doors and gates obligingly open for them as they approach. Soon they learn they can communicate telepathically with other dogs and float, a.k.a “swoosh”. At this point, Danielle is just about done with this nonsense. Still, Sam presses on and explains how all the dalmatians have been called to London to form a dalmatian army by their daughter Cadpig who, as the prime minister’s pet, is acting as the prime minister for dogs. There are still no clues as to why any of this has happened, but as the dogs enter London Pongo and Missis notice a sign for Cruella de Vil’s new business, leading Danielle and Sam to believe she’s somehow behind this. The dogs ignore this obvious threat and proceed to 10 Downing Street to partake in a cabinet meeting. Seriously, this is the most boring dog reaction to an apocalypse that has ever been. Danielle continues to spin her own theories as to what is happening since the dogs seem utterly uninterested in investigating on their own. Still, there’s a floating tractor and a young boy who speaks a kind of pidgin dog, so the book has that going for it.
This week Sam brings Danielle back to the heady days of 2003 with the movie Agent Cody Banks. Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is your average 15-year-old boy, except he was scooped up, in what has the be the most slipshod CIA training program ever, to become a youth agent. Why was Cody chosen for this prestigious role? We don’t know, and neither does the CIA. Nonetheless, when the evil organization E.R.I.S. is planning on using the nanobots invented by Dr. Albert Connors for…something evil probably, the CIA taps Cody to foil their evil plan. Using all the suave and subtlety of a teenage boy, Cody is to befriend Dr. Connor’s daughter Natalie (Hilary Duff) to secure an invention to her upcoming Las Vegas themed birthday party and attempt to…talk to Dr. Connors? Honestly, all the plans in this movie are as straightforward as an Escher drawing and not nearly as well composed. Now Cody must overcome his greatest weakness, talking to girls, and become the top agent the CIA has been training him to be for all of the past two summers so he can save the world (or something).
Correction: Hilary Duff did not appear in the sequel Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. We regret the error and apologize to Ms. Duff and her family for any pain this characterization may have caused. Our bad.