Danielle Explains

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Dead on Target – Part 1

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!

The Lake House

This week Danielle brings the 2006 time traveling romance movie The Lake House. When Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) sells her lake house to apparently no one, she decides to leave a note for the next owners in the mailbox, like a totally normal human being. Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) moves in and receives her letter. This confuses him, because the letter mentions things about the house—like apparently impossible to remove dog prints in paint—that don’t exist. Instead of just ignoring this letter like a sane person, Alex writes back and puts the letter in the lake house mailbox. After Kate fails to save a man pancaked by a bus in front of her, she decides the best course of action is to return to the lake house and raid the mailbox there and see if the new owners took her letter. She finds the letter from Alex and they start exchanging letters, learning that Alex is writing from 2004, while Kate is writing from 2006. They also seem to have a magic dog that they both have owned for years even though it’s, again, the same dog and they don’t know each other. They engage in more time-communication shenanigans, like Alex planting a tree for Kate that suddenly magically springs into existence before her eyes. It should be noted Sam absolutely hates the nonsensical time mechanics of this movie. Alex engages in some light time-stalking of Kate, and then he kisses her at a birthday party Kate’s not-Alex boyfriend threw for her when she still doesn’t know who Alex is. It should also be noted that both their families know they are having romantic communications through time and, insanely, no one seems to care. So join us for what is amazingly, baffling, the least coherent time travel story ever heard on Book Retorts, which is really saying something.

The Thirteenth Year

This week Danielle returns to the Disney Channel Original Movie well with the 1999 TV movie The Thirteenth Year. The movie opens with a mermaid being chased by a far too enthusiastic fisherman and abandoning her extremely human-looking child in a basket on a boat in a reverse Moses situation. We later learn that this may, or may not, be a natural part of the mermaid lifecycle, and already the first few minutes of this movie would require years of study to unpack. The baby is found and claimed by two humans who own the boat, they name him Cody and raise him to help them administer their fiscally unsustainable $5 boat tours. Cody is also on the swim team, and boy does Danielle have opinions about swim meets in this episode. Cody is eventually partnered up with the school nerd, Jess, on a marine biology project when he discovers his body is going through changes. The kind of changes every young man deals with: scales on his hands, Sith lightning from his fingertips, being able to tell fish to do circus tricks, and the ability to climb walls; you know, the classic merperson things of lore. Cody’s mom negligently avoids taking him to a doctor, and his kinda girlfriend Sam (no relation) at first doesn’t care, until she sees him with arm fins later (seriously, this movie has no idea how merpeople work). Cody struggles to understand his new identity while trying to hide his changes from Jess’ dad, the same fisherman who chased his mer-mom all those years ago and is now obsessed with finding proof of fish-people. Sam (yes relation) wonders if there’s some common heritage between merpeople and centaurs, and then makes a bunch of terrible fish puns which Danielle does not appreciate. Anyway, Cody tries to reconcile his burgeoning mer-identity with his human upbringing, and also just absolutely crush it at the most well attended state swim meet ever. However, a time comes when he must make a very difficult choice between his human life and and mer-heritage. Kidding! This is a Disney movie, so it goes completely bonkers trying to make it a happy ending for everyone. So get ready for an Olympic-sized swimming pool of aquatic nonsense!

Legacy of Lies – Part 2

This week we’re back in Wisteria, Maryland for the thrilling conclusion of the Elizabeth Chandler teen novel Legacy of Lies. After her spooky dream, Megan and Matt start to grow closer, closer than kinda-family even. Megan’s grandmother is not happy that Megan and Matt have started to connect, but not because of the creepy pseudo-incest implications, but because that means they’ll be united against her. To no one’s surprise, the grandmother continues to, and will always, be the worst. Objects in the house start getting moved to places they shouldn’t be, as if someone was moving them in the middle of the night. Spoiler: it’s not a ghost and is, in fact, much dumber than that. Meanwhile, Megan and Sophie decide to go to a party with Matt and Alex, although Danielle and Sam can’t agree on if this qualifies as a double-date. On the way there, even though Megan is going with Alex, he and Sophie start getting a little snuggly in the back of the car. Megan is unperturbed since she is starting to really crush on her sorta cousin anyway. Eventually, Megan starts to learn a little of her family’s history, and that her great aunt Avril and her grandmother Helen actually competed over a boy back in the day by the name of Thomas. Thomas was originally with Helen, but then cheated on her with Avril, and then he went back to Helen after Avril died of an overdose of a cosmetic known as Red Creep. Sam is much more interested in the Red Creep as a superhero (villain?), but nonetheless is still flummoxed why Helen would ever get back with Thomas, whom Helen eventually married and is Megan’s grandfather. Megan goes back to the not very impressive psychic of Mrs. Riley, who tells her that Megan is the reincarnation of Avril. This leads to Megan concluding that Matt is the reincarnation of Thomas, Sophie is the reincarnation of Avril’s best friend Angel, and Alex in the reincarnation of Angel’s lover who died in World War II (the whole town is chock-a-block full of reincarnations apparently). Megan also learns that Thomas was just after Avril’s money, but poisoned her (maybe with the help of Helen) because Avril wasn’t going to marry him, and now Megan (as the reincarnation of Avril) must kill the reincarnation of her killer (Matt, as Thomas) or be killed by him again because fate or something. If you think that’s the craziest thing this book has to offer, just wait until you hear the end and all the weird, nested reincarnation incest that results. So join us for a conclusion that is sure to leave you with one word rattling around inside your head: “What?”

Legacy of Lies – Part 1

This week Danielle takes us to Maryland, or possibly England, in the Elizabeth Chandler teen novel from 2000, Legacy of Lies. Meet Megan, a teen whose whole personalty could be described in one word: sassy. Megan is the adopted daughter of an interracial couple, and her maternal grandmother does not approve of such things (this grandmother is, as should be clear, the worst). However, for some mysterious reason this grandmother has invited Megan to come stay with her in the small town of Wisteria. Even more mysteriously, Megan goes after her father inexplicably thinks it’s somehow a good idea. Megan arrives in town and meets her grandmother who doesn’t really seem to want Megan there. Megan also meets her cousin Matt, who is staying there and is, like, so super cute, and also super rude. Basically, her whole extended family is awful. Megan is also shocked to discover her grandmother’s house is the same one she’s been seeing in her dreams for years. While wandering around the family graves, as ya do, Megan notices a figure in her bedroom window, but dismisses that as nothing. At dinner, Megan’s relatives continue to be the worst and Megan leaves and finds herself given a job in a local secondhand store. There, Megan meets who new bestie, and then Matt and his friends walk in, and one of them of them is totally into Megan, while Matt pretends not to care. At the store, Megan learns that her grandmother’s sister died many years ago in the very house she’s staying in under mysterious circumstances, and supposedly her ghost still haunts the house to this day. That night, Megan hears a voice in the dark, she gets up to look and finds no one, but when she returns to her room there’s a girl in her bed: herself! Then she wakes up. Was it all a dream, or are ghosts real? Will Matt hook up with his “sorta cousin” Megan? The answer to both questions is almost definitely yes, but find out for sure next time in part two!