To kick-off the new year Sam brings the 1990 Stuart Gordon mech fighting film Robot Jox! Welcome to the distant future, post World War III, where war has been outlawed, somehow. Instead, the world has decided the more sensible way to settle international disputes is via single combat in mechs. While undoubtedly cool as heck, Sam has several issues with the concept on a practical level. The capitalist Market is locked in a perpetual battle with the communist Confederation. The latest battle is for control of Alaska, but when an errant rocket fist leads to the accidental death of hundreds of spectators (why are there spectators?!), Achilles, the hero of the Market, hangs up his robot gloves and retires. This makes room for the genetically engineered super soldiers to step-up to the fight, but there’s only one problem: Achilles has the hots for one of them by the name of Athena. This leads to the most pressing question about this movie: Is it clever satire, or just another sexist 80’s flick? We may not have an answer to that, but we do know this movie has kick-butt robot fights, so that’s worth something for sure. So join us for some good ol’ fashioned, Cold War 80’s action!
This week Danielle brings us our first Sandra Bullock film with the 1995 cyber-thriller The Net. Angela Bennett is an average cyber-security employee/freelancer/contractor/thing who is a consummate recluse. She does out there things such as chatting in message groups and ordering pizza online, the horror. When a mysterious floppy disk (look it up, kids) is mailed to her house she finds it contains links to a mysterious backdoor that lets her access supposedly secure systems. The colleague who mailed her the disk flies his one-man aircraft out to see her, but dies in a suspicious crash before arriving. Unperturbed by his sudden death, or chaos at the airport due to a seemingly unrelated hacking, Angela jets off on a vacation to Mexico. There she encounters the sexy nerd Jack and they quickly hit it off on his boat, but just when Jack is about to kill her for that floppy disk (which she inexplicably brought) Angela escapes. That’s when Angela discovers her identity has been erased and replaced with a different identity that marks her as a criminal. Now Angela must find out about the shadowy organization behind her identity erasure and how their magic wizard computer powers work. Also, if she could find out what their motivations are, that would be great too, because we can’t figure that out. So dive into what Hollywood thought computers were in 1995, and join Sam and Danielle as they struggle to answer the film’s biggest question: Who is Cyberbob?
In the first of our Great Switcheroo episodes, Danielle shares her pick of the 1984 movie The Ice Pirates. What do you get when you can’t decide between being a goofy lampoon of Star Wars or just a knock-off? It might very well be The Ice Pirates. The galaxy has inexplicably run out of water, the remaining bits of ice from comets are controlled by the Templars, a group of chain-mail wearing space knights. The annoyingly rouge pirate captain Jason (really) finds himself captured by the Templars and at risk of castration at the hands of the Castratomatic machine. Luckily, he’s saved by the princess Karina who wants his help to find her lost, and possibly dead, father the King of something, who knows what. At this point, some of Jason’s crew also escape with him, but run into a robot pimp with a TV showing scantily ladies in its stomach. The robopimp doesn’t really matter to the movie, but Sam thought it important to mention that it’s basically a horny Teletubby. Anyway, the crew and the princess escape to the pirate moon, there’s a space herpie on the ship but it doesn’t matter. Really, the thing that matters most is that the group eventually makes their way to possibly the best named character of all time; a lover of baby donkeys and teenage ducks, the one, the only, the indomitable Lanky Nibs. There’s a bunch of stuff after that about finding Karina’s father and the Seventh World, but after Lanky Nibs it’s all just a blur until a finale that screws with time in ways that make our heads hurt. Also, did we mention Anjelica Huston has a minor roll in this movie, as well as Ron Perlman in his second ever film credit? So come enjoy Danielle grapple with explaining why she didn’t love a movie that seems to have it all, and tune in next week for Sam’s turn on The Great Switcheroo!
This week Sam brings along Danielle on a trip through the Nic Cageiverse in the 2009 film Knowing. In 1959 a little girl scrawls a bunch of mystery numbers on a paper placed in a time capsule. This note is acquired by John (Nicholas Cage) fifty years later in the undetermined time period of “present day”, who, as a depressed astrophysicist, immediately cracks the code. The paper details the dates and locations of every massive disaster (supposedly) in the last fifty years. The real problem is that there are three disasters that are scheduled for the future in the next few days. John sets out to stop the disasters and utterly fails to prevent the first two. He then decides to learn more about the writer of the note by spending some time stalking a woman and her young daughter; a plan that works about as well as you’d expect. Suddenly there’s an apocalypse coming and the government knows but doesn’t seem to care and John can only think about how to save his son, who has started hearing mysterious whispers and seeing strange men following them. None of this really matters as the ending is wild and seems to render the whole movie pointless. However, Sam did manage to find a description for the movie that seems to have come from a parallel universe, and that really excites Danielle.
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 Danielle revisits another classic fairy tale in the 2013 film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. When, as children, Hansel and his sister Gretel are left in the woods by their parents for what will turn out to be stupid reasons, they encounter and manage to kill a witch. They decide to go pro and become full time witch hunters, which is very convenient considering there’s currently a witch plague across the land. Now adults, Hansel and Gretel dispense deadly justice against witches, handing down verdicts based on nothing more than whether or not they look witchy enough. This, as Sam and Danielle both agree, is a terrible means of witch detection, and Sam is convinced that, from the witches’ perspective, this is more akin to a witch genocide. The pair of professional murders eventually encounter a grand witch (which is apparently a thing) who’s stealing children in order to produce a spell for fireproofing herself. This is baffling to Sam as Hansel and Gretel seem to use pretty much any method they want to dispose of witches, fire or not. Nonetheless, there’s also some good witches involved who were hitherto unknown to H&G, so who knows how many “good” witches they murdered over the years. None of that really matters because all Danielle and Sam care about is the morally conflicted troll named Edward, who is just the best. Also, this whole thing is steampunk because this movie needs to find every way possible to annoy Sam.
This week Sam shares the new graphic novel My Video Game Ate My Homework by Dustin Hansen. Dewey Jenkins is going to fail middle school and be forced into summer school unless he can get an A+ on his science fair project. It doesn’t hurt that first prize is an as yet unreleased Infinity Lens VR video game console. Unfortunately, his friend Ferg had been in the principal’s office and broke the console and has now brought it to Dewey to repair. After succeeding in his repairs, the console springs to life and straight-up steals Dewey’s science fair project and taunts him to retrieve it. At this point, Sam and Danielle agree that a video game that robs you is probably not going to be a massive sales success, and there must be some sinister corporate plot behind this. Despite these highly suspect circumstances, Dewey and his friends enter the virtual world and encounter some pretty trivial puzzles, though they do encounter some candle based spiders delightfully called pyrachnids that engage in a truly horrific practice of turning people into candles and slowly consuming them as they burn. After surviving all that the group faces off against the final boss: Dewey’s transformed science fair project, for some reason. While Danielle and Sam contemplate the worst things in their own homes for the game to steal, they’re just glad it didn’t take his dad’s chainsaw.
This week Sam gives Danielle a crash course in fictional biology with the 2001 film Evolution. When a meteor strikes Earth carrying an alien goo which rapidly starts growing and evolving, it’s up to community college professors Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) to investigate and prevent the aliens from taking over the world. Only not really since they are woefully unqualified and unequipped the handle anything this important, thus the government quickly steps in with the help of CDC Deputy Director Dr. Allison Reid (Julianne Moore). Ira and Harry don’t give up, and, with the help of firefighter in training Wayne (Sean William Scott), are determined to take the glory of the alien discovery for themselves at any cost, often with a healthy dose of terrible science and misogyny, just because. Sam becomes increasingly irate as the film continually sprays bad science at him like shampoo through a fire hose, culminating in a solution so asinine it forces Sam to root for the military industrial complex. Danielle, meanwhile, is confused about when the rapidly evolving aliens could reach a point where humanity could parley with them, but is mostly upset that Dr. Reid ends up leaving her job for the utterly charmless Ira; we both think she can do better. So enjoy as Sam finds himself rooting strongly for the antagonists in a film that’s as fast and loose with its character development as it is with its science.
Be sure to check out I Drink Your Podcast which covers every film from 2007, especially the episode about Next featuring Danielle and Sam. You can find them on Twitter @IDYP_Podcast, Instagram @idyp_podcast, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Danielle digs deep into the 90s’ well with the Christopher Pike novel The Eternal Enemy. Rela is just a normal girl who loves boys, cookies, and VCRs. Her life goes off the rails when the VCR she just bought turns out to be recording TV shows from the future! This doesn’t really matter as Rela is more interested in the cute boy, Chris, at her school. However, Rela does record a future news broadcast where she’s murdered by a weird stalker, but she decides her best course of action is to go about her daily life, as one would. Sam is already confused about what’s going on, and that’s before the stalker turns about to be Rela’s grandfather from the future trying to preserve the robot takeover of Earth. There’s a lot moral waffling about what has a soul and if humans should be replaced by cyborg hybrids, but Sam is firmly on the robots’ side in all this despite the best arguments to the contrary. If you think the philosophizing is confusing, wait until all the weird time travel paradoxes rear their ugly heads. So enjoy Blockbuster, VCRs, and startlingly fast adoptions in this 90s fueled sci-fi drama!