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Starship Troopers 3, the liveblog, part 2

Okay, it’s time to finish this puppy off. I think I need to start with a summary of the characters and the plot, not that it matters.

We have Casper reprising his role as the incredibly ethnically misnamed Johnny Rico the ‘hero of Planet P’

We have Jolene Blalock, who, sorry you poor bastards who actually watched Enterprise, I am referring to as Direct to Video Angelina Jolie, playing a starship captain and former love interest of Casper. I think she suffers from being almost the only woman in the cast with a budget make-up department because she has a kind of creepy part-melted look that is disconcerting rather than attractive.

We have Boris Kodjoe as a desk jockey general who is a current love interest of the starship captain (oh noes, love triangle, will the scriptwriter make that a complication? who can tell?). I’m not blaming him for the script, which is why I’m referring to him as Direct to video Denzel versus Direct to video Mario van Peebles. He actually looks more like Shemar Moore, but he’s tv. Anyway.

Finally, a character I didn’t even mention in the last post because he seems superfluous as a character except as a plot item and has been fleshed out as a ‘wacky’ character instead of something that resembles a person: Stephen Hogan as the ‘Sky Marshal’. For whatever reason *that* is the title of the grand poobah of the quasi-facist dictatorship of the Federation in this movie. And he sings. No, it doesn’t make any sense.

Good grief, I’m already wasting a lot of words recapping this. Okay. So. At this point after evacuating from the planet of the starting battle, D2V Angelina and Sky Marshal plus some red-shirts have crash landed on a totally other planet. Casper and D2V Denzel had their plot convenience theatre spat and since D2V Denzel is a General, the ‘hero of planet P’ is now a scapegoat for the disaster of the bug attack and is going to get hung. However, D2V Denzel has learned that the leadership is ignoring distress calls from Grand Poobah’s landing pod.

This is going to be more painful than cop buddy movie hate-you, love-you cliches, I can just tell.

So, of course he doesn’t get hung, everybody thinks he’s dead and D2V Denzel sends him after the marooned survivors who are trekking cross-country to try and meet up with a marine landing pod. The survivors are being tracked by bugs who don’t attack. Oh the mystery!

More psuedo-propaganda intermission clips. They did a good job producing them, but they somehow just feel like filler, they aren’t particularly funny or entertaining.

Lots of pointless dialog between Casper and D2V Denzel. Their banter and chemistry make no sense, of course, but the plot must be served. The scene ends with them looking at shadows of what taunt us with the prospect of power armor. Meanwhile D2V Angelina and a doctor character are muttering about the state of the Sky Marshall, who seems to be acting all spiritual. Note: making your head of a third reich analog go Deepak Chopra meets Jim Jones makes about as much sense, as, well, anything else in this movie.

Okay, now the ground is cracking open for some unknown reason and the earth is shaking and the doctor falls in and is killed by bugs before any of the redshirts buy it.

Now D2V Denzel is threatening to expose the conspiracy in the most retarded way possible resulting in him getting disappeared and fake footage of the SM and D2V Denzel being caught in a peace terrorist explosion plays on the propaganda feed. I was actually surprised. I wasn’t expecting *that* contrived.

Back to the desert trek, where in a scene that makes less than no sense, some bugs appear over the horizon, get shot at, one chases “Jingo” toward a collecting of rock outcroppings before fleeing. The Sky Marshall declares that Jingo belongs to God now and the rocks break revealing some sort of pincer things. Bye bye Jingo. And D2V asks the praying flight attendant “where’s your God now?”.

I think the screenwriter was using First Draft, not Final Draft.

“Please remove your clothing.” Since this is direct to video, and due to the co-ed shower scene from the first movie, I was wondering when the gratuitous nudity was going to show up. I guess the select mixed-sex crew of six soldiers Casper is taking on the rescue mission have to get naked in the briefing room before getting into the hinted at but still not shown battle suits.

Wow, convenient panels in front of the genitals before the “full spectrum bodyscan”! Not in the way of the sculpted pecs and perk bosoms though! *rubs forehead*

Now we have a scene with overthrow conspiracy woman and D2V Denzel, where she takes him to the facility where the brain bug captured in the first movie is being kept. Somehow, despite working with him every day (the only thing that doesn’t make sense in this scene), D2V Denzel didn’t know the Sky Marshall had ‘gotten religion’ and the conspiracy woman shows footage that he had become ‘psychically linked’ with the brain bug and began to consider some super-Bug with a funky name a God. That bug convienently resides on the planet they crashed on. This is actually approaching an interesting plot development, which is a shame considering how we had to clunk to get here.

Now D2V Denzel has to man up and kill the brain bug who starts making heads explode. And the conspiracy woman is falling in love with the concept of mind control while watching the video footage of the Sky Marshall all but licking the brain bug. Ew.

Amazing grace flight attendant and “Bull” the redshirt marine talk marriage ‘if they get out of this’. You know this will end well. Yes, even the line “Honey, everything is going to be okay” is uttered.

Now the group reaches some overlook and the SM starts talking about how they’ve reached the Bug God. Oh the painful awkward dialogue that follows “It’s the wrong God!” Oh, they’ve actually reached the marine landing pod, but of course all the marines are dead and it’s spooooooky night all of a sudden inside and out. Oh, they died of an “air leak” on the way down, boring. But, of course, that prevents them from taking off in the thing. And it prevents any further outdoor location shooting, handy that!

Goddy flight attendant is guarding outside, apparently so she can scream and look shocked when the ground starts shaking and God Bug makes his appearance. And of course Bull goes out to save her and gets hauled off by God Bug. And of course Sky Marshall wants to keep them from trying to take off, and the God Bug starts taking apart the landing ship like a can opener.

Now the survivors are confronting the God Bug outside. Well, the Sky Marshall still wants to lick it. Through some mechanism that makes no sense Brain Bug is talking through impaled bodies of the three folks that it skewered.

Cue wild eyed ranting! Scenery chewing! Bug leg through the heart!

Flight attendant starts doing the Lord’s Prayer as the suits re-enter the atmosphere like….angels and the explosions start. Oh the cheese. The humanity. Wait, the three zombie guys get crisped to cinders and the two surviving women 30 feet away are untouched. Thermodynamics be damned!

And finally, the money shot, battle suits on the ridgeline!

The suits look more CGI than the bugs. Now that’s an accomplishment. The ending battle doesn’t seem very epic, and the intercuts of the two women mouthing prayers doesn’t help. They fly off the planet to space scenery and ships that look more like matte paintings than CGI. Retro-hoy. The bug is apparently a sizeable portion of the planet. Somebody didn’t think that image/concept through carefully enough.

Yay, it’s time to blow up the planet with a phallic Q-Bomb! As DTV Denzel and DTV Angelina awkardly propose. Kinda. And smooch as the planet behind them explodes…like a ripe tomato.

So, competent production, I don’t think anybody who worked on the film has any particular reason to be embarrassed. Except the guy that wrote the script. Oops, he was also the director. Sadly, not a terribly entertainingly bad film, and thus not a very entertaining recap. Banality all around!


Ah, Direct to Video

Really, if I didn’t add Starship Troopers 3:Maurauder to my Netflix queue as soon as I learned about it, I think I would have been obligated to cancel my subscription right there. Or commit seppuku.

If I’m going to watch it, I might as well liveblog it…

They’ve carried over the Serial News Flash intro. I was expecting quality equal to a FMV sequence from Wing Commander 3. I set the bar too low, it’s at least as good as the unfortunate drunken tryst of Wing Commander *4* and a Scientology promotional video.

First death by….a flying shovel. That shovel was just two days from retirement too. Casper Van Dien looks no worse for wear from his busy schedule starring in apocalyptic Christian thrillers.

Apparently we need to spend our first moments of the film listening to banal dialogue setting up some lack of dramatic tension with a love triangle between the direct to video Denzel Washington the direct to video Angelina Jolie and the direct to video Casper Van Dien. Wait, that last one was redundant.

One of the staples of low budget sci-fi movies seems to be close framed shots of people looking head-on at glowing screens rather than showing what is going on on said screens.

Starship Troopers 3 distills the essential essence of conflict between military and civilian life to this: farmers making fart noises.

Now we get to watch awkward slapstick fighting between direct to video Denzel, who is apparently a desk jockey and the aforementioned flatulent farmer. Which of course results in him wanting to arrest Casper Van Dien. And hang the farmers. No, with the elaboration of the dialog it doesn’t make any more sense.

Thankfully, the predictable failure of the perimeter fence keeping the bugs out happens just as the MPs are about to take Casper away.

Clever budget filmmaking here, it’s much cheaper to show shadows of a bug decapitating a soldier than the actual shot. Now we finally see actual bugs onscreen. Since this is 2008, the CGI and compositing doesn’t actually look half bad. If you muted the pedestrian dialogue, the only clue revolves around the editing and shot selection limiting the amount of human/CGI interaction.

Sadly, I’m only 25 minutes in at this point and still well over an hour to go. I do fear the movie blew a good chunk of its action budget. They certainly haven’t saved any money for the banter.

In fact, the sets and effects being competent just make the D2V quality script and acting all the more jarring.

General Direct to Video Denzel has of course scapegoated former hero Casper for the bugs eating everybody on the farmer planet, setting the stage for much tedious dialogue.

Meanwhile, Grand Poobah guy has been stranded on a remote planet that looks like Malibu beach along with D2V Angelina, the ship captain. In the previous blah blah we learned that they are being left to rot due to internal politics. Gee, who do you think is going to be secretly sent on a rescue mission?

I think it’s time to pause this for the night and pick up tomorrow, I have my limits.

Kiss the MSTies and make them cry…

This is not going to turn into a videogame blog. But, I really couldn’t resist.

One of the unfortunate tropes of the game industry is to license other creative media and try to build a game around it. If there is a big budget special effects extravaganza, rest assured, there will be a game bearing the same name available on the popular gaming systems of the day. Harry Potter the movie the game, or Transformers the movie the game can only be expected.

What can be surprising is the tenacity of B or C list movies getting turned into games. Even when games were less expensive to develop then they are now, I fail to understand how many licensed titles ever made it through a rudimentary economic pass on a Profit and Loss sheet.

The amusing thing about these games is they are frequently spectacularly bad, in terms of production value, quality and relation to their source material. I myself have one of these credited to my name, for some support programming work I did. The saving grace was they misspelled my name in the credits. Given that the game in question made at least one popular “Worst 20 games of all time” list, that was probably a mercy.

I was thinking over the weekend, trying to construct a modern monstrosity of movie licensed game gone horribly wrong. It would have to be vaguely plausible, and able of making fans of the movie, fans of gaming, and verily the baby Jesus himself weep bitter tears.

What I ultimately came up with: Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie: The Game. For Nintendo DS.

It is a flawed brilliant pitch: MST3K had rabid fans, a cult hit, people want to relive the nostalgia! Never mind that it’s completely unsuited to a game! Of course, a brilliant game designer might be able to salvage the concept. But for the purposes of my thought experiment, I want to make as many heads ‘asplode as possible.

So. First off, for ‘licensing reasons’ I’m going to avoid the great Joel vs. Mike debate. By using neither one of them in the game. That’s right, there will be a completely new human on the Satellite of Love. His name will be Craig. His existence will not be explained by any back-story. He’s just there. His dialogue will consist mostly of three annoying catchphrases. One of them will be “This satellite is running out of love!”

Now, the plot. We’ll make Gypsy evil. She has taken over the ship and plans to crash the moon into the earth, wiping out all life on the planet. Craig and the bots have to stop her. Of course, Gypsy will need to be totally redesigned with a Medusa-like horde of tentacle arms. With lasers.

Mini-games will be required. We will bring back The Invention Exchange, only it will look something like Minesweeper. Crow will star in side-scrolling shooter levels, attacking hordes of spawned mini-Gypsy attack bots colored different colors. Crow, of course, will need to be equipped with shoulder mounted rocket launchers. Since Guitar Hero is popular, Tom Servo will star in a mini-game that is a poor rhythm game clone set to show tunes.

Anybody want to pay me, say $120,000 to develop this abomination? Anybody?

Salivating at the Sound of a Digital Bell

In many areas of my life, I tend to be a creature of habit. However, I am not a compulsive personality. The closest I come are a few behavioral traits I have hardwired to overcome absent mindedness and misfiring short-term memory. This pretty much boils down to: do I have my keys/wallet, did I lock that door, is my cell phone off, and which way did I face the claymore?

Much of my professional life has been spent in an arena geared towards feeding people with compulsive addictions: video and computer games. Every once in a while I have to step back and think how devious it gets. It just isn’t fair.

Since the dawn of time, well, electronic gaming time anyway, there has been the Mountain of the High Score. Beating your last game, beating your highest score, beating THE high score. These are all tantalizing carrots drifting forever out of reach for many. Also a very simple mechanism: a single number.

As the years moved on, games became more complicated and more sophisticated. For many genres, the concept of a single scoring number didn’t make any sense, and for the most part it passed out of common usage.

This didn’t prevent informal compulsive benchmarks from evolving, however. People would try to say, beat DOOM on Nightmare only using the base weapon, for example. As the YouTube age dawned, filming oneself making ‘speed runs’ would be another prime example of this phenomenon.

Then Microsoft had to go and take it to the next level.

One of the advantages of owning a major console gaming platform is the ability to enforce standards. When Microsoft released the Xbox 360, they used this power to mandate that all games needed to support their new Achievements system. A system of pure, concentrated compulsive evil.

With the first Xbox, Microsoft released their Xbox Live gaming service, which allowed gamers to create a profile that was consistent across all the internet multiplayer capable games released on the Xbox. With their Achievements system and the “Gamerscore”, they enhanced gaming profiles with a new addictive quality.

When you buy an Xbox 360 game, it has a set of ‘achievements’ waiting to be unlocked. Different games put a different amount of zest and creativity into the list, but Microsoft mandates that there must be a list. And when you do something in-game that accomplishes an achievement, you get credit for it on your gamer profile and points are added to your gamerscore.

Also, when you get an achievement, you hear a sound and a little banner appears at the bottom of your screen. Did the good rat push a pellet and get a treat? Yes he did, good rat! Here’s your treat!

The predictable result: people buying or renting mediocre games just for the achievement points, eBaying of Xbox 360/gamer profiles with a high gamerscore, people playing games more than they might otherwise might have just to be completist and get every last achievement, cats and dogs living together, madness!

The concept was a hit, and now it is becoming a new standard feature: Sony has added “Trophies” to the PlayStation Network, their equivalent of the Xbox Live service. EA Mythic launched their Warhammer Online massively multiplayer role playing game with an achievement system.

And, what brought the subject to mind for me, Blizzard unleashed their own achievement system in the last major patch to World of Warcraft before they release the new expansion pack in mid-November. I thought this was brilliant timing on Blizzard’s part as it gave much of their existing user base, already somewhat inclined towards the compulsive (they’re playing a MMO in the first place) something else to do while waiting for the expansion to hit. Besides playing Warhammer Online.

Since I still play WoW, it made me very glad I’m not terribly susceptible to such addictions. But, I still had to finish getting the achievement of exploring all the world areas. I mean, c’mon it was almost done….


It is the cusp of November. I have decided to return to the practice of actively writing to a blog. The primary purpose is to try to maintain writing skills that grow exceptionally rusty through disuse. While I previously had a blog, it fell into disuse, the updates were sporadic, the content banal, and the blog service itself seems to have become mortibund.

I actually have some subjects to write about which may be of some entertainment value, or be of mild brain fodder. The challenge will be following through on the composition. Sadly, many interesting professional or personal bits cannot be posted on a public site. I’ve decided I do need to write about more personal matters, however, which I will be doing through a different medium. Those who know me and wish to follow along there may receive the sekrit map.

Also on the agenda for November: Beginning to learn how to Argentine Tango. That should be…interesting.