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Hewing closer to Paul Verhoeven's original and much-maligned Starship Troopers than the all-brawn-no-brains sequel, Hero of the Federation, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder blends high-power action with a dose of socio-political commentary in its story of gung-ho Marines versus insidious alien bugs. Ed Neumeier, who penned the Verhoeven film, is back as writer and director, as is Casper Van Dien as lantern-jawed hero Johnny Rico. Now a full-fledged colonel, he is dispatched to a planet where the military faces opposition from both the insect army and dissenting citizens. But after a trumped-up murder charge lands him on death row, Rico discovers that he's being sent on a secret mission to rescue a Sky Marshal (Stephen Anouke) who's gone missing deep in bug territory. Neumeier uses the well-worn military movie tropes to launch a satiric assault on all manner of current real world issues, from ultra-patriotism and military torture to religious fundamentalism and even pop culture as propaganda (Anouke's sky marshal is also a chart-topping singer). He lands a fair share of his jabs, and those that fall flat--Marnette Patterson's grating flight attendant--are tempered by sights like a ring of mechanical warrior 'bots forming an angelic halo. Unfortunately, said special effects are not particularly special, with the robots--the Marauders of the title--arriving far too late in the game. But with so many direct-to-DVD genre titles delivering little more than shoot-em-ups and CGI demonstrations, the tinge of black humor that runs through Starship Troopers 3 is appreciated. The disc includes two commentaries, one featuring Neumeier, Van Dien and Jolene Blalock (Enterprise), and the other with Neumeier and producer David Lancaster; a featurette on the new bugs on display in Troopers 3, as well as interviews with the movie's soldiers, round out the extra features.

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CO24376 Starship Troopers 3: Marauder DVD (2008/Casper Van Dien) $9.95