on 15 December 2014
SMALL SOLDIERS  [Blu-ray] [German Import] Smart, Funny and Action-Packed! From Joe Dante Director of ‘GREMLINS’
When teenager Alan [Gregory Smith] buys a set of Commando Elite action figures, he's unaware that they have been programmed with military technology. The toys, including leader Chip [Tommy Lee Jones], spring to life and start taking their directives seriously, beginning by "killing" their enemies, the toy Gorgonites. But Archer [Frank Langella] and the Gorgonites won't go down without a fight. Alan gets caught in the middle of the war, as does his neighbour and crush, Christy [Kirsten Dunst].
FILM FACT: Bruce Dern, along with George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and Clint Walker from The Dirty Dozen provided voices for the rest of the Commando Elite, Bruce Dern replaced another Dirty Dozen star Richard Jaeckel who died before shooting began. An uncredited Jim Cummings, along with Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest from ‘This is Spinal Tap’ provided voices for the remaining Gorgonites. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci provided the voices for the transformed Gwendy dolls. Dick Miller, who was in the original ‘Piranha’ in 1978, also directed by Joe Dante, also acted in this film. This was Phil Hartman's last role in a major film before his death and the film is dedicated to his memory.
Cast: David Cross, Jay Mohr, Alexandra Wilson, Denis Leary, Gregory Smith, Dick Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Bouck, Kevin Dunn, Ann Magnuson, Wendy Schaal, Phil Hartman, Archie Hahn, Robert Picardo, Julius Tennon, Belinda Balaski, Rance Howard, Jackie Joseph, Rennie Cowan (uncredited),Anthony Genovese (uncredited) and Cheri Oteri (uncredited)
Voice Cast: Tommy Lee Jones [Major Chip Hazard], Frank Langella [Archer], Ernest Borgnine [Kip Killigan], Jim Brown [Butch Meathook], Bruce Dern [Link Static], Clint Walker [Nick Nitro], Christopher Guest [Slamfist / Scratch-It], Michael McKean [Insaniac / Freakenstein], Harry Shearer [Punch-It], Sarah Michelle Gellar [Gwendy Doll], Christina Ricci [Gwendy Doll], Marcia Mitzman Gaven [Globotech Announcer] and Jim Cummings [Ocula]
Director: Joe Dante
Producers: Colin Wilson, Michael Finnell, Paul Deason and Walter F. Parkes
Screenplay: Adam Rifkin, Gavin Scott, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
Animation Department: David Monzingo, Chuck Duke, David Latour, Jacques Muller and Steven G. Lee
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography: Jamie Anderson
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: German: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: German and English
Running Time: 110 minutes
Number of discs: 1
Region: Region B/2
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures / KOCH Media Deutschland GmbH
Andrew Blu-ray Review: Joe Dante must be the bravest film-maker in Hollywood. It takes a certain kind of anarchic spirit and clout. Director Joe Dante, of films like ‘Gremlins,’ ‘Innerspace,’ ‘Explorers’ and Matinee’ is a national treasure, and his lack of recognition by the general public may actually make it easier for him to function subversively. His unpretentious fantasy romps have more to say about the American psyche, pop culture, and the ideology of violence than anything dreamed up by Steven Spielberg or George Lucas. This delightful adventure about war toys running amok in suburban middle America is a synthesis and extension of most of his previous films. It's typical of Joe Dante style as a pop connoisseur that he adroitly links a creepy sequence about mutated Barbie dolls to Bride of Frankenstein. His films are about not just culture and violence but also everyday cultural violence, something we all have to cope with, eventually.
After the success of ‘Toy Story’ animation films, it seemed logical to transform the late 1990s into the topic of the living toy in a live-action adaptation. Even if the actual script probably circulated to ‘Small Soldiers’ for years, until someone came to the rescue of director Joe Dante, especially with his other films like ‘The Beast’ and ‘Gremlins’ to the project, recognising the subversive potential of the story. Not only that pedagogically always hotly debated topic of warlike toys in children's rooms, but also the technological development and the associated dehumanisation, but also an antidote for this development that Joe Dante does so well in ‘Small Soldiers.’
However, the root of the problem is again is the typical globalisation strategy and tough unscrupulous commercial outlook to find the so called typical "free market economy." As the international company Globotech takes a small US toy company and collides both worlds for their new toy line of action figures of the Commando Elite, a nasty military force, and the Gorgonites, monster-like creatures on a journey of discovery that developers use unfortunately sophisticated military chips that the little guys do not only alive but also according to their programming, is also adaptive and intelligent and is (slightly) going for the deadly serious war game.
Of these suspects teenager Alan Abernathy [Gregory Smith] nothing when he illegally a few boxes of hot toys worried about it in his father's not very good running retro toy store (Kevin Dunn rehearsing here before his father role he nearly ten years later for the "Transformers" films repeatedly!) hawks to offer. But the Commando Elite do not dither and does it quickly to crawl out of their packaging, to make the Gorgonites a full end. The situation escalates as the Commandos Elite under their leader Chip Hazard [Tommy Lee Jones] a type of chic "Stallonegger" character to try to eliminate the Gorgonites, but also their human helpers and putting their enemies on their hit list.
Joe Dante pulls out all the stops here and provides for a type of ‘Gremlins’ rapid Family Entertainment, which, however, provides a real danger: the Commando Elite are not squeamish in their choice of weapons, whether against man or the any toys that get in their way! Pretty creepy and a nice jab at the Barbie industry is a long sequence in which the collection of dolls from neighbours daughter Christy [Kirsten Dunst] who acts with gorgeous sexist slogans against her owner. The effects mix of the CGI and animatronics by the excellent Stan Winston, looks from today's perspective still looking good, although originally much less Digital technics was planned. Nevertheless it also shows in ‘Small Soldiers’ the excellent stunning Blu-ray image, that depends on the right cinematic illusion mix that really works.
Incidentally, the voice talents here are extraordinary, especially with “The Commandos” voices that are supplied by members of the original ''Dirty Dozen'' cast: Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, George Kennedy and Clint Walker, with Bruce Dern added to the troupe. Meanwhile, their hapless and much more likable rivals, a group called “Gorgonites” led by Frank Langella's gentlemanly Archer, are actually Spinal Tap in disguise, with the voices of Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean. The voices of the story's mutant Barbie Doll types, called Gwendy Dolls, come from Christina Ricci and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Bet you're wondering what mutant Barbie Dolls are doing in the midst of this toy-filled fable. They're scaring the children who mistook ''Small Soldiers'' for something cheerier, that's what. After forgetting to direct more much-deserved satire at the toy industry, the film braces for battle and moves into the realm of the grotesque. The female dolls are stripped down to bikinis, though such dolls are always funnier with their clothes on and given ghastly faces and dimwit feminine wiles. Later on, as Alan and his teen-age flame, Christy Fimple [Kirsten Dunst] go to war against the Commando side, they wind up mowing these dolls with a lawnmower. The dolls also tie up and torment Christy, Gulliver-style. By this point, the film is too absurd to be frightening and too creepy for light-hearted fun.
The film is not shy or subtle in ignoring the fact against the blind militarism of the toys and how people can be naïve on what happens in not realising how technology can go wrong and letting big Corporations get out of control. ‘Small Soldiers’ is a timeless brilliant classic film that is now even more with this brilliant Blu-ray release than it was in the late 90s and looks again so stunning in this encoded 1080p images, which look very poor with the inferior NTSC DVD that I use to own and was less impressed with this film and with this Blu-ray disc it gives the film a new lease of life and also the plaudits it rightly deserves and is a classic Joe Dante film and what a shame that it has not been released and an All Regions format and of course unless people in North America have not got a Multi-region Blu-ray player, then they are missing out something truly special and for me it gets a 10 out of 10 star rating.
With ‘Small Soldiers,’ that ingeniously blends live action and computer animation. Similarly, the soundtrack blends classic rock tracks with hip-hop. Everything on the soundtrack, with the exception of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Henry Rollins, Tom Morello and Flea's cover of "War" and the original Edwin Starr version, is a classic rock track as remixed by a contemporary hip-hop artist; occasionally, the tracks also feature new vocal raps. It's an intriguing concept on paper, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn't play out particularly well in practise. Usually, the fusions sound forced and the raps sound pasted on over the top. That said, the cuts that work signal how much fun the album could have been. The Butcher Brothers and Kool Keith successfully make over the Pretenders' "My City Was Gone"; "Love Removal Machine" still has a big bottom groove; and Billy Squier's "The Stroke," of all things, works as a pseudo-hip-hop dance track in the hands of Dallas Austin. So, like many soundtracks, ‘Small Soldiers’ is a decidedly mixed bag, but at least it's one with an original premise and having Jerry Goldsmith makes the film even more exciting.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The brilliant 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer is based on a solid 1080p encoded image template. Here and there, pixels and smaller impurities can be seen. In order to meet the films perfect image, unfortunately a few filters were used, but the result in each scene to light digital distortion in the background, but should come into play only when large screens and projectors. Sharpness and contrast are solid, but also vary in some shots. The colours are stable and strong, while the black level a bit - is struggling and does not remain consistently strong - because of the graininess. Due to the filter insert something pixilation is noted in a few backgrounds. Overall, this is not to be intrusive or conspicuous.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – In German and English, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround track does really well, especially with the dramatic scenes. The music by the brilliant composer Jerry Goldsmith is distributed very well on all channels with a solid dynamics. Technically sound and dialogue is the surround channels are also well served, thus resulting in an increased spaciousness. In the dialogue, a few moments with the Surround mix are a bit too weak a mix, especially as Chip Hazards speech at the final siege as a whole too quiet and sometimes a bit unclear pushed into the background. Otherwise, the dialogues are well understood. More overlap or interference will not occur.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: A Short Introduction by Director Joe Dante [1080p] [1.78:1] [Optional German and English Subtitles] [00:30]
Special Feature: Small Soldier “Toys of Hell”! An Interview with Director Joe Dante [1080p] [1.78:1] [12:45] [Optional German and English Subtitles] However, essential is the only new Extra on this Blu-ray. What you have is a recent interview with director Joe Dante, and with just over 12 minutes, and very honest about the production and the final product of ’Small Soldiers.’
Special Feature: The Making of ‘Small Soldiers’  [480i] [4:3] [11:20] [Optional German and English Subtitles] Which is more of a promo for the film, but at least some behind the scenes moments with Stan Winston and the CGI pioneers of ILM offers a few unspectacular deleted scenes and a rather unspectacular Blooper Reel.
Special Feature: From The Cutting Room Floor . . . Deleted Scenes  [480i] [4:3] [6:14] [Optional German and English Subtitles]
Special Feature: Photo and Promotional Gallery Around The World 124 Images with Background Music [5.1 DTS-HD Dolby Stereo]
Theatrical Trailers: German Trailers  [480i] [4:3] [1:46] [Optional German and English Subtitles]
Theatrical Trailers: English Trailers  [480i] [4:3] [1:31] [Optional German and English Subtitles]
Finally, Joe Dante's ‘Small Soldiers’ is a small unjustly forgotten classic film of "subversive" family entertainment. Supported by great effects by Stan Winston and ILM to the morbid scenario of mutually kill terminate toys has nothing good to militarism and slavish obedience. The Blu-ray provides a solid image with little weaknesses and some very nice impressive extras. As with many films in which special effects are the real stars, the technology here commands more respect and interest than the material otherwise warrants. With Stan Winston in charge of animation and animatronics, and with substantial puppetry and use of computer-generated images, the figures themselves are impressive accomplishments. Creating and animating the film's toys is said to have taken more than 16 man-years' worth of work. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom