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SMALL SOLDIERS [1998 / 2017] [Blu-ray]
on 6 February 2018
SMALL SOLDIERS [1998 / 2017] [Blu-ray] Smart, Funny and Action-Packed! From Joe Dante the Director of ‘GREMLINS’
Big action! Big fun! Big movie! ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ is one huge adventure. Meet the Commando Elite with toy action figures with an attitude. They’ve escaped from their boxes along with the Gorgonites, who are kind-hearted, but unusual-looking creatures.
Now teenager Alan Abernathy [Gregory Smith] gets enlisted to help the Gorgonites and rescue the girl oh his dreams before the whole town is turned upside down. ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ is a spectacular adventure for the whole family!
FILM FACT: Bruce Dern, along with George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown and Clint Walker from ‘The Dirty Dozen’ film 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
Action Figures and Animatronic Design: Stan Winston
Animation Department: David Monzingo, Chuck Duke, David Latour, Jacques Muller and Steven G. Lee
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography: Jamie Anderson, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Running Time: 110 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures / DreamWorks Pictures
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Director Joe Dante must be the bravest film-maker in Hollywood to make a film entitled ‘SMALL SOLDIERS.’ It takes a certain kind of anarchic spirit and clout, especially of films like ‘Gremlins’ , ‘Explorers’ , ‘Innerspace’  and ‘Matinee’  and in my opinion is a national treasure, and sadly there is a lack of recognition by the general public and may actually make it easier for him to function subversively. Joe Dante’s unpretentious fantasy romps have more to say about the American psyche, pop culture, and the ideology of violence than anything dreamed up by either 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.
The film ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ explores the idea of corporations imbuing children’s toys with modern technologies, without fully considering the implications. While this sounds like the plot of a great new sci-fi blockbuster. ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ is well over 20-year-old satirical look at the chaos of introducing advanced technical innovations into the commercial marketplace; and I feel fervently that it still holds up today.
The film opens with Globotech Industries, a large defence technology corporation, taking over the toy company Heartland Play Systems. At a pitch meeting for new toy lines are the monsters called Gorgonites and soldiers known as the Commando Elite. Globotech CEO Gil Mars [Denis Leary] suggests pitting the toys against one another, as well as putting microprocessors in them so they can actually walk and talk and fight.
A surplus of smart, military-grade microchips from Globotech are purchased, the toys are manufactured, and sent out. Now cut to small town Ohio where troubled teen Alan Abernathy [Gregory Smith], acquires a set of the new toys (under-the-table) for his dad fledgling toy store while Stuart Abernathy [Kevin Dunn] is away at a conference.
Alan Abernathy [Gregory Smith] is surprised to learn just how advanced the toys are after carrying on a formal conversation with Archer [voiced by Frank Langella], the peaceful leader of the Gorgonites. Alan Abernathy is stunned when he finds his dad’s store ransacked after the Commando Elite, led by ruthless Major Chip Hazard [voiced by Tommy Lee Jones], attempt to wipe out the Gorgonites. Alan Abernathy, his family, and neighbours soon find themselves caught in the middle of an all-out war, as the ruthless Commando Elite stop at nothing to achieve their programming goal of defeating the Gorgonites, who simply want to return to their home planet.
‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ hinges on the excellent special effects which bring to life the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites and surprisingly, even 20 years later, the CGI and puppetry by the Stan Winston Studio is very well executed and meshes really well with the live-action scenes than many films that incorporate CGI computer generated images today. Reviews at the time wrote the film off as a poor special effects showcase. But in an age where most theatrical films are laden with computerized special effects, the CGI in ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ seems modest compared to what you can view with more modern films of this genre and they were brilliantly brought to life and amazed how much hard work went in bringing the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites to life in a very realistic way.
The film is marked by a barrage of great one-liners from a legendary voice cast, especially actors from films ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘This is Spinal Tap.’ A talented group of recognizable live actors range from an early and strong performance by Kirsten Dunst as Christy Fimple and to the final film performance of the late star Phil Hartman as Phil Fimple. Being a Joe Dante directed the film; it is full of classic film and pop-culture references both subtle and blatant. While these references do tend to date Small Soldiers here and there, they make it a blast for film aficionados and children of the 1990s. Technically, ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ is a testament to the very excellent special effects team. The combination of animatronics and computer-generated images is a marked advance on past achievements.
The film is not shy or subtle in ignoring the fact against the blind militarism of the toys and how people can be so naïve on what happens in not realising how technology can go seriously wrong and letting big Corporations get out of control, like we see in the film. ‘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 1990s and looks again so stunning with the 1080p images, especially with the very poor and inferior NTSC DVD 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 for me it definitely gets a 5 star rating. By the way, watch after the end of the credits, you get a very nice little surprise.
SMALL SOLDIERS MUSIC TRACK LIST
WAR (Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong) (Adapted by Layzie Bone, Flesh 'N' Bone, Wish Bone, Tom Morello, Flea & Damon Elliott) (Contains a sample of "War" as performed by Edwin Starr). [Performed by Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony with Flesh 'N' Bone, Henry Rollins, Tom Morello and Flea].
ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA (Written by Richard Strauss)
LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD (Written by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight) [Performed by Pat Benatar with additional vocals by Queen Latifah] [Remixed by DJ Kay Gee]
PATTON (Theme) (Written by Jerry Goldsmith) [Performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra]
MY CITY WAS GONE (Kool Keith Remix) (Written by Chrissie Hynde) [Performed by The Pretenders with additional vocals by Kool Keith]
ROCK AND ROLL (Part 2) (Written by Gary Glitter and Mike Leander) [Performed by Gary Glitter]
TOM SAWYER (Written by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart and Pye Dubois) [Performed by Rush] [Remixed by DJ Z-Trip]
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST (Small Soldiers Remix) (Written by John Deacon) [Performed by Queen with additional vocals by Wyclef Jean, featuring Pras Michel (as Pras) and Free]
THE CREATION (Written by Franz Waxman) [from Bride of Frankenstein (1935)]
COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN (Written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones) [Performed by Led Zeppelin]
LOVE REMOVAL MACHINE (Written by Ian Astbury and William Duffy) [Performed by The Cult] [Remixed by Mickey Petralia]
SURRENDER (Written by Rick Nielsen) [Performed by Cheap Trick] [Remixed by Rich Costey]
WANNABE (Written by Spice Girls, Richard Stannard and Matt Rowbottom) [Performed by Spice Girls]
Blu-ray Image Quality – Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures brings us this Blu-ray disc which consists of a very solid and stunning 1080p image presentation and equally impressive is the brilliant 2.40:1 Anamorphic aspect ratio that is far superior to the German Blu-ray release and what you get to view is some brilliant sharpness and beautiful colourful contrast that is very solid throughout the whole of the film. The colours are very stable and very strong, and especially with the black levels, that remains consistently strong, and is also helped not seeing any visible grain and overall, this is a totally new improved image transfer, especially for the age of the film and was well worth waiting for this UK release. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures brings us this Blu-ray disc with an amazing all encompassed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio experience, that is extremely robust does really well when it comes to the very dramatic scenes. The composed film music score by the brilliant and inventive composer Jerry Goldsmith is distributed very well throughout all the channels and especially with lots of the solid dynamic orchestral score throughout the film. Technically, the sound and dialogue of the surround channels are also very well served, thus resulting in an increased spaciousness of sound. With the dialogue, it is also totally excellent throughout the film and especially every syllable is very well understood and especially the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites throughout the action packed film.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Theatrical Trailer  [1080i] [1.37:1] [1:31] This is the original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘SMALL SOLDIERS.’ Despite being only presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, it is a really brilliant dramatic presentation.
Special Feature: A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Making of . . . ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’  [1080i] [1.37:1] [11:21] This is a special made for documentary on what went on behind-the-scenes of the making of the brilliant and inventive film ‘SMALL SOLDIERS.’ We get lots of clips from the film, plus of course the cast and crew get interviewed and give their personal views and comments about the process of being involved with the film. We also get to see the people were involved with the remote controls of animating the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites toys and with one of them we see it took five people to control it. We get some nice background film footage of the animatronic Commando Elite and the Gorgonites being made by the modellers. By the way, we get a short glimpse of Steven Spielberg on the film set, but what a shame he was not interviewed or made some personal comments on the making of the film. Contributors include: Joe Dante [Director], Gregory Smith [Alan Abernathy], Kirsten Dunst [Christy Fimple], Kevin Dunn [Stuart Abernathy], Ann Magnuson [Irene Abernathy], Denis Leary [Gil Mars], Michael Finnell [Producer], Colin Wilson [Producer], Stan Winston [Action Figures and Animatronic Designer], Stefen Fangmeier [ILM Special Effects Supervisor], Tommy Lee Jones [Chip Hazard], Frank Langella [Archer], Christopher Guest [Slamfist / Scratch-It], Harry Shearer [Punch-It], Michael McKean [Insaniac / Freakenstein] and Christina Ricci [Gwendy Doll].
Special Feature: From The Cutting Room Floor . . . Bloopers  [1080i] [1.37:1] [4:55] Here we get a plethora of the usual scenes with the actors messing up their lines, and also funny mistakes made by the actors during the making of the film and removed before the film is shown to the public. Some of it is quite funny, but some scenes are repeated several times, and it is a wonder the film ever got made.
Special Feature: From The Cutting Room Floor . . . Deleted Scenes and Deleted Special Effects  [1080i] [1.37:1] [6:14] Here we also get a selection of scenes that did not quite make it into the film and viewing the deleted scenes you realise they would of slowed up the pace of the film. But the second half of this of this special feature where we get to view how the special effects were performed of the Commando Elite and the Gorgonites toys and was a much more interesting look at the magic of seeing how the toys were manipulated and performed in the action sequences of the film.
Finally, Joe Dante's ‘SMALL SOLDIERS’ is a small unjustly forgotten classic masterpiece of a film of a very "subversive" type of family entertainment. Supported by the great effects master Stan Winston and ILM [Industrial Light + Magic]. The Blu-ray provides a good solid image and some very nice 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 also with the 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 that really presents this action packed film to brilliant great special effects and is really enhanced with this brilliant remastered UK Blu-ray release. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso