Small Soldiers (1998)

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Released 7-Mar-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Production Notes
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 105:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joe Dante
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Kirsten Dunst
Gregory Smith
Jay Mohr
Phil Hartman
Kevin Dunn
Denis Leary
Frank Langella
Tommy Lee Jones
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
German
Dutch
Czech
Polish
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Globotech Industries, a supplier and designer of military products has just taken over Heartland Toys. The CEO of Globotech, Gil Mars (Denis Leary) meets with a couple of the designers from Heartland Toys about their next proposed range of toys. Gil Mars is excited by the proposed Commando Elite action figure range, but wants them to be real action figures that can interact with the kids, i.e. have a mind of their own. To make the toy actually interact in this way would require some very advanced computing power and not surprisingly Globotech just happens to have a chip that will do the job.

    The first wrinkle appears right away, when Gil Mars only gives the designers three months to deliver the new range of action toys, half the time it normally takes to develop and test any new toy. Here's our first clue as to what is going to happen. Our designers diligently set about creating the Commando Elite action figures and their enemies, the Gorgonites.

    Now, skip ahead three months and the first shipments of the action figures are being pre-shipped to stores for release on Monday. Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) works in his dad's toy store, which is reasonably unpopular with the kids because it only stocks non-violent and educational toys. Alan has been left to mind the store, while Mr Abernathy gets ready to attend a business seminar. Joe, the regular delivery man arrives with some previously-ordered goods and while they are unloading, Alan spots the new action figures and asks if he can have a set so he can sell them and finally make some money for his dad's ailing store. Reluctantly, Joe agrees and a set of Gorgonites and Commando Elites are also unloaded.

    Next, Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst) - the girl next door, pops in to see Alan under the guise that she has to look for a birthday present for her little brother. It is clear that she is interested in Alan and vice versa. Here we learn a little more about Alan. I have to admit it took me a minute or two to recognize Kirsten. For those who haven't already got a mental picture of who Kirsten Dunst is, I'll give you a couple of clues to help you; Claudia… Vampire… Interview. Yes, that's right, it's none other than the little fanged one that starred alongside Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With The Vampire. She has grown up a lot since then, but she is still easily recognized once you make the connection.

    The Gorgonites are a peaceful race, whereas the Commando Elites are aggressive and want to crush the Gorgonites and anyone who stands in their way (which includes humans). When Alan activates the leader of the Commandos-Chip Hazard (voiced by Tommy Lee Jones) and the leader of the Gorgonites-Archer (voice by Frank Langella), nothing much happens at first, but after Alan locks up the store and goes home, World War III erupts in the store. When Alan and Christy realize what is happening, they try to help the Gorgonites and in doing this they become an enemy and a target of the Commando Elite.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is extremely clear and sharp at all times, with good shadow detail. No low-level noise, edge enhancement or edge bleeding was noticed.

    The colour was great, but seemed just the tiniest bit artificial. Maybe it was the non-human characters that gave me this impression. Either way, it's nothing to worry about.

    Grain was almost non-existent and for most of the movie it can't be seen or is so minor that it isn't going to bother anyone actually watching the movie, but there are a few instances where it does become a little more obvious, such as at 1:45.

    Apart from one minor instance of posterization at 0:53, no MPEG artefacts were noticed. Unfortunately, aliasing is where this transfer has some problems. The aliasing is minor, but it strikes regularly and is strong enough to be distracting on many occasions.

    Film artefacts were very rare and they were always small and unobtrusive.

    This disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring during Chapter 9, at 62:44. I did not even notice the slight pause when watching the movie and had to go back afterwards to find it. This is a really well-hidden layer change that does not disrupt the flow of the movie at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are no less than five 384Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks on this DVD. In order, they are; English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. I listened to the default English soundtrack.

    The dialogue was clear and easily understood for the entire film. No audio sync problems were noticed, except for one very noticeable and distracting instance of dialogue replacement at 57:23.

    The musical score is by Jerry Goldsmith.

    Surround channel use is excellent, but with this movie being semi-dialogue driven, the surround channel use does drop to nothing on several occasions. Sound placement is also excellent, which further enhances the overall sound field.

    The subwoofer gets a reasonable work-out. Some of the time it is doing nothing or just idling along, but when the action sequences arrive, it's there adding plenty of punch to the soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is a very good selection of extras present.

Menu

   The menus are nicely animated and have suitable theme music as an underscore, with additional animation and sound whenever you choose an option. The Scene Index also has audio and animation. The Main Menu selections are; Play Movie, Special Features, Scene Index (16), Subtitles and Languages.

Theatrical Trailer (1:31 minutes)

    The theatrical trailer is of great quality, presented in the non-16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack.

Featurette - Behind the Scenes (11:21 minutes)

    This featurette is of great quality. It is basically a promotional piece for the movie, with some behind-the-scenes details. It is presented in 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios, with a 192kb/sec Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Bloopers (4:56 minutes)

    This featurette is only of good quality. It suffers from some grain and aliasing. It is presented in the non-16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital soundtrack. There are a couple of good bloopers presented here.

Deleted Scenes (6:15 minutes)

    The deleted scenes are of good quality, although they do suffer from some slight grain and are of lower picture resolution than the main feature. They are presented in the non-16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with a 192Kb/s Dolby Digital soundtrack. A couple of the scenes are quite interesting.

Cast & Crew

    This section contains Filmographies & Biographies for Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Denis Leary, Phil Hartman, Kirsten Dunst, Gregory Smith and Joe Dante (Director).

Production Notes (8 pages)

    Text-based notes on various aspects on the creation of the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Extras are identical, so we can take them out of the equation. The DTS version does not appear to be any better than the Dolby Digital version, based on Widescreen Review's ratings and comments. Picture-wise, both the R1 and R4 reportedly seem to be about the same. So, I don't see any reason to purchase one version over the other.

Summary

    For me, Small Soldiers was an OK movie, presented on a pretty fine DVD.

    The video quality is great, but overall it has been slightly spoiled by the minor but frequent aliasing.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    There is a very good selection of extras present.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Wednesday, March 07, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS989
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)

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