Joe Dante

Small Soldiers

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Four different people are credited with the writing of this film.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a silly movie that only could have come out of the late 90s when technology was changing faster than the populace could keep up with it. A time when the internet was still young and it was vaguely plausible that the government made chips that could turn toys into tiny terminators. I was 16 when this movie came out and liked it enough despite how silly it was. When it made its way into our collection it did so for one reason. It was one of the last things Phil Hartman did before he died. In fact the movie was released after his death in 1998.

I was a big fan of Phil Hartman both from watching reruns of his time on Saturday Night Live and hearing him regularly as a voice on The Simpsons. He was such a talented comedian with such a fantastic voice. The circumstances of his death were so sudden and tragic. His death was so shocking that it floored the entire Hollywood community. He was shot to death as he slept by his wife, who had a sudden break down and committed suicide before police could take her into custody. Words can’t describe how unfortunate and shocking it was. The world was robbed of an exceptional entertainer for seemingly no reason and I still feel the loss if I watch The Simpsons and catch a Troy McClure episode.

This may be a silly movie but even into adulthood I am still a big fan of action figures. As a child I loved nothing more than working my imagination with my toys. Playing out various scenarios I had seen in movies or on TV I could occupy myself for hours with my action figures. I was a big fan He-Man and the Ninja Turtles until I graduated to G.I. Joes before discovering the X-Men toys and never quite growing out of those. To this day it is not unusual for me to display a cool toy I find in my office or around my home. I try to limit these things to my home but now as I sit at my desk at work I have a comic book Negan action figure standing before a mini replica of the Iron Throne right behind me.

So while this movie may be a bit childish I am still inclined to enjoy a film about action figures coming to life to do battle with one another. It’s even more up my alley as the toys in the movies were influenced by some of my favorites. The Gorgonites were heavily influenced by Masters of the Universe and the Commando Elite were obviously influenced by G.I. Joes.

I like the cast of this movie enough to think it noteworthy. Most of these characters didn’t mean much to me at the time but in hindsight it is fun to see younger versions of guys like David Cross and Kevin Dunn. I loved Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, and though I didn’t like him in this movie I thought Kevin Dunn was hilarious as the dad in the first Transformers film. Even before his awesome series Rescue Me I was a big fan of Denis Leary and I liked him in this film. Kirsten Dunst is nothing more than a typical female teenager in this film but I have always been a fan. Since she gave the fantastic performance as the child vampire in Interview with a Vampire, at some unreasonably young age she was able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was impressive enough to set a lasting impression on me. There is also a small cameo here from the SNL star Cheri Oteri and I loved her because she always made me laugh.

I think Tommy Lee Jones was an awesome choice for the voice of Major Chip Hazard. The 90’s were the golden days for Jones and his voice lent some credibility to this silly film. Originally Director Joe Dante wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of Predator to voice the Commando Elites but sadly that didn’t work out.  So they used Tommy Lee Jones as well as actors from The Dirty Dozen.

Also lending credibility with his voice was Frank Langella as the voice of Archer. The man who once brilliantly brought Skeletor to life in an equally silly movie, Masters of the Universe, is someone I can’t help but get behind. At nearly 80 years of age he is still going strong as an actor and that is impressive all by itself. He started acting in the mid 60s and is closing in on over 100 acting credits during his time.

This movie was directed by Joe Dante whose primary career was in television. He did manage to use this opportunity to drop several Easter Eggs from his most famous film within the movie. There are several references to Gremlins within the movie as Gizmo is both mentioned and seen throughout the film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Joe Dante but he did helm a movie I sincerely love. Innerspace has been a life long favorite since childhood and I could never disregard something done by the creator of that film.

Before closing this out I think there is one more random fact about the movie that makes it noteworthy. This movie features the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown. It’s noteworthy simply because it is so rare that Zeppelin songs appear in films. I am probably simply forgetting but I can only recall one other film that featured music from Zeppelin. Any Given Sunday had a really cool segment set to Fool in the Rain. If you can remember a movie that featured Zeppelin leave a comment because I would be interested in knowing.

This isn’t a movie I can ever recall recommending to anyone but I still think there is plenty here to make worth wild. If you are a grown up man child like myself who still has an affinity for action figures and toys then you might like this movie. If for no other reason it is worth your time simply to get a taste of a comedian and entertainer the world was robbed of far too soon. This isn’t an exceptional performance from Phil Hartman by any means but it’s what we were left with and that makes it worth it.

NEXT MOVIE: Smoking Aces (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

Innerspace

Year: 1987
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Chip Proser and Jeffery Boam

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is one of the first movies I remember falling in love with. I must have watched it a hundred times as a child. It brings back fond memories of summer vacations at my grandparent’s house.  They owned the movie and never cared how many times I watched it. I can’t pinpoint how old I was when I first saw it but there was a lot to it that I wouldn’t understand for a long time.  This movie does have a PG rating though and offers very little on the inappropriate side. I still think it is an awesome movie today and always enjoy watching it again.

This movie is great because it is both exciting and funny. The story is so imaginative and I haven’t seen any other quite like it.  I like the idea of miniaturization technology, I think the two main characters were well developed and well played, and I think the bad guys were all perfect.  Tuck and Jack couldn’t be more different as characters and they are both thrust together in this unlikely situation that will test both of them.  One is completely isolated and unaware of what’s going on so he just goes about doing his job.  The other is a hypochondriac that nobody wants to pay any attention to when someone starts tinkering around inside of him. They have to struggle with one another before figuring out how to work together and overcome the real dangers at hand.  The villains in this movie are so good too. Mr. Igoe may be a bit too much of a terminator rip-off but I didn’t know that when I watched this movie as a child and I’ll excuse it today.  All I knew then was that he was scary and could shoot bullets from his fingers, but isn’t that enough? Totally awesome. I like the fiery redheaded villainess Dr. Margaret Canker with her ruthless attitude and powerful sexuality.  All villains need a strong and dangerous boss to lead them and Scrimshaw filled that role nicely in his debonair white suits. The Cowboy can’t go unmentioned here, another great villain that came with his own theme music.

The funny thing about Dennis Quaid and Martin Short in the lead roles here is that they have such terrific chemistry despite not having any on screen time together until the end of the movie. Quaid plays his more masculine role with charisma and wit.  While Short is the polar opposite and quite funny in the part. Meg Ryan was young and beautiful as the female lead.  She plays a strong character that is quick to action when things get heavy. As great as Quaid and Short are in this movie they still managed to be showed up by Meg Ryan, she is an ultimate badass in this movie as Lydia. Robert Picardo has his moment playing a really cool part as the Cowboy.

The movie gets a bit cheesy when Tuck is transported back and forth between Lydia and Jack by kissing but that’s the 80’s baby. That kind of thing can be excused today as simply a campy element of the era.  I think this movie has Spielberg’s fingerprints all over it, to its great advantage. Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time but as good as he is in that role he has never been short of great as a producer.  He has had his hand in so many great films over the years; there is no end to what he has given us as fans.

This movie was set up for a sequel and to this day I am still disappointed that it was never made.  I for one would have loved to see a continuation to this story. It never happened though and I am not sure why. I think this movie is worth your time because it is funny and entertaining.  I do have a special place in my heart for it though because of the nostalgic feeling it gives me.  If you know this movie let me know what you think about it because I am interested to hear other opinions about it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I guess this movie is ok. I don’t really know. I know Ryan loves this movie, but I have only seen it a handful of times and that was recently. Maybe if I could appreciate the pure cheesiness of it all. In any case here is the poster, for which I have few words.

innerspace

“This poster needs a bright yellow starburst.” -Said no designer ever.

NEXT MOVIE: Inside Man (2006)