|The Polar Express |
Two-Disc Widescreen Edition
Actors: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola, Michael Jeter, Leslie Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Kids & Family, Musicals & Performing Arts, Animation
DVD Features: — Challenges:2 menu challenges that kids can play. — Deleted Scenes:Additional Song: The never-before-heard "Smokey and Steamer" song. — Featurette:You Look Familiar: Hear about Tom Hanks' 5 unique roles, how ea... more »
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Timeless and True Spirit of Christmas
Mark Blackburn | Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada | 11/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I went to see this movie tonight with a mentally handicapped friend - "Michael" -- (from a L'Arche home here in Winnipeg, Canada). We were the first persons in the theatre for the very first evening showing in this city - and we were the last to leave. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - enchanted by the movie's subtleties and happily exhausted by its roller-coaster rides.
Time and again, Michael (who is sensitive, compassionate and with a good sense of humor) turned to me in the darkness, smiling in appreciation at the exact same moments I turned to see his reactions. Each time this happened, it was at a moment in the film when some little detail, perfectly captured through superb 'cinematography,' brought moisture to my normally cynical eye, and a warm smile to Michael's innocent face.
Some examples: There is a lone, black child on this apparent 'dream train' to the North Pole - a girl of about ten or eleven years, and like a painting come to life, the miraculous technology at work in this film captures the particular sensibilities of this compassionate, black youngster --- We see small mannerisms of someone comfortable with herself in a way the other (ten or so) white kids on the train are not. And the effect is profound --- the movie audience, including some children of that same age group, went silent at such moments in the film.
My friend Michael - who has a 'savant' genius for perceiving my emotions, and expressing them for me out loud in public --- Michael turned to me with a delighted smile when the girl on the train reaches out to hold the hands of the poorest boy, sitting alone in the rear compartment; and later, she hugs two other boys, (one of them the central character) --- at their final parting. At that moment I held up a finger to my lips to try to hush Michael, but couldn't prevent him from saying aloud: "She's such a sweetheart." There were murmurs of appreciation in the darkness around us, responding to this innocent sentiment.
There is a sublime moment, on the back platform of the moving train -- the Northern Lights glimmering in the distance -- when the young girl joins in song with the poorest kid on the train (a younger boy from a dilapidated home on the "far side of the tracks"). I admit to being overcome with emotion during this duet (a lovely, strong melody with poignant lyrics) - and I blurted out loud to Michael, after the first chorus: "What a wonderful song!" The refrain includes the words "When Christmas comes to town." [It's a song so good that, with some future 'cover versions' by serious musicians who could do it justice --- this "Christmas Comes to Town" song could, I believe, deservedly join the small list of true, Christmas 'classics.']
I'd have to agree with anyone who thinks this movie is a little short on plot. And yet . . . once you've suspended disbelief -- beginning with an earth-shattering, Christmas-eve arrival of a steam-puffing, passenger train on a small-town Michigan street, directly outside the home of the movie's central character -- once we've swallowed that premise, the movie disarmingly embraces the child in us, (including our fears) and our reservations vanish without our noticing.
Just as great `realistic' painters, (think Rembrandt or Vermeer) worked wonders of light & shadow that no mere photograph could ever capture, so too this computer-animated marvel takes your breath away through an accumulation of tiny but acute observations that could never be captured by conventional cinematography. Prime examples from the opening scenes:
A shaft of light illuminates the boy's bedroom, and he is reflected in a chrome, automobile hubcap leaning against a wall; at once we share his view -- through the keyhole of his bedroom door - we can see only the backs and the dressing gowns of mother and father, as they say goodnight to the boy's young sister, after determining the state of her belief in Santa's existence - a belief no longer shared by the older brother, whose eye is at the keyhole.
Later, on the train, there's an exquisite close up of the boy's face, a slight blemish above the pores on his upper right cheek; the `camera' pans in rotation, capturing perfectly, the texture of the boy's hair, and that of the young black girl sitting beside him -- subtleties of such perfection one wonders if the unique, artistic accomplishment of "Polar Express" could ever be surpassed.
The film's last scene, consists entirely of a close-up view of a small, silver bell (of the type associated with sleigh rides) with its attached 'ribbon' of red leather. The little bell helps make the final point about `Belief' --- in things unseen, (or forgotten, and thus inaccessible to some adults). So simple, so powerful, so enlightening an image. My friend Michael turned to me at that moment, with a radiant smile. And we just shook our heads in awe.
Yes, this movie must have SOME shortcomings - one or two moments that don't quite work as intended by the creators. But right now, in the afterglow, I can't recall what they were. The film was just too satisfying an experience!
I'm a 57-year-old grandfather who happens to believe that "The Polar Express" is the first, true Christmas classic in almost 60 years. Not since the original Kris Kringle "Miracle" movie of 1947, has any film (to my jaded eye) so transcended our secular, commercial views of the Holiday Season, with such uplifting and fresh reminders of the timeless and true spirit of Christmas.
DECIDING TO GET ON THE TRAIN...
NotATameLion | Michigan | 12/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had mixed emotions about the prospects of this movie.
I love the book. I never like seeing a book be made into a movie--even when the movies are well done.
Add into the mix my general liking of Forest Gump and CastAway, the two previous Hanks/Zemeckis films (I feel CastAway is the far superior film if anyone's interested).
Temper that general feeling of goodwill with the fact that Tom Hanks's last piece of GREAT acting (in my opinion) was in Joe vs the Volcano (Meg Ryan's as well)--and that CastAway was Zemeckis's last good film.
These ingredients, as well as knowing that this film was to be a guinea pig for a new kind of animation, left me feeling unsettled at best about going to see The Polar Express.
This movie blew me away.
Say what you want about The Passion of the Christ or Fahrenheit 911 (both are great movies in the movie-making sense and should be nominated for all kinds of awards) but this is my movie of the year. It is also the best Christmas movie in quite a while.
The movie version of The Polar Express has a whole lot to see. This is serious eye-candy. That said, the movie stays incredibly faithful to the heart of the book.
The book and the movie are all about the wonder and joy of belief.
I could go on and on about the great job Tom Hanks does, about the awesome animation, but I won't. For as gilded and bedecked with ornaments as this movie is, it all gets stripped down to the ringing of a silver bell.
The sound of belief.
Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen.
This movie is a wonderful hymn to that evidence. An evidence readily found in all hearts brave enough to believe.
I give the Polar Express my highest recommendation."
Strictly talking about the "3-D" version....
C. Perez Jr. | Kissimmee, FL | 11/06/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"My fiance and I both loved this movie when it was released and we still do. When we heard it was coming out on Blu Ray and on top of that 3-D we were beyond excited. Well that excitment was crushed when we got home, put it on and were almost given instant headaches from the old school red and blue 3-d glasses and the fact that no matter how hard we tried to see it, it just was nowhere near 3-d quality. We sat there contemplating whether or not it was just us or if the 3-d aspect of it sucked that bad and we came to the conclusion that it was definately the latter. So after a half hour of trying hard to like it we switched it to 2-d (thank god for blu ray for having that option) and saw how in 1080p it was almost 3-d itself.
Needless to say the very next day I went back to the store I purchased it from and changed it for the regular blu ray version (which was $5 cheaper than the 3-d version and totally worth the purchase, 5 stars for that version.) It was very sad that it did not work out because such an amazing holiday movie with such great animation would be a no brainer to have as 3-d but unfortunately it just is not worth the headache and strain."
Seth Taylor | 11/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When people go into a movie theatre they expect to be entertained. Audiences want to be scared, amused, curious, sad, and hopefull. Believe it or not, this film provides all of those elements and then some. I've read the comments by people who gave passed this film on as either "too scary to children" or "just plain boring with no plot" And I agree with several people who have responded to such comments.
This film isn't going to give you instant gratification halfway through. If you don't have two hours to spare then you aren't going to understand what this movie is about. Sure the plot was invisible at times, but I don't think the point of the movie was to have the audience follow a plot. The point was to reveal or in some cases remind people of the simplistic faith or child like view we once had in our lives.
Think of the characters themselves and what they represent. Hero Boy reminds us of people who are caught in between faith and doubt. Do we trust what we cannot see? Who is to say? Hero Girl shows the stronger side of faith and believing in what is not readily seen to the human eye. Childlke faith personified into a little girl. Lonely Boy represent those who doubt because they haven't truly experienced the joys of life or have had tragedies happen to them from an early age so they learn to only trust themselves, but that ends up leaving them...lonely. Then are those who are the Know-It-All character who claim to take everything at face value (much like the critics and cynics of this film). They want to know it all because what they don't know scares them.
I'm 21 years old and I haven't had nearly enough experiences in life, but I can say that I had been so busy growing up that I had forgotten that there was a part of me that was once simple, happy and appreciated the joys of just believing that things were true. That is until life makes you grow up and tries to distort your beliefs (much like HoboMan in this film).
When I first saw this movie my eyes widened with every new frame. It was the first time since my childhood that I can remember sitting in the audience with my mouth open and my eyes stretched out as far as they can be. I was stunned, by the artistry and complexity of the story. I was a kid again for two hours. It was like an old friend who I hadn't seen in a long time came back to visit. It was an amazing film.
It's a train ride, a leap of faith, a test of the human spirit. It's a ride and like the movie says: "It's not about where the train takes you, what matters is that you get on." THAT, my friend, is what this movie is about. Not being entertained by slapstick humor or satirical sarcasm, but remembering that part of you that resembles the kids in the movie. Believe.
Bravo on a fantastic film."