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(Presented In 3D)

Just like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night, THE POLAR EXPRESS ($35) is the perfect holiday treat.  Based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg, THE POLAR EXPRESS tells the story of a young boy who wants to believe in Santa Claus, but is in need of tangible proof.  The next thing you know, there is a train stopped in front of the boy’s home whose final destination is the North Pole.  Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime for the boy, as the trip to the North Pole proves to be a wild Rollercoaster of a ride, in which our young hero makes some new friends; saves the day on more than one occasion and comes to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  THE POLAR EXPRESS has been beautifully animated in the digital realm and the film has the wondrous look of a series of Christmas cards rendered three dimensions.  Tom Hanks supplies the voices for the majority of the film’s main characters, while Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter and Leslie Zemeckis provide voices for the other characters.

Warner Home Video has made THE POLAR EXPRESS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The Blu-ray release features both the 2D and 3D versions of the film- with four pairs of 3D glasses included in the package. THE POLAR EXPRESS provides for a delightful ride in high definition, as there are a number of sequences that make the most of what 3D can offer in terms of thrills, not to mention that in your face quality. High definition certainly makes the 3D work better at home, but of course, this isn’t the best way to enjoy the hi-def visuals, or what the animators put into this particular CGI production. Also, some folks might find themselves with a headache after two hours of movie watching through those red/blue glasses.

Therefore, the 2D 1080p presentation is actually the better way to appreciate the beauty of THE POLAR EXPRESS. Image sharpness and fine detail appear better resolved in 2D, plus the texturing of the characters and objects of this computer generated world stand out here, where they can be obscured in the 3D version. The red/blue glasses wreak havoc on the way the viewer perceives hues, so colors come into their own on the 2D version of the film. Additionally, colors are even warmer, richer and more lustrous than they appeared in standard definition, plus all of the highly saturated hues are rendered with perfect stability. Blacks are absolute, whites are pure and the image is as well contrasted, as its creation in the digital realm will allow. Film based flaws are non-existent on this Blu-ray release.

THE POLAR EXPRESS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The lossless encoding makes the great sounding 5.1 track contained on the DVD release sound even more wondrous. Unconstrained by the real world, THE POLAR EXPRESS features a playfully mixed sound design that fully utilizes the outlying channels during the film’s more action oriented moments. Additionally, the track is enveloping and creates ambient acoustic spaces for the movie’s quieter moments. As I stated above lossless encoding enhances the fidelity of the soundtrack, thus giving the sound effects greater weight, plus making Alan Silvestri’s beautiful score sounds more musical. The bass channel is surprisingly ground shaking, with a number of the train effects making it seem as though a locomotive is in the room. Dialogue is warmly rendered and easy to understand. English, French Spanish and Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish and Dutch.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. Featurettes include the following: You Look Familiar: The Many Polar Faces of Tom Hanks is a four-minute program that focuses on Tom Hank’s multiple characterizations in the film.  A Genuine Ticket To Ride clocks in at eleven minutes and is broken into a five-part (not including introduction) look behind-the-scenes at the digital production.  True Inspirations provides a fourteen-minute profile of author Chris Van Allsburg. Josh Groban At The Greek offers a four-minute performance of the film’s closing song BelieveMeet The Snow Angels finds various members of the cast and crew sharing their Christmas memories in this brief two-minute plus program.  Additional Song offers a rough footage of Smokey And The Steamer, a song cut from the film. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplments.

THE POLAR EXPRESS is a delightful holiday film that has been exquisitely rendered on Blu-ray Disc and this release offers both the 2D and 3D versions. The Blu-ray Disc makes a great stocking stuffer for anyone who has made the upgrade to high definition. Recommended.



The Polar Express Presented in 3-D [Blu-ray] (2004)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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