The Polar Express Robert Zemeckis

In many respects, The Polar Express is the perfect holiday movie for all audiences. Chris Van Allsburg's story is a modern day classic that combines important Christmas themes (i.e., belief), thrilling action, likeable characters and, most importantly, an original story that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience. The plot is centred on a young boy who no longer believes in Santa Claus, a lack of faith that leads to a giant train pulling up outside his house on Christmas Eve. Aboard the Polar Express, "Hero Boy" (as he's unofficially named) learns the train is headed to the North Pole where they will meet Santa and hopefully he'll regain his belief. However, along the way the train and its passengers face numerous obstacles and meet many different characters that not only help the time fly by but also provide the film with some admirable humour and amazing escapades, most notably the butterfly-inducing rollercoaster ride over Glacier Gulch. Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) has found another ideal project for his talent in bringing uplifting amusement to the screen. However, it's the talents of Tom Hanks — the film's overwhelming and all-encompassing star — that steals the spotlight every which way. This is quite simply Hanks's baby and the film is that much better for his involvement. The Oscar winner uses his skills in movement and acting to conjure up a number of unique personalities that will have you keeping track of just how many faces the man has in the film. Featurette "You Look Familiar" is a remarkable telling of Hanks's participation in the film. Playing all of the major roles (Hero Boy, Conductor, Hobo, Santa), the actor is shown decked out in the special garb of performance capture technology, a new, groundbreaking type of CGI that follows actors' movements and captures their expressions. This animated reality is further developed in a separate featurette, "A Genuine Ticket to Ride," which takes a deeper look at the film's extraordinary effects, like the 3D computer-generated sets that capture every angle using a built-in camera, or the meticulous attention to detail in the hair and wardrobe. This two-disc set gives the ultimate experience of the film that could only be enhanced by including an IMAX screen. (Warner)