(In theaters, February 2005) I initially avoided this film due to the incessant “this is the film that makes Christmas feels good” marketing blitz. But it’s hard for a Special Effects geek to ignore an all-CGI film like this one, especially if it represents yet another curious foray in the world of motion capture. Tom Hanks plays three characters? Heck, why not? But once you get past the entire “The spirit of Christmas is in you” crap, there’s a lot to admire about this film. For one thing, there’s a ton of action; I can see why people raved about it being on IMAX-3D. Some scenes approach pure roller-coaster goodness, including a terrific sequence set atop a frozen lake. Then there’s the very good quality of the animation which, creepy human characters aside, works relatively well. Director Robert Zemekis has always been a fan of the virtual camera (see Forrest Gump, or What Lies Beneath) and the purely virtual nature of The Polar Express allows him unprecedented flights of fancy: I’ll simply single out the “ticket ride” uninterrupted shot as a virtuoso sequence that would be impossible in live action. The rest of the film I don’t care too much about (the less said about the last interminable fifteen minutes the best, I suppose), but there’s simply too much intriguing material in The Polar Express to miss it.