The Polar Express (2004) Review

RATING: 2.5/5

A doubtful little boy hops aboard a train ride to the North Pole to wonder if the mythical Christmas icon himself exists.

Some deem it as a Christmas classic, while others say it is rather dated and very standard with its delivery. For me, the latter seems more appropriate.

The visuals and effects were mixed across the board. Around the time of its release, it was deemed revolutionary with the film’s reliance on motion-capture. Though honestly, 16 years after, it did not age well. The expressions shown by the characters didn’t look convincing and sometimes it can be rather creepy if the camera held onto a face for extended periods. Funny to think Pixar films such as “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” and “The Incredibles,” which that one was released the same year, had CGI models that emoted way better than the “realistic-depiction” that this was trying to replicate. Goes to show that better, isn’t always better.

With the rest of the visuals, they can be nice, detailed, and beautiful at times. The snow sparkling in the forest, the Northern Lights, the detail on the train, etc. The cinematography at times can be very good. Especially at times whenever its following a certain person or object of interest. It would follow the subject wherever it would go from A to B.

There were two main settings, the Polar Express and the North Pole. One was shown fine, while the other was majorly disappointing. The North Pole was the one that appeared decent. I’m all for seeing different interpretations and this wasn’t too bad with its city of elves. There were buildings, a large globe with t.v sets showing the kids of the world, and a present-making factory which led to the sled drop-zone. The operations of getting the sled with the presents lifted in the air and carrying it was cool seeing.

The other setting, the one which this movie was named after, was not good. When it came to the train operations, I wish one could have gotten to see more. We got to see the dancing hot chocolate chefs, the engineers, and a glimpse or two of the other cars of the train, but that was it. The film was more focused on the main boy and his two friends. One doesn’t get perspectives from the other kids. The best example was the intense rollercoaster scene. The movie tells what happened after, rather than shows during. Thus making the journey feel hollow.

The lack of depth continues with the characters. The children were the ones I have the most problem with, as they either ranged from bland or annoying. I would say the adults were the most enjoyable, they brought the most life in the film. Primarily the Conductor and the Hobo. Both of whom played by Tom Hanks who did a pretty good job.

As far as comparing the movie with the book, the movie definitely placed scenes in here that either benefited some or dragged the experience down. I mean I understand the filmmakers needed to add more substance seeing that the book was only 32 pages. Like I said, adding substance to the train operations was a good idea. But there needed to be a lot more of it. I mean the kids were given a couple cups of hot chocolate and no food, come on. The main kid having doubts and questions about whether or not everything he had seen was real, was executed blandly. The world-building of the North Pole was nice. The Hobo was a fun character and it did raise questions on who exactly he was. The film placed some background info on that Billy character, as opposed to the more crucial ones. Not for the main one which the film started with. The action scenes were nicely done, but I could see how they might have been there to spice up the source material onto the screen. In terms of differentiating from the book, I say it wasn’t handled too well. Some new elements got to shine more than the other new elements.

Pacing and editing was an issue at times. Like when the Conductor was punching the tickets in a matter of seconds. The nerdy kid in some way getting to reach the three main kids to the pile of presents faster. I mentioned before the camera tracking of certain objects was cool, but what exactly does it add? Is it to show the visually nice scenery of the woods or the Arctic? Is it to boast on the film’s technical and “revolutionary” achievements (for the time)? Also the odds of that ticket flying back to the train, with all of the mess it went through, is astronomical.

A couple times there were musical pieces, The hot chocolate one was kind of pointless. Billy’s singing was a heart-warming one. When it came to the rest of the sounds of the movie, it was decent. It for sure did the best at immersing one in the environment.

Being an achievement in the technology used in the production, can only get one so far. There were good merits. At times it felt like a Christmas epic, with the various, nice-looking locations and environments shown. The substance thrown in here, to add to the original source material, worked in some areas but wasn’t expanded upon in the others. Resulting in a Christmas classic that could have been really special if the potential was fully reached.

YouTube: LoneCentric Productions/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Review

RATING: 4.5/5

Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, grows bored and tiresome of Halloween. To a point where a comforting, warm-hearted, and jolly makeover is in need.

Revisiting this classic from my youth was something special.

A perfect example of a musical that I like. Generally I’m not a fan, but if the songs work, then I’m along for the ride like this film. The songs sung, what I can say, many of the tracks are upright classics. From “This is Halloween,” “What’s This,” “Poor Jack,” “Kidnap the Sandy Claws,” and of course, “Oogie Boogie’s Song.” Each track was catchy and memorable in their own way. One would be singing along with the tunes during and after the film that’s for sure. They delivered the right tone and emotion for the scene it was incorporated in. Composer Danny Elfman brought it home when he came in singing.

In terms of visuals, there was so much stuff to awe and ooo over. It was simply fascinating to look at the distorted and macabre scenery, the multitude of characters, and to be amazed by the gorgeous, fluid stop-motion. The moment when Jack was walking on Spiral Hill, with the immense moon shining in the background, was an iconic shot. Other eye-popping scenes were Boogie’s lair and Christmas Town. Everything felt alive. One couldn’t look away for their was so much flavor and style. Especially in the montage sequence of Jack’s presents terrorizing the families.

As mentioned the film boasted impressive scenery, which that impressiveness transcends onto the unique look of the characters. The People of Halloween Town had their own memorable quirk and cool design to make one stand out amongst the others. There was Sally, the Mayor, the Vampires, the zombie baby (Braindead reference possibly), Zero the ghost dog, the orange/black python, the werewolf, the town band, the trick o’ treaters, etc. A vast sea of characters.

The best two in my opinion, were Jack and Boogie. They stole the camera. They had the best music and best character moments. Boogie’s time was short, but incredibly sweet. His cool design and the way he carried himself with his flamboyant and sinister vibes make up for the screen time. Jack, was the character, who owned the film. His development from A to B was understood clearly. A being stuck doing the same routine on annually basis. He wanted to change things up badly. While his attempts and ideas were there, his execution brought him down. But in the end, he was thankful of what he done and him being what he’s famous for, was the only thing he was good of. Jack was proud of what he tried to accomplish, which one can respect. If a person did try something new and it doesn’t favor them in the end, they can say in the end at least they put in the effort in doing something different.

Granted the movie was extremely easy to follow. Easy to a point where one would definitely say, including me, the film was basic and not allowing any form of depth. Again it is and maybe I could have wanted a notch more clarity in the world and the characters. Though I think the simplicity was needed. It’s a basic story that had the capability of resonating with lots of people. The whole experience felt like watching a children’s fairy tale. Now with that, I’m not saying this film was mainly meant for kids. It can be for everyone. Plus, what are the odds of watching a movie that can be watched on two holidays? That’s extremely rare and it was nailed perfectly. The juxtaposition made things even more enjoyable to watch.

You know after watching this, I had no idea Santa Claus was called “Sandy Claws” by the people of Halloween Town. Also, when is there going to be another time where Santa shouts out “Happy Halloween.”

A Halloween and Christmas movie classic. It had very nice visuals, memorable music, gorgeous stop-motion, and a basic, yet very satisfying story with nice characters. Tim Burton was a favorite of mine as a child and it felt so good to revisit him. With talks of a sequel, I’m not sure if I want one. It’s best to leave this film alone. If one hasn’t seen it, watch it now. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!

Happy Holidays to all!

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

Drive (2011) Review

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RATING: 2/5

[SPOILERS]

When a driver gets entangled in a mob-related fiasco, he will do anything to make sure that a mother and her child remain safe.

A movie back in 2011 that received all sorts of awards, praised by the critics, and regarded as one of the best films of that year. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I don’t understand it.

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