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City of Ember (2008)

Director: Gil Kenan     Starring: Bill Murray Tim Robbins
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Learn more about City of Ember:

Format: DVD
Sku: 210441820
UPC: 024543563396
UPC 14: 00024543563396
Rating: Game Rating Code
See more in Action/Adventure
Discover the Secret.
For generations, the people of the city of ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights. But ember's once powerful generator is failing ... And the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker.

"A fun and moving family film with a subtly dark feel rarely seen in kids' movies since the '80s...  Cammila Albertson, TV Guide
"For a kiddie adventure, the movie, based on the Jeanne DuPrau book, has a pleasingly moody, eerie quality.  Kyle Smith, New York Post
"An impressive and imaginative fantasy.  Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"...consistently compelling, and its uncompromising literal and metaphorical darkness renders its climax enormously satisfying.  Nathan Rabin, The Onion A.V. Club
"...exciting and simple enough for anyone over 8 to follow yet mature and mildly satirical enough for parents.  Stan Hall, Portland Oregonian

Editor's Note
The lights are going out in the City of Ember, a time-limited underground haven created some 200 years ago by the higher-ups of humanity in a world on the brink of disaster. Meanwhile, many of its literally and figuratively in-the-dark citizens don't suspect a thing. The only wise ones are two plucky teenagers (Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway) who are devoted to finding--with or without the help of the cagey Mayor Cole (Bill Murray)--the exit from Ember. Screenwriting credit for CITY OF EMBER, a refreshing fantasy film based on the first novel in author Jeanne DuPrau's sci-fi/adventure series for young adults, belongs to none other than Caroline Thompson. She's a silver screen veteran of family-friendly otherworldliness who's collaborated on many of Tim Burton's most definitive projects, and indeed she's brought to this live-action sophomore effort from enthusiastic movie-geek director Gil Kenan (MONSTER HOUSE) a miniaturist sensibility reminiscent of the condensed and simply plotted eccentricity of CORPSE BRIDE and A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. In stark contrast to some of the more epically turgid fantasy films released in the wake of Harry Potter's first outing, EMBER harks back to the modestly scaled ethos of cinematic spectacle typically embodied by the whimsical adventure movies made for children in the 1980s. When the film's farfetched premise meets its unadorned storytelling to unfold in a neatly contained, nearly real-time episode, it renders the image of ordinary children traversing an architectural phantasmagoria with the kind of paradoxical patina of fluffy-yet-provocative fantasy that can stimulate the imaginations of both kids and adults. The movie's neon-filamented aesthetic, a post-apocalyptic pastiche of industrialization, is sometimes evocative of German expressionism. Still, including cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobiet's kinetic tracking shots, Kenan's film is not without its 21st-century elements.


Video Features DVD, Widescreen, Aspect Ratio 2.35:1, Aspect Ratio 1.33:1, English, French, Spanish, Subtitled

Technical Info

Release Information
Video Mfg Name Studio: Foxvideo
Video Release Date Release Date: 8/19/2014
Video Play Time Running Time: 95 minutes
Video Release Year Original Release Date: 2008
Video CategoryId Catalog ID: 2256339
Video UPC UPC: 00024543563396
Video Number of Discs Number of Discs: 1

Audio & Video
Video Original Language Original Language: English
Video Audio Spec Available Audio Tracks: English, French Dubbed, Spanish Dubbed
Video Subtitle Available Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Video Color Spec Video: Color

Aspect Ratio
Video Aspect Ratio Widescreen/Standard  2.35:1/1.33:1 [4:3]
Entertainment Reviews
Expert Review City of Ember - City of Ember
By: Derek Fleek Reviews
Published on: 1/11/2009 5:05 PM
Having missed it's theatrical run and completely oblivious to what the story was about, City of Ember provided more than enough surprises and visually genuine moments in its agreeable 90-minute running time. That being said, I don't want to give away too the full review
Expert Review City of Ember - DVD Review
By: Travis Johnson Reviews
Published on: 1/28/2009 7:15 PM
Mythmaking in the movies has never enjoyed a more fruitful age than this present era of special effects. What’s missing, however, is the depth and subtly the filmmakers of the past could weave without easy access to glitter and glow. City of Ember, another Walden Media kid-lit adaptation, has all the ingredients needed to create a compelling myth. What it lacks is the patience to let it all the full review

Cast & Crew

Video Cast Info Martin Landau
Video Cast Info Harry Treadaway
Video Cast Info Toby Jones
Video Cast Info Bill Murray
Video Cast Info Saoirse Ronan
Video Cast Info Tim Robbins
Video Cast Info Mary Kay Place
Video Cast Info Xavier Perez Grobet - Director of Photography
Video Cast Info Gary Goetzman - Producer
Video Cast Info Jeanne DuPrau - Source Writer
Video Cast Info Andrew Lockington - Composer
Video Cast Info John D. Schofield - Executive Producer
Video Cast Info Caroline Thompson - Screenwriter
Video Cast Info Diana Choi Sachs - Executive Producer
Video Cast Info Tom Hanks - Producer
Video Cast Info Ruth Myers - Costume Designer
Video Cast Info Gil Kenan - Director

Professional Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
"[T]he elusive Bill Murray pops up, playing the pot-bellied mayor of a dying underground city. He's fun, and the movie, slathered with grimy color, looks striking." 10/24/2008 p.52

USA Today
"CITY OF EMBER, based on a popular children's book, has some strong fantasy moments and makes a gentle statement about corruption and blind faith....CITY OF EMBER provides audiences with a thought-provoking and family-friendly adventure." 10/10/2008

Total Film
3 stars out of 5 -- "Saoirse Ronan makes a plucky tomboy heroine..." 12/01/2008 p.62

3 stars out of 5 -- "Ember is a dank urban jungle of crumbling redbricks, rusting lampposts and bleeding pipes, the kind of fantasy-sci-fi-retro world realised by Gilliam or Jeunet and Caro....CITY OF EMBER is full of sprightly visual thrills, and packed with delightful details..." 12/01/2008 p.88

ReelViews 8 of 10
City of Ember has almost anything one could want from a science fiction-based family adventure film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace. The third item on that list is notable. Recognizing that children often have limited attention spans, the filmmakers have endeavored to keep City of Ember moving. Exposition, when needed, is delivered briskly and with a minimum of irrelevant information. Dialogue rarely accomplishes anything beyond advancing the plot. The almost complete absence of transition scenes results in a flow that is occasionally choppy. Overall, however, City of Ember will find favor with older children and their parents...Director Gil Kenan's (Monster House) vision of Ember is inventive. The city is a cramped, claustrophobic place that owes a little to George Orwell and a little more to Terry Gilliam...Although City of Ember has been crafted with a family audience in mind, there are a few scenes that might be deemed too frightening for smaller children. The underground passages of Ember are home to a giant mole-like creature and scenes of it chasing the protagonists could be nightmare fodder for younger, more sensitive boys and girls. Other than that, however, there's nothing objectionable about the film's content. And, unlike many post-apocalyptic stories, this one is built upon a foundation of hope, not despair. Those looking for thought-provoking material won't find it here but, as a well-paced adventure with sci-fi overtones, it's a good excuse to spend 90 minutes in a multiplex auditorium. - James Berardinelli

Chicago Sun-Times 7 of 10
"City of Ember" tells of a city buried deep within the earth, as a shelter for human survivors after something awful happened upstairs, I'm not clear exactly what. Might have involved radiation, since giant mutant bees, moles and beetles are roaming around down there. The moles have evolved into obese creatures with slimy tentacles surrounding their fangs, the better to eat you with, my dear...But stop me before I get warmed up. This is a Boys' and Girls' Own Adventure, rousing and action-packed and short, and if the sets are interesting and cheesy at the same time, well, Ember is supposed to be a set, constructed by The Builders to resemble a village. The population seems to consist of maybe 300 people, all of them English-speaking, and apparently only two of them black. I didn't spot any evident Asians or Latinos, but I wasn't able to take a complete head count when Mayor Bill Murray was addressing them all in the square..."City of Ember" would probably entertain younger viewers, if they haven't already been hopelessly corrupted by high-powered sci-fi on TV and video. It's innocent and sometimes kind of charming. The sets are entertaining. There are parallels in appearance and theme to a low-rent "Dark City." Carrying the connection a little further, the uncredited narrator sounds a whole lot to me like Kiefer Sutherland, who did the voiceovers in the non-director's cut of "Dark City"...One strange aspect: There are no computers in this future world. Therefore, no e-mail. They have messengers wearing red vests who run around and tell people things. So you never accidentally copy your boss. - Roger Ebert

Product Attributes

Product attributeActor:   Ryall,David
Product attributeLabel:   Fox Home Entertainment
Product attributeMusic Format:   DVD
Product attributeVideo Format:   DVD
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