City of Ember
Director Gil Kenan's City of Ember is a marvel of a visual feast, embracing the entirely new city created in Jeanne DuPrau's source novel about a human settlement deep underground after the end of the world. Some 200 years have passed since its formation, though, and Ember--envisioned here as a fusty, Terry Gilliam-esque combination of Russian Constructivism and Ceausescu-era Bucharest--is showing signs of wear. A single generator powers Ember's many lights, the city's students graduate from school to find out what job they'll perform to keep Ember burning, and everybody is becoming a little scared now that the city's recurrent blackouts are lasting longer. Teens Doon (Harry Treadaway) and the vibrantly named Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) harbor suspicions that Ember's founders may have planned a way out for it citizens, and together they investigate the city's underground passageways, family histories, and dodgy mayor's (Bill Murray) minions to determine if something foul is afoot. The story is a basic adventure, but cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet and Ember's art directors and set decorators are the true stars here, dreaming up and realizing an entire city that feels like a futuristic jalopy--and may very well be a mammoth Rube Goldberg contraption.