writing for CHUD, you sometimes see news from the same company of the same
nature so often that you dismiss it on its face. Ever since Walden Media
started up in the “big-budget family entertainment” lane and scored with The
Chronicles of Narnia
, we’ve seen notice after notice of them snapping
up child-oriented fantasy novels and grabbing a notable adult or two to lead
the cast. But while I was entertained by Narnia enough to give it a pass, I
certainly didn’t see it that style of movie as a viable template for a whole
slate of films, so I’ve been increasingly disinterested in what Walden’s been


news isn’t exactly earthshaking, but it’s got two gentlemen attached whose
respective next projects I’ve been eagerly awaiting, and now that they’re doing
the next film together, my anticipation jumped up that much more. The first is
the invaluable Bill Murray, who has signed to star in City of Ember for Walden. The story, which of
course comes from a fantasy novel, concerns a city of darkness that is
illuminated only by street lamps. When the lights begin to dim, two teenagers
become involved in a grand mystery in order to save the city. Sounds innocuous
enough, but Murray
has a way of shining in the most mundane settings and I expect this will be no
different. The second gent that sealed the deal for me, however, is Gil Kenan.

He’s not
a marquee name…yet. But I figure it’s just a matter of time because Kenan
directed the remarkable Monster House, which just blew me
away when I happened to see it way after the fact. With the glut of CGI kiddie
flicks out there these days, there wasn’t much in Monster House’s marketing
to distinguish it, so I ignored its theatrical run despite a lot of
recommendations from friends and other people whose opinion I trust. I finally
gave in when it ran on Starz recently, and I was in disbelief at not only how
interesting the characters were and how sharply it was written, but also how
dynamic the direction was. Not just in pacing, but in the swooping, lifelike
kineticism of the camera (well, virtual camera) movement. And as impressed as I
was with that film, I could not wait for Kenan’s live action debut. Further
adding to the behind-the-scenes pedigree is Tom Hanks, whose Playtone banner
will co-produce.

putting this out through Fox, and Fox has wisely staked out an October 2008
release date already (which has paid dividends for the right kind of family
adventure films before). But with that set in stone (or plaster, as it’s
possible – with enough buzz – that they’d move it up a day or so given recent
release date trends), they’re under a crunch and will start shooting on
location in Belfast later this summer.