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Instant Family, The Mule, La Llorona, Eli, Mortal Engines and More in This Week's MPAA Bulletin

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By Chris Kavan - 10/24/18 at 10:04 AM CT

The MPAA Ratings Board is really getting into that Halloween spirit as a disproportionate amount of a major ratings are horror-related. This includes both original and remakes on the agenda. But, fear not, for there is also a comedy and a major blockbuster also getting their ratings due and helping to shake things up. All in all, this is a very loaded updated with a lot to talk about, so let's get to it!

MPAA Official Logo

We're starting with the biggest film on the bloc, the upcoming Mortal Engines, based on the best-selling series by Philip Reeve and also including the writing talents of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens - who are no strangers to adapting popular novels to the big screen (Lord of the Rings, anyone?). While Jackson isn't directing this time around, Christian Rivers (who has not directed a major feature, but has certainly worked on many in different capacities) is at the helm. I have not read the novels myself, but the setup is certainly unique and wholly interesting - in the future, a devastating Sixty Minutes War has ravaged the planet with geologic upheaval forcing cities to become massive, mobile, resource-cannibalizing fortresses. London is one such city and the war has also essentially halted technological and scientific advancement and the city has fallen back to Victorian-era society. This "Municipal Darwinism" has the larger cities going after the smaller cities for their resources, but this can only be a temporary solution and a group called the Anti-Traction League works to stop the cities in their tracks, literally, thus preserving the remaining resources. In this world we find our heroine, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) who finds herself joining forces with outlaw Anna Fang (Jihae) and outcast Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) as the work to take down Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) and the city cronies, who work to keep the city up and running while maintaining a strict social class system. I mean, it just sounds amazing - and, at a reported $100 million price tag, probably looks pretty great as well. I don't know how popular this is to general audiences, certainly it won't have quite the appeal as LOTR, but I'm hoping it does well. It's one of the few late-year films I'm interested in seeing on the big screen and I hope it does the premise justice. Rated PG-13 for sequences of futuristic violence and action.

I'm going to save all the horror until the end, so next on the list is the lone comedy of the bunch, Instant Family. The film follows a couple (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) who find themselves a bit in over-their-heads when they adopt three children (played by Isabela Moner , Gustavo Quiroz and Julianna Gamiz). The film also stars Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer as two social workers trying to help the family along and the great character actress Margo Martindale as the kind-hearted but somewhat overbearing mother/grandma. Charlie McDermott, Eve Harlow, Julie Hagerty and Iliza Shlesinger help round out the cast. This seems like a totally "aw shucks" family-friendly kind of comedy where things happen, there is probably escalation and growing pains but everything turns out happily ever after. I bet it still plays well with audiences, though, even if it is a perfectly harmless film. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references.

Okay, onto the horror and there is plenty to talk about. Let's start with The Curse of La Llorona that seems to be another film that is part of The Conjuring franchise as James Wan is producing and Tony Amendola is playing the same role (Father Perez) as he did in Annabelle. La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) played by Marisol Ramirez is based on Latin American folklore and which describes her as a spirit caught between the living and the dead who drowned her two children in a fit of anger and grief and, denied entry into heaven, wanders the earth eternally searching for her children, crying, and bringing misfortune to those who she comes across. I'm guessing the film takes a much darker turn, with Linda Cardellini playing a social worker who finds herself coming under the influence of the evil spirit after ignoring a warning. The film is set in the past, similar to Annabelle - though set a bit later in the 70s, and also stars Patricia Velasquez, Raymond Cruz, Sean Patrick Thomas, Madeleine McGraw and Aiden Lewandowski among others. While I am a fan of The Conjuring films, I admit I've fallen behind and have yet to see Annabelle: Creation or the recent film The Nun. I'm adamant I will catch up, as horror is really one of my favorite genres, and when mainstream horror gets this good, you have to support it. Rated R for violence and terror.

Remakes are always tricky - and sometimes I often wonder why they even wanted to do so in the first place. I'm not sold on a remake of Jacob's Ladder, if only because I consider Adrian Lyne's 1990 fever dream one of the best psychological horror films of all time. Delusion, nightmare and reality all blend together as Tim Robbin's character, a Vietnam vet, is haunted by the death of his child and something sinister in his past. Also, it has one of the best WTF endings ever (DON'T SPOIL IT IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT - You will thank me later). Thus I don't see how a remake can possibly improve on it. It doesn't help that director David M. Rosenthal's biggest credit is a Netlix original How It Ends that didn't exactly score high with viewers. The cast doesn't have any huge names with Jesse Williams, Michael Ealy and Karla Souza being the most well-known out of the cast. I have a feeling this is going to wind up like the remake of Flatliners - best forgotten and stick to the original. Rated R for language, some violence, sexuality and drug content.

I don't have too much to go on for the upcoming Eli, but I know it falls into the horror category. With that title, you would expect "creepy kid" ala The Prodigy but in this case Eli (Charlie Shotwell) is not the antagonist but rather just a sick kid getting treatment for an auto-immune disease who notices something seriously wrong with his new house. Kelly Reilly, Lili Taylor, Sadie Sink, Max Martini, Deneen Tyler and Katia Gomez round out the cast. It's close enough to "creepy hospital/asylum" that I guess you could kind of throw it in with that kind of horror film. Still, there isn't a lot to go on with this one yet, but it hits in January, which has been a good month for horror (good or bad) and it should hopefully follow suit. Rated R for some horror violence/images.

I'm finishing on a non-horror note because, well, we started on a non-horror note so this just kind of even things out. Clint Eastwood returns to the big screen in a major role for the first time since 2012 and Trouble with the Curve, and he also directs The Mule. Now, I know Eastwood's record behind the camera is uneven as best - but when he's on, we get hard-hitting films like Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, Gran Torino and American Sniper. He can miss the mark - J. Edgar, Invictus and Hereafter were all a bit underwhelming, but I would say his track record trends toward good-to-great with a few bumps here and there. The Mule looks to right things after the somewhat forgettable 15:17 to Paris. The Mule follows a 90-year-old horticulturist and WWII veteran (Eastwood) who finds himself caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine in Michigan at the behest of a Mexican drug cartel. I'm sure the why and how of things are going to be exceedingly interesting and if anyone can pull off this kind of story, Eastwood seems like the right person to make it so. The film brings in American Sniper's Bradley Cooper, Michael Peņa, Andy Garcia, Laurence Fishburne, Taissa Farmiga, Alison Eastwood, Dianne Wiest and Clifton Collins Jr. (among others). I mean, that looks like a knockout cast to me and the film should have plenty of drama (and crime), which is par for the course for Eastwood. Look, I don't know how many more films he's going to have and I want him to go out with a bang and The Mule looks like a winner in my book. Rated R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.

Those are all the wide-release films receiving their ratings due, but be sure to check out the expanded MPAA Ratings Bulletin below:


Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive content, and for language.


Rated R for violence and terror.


Rated R for some horror violence/images.


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some sexual material and language.


Rated R for some strong violence, and for language and brief nudity.


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language and some drug references.


Rated R for language, some violence, sexuality and drug content.


Rated PG-13 for some intense disaster-related peril and disturbing images, and for brief strong language.


Rated R for language throughout, violence and some sexuality/nudity.


Rated R for some terror, violence, and language.


Rated PG-13 for sequences of futuristic violence and action.


Rated R for language throughout and brief sexuality/nudity.


Rated R for some violence.


Rated R for graphic nudity, some disturbing images, and language.


Rated R for language, some strong violence, and drug content.


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