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Ben-Hur, Girl on the Train, Don't Breathe and More in This Week's MPAA Ratings Bulletin

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By Chris Kavan - 07/06/16 at 06:49 AM CT

So much for taking things easy for Independence Day. This week is a smaller update, but full of some of big upcoming films. You have a remake of a biblical classic (mostly remembered for a chariot race), another novel adaptation that looks to thrill, a comedic caper featuring a suburban couple caught up in their new neighbor's spy games and a horror film that will make criminals think twice about that next easy score. Plus, a bonus limited release film that is sure to earn acclaim as it deals with a landmark case in England about proving the existence of the Holocaust. There's a lot to talk about, so let's get started.

MPAA Official Logo

Remakes often pale in comparison to the original and even the best rarely capture that same magic. That's why I have a feeling the upcoming Ben-Hur faces an uphill battle. Now, it should be known this is not the first Ben-Hur remake. The 1959 version that stars Charlton Heston is actually a remake of the 1925 film, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. One thing is certain, all the films feature a chariot race - including this updated version as it features prominently on the poster. But the film is going to require a lot more than a fancy race to make it as powerful and memorable as the 1959 film. Director Timur Bekmambetov is known more for slick action (Wanted, Night Watch, Day Watch and... Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) than any deep, religious films. That's worrying, as if he applies the same direction this is going to be all action, little story. In a world of remakes, I have a feeling this one is going to get lost in the weeds. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images.

If it's not a remake that's right around the corner, there's a good chance it's an adaptation. From books to video games, it's easier to work from source material than be wholly original these days (and often much safer). That being said, in the last few years we have had some excellent adaptations - and I have a feeling that The Girl on the Train is going to join the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a great mystery/thriller based on a popular novel. In this case it is author Paula Hawkins and the story concerns the post-divorce life of Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt) who takes the train to work every morning, and every morning passes by her old house where her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) lives with a new wife (Rebecca Ferguson) and it eats away day after day. In order to cope, she begins to watch a different couple, Scott and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) and creates the perfect, fairytale life for them in her own mind. But one day she witnesses soemthing that shatters this image and the next morning, after a bender, she has clear wounds but no memory - and she shortly finds out that Megan Hipwell has gone missing. She soon throws herself into the investigation wanting to know what happened to Megan... and whether her missing night had anything to do with it. That's a long synposis , but it shows you just how intense things are likely to get. I, for one, think this looks like one of the best films coming out this fall. Gone Girl did good business, I'm interested to see how this stacks up to it. Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity.

Moving on to something more light-hearted. If you though Mr. and Mrs. Smith was good, but needed more comedy, don't worry, Keeping Up with the Joneses has you covered. The film follows typical suburban couple (Isla Fisher and Zach Galifianakis) who become convinced their new neighbors Tim and Natalie Jones (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) are actually spies. When their hunch turns out to be right on the money, they get caught up in the danger and intrigue of their world. To up the comedic factor, Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh and Kevin Dunn (among others) are along for the ride. I admit, I like the cast, I liked the first trailer and this may be one that manages to merge action and comedy in the right way. I don't know if I'll watch it in theaters, but it has me interested. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.

Not since People Under the Stairs has a potential robbery turned oh so wrong. For our would-be thieves, they have targeted a supposedly feeble blind man, but he turns out to be more than capable in Don't Breathe. You see, the blind man is played by natural badass Stephen Lang - and he may be blind, but he's also a merciless serial killer and our unfortunate robbers have just became his next targets. Of course, this isn't a cold-hearted robbert - Rocky (Jane Levy) just wants a better life for her and her sister. But that doesn't matter to our blind friend and thus the chase begins. While I'm not convinced this is going to stand out in the horror crowd, it most likely has a small budget and thus should be able to do well enough. Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.

I'll end with a film that is probably going to wind up on a lot of "best-of" lists and has a great chance at some of the major awards. Much like Spotlight, Bridge of Spies and The Big Short, Denial is based on a true story and goes heavy on the drama. In this case, historian and author Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) finds herself being accused of libel when she accused David Irving (Timothy Spall) of being a Holocaust Denier. Because the English legal system places the burden of proof on the accused, Lipstadt and her legal team essentially find themselves having to prove the Holocaust actually happened in a court of law. Some may call Oscar-bait on this one, but the cast, also including Andrew Scott, Tom Wilkinson and Mark Gatiss are all proven actors and heavy hitters. Unless it absolutely misses the mark somehow, I see this being a critical darling and maybe getting general audiences (if it expands) as excited. I'm calling it - multiple nominees ahead. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language.

That's pretty much it - but there are a few more movies getting their ratings due, so check out the full MPAA Ratings Bulletin below:


Rated R for sexual content and language.


Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and disturbing images.


Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language.


Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references.


Rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity.


Rated PG-13 for some violence, suggestive content and a thematic element.


Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.


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