Mar 21, 2018
Hit or Bomb? September 2017 movie predictions
September’s here and school is back in session, meaning it’s the time of the year that the studios usually reserve for more mature, adult-oriented films. Which sounds great in theory after a summer full of comic book movies and CGI spectacle, but let’s see if this month’s wide releases actually live up to expectations.
Once again, we at the Agony Booth are here to make snap judgments about which of this month’s releases will be HITs and which ones will BOMB based solely on watching the trailers. And as always, make sure to stick around after the predictions to find out how well we did in last month’s predictions. (Read our August 2017 movie predictions here.)
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9/11 (September 8)
September 11th becomes a tacky ‘70s disaster movie when five people from different walks of life (including Charlie Sheen, Gina Gershon, and Luis Guzman) find themselves trapped in an elevator in the World Trade Center after it’s struck by a hijacked airplane. With the help of Whoopi Goldberg, the five must band together and escape before the tower’s collapse.
Thomas S: Wow, this looks so melodramatic. I don’t know if we were looking for another 9/11 movie. Are there any new insights? Also, with the floods in Texas I don’t think people are in the mood to go to the theater to escape the news about one tragedy to watch another. BOMB, partly due to lousy timing.
Tyler: I know I said I’d never do this, but…can I forget? Just a little? BOMB.
Mendo: Using actual footage of the event? Is this Jingoku? Fun fact, this BOMB was an inside job!
Julie: So, I get that after 16 years and countless films and documentaries about the tragic event, you can’t really say “too soon” about 9/11-themed films anymore. But something about this trailer just made me feel really icky inside. Maybe it’s the Charlie Sheen of it all, or the Little Orphan Annie Wig that Whoopie Goldberg is sporting, or all the signposts that say, despite the seriousness of the underlying topic, that this is all just a bad SNL skit, poorly disguised as something more meaningful. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if this was your run-of-the-mill “rogue elevator in an office complex” disaster movie (like that M. Night Shyamalan one from a few years back) and not a “9/11 rogue elevator in an office complex” disaster movie. I’d still probably rate it a BOMB, mind you. But the taste in my mouth after viewing the trailer would be more “lukewarm TV dinner on a Friday night” and less “threw up in my mouth about a half a dozen times”.
Thomas R: Yes, everything from the painfully obvious low budget to the disaster-movie cliché dialogue screams “bad idea”. Yes, the mere presence of notorious 9/11 truther Charlie Sheen can’t help but be an insult to the real people who suffered and died in the worst terror attack ever to take place on American soil (not helped by the fact that he looks loaded out of his mind). And yes, the shot of them floating in freefall like they’re in Inception would be unintentionally funny if not for the subject matter. But really, does this movie look any more insulting, shallow, and stupid than the Very Serious™ one Oliver Stone crapped out back in 2005? I don’t think so. At any rate, we’ll forget about it as soon as it lands in theaters and becomes a resounding BOMB.
Jordon: I’m trying to think of something nice to say about this. Charlie Sheen can really wear a suit? I’m glad the most famous graduate of Greendale Community College is getting work? Maybe this worked as a stage play. But as a thriller, it’s just tacky and offensive… much like Charlie Sheen himself. BOMB.
Rick: Man, I just think it’s too soon for a 9/11 comedy. Okay, sure, they didn’t intend this to be funny, but just try and tell me you didn’t at least chuckle when Charlie Sheen’s face popped up on the screen. And then we’re supposed to sit here and watch straight-faced while he acts so damn serious and earnest, as if this schlocky, overwrought, exploitational garbage might be his ticket back to respectability—come on, that’s some hilarious shit right there, with Whoopi Goldberg as the cherry on the unintentional comedy sundae. BOMB.
It (September 8)
In the first film of a planned two-movie adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel, it’s 1989 and the children of the town of Derry, Maine begin to mysteriously vanish. The neighborhood kids discover that the culprit is Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), an evil shapeshifting clown who’s been murdering children for centuries.
Thomas S: Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. I didn’t suffer from coulrophobia before the It trailer, but God damn, I think I do now. I think this is going to be the most successful, most well-adapted Stephen King property of all time, so I’m going with massive HIT!
Tyler: Horror remakes that perform well enough to justify their existence are rare. It won’t. The movie seems to have committed the commonest horror-remake sin of rehashing the shots and overall style of its predecessor too closely. In this case, it’s extra stupid, because adding Carpenter touches to a movie that was already more than a bit Carpenterian is just going to help it get lost in the tidal wave of Carpentermania currently sweeping the horror genre. There’s enough social media buzz to sustain a big opening weekend, after which it’ll drop like George straight down into Netflix’s sewers. BOMB.
Mendo: Personally, I’ve never understood why anyone thinks clowns are scary (what, are you terrified of the band KISS, too?), and the original TV movie version was slow-paced and kinda boring. This preview, though, hits all the right notes. If the film can trim a lot of the fat that keeps It from only working as a book, I see no reason why this can’t be a huge HIT! Also, anyone else think this came about because of that whole clown thing last year?
Julie: Everything about this trailer terrifies me. Clowns terrify me. Children terrify me. Small towns and dirty sewers terrify me. The sound of popping balloons terrifies me. You couldn’t pay me to see this movie. But I understand that this is not an exercise of “do you, Julie, want to see the film?” but rather “do you think it will bring in enough green at the box office to pay for the inevitable sequel?” And in answer to the latter question, I’m going to have to say yes. You horror buffs are just going to eat It up. You’ll go early to fill the seats. And you’ll go often to catch all the gross stuff you missed the first time around. Just don’t expect me to be there sitting next to you. HIT.
Thomas R: While I’m still not 100% sold on Pennywise’s new design, and found the director’s previous horror flick to be a predictable bore, I’ll admit I’m pretty hyped for this: the atmosphere is suitably creepy, the kids all look good, and I like how the town itself seems to be its own character. Even if horror weren’t the second most profitable genre today, nostalgia for the 1990 miniseries (which, let’s be honest, Tim Curry aside, has aged horribly) is likely going to make this September’s biggest box-office HIT.
Jordon: I didn’t watch this trailer because I still have PTSD from the 1990 TV miniseries. It’s a great story about childhood fears and the adults who inherit them. I won’t see it because I’m legitimately terrified. But It will be a HIT. (I made a little rhyme.)
Rick: Wait, season 2 isn’t even out on Netflix and Stranger Things is already getting a movie? Alright, clowns are, like, a million times creepier than the Demigorgon, so I’m in. Plus, there is dick else going at the box office that weekend. HIT.
mother! (September 15)
In Darren Aronofsky’s latest, Jennifer Lawrence is subjected to Rosemary’s Baby levels of gaslighting from her husband (Javier Bardem) after he allows a strange couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) to stay with them in their remote country home.
Thomas S: …What the hell did I just watch? Um, Michelle Pfeiffer is acting again and it’s, uh, great to see Ed Harris in anything… so… HIT… I guess?
Tyler: Aronofsky hasn’t attained modern-day auteur status yet, but this one ought to do it. He’s working in the kind of claustrophobic, hallucinatory atmosphere in which he excels. He’s got a hot cast. And he’s got pretty much the only fare for discerning adults coming out this month. Modest HIT.
Mendo: Probably a BOMB, but it doesn’t matter. This is one of those movies where as long as it wins some awards, everyone will go home happy.
Julie: Remarkable; a trailer for a psychological thriller that also doubles as a very effective commercial for carpet cleaning services. I was confused! I was intrigued! I spent twenty minutes after watching the trailer scouring Google to find spoilers for this movie, so I’d know the secret in advance. Now if that’s not the sign of an impending hit, I don’t know what is. HIT!
Thomas R: Psychological horror has always been Aronofsky’s strongest point, but this particular setup requires a certain slow-burning subtlety that he most definitely doesn’t have. Still, it’s nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer again, and if Aronofsky goes for all-out Noah-style madness, this could at worst become a high camp classic. It’ll probably suffer from It’s residual box-office power, but I’m going to call this one a minor HIT.
Jordon: I don’t know who named this movie, but Jennifer Lawrence is bank. Her costars tend to be considered reasonably good actors as well. Still, the trailer left me confused; am I going to see a drama or a horror movie or a Black Swan-like thing where Meg from Family Guy goes down on that girl from The Professional? Because one of those, I would watch like every night just before bed. Otherwise, no. This will BOMB, but maybe generate some Oscar buzz for somebody, I guess?
Rick: Horror fans don’t want art, and art fans don’t want horror. Even if this turns out to be a cinematic tour de force, and it may well be, it’s still gonna struggle to sell tickets. Especially when every horror fan and their mother! will be in the next theater over watching It. BOMB.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (September 22)
LEGO’s martial arts-inspired toy line comes to life as teenage kid Lloyd (voiced by Dave Franco) and his five friends are brought together by Master Wu (Jackie Chan) to protect the land of Ninjago from the evil warlord Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), who also happens to be Lloyd’s father.
Thomas S: Now we’ve gone just a little too far, taken one too many trips to the well, haven’t we? I’m predicting a BOMB as this tower of tiny plastic bricks comes apart.
Tyler: I enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie as much as the next manchild, but can we please not have a LEGO Cinematic Universe? I don’t want Hollywood to think it no longer needs to bother pretending its kids’ movies are anything but 90-minute toy commercials. Completely bereft of the previous LEGO movies’ characteristic charm and metahumor, The LEGO Ninjago movie has got to be the most nakedly spiritless, cynically focus-grouped cash grab I’ve ever seen in my life. It’ll still be a HIT, because kids are dumb.
Mendo: HIT. Why not? LEGO’s been on a roll lately.
Julie: Well, you need some movie to take the kids to see this month. And it’s probably not going to be the R-rated one about the killer clown based on the book that notoriously featured a child orgy. This one seems fun and harmless enough, and the first two installments of the LEGO film franchise did fairly well as I recall. Heck, the massive uptick in LEGO Ninjago merchandise alone as a result of this film might be enough to push it into the black. (On a sort of related note: it’s nice to know that Jackie Chan has experienced a career resurgence as the go-to guy for Animated Character with Vague Martial Arts Skills.) HIT.
Thomas R: I’ll admit it: even if the same gag was done much better in Team America, when the cat showed up, I laughed hard. While I don’t know how many times you can keep parodying Campbellian “hero’s journey” arcs before it gets stale, I’m onboard for this and I think audiences will be too. HIT.
Jordon: First, my kids have already told me I’m seeing this. Second, the LEGO movies have been reasonably good. Third, most other child-friendly stuff has cleared out of the theaters. Fourth, children exist. HIT.
Rick: Even the Batman one couldn’t recapture the magic of the original LEGO movie, and it had freakin’ Batman. This one feels like more of the same. Still, it’ll at least do well enough to be a minor HIT.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (September 22)
After their headquarters are destroyed by a group calling themselves the Golden Circle, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Hart (Colin Firth) and the agents of Kingsman journey to America to team up with another spy organization called the Statesman (whose ranks include Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Halle Berry) and face yet another ruthless enemy.
Thomas S: Yeah, now this is what I’m talking about! When stereotypical British spies team up with stereotypical American cowboys, we’ve gotta be in for a good time. This movie looks like it’s going to be a helluva a lot of fun, and with it avoiding the summer traffic jam of movies I’m going with HIT.
Mendo: Probably a modest HIT. Like the first movie, this preview isn’t doing much to inspire confidence, but it might turn out to be just as surprisingly good. Let’s hope they keep the formula of “Mark Millar has great set-ups, but you can jettison everything else because fuck that guy!”
Thomas R: While I’m not a huge fan of Mark Millar’s jokey edgelord humor, the first movie balanced it out with a quasi-Dickensian approach to Eggsy’s character arc that felt sincere and heartfelt. I don’t know if they can replicate that now that his rags-to-riches journey is complete, but either way, I think enough fans of the original will be drawn back to find out. HIT.
Jordon: Put plainly, I considered the first Kingsman movie to be empty, Mary Sue wish-fulfillment nonsense. It made a massive profit just domestically. This is more of the same, but different. It will be a HIT that, once again, I won’t see unless they hold my eyes open like in A Clockwork Orange.
Rick: Huh, I finally know how Chinese audiences feel when Chinese actors and locations get crammed into American action movies just to boost their overseas box office. Even so, writer/director/producer Matthew Vaughn’s childlike glee that he gets paid to make these kinds of unabashedly cheesy action-comedies is kind of infectious. Looks like fun. HIT.
American Made (September 29)
Doug Liman directs the true story of a commercial airline pilot (Tom Cruise) who’s recruited by the CIA to run reconnaissance missions to Panama and deliver guns to the Contras, and along the way decides to start up a side business running cocaine for the Medellin Cartel.
Thomas S: Honestly, this is the sort of movie Tom Cruise should be making, not that Mummy crap or another Mission: Impossible film. The man is a decent actor, and while this might go against the grain, I’m thinking this film is going to be a modest HIT.
Tyler: The budget’s on the high side for this kind of picture, but a Tom Cruise vehicle is rarely a bad bet. He’s one of the few actors left with the kind of old-Hollywood star power that can propel a listless farce like The Mummy past the $400M mark; breaking even on a movie that looks halfway interesting should be no sweat. HIT.
Mendo: I believe I’ve said before on this site that almost every movie with “American” in the title is universally horrible, but this looks pretty good! Our Lord and Savior Tom Cruise doing a riff on Johnny Depp in Blow? Sign me up! I hope it’s a HIT, because Cruise could use one these days.
Julie: Top Gun: The Golden Years? 30 years later and good ol’ Maverick is still performing ill-advised flybys, “playing with the boys”, and exhibiting a penchant for willowy blondes with big feathered hairdos. But has America lost that loving feeling for Tom Cruise? Early reviews have been decent for this true-ish period spy piece, which gives off a kind of Catch Me If You Can for 50-Somethings vibe. But early box office numbers have already proven to be tepid abroad, and I suspect we will see the same here in the states. BOMB.
Thomas R: Tom Cruise and American Hustle-style ironic hipness seems like a potentially disastrous combination, but early reviews are actually pretty good. Unfortunately, if the Mummy reboot was any indication, Cruise’s vanity projects are growing too tiresome for American audiences to care anymore. BOMB.
Jordon: On the one hand, this movie has already been released outside the US and has been received well by audiences and critics. On the other hand, the film’s release date has been pushed back 10 months to September of all places. On the third hand, Tom Cruise is fun to watch. On my fourth hand, The Mummy bombed over the summer. I think this may be a minor HIT buoyed by reviews, and Scientologists will probably be forced to see it, so there’s that.
Rick: Remember Matthew McConaughey in Gold? I got burned voting “HIT” on that one. Not gonna happen again. Morally ambiguous protagonists work so much better on TV. BOMB.
Flatliners (September 29)
In this sequel to/remake of the 1990 film of the same name, five medical students led by Ellen Page conduct experiments where they stop their hearts and trigger near-death experiences in order to catch a glimpse of the afterlife.
Thomas S: I’m curious to see how many “DOA” and “flatline” jokes my fellow reviewers are going to throw in here. I’m going to call it: Flatliners will BOMB hard.
Tyler: I was confused by this trailer because I thought we’d already had a Flatliners remake. (I was half right; it was simply titled The Lazarus Effect.) BOMB.
Mendo: Classic case of “great idea/wrong people making it”. How the hell anyone thought Ellen Page could carry a horror movie is beyond me. Not even the prospect of watching her die is gonna drag me to the theater. BOMB.
Julie: I actually caught the original version of this film on network TV for the first time not too long ago. I recall thinking it was improperly marketed as a horror film, when it was actually a pseudo intellectual think-piece on how you can never escape the guilt you feel over the bad things you do during your life, even by dying. (Um, spoiler alert… I guess?) Based on the trailer, I’d venture to guess this film is headed in the same direction, and resultantly, has made the same marketing boo-boo. Except now it’s 2017, and looking at pretty people on the slab doesn’t have the appeal it once did (especially if they are all “dying” in the same dull way). Beep… beep… beeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Time of death: sometime in the early ’90s. BOMB.
Thomas R: Was anyone really clamoring for a follow-up to a moderately successful 28 year-old Joel Schumacher thriller? Somehow, I doubt it. BOMB.
Jordon: The first movie was a reasonably good psycho-thriller. This one looks to be retreading the same ground for… no reason whatsoever. The cast is fine. It seemed always destined for a September release, which means it wasn’t created for the summer. But I can’t think of a compelling reason to see it. It’ll be the Maginot Line between HIT and BOMB. Let’s call it a minor BOMB.
Rick: I freakin’ loved the original Flatliners back in the day, and I think it’s an awesome idea to reboot. Too bad the special effects seem so lame and the horror seems too tame. But hey, a $20 million budget shouldn’t be that hard to turn a profit on, right? I’ll call it a lifeless HIT.
And here’s how we did last month (thanks once again to Rick for compiling this list!):
Budget: $34M | Earnings to date: $16M | Projected total earnings: $17M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (7 of 7)
Budget: $29M | Earnings to date: $15M | Projected total earnings: $25M
Prediction: 86% said HIT (6 of 7)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Budget: $30M | Earnings to date: $40M | Projected total earnings: $55-65M
Prediction: 57% said HIT (4 of 7)
The Dark Tower
Budget: $60M | Earnings to date: $45M | Projected total earnings: $50M
Prediction: 29% said HIT (2 of 7)
Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
Budget: $40M | Earnings to date: $23M | Projected total earnings: $28-30M
Prediction: 14% said HIT (1 of 7)
Plus, last month we had one movie that was too early to call…
The Emoji Movie
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $77M | Projected total earnings: $82-85M
Prediction: 40% HIT (2 of 5)
Final Score: 3 correct, 3 wrong—our worst month yet!
How movies are judged:
- The Agony Booth judges a movie to be a HIT if we project that it will significantly exceed its production budget in domestic (U.S and Canada) box office earnings. Our rule of thumb is +20%, but this may slide up or down based on the marketing budget.
- The Agony Booth only considers domestic box office total, because the share of international ticket sales that ends up with the studio varies not just from studio to studio, but often from movie to movie (although this is less true than it used to be).