Oct 2, 2019
Hit or Bomb? August 2017 movie predictions
August is upon us, which means it’s time to find out which movies had the great misfortune of being dumped in a month where the prime moviegoing audience is preoccupied with vacations and going back to school. But could there be a sleeper hit lurking among this summer movie season dregs? Let’s find out.
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 July 2017 movie predictions here.)
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The Dark Tower (August 4)
Based on Stephen King’s series of novels where a kid discovers a portal to another dimension called Mid-World and meets a Gunslinger there named Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) who’s locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). Deschain has to stop the Man in Black from destroying the Dark Tower, which literally prevents all Hell from breaking loose on Earth and Mid-World.
Tyler: Stephen King adaptations are usually pretty bankable. The operative word being “usually”. The Dark Tower‘s trailer shows a movie that’s trying to walk a middle ground and will thus end up satisfying nobody. The property is too obscure, too weird, too genre-bendy, and too deep-nerd to gain much traction with casual audiences. At the same time, it’s too loose an adaptation, with too many concessions and compromises to satisfy fans of the series, who will froth at the mouth and trash the film on Cinemascore. BOMB.
Thomas S: I remember when I used to play this game all the time, I ruled at it, destroying brigands and utterly owning my brothers. Still, I can’t see a movie based on a board game succeeding. …Wait, this movie isn’t based on the board game (I can still hear the victory music in my head.. which was just a digitized version of Wagner’s The Valkyrie), but that other franchise? Well, okay, then. The film has the foundation of a very popular series of Stephen King novels, it stars one of the most talented and charismatic stars of our time, Idris Elba, it has a (comparatively) reasonable budget and the trailer makes it look amazing. Combine that with a light month, and I think The Dark Tower will dominate. I vote HIT.
Thomas R: Call it Stephen King’s influence over pop culture, or call it Hollywood hackery, but this film looks so clichéd and generic that McConaughey and Elba’s presence almost make it look like a Funny or Die parody. The number of fans who’ve been waiting forever to see the book adapted to the big screen might give it some box-office legs, but between production delays and a reduced running time (94 minutes), I smell an underperforming disappointment. BOMB.
Jordon: Well, I have no desire to see this movie. The acting looks good. I guess the source material is well-known (or better known than whatever Valerian was). It didn’t cost that much money. But no reviews yet? Not even some early leaks? That is not a sign of confidence. I think it’ll eventually make its money back, but its opening weekend will BOMB.
Julie: Watching this trailer, I found myself trying to pinpoint the last time I saw Matthew McConaughey play an honest-to-goodness villain. The closest I came up with was his vaguely sexually predatory turn as Wooderson in Dazed and Confused (“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I keep getting older and they stay the same age.”) Ever since the success of Game of Thrones, Hollywood has been really hot on bringing super-ambitious literary opuses with insanely complicated plots from page to screen. The Dark Tower series is about as opus-y as they come, weighing in at an intimidating nine books, totaling 4,250 pages that were written by King over a thirty-year period. Needless to say, it’s going to take a really good script doctor to whittle this concept down to something vaguely palatable, given its surprisingly trim 95-minute run time. Whether that Herculean endeavor actually results in a good film remains to be seen. Regardless though, I think enough people will come out to see it to render it a modest HIT.
Susan: This movie has been in development hell for ten years, but maybe it should have stayed there a little longer to find something that would keep it from looking like a generic action fantasy film. BOMB.
Rick: Any attempt to make these genre-mashing books into mainstream Stephen King movies would require so much gutting of the story that the fanatics would never forgive you. So which do we have here—a movie for the masses or the uber-fans? I’m still not sure, and maybe neither is the director or the studio. It’s relatively meager $60M budget may save it, but I’m leaning toward BOMB.
Detroit (Expands wide August 4)
Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow takes on the true story of the 1967 Algiers Motel incident, a deadly case of police brutality that happened in the midst of the racially charged Detroit riots.
Tyler: A major Midwestern city awash in gun violence? White cops shooting black people unjustly and getting away with it? It’s a historical narrative with such contemporary resonance that it sounds invented, but Wikipedia assures me it actually took place. Modest HIT.
Thomas S: Based on the current political climate, I can see this film is easily going to garner a lot of national attention. But will there be enough for people to actually go see the film? Tough call. I’m going to say it’s going to be a modest HIT.
Thomas R: Well, this should be a controversial one. Bigelow’s expertise at building tension is on full display here, but one particular much-retweeted early review has me feeling cautious. Given Bigelow’s clout and the relevant subject matter, I’m going to go with HIT, but it may not be as big as the creators hoped, especially with lingering competition from Dunkirk.
Jordon: Based on the reviews and Katherine Bigelow’s track record, this will be a slow, sleeper HIT. Audiences wont flock to it, but they’ll get there. And then James Cameron will release a movie and he and Bigelow will have to pose together at awards shows and pretend to be happy for each other and then somebody will make a speech about actors of color and pay equity—none of which I’m against, but I can’t live through this again. So, to sum up, Detroit definitely looks like a movie.
Julie: A period piece that takes place during the 1960s, an era that Hollywood just loves showcasing in its films. A historical event that grapples with a highly controversial subject matter, one that is now of increasing importance in light of any number of recent news stories about the increasing prevalence of a certain brand of cop who prefers to shoot first and ask questions later. An Academy Award winning director. Let’s just write out those Academy Award nomination cards now, so we can all go home. HIT.
Susan: Directed by an Oscar winning director, telling the story of a brutal instance of racism in our nation’s history that’s politically relevant… Yep, smells like Oscar bait. HIT.
Rick: I’m thrilled to see Oscar-chasing flicks like this one and Dunkirk coming out in late summer rather than November, even if Bigelow’s race riots don’t have quite the same blockbuster potential as Nolan’s war epic. Still, should be a HIT.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (August 11)
In this incredibly necessary sequel to the 2014 computer animated movie about squirrels and rats and other vermin taking on the mob, Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) and Andie (Katherine Heigl) are back to take on a corrupt mayor, and this time they get help from Mr. Feng (Jackie Chan), the leader of a mouse street gang.
Tyler: Jeeee-sus. There are plenty of movies that are bad, but few are this aggressive about it. There’s a palpable sense of malice in this trailer. I genuinely feel like The Nut Job 2 hates me, hates everyone who watches it, hates the entire medium of film, and hates itself most of all. Let’s not give it the dignity of any attention. BOMB.
Thomas S: “In this incredibly necessary sequel…” Man, I can almost see the sarcasm dripping off that statement. Still, it’s well deserved. No one was asking for this crap, and if we’re all lucky it’ll go away quickly. BOMB.
Thomas R: Like most bad kids’ animation, this looks loud, frenetic, dumb, and obnoxious, but it’s summer and there’s nothing much else for parents to take their children to see in theaters, so of course it’ll be a HIT.
Jordon: I made it through almost twenty seconds of this trailer. The first Nut Job was terrible and barely cleared a profit. The death of The Emoji Movie has given me hope that I thought I’d lost forever. This will BOMB.
Julie: What the heck did I just watch? Is this supposed to be a horror movie about a psychotic band of murderous animated rats? Maybe it’s an environmental conservation film about the importance of preserving our national parks? Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale about actresses like Katherine Heigl, who leave their plum medical drama jobs and end up starring in cat litter ads and providing the voice for animated characters in should-be-but-aren’t-direct-to-Netflix films. I also feel like the “squirrels” in this film look less like squirrels and more like mongooses who somehow got strung out on heroin. In short, I’m afraid. Very afraid. BOMB.
Susan: I’ll put this in terms the movie should understand: just because you pe-can, doesn’t mean you pe-should. BOMB.
Rick: This is presumably in theaters purely to make it more marketable to cable networks and Netflix. BOMB.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (August 18)
Wacky hijinks ensue when the world’s best bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) is called upon to protect his mortal enemy, the world’s most notorious hitman (Samuel L. Jackson), as he travels from England to testify at the Hague while being pursued by assassins working for a brutal European dictator (Gary Oldman).
Tyler: Playing it pretty safe here. Ryan Reynolds snarks, Samuel L. Jackson curses, the straight arrow and the loose cannon snipe at each other like a race-swapped Lethal Weapon, cars crash, punches thud, and maybe the two will grow to respect each other in the end? I will say that, as a certified obsessee of ’90s action movies, I’m really enjoying the marketing campaign’s liberal use of Bodyguard jokes, though I’m not sure how riffing on a 25-year-old movie is supposed to bring in the 18-to-24s. If it were a busier month, this flick would be overlooked, but for August, it’ll be a respectable HIT.
Thomas S: You have three great talents and a humorous premise, but this movie isn’t pressing any buttons for me. Despite Reynolds’ rising stock and Jackson always being a safe bet, I’m going to say this one is going to fall flat. BOMB.
Thomas R: Normally, I’d comment on how much action comedies tend to fail at both, and how unfunny the jokes are, but I’m distracted by the Whitney Houston song. Yes, I get that she was in The Bodyguard and her cover of “I Will Always Love You” comes from that movie’s soundtrack and it’s ironic because they keep arguing but… so what? Where’s the actual joke? Is that really it? In any case, not even Deadpool fans can stop this from being a BOMB.
Jordon: I watched this trailer four times. Then I just put it on a loop. Then I made it my ringtone. There’s nothing I don’t love about it. If there’s any sense to this universe, The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be played before all professional baseball games. A late summer HIT.
Julie: The plot line to this film seems nonsensically ridiculous. But the fact that they played the iconic, yet incredibly cheesy, theme song from the original Bodyguard throughout the entire trailer, including during Samuel L. Jackson’s endless tirade of mother-f’ers, had me giggling during even the lamest of the film’s one-liners. (Can they play that song on repeat throughout the entire movie? Please?) Anyway, it’s Nick Fury and Deadpool in what is essentially a buddy cop comedy. So, basically Frat Boy and Comic Book Fanboy Heaven. HIT.
Susan: It’s Samuel L. Jackson yelling some variation of “motherfucker” every five minutes. Who cares what the plot is? There’s enough 17 year olds to make this a HIT.
Rick: An action-comedy buddy flick with Ryan Reynolds? Looks every bit as promising as RIPD. BOMB.
Logan Lucky (August 18)
Stephen Soderbergh’s latest film introduces us to the Logans, a West Virginia family cursed with bad luck. Siblings Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) attempt to defy the curse with a plot to steal millions during a NASCAR race in North Carolina, with the help of ex-con Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, doing a redneck accent).
Tyler: Wasn’t Side Effects supposed to be Soderbergh’s last movie? That kept running through my mind while watching the trailer for Logan Lucky. See, Logan Lucky appears to be simply a working-class, Southern-fried, #MAGA spin on Ocean’s 11. Coming out of “retirement” after four years with a movie that’s an aesthetic twist on the most commercially successful film on your resume is a real tacky move. And yet, Soderbergh’s clearly having so much fun with this setting, and creating such colorful characters, that the cynic in me has nothing to say about it. HIT.
Thomas S: Well, it’s got a good cast and Craig (who needs to start taking more roles like this, because that Bond stock is starting to rapidly fall) looks like he’s going to be hilarious. And who doesn’t love a heist movie? If this film were going up against serious competition, though, I’d say it would bomb. But with it coming out in August after Dark Tower loses steam, I think it’s got a shot, so I’m going to go with HIT.
Thomas R: Hell or High Water proved there’s a lot of money to be made in redneck heist movies, though I’m not sure whether this movie is laughing with its characters or at them. I love how eager Daniel Craig looks to shake off his Bond image, and preview reactions tell me he might have a chance at snagging his first Oscar nomination. Call this one a sleeper HIT.
Jordon: I’m not going to argue with the reviews. The movie looks great. The actors are well-known. The director is Stephen Soderbergh. This will do well. Even better, it’ll be remembered at Oscar time, where it will lose to Detroit and then there’ll be a whole debate about whether the Oscars have gone too far in honoring black performers and somebody will ask Quentin Tarantino his opinion and he’ll say something stupid and then people will argue about that for a week until Donald Trump pardons himself and North Korea invades Kamchatka just to get a card. HIT.
Julie: From the makers of Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13, its… a redneck remake of Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13, and one with an absolutely awful title at that. Also, does anyone else find it a little weird that Adam Driver has become this Hollywood leading man, especially given that he basically got his start as the guy who peed on Lena Dunham’s character in the shower on Girls? But putting all that aside, I kind of want to see this? It looks vaguely entertaining and kind of fun. The soundtrack is decent. The cast is nice to look at. Summer movies don’t always have to be caviar and lobster to be enjoyable. Sometimes a good old fashioned piece of pizza and a soda can be just as satisfying. HIT.
Susan: It’s like everyone in this cast missed the cut for Baby Driver, and so they decided to just make their own version. BOMB.
Rick: I’ve lost faith in Steven Soderbergh and never had any in Channing Tatum, but the early buzz on this one is off-the-charts positive. HIT.
And here’s how we did last month (thanks once again to Rick for compiling this list!):
Budget: $175M | Earnings to date: $278M | Projected total earnings: $305-325M
Prediction: 100% HIT (5 of 5)
Budget: $30M | Earnings to date: $19M | Projected total earnings: $50-70M
Prediction: 80% HIT
Budget: $100M | Earnings to date: $103M | Projected total earnings: $170-220M
Prediction: 60% HIT (3 of 5)
War for the Planet of the Apes
Budget: $150M | Earnings to date: $119M | Projected total earnings: $140-150M
Prediction: 60% HIT (3 of 5)
Reality: Minor BOMB
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Budget: $177M | Earnings to date: $31M | Projected total earnings: $45-55M
Prediction: 40% HIT (2 of 5)
The Emoji Movie
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $26M | Projected total earnings: $50-75M
Prediction: 40% HIT (2 of 5)
Reality: Too early to tell, but likely to end up a minor HIT
Plus, one holdover from June that hadn’t opened in time for last month’s scorecard:
Despicable Me 3
Budget: $80M | Earnings to date: $230M | Projected total earnings: $245-260M
Prediction: 100% HIT (5 of 5)
FINAL SCORE: 5 correct, 1 wrong (with one still in the air)
How movies are judged:
- 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.
- 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).