Feb 8, 2019
Hit or Bomb? December 2017 movie predictions
It’s December, which means it’s time for the studios to roll out their big family-friendly blockbusters amidst a sea of indie films making their Oscar qualifying runs, but just like last year, there’s a lot less sci-fi and fantasy than you’d expect, because Star Wars pretty much has that market cornered. Once again, we at the Agony Booth are here to make knee-jerk assessments about which of this month’s releases will be domestic HITs and which ones will BOMB based solely on watching the trailers. (Read our November 2017 movie predictions here.)
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The Disaster Artist (expands wide December 8)
James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, a demented genius of vague origins who writes, directs, and stars in The Room, widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made.
Susan: We’ve all sat there, watched The Room, and wondered, “How in the hell did this get made?” Now we’ve got a movie that tells us exactly how. (I mean, there’s a book too, but pfft, who reads anymore?) This has Tommy Wiseau’s blessing, so I’m predicting it will be a HIT.
Jordon: Let me get this straight: secretive director James Franco made a vanity project about secretive director Tommy Wiseau’s vanity project? The description alone brings me pain. The only reason it’s opening in December is to try to snag an Oscar. Otherwise, I can’t see anybody having any desire to sit through any of this, not when they could be watching Star Wars. The production budget is unknown, but it’s probably pretty small. Franco must have saved at least a little money by casting his brother Dave. BOMB.
Julie: Based on a truly awesome book written by the star of the most awesomely bad movie of all time, and starring pretty much the entire cast of Freaks and Geeks… and Dave Franco, at first blush, The Disaster Artist seems like a surefire hit. The issue here is that I’m not entirely sure Franco playing a caricaturization of the caricature that is Tommy Wiseau playing a bastardized version of himself in a lousy film-within-the-film isn’t one layer of meta too far to appease the general moviegoing audience. Plus, the memoir by Greg Sestero actually had a lot of heart. Sestero clearly genuinely likes Wiseau as a person, despite him thinking the guy is completely bonkers. They’re even currently working together on another film… voluntarily. I worry that this level of heart may be lost in the film’s emphasis on easy laughs. So I’m going to give this one a reluctant BOMB.
Marion: Other stranger than fiction biopics of the world’s worsts have been loved by some, but poison at the box office. Ed Wood and Florence Foster Jenkins both featured iconic performances by beloved stars and stellar supporting casts, so the odds here don’t look good. BOMB.
Tyler: “I know I would appreciate a Tommy Wiseau biopic,” you might say, “but I think he’s too weird and obscure for a biopic about him to appeal to a wide audience.” I beg to disagree: I went to a live RiffTrax performance of The Room and it was so packed I was able to scalp an extra ticket for 50 bucks. HIT.
Mendo: If a lot of people love this movie, the world would be a better place! Seriously though, am I hearing awards buzz for this? No, it’s not true, it did not HIT her, it’s bullshit, it did not!
Ferdinand (December 15)
In this animated comedy based on a children’s book, a giant but gentle bull (voiced by John Cena) is mistaken for a dangerous beast and ripped from his home. To find his way back to his family, he has to bring together a motley cast of hedgehogs and goats and horses (with voices provided by Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, and many more) to embark upon a zany adventure.
Susan: I want good things for John Cena, Kate McKinnon, and Gina Rodriguez, but this film feels blah and uninspired and we know kids’ films can be better than this. BOMB.
Jordon: Children’s movies aren’t exactly rare around Christmas. At least one more is opening wide this month. What is rare is a movie for very young children. These are kids that won’t be able to sit through all the boring exposition of Star Wars or the terrifying visuals of Jumanji. For them, theatrical releases are hard to find. Ferdinand checks all the boxes for the G-est of G ratings. It knows exactly what it is and it’s been carefully crafted for its market. It’ll do fine. HIT.
Marion: All bulls are Ferdinand. They’re lovers, not fighters. The picadors jab them with, uh, picks to get them angry. The horses are right. It does suck to be the bull. So being on the side of the bulls, I’m going to hope this is a HIT.
Tyler: Forgettable on every conceivable level. It’ll still be a HIT because of people with kids not getting to the theater in time for Star Wars tickets.
Mendo: I’ve been hoping John Cena would take a role that didn’t rely on using his craggy visage as a sight gag (love them, but the Daddy’s Home movies really didn’t make full use of his talents), and since this is a fun kids’ movie in a month where they all get time off from school, I could see this as a HIT.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15)
Picking up right where The Force Awakens left off, Rey (Daisy Ridley) becomes the Luke Skywalker to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)’s Yoda as he teachers her the ways of the Force. Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by General Leia (RIP Carrie Fisher) prepare to take on the First Order.
Susan: HIT. Is this even a question we have to ask?
Jordon: I don’t usually admit this in mixed company, but I didn’t love The Force Awakens. It doubled down on all of the problems of A New Hope: Once again, the whole galaxy was in the hands of one family. Once again, the Empire or whomever built a stupid mega-weapon. Once again, mystical nonsense was both mystical and nonsense. I’m not expecting much better from The Last Jedi. Still, I’m going to see it. So are you. So are all of you. MEGA-HIT.
Marion: Seeing Carrie Fisher gave me a giant lump in my throat, though with digital tech, Leia Organa will be around for centuries. And Mark Hamill speaks! Of course it’s going to be a HIT.
Tyler: Hmm. I have a good feeling about this scrappy little number. I think it just might beat the odds. HIT.
Mendo: I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: could we… not get more Star Wars? I’ll call it a HIT, because of course it will be.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (December 20)
Four high school kids play an old video game called Jumanji, apparently based on the even older board game of the same name, and get sucked into a virtual jungle where they take on the personas of the avatars they chose, becoming Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. And just like Robin Williams (RIP) and Kirsten Dunst discovered in 1995, the only way out of the game is to finish it.
Susan: I’ll give the writers credit for coming up with a new concept for this sequel/reboot/cash grab. This doesn’t have enough of a nostalgia factor to attract the fans of the original 1995 film, but Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan have the comedic chops to keep audiences entertained. I predict a modest HIT.
Jordon: Hey, it’s another children’s movie! Maybe I’ve gone soft, but this looks like a lot of fun. The Rock and Jack Black are both 90% cartoon to begin with. And Kevin Hart seems really happy just to be onscreen. Sure, I miss Kirsten Dunst, but I miss her pretty much all the time anyway. A solid good time that, unlike Ferdinand, won’t repel tweens. After Star Wars dies down, this movie will bring those families right back. A solid HIT.
Julie: I vaguely recall finding the original Jumanji to be kind of creepy/unsettling, and not in a good way, especially since it was marketed as a “family friendly” film. So, when I first heard they were rebooting the franchise, my initial instinct was to say, “Huh? WHY THAT MOVIE?” And the concept of A-list(-ish) movie stars acting like teenagers while running through a poorly CGI-ed version of a jungle sounds more like a semi-clever extended SNL skit than a full-length film. On the other hand, the Rock is in this. And everyone loves the Rock nowadays, right? Plus, every line out of Jack Black’s mouth in his role as “Bitchy Hot Girl” had me giggling out loud throughout the trailer. So against my better judgment, I’m going to call this one a marginal HIT.
Marion: It’s a little Jumanji and a little Freaky Friday, and maybe a little bit too high concept for me. Don’t the youts want to see youts on the screen and not old timey movie stars parodying teens? BOMB.
Tyler: This is the most blatant case of “rebrand a shitty screenplay as a sequel to a better movie” I’ve seen since The Martian 2: Monster Trucks. The worst part is, the CGI looks maybe 2% better than that of the original Jumanji from 22 years ago. I smell a BOMB.
Mendo: I’ll tentatively call this a minor BOMB, just because if I gave a positive prediction to everything coming out this month, people might think I’m some kind of Miss Sparkles and Rainbows over here. I’ll be seeing this, though. Jack Black needs more love!
Downsizing (December 22)
From director Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Sideways, Election) comes this satirical sci-fi comedy where scientists have discovered how to shrink people down to five inches tall as a solution to overpopulation and overconsumption. Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) opt to undergo the procedure to live a more luxurious life on a smaller budget, but Audrey chickens out at the last minute, leaving Paul on his own to explore a strange and new and very small world.
Susan: This looks more clever and quirky than it probably actually is. BOMB.
Jordon: Here’s a movie that’s not for everybody. Alexander Payne is a challenging filmmaker. He likes to push you just a little bit beyond where you’re comfortable. Enjoy Star Wars all you want; it’s not going to cause you to ponder the existential void of human desire and loneliness. I think Payne made a good choice casting someone as likable as Matt Damon. People want to spend time with him, even if they would otherwise be wary of the movie’s premise. It looks bright and interesting and in no way right for the holidays. I think it’ll pull in all those adults who can leave the kids with grandma for an evening. HIT.
Julie: Screw tax reform! Apparently, solving this country’s financial woes is as simple as turning everyone in the lower tax brackets into ants, so they take up less of the rich people’s space. And if the poor folk don’t like it, SQUASH ‘UM! (Just kidding, obviously.) This is a cute concept for a film, and I like Matt Damon (I think everybody likes Matt Damon?). But honestly, how many sight gags where the small household object looks large in comparison to the itty-bitty people can you stuff into a single movie before it gets stale? Plus, if everybody in Matt’s new world is tiny, won’t it comparatively look just like our world? What’s the fun of that? Downgrade… I mean, BOMB!
Marion: Best reboot of Honey I Shrunk the Kids ever! Sure, this sounds more like a one-page humor piece in The New Yorker that’s not really funny in a ha-ha way, but I’ll admit to being charmed. At last, a story for grown-ups, starring a middle-aged Matt Damon, which asks the question: What do you do when you find yourself suddenly without the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, and are forced to reinvent yourself? Been there! HIT.
Tyler: I find this movie captivating in a kooky Charlie Kaufman kind of way, and of course I adore Alexander Payne. I’m just worried that the timing isn’t right. People don’t seem to tolerate weird movies at Christmastime. They yearn for the familiar and comforting. I remember seeing The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou shortly after its Christmas release in a nearly empty theater. I think something similar’s going to happen here, and it’s a damn shame. BOMB.
Mendo: I want to be optimistic about this one, but I’ve seen at least two different movies being sold to me since the ad campaign started, and that approach certainly didn’t do Geostorm any favors. Even odds, but probably a minor HIT.
Father Figures (December 22)
[Hey, remember that movie Bastards that we predicted back in January? Well, it got postponed at the last minute, and is only now being released with a title slightly more appropriate to the holiday season. Which means that 11 months later, we might finally learn how well we did on this one. Here’s the synopsis again, along with our original predictions.] The cinematographer of the Hangover trilogy makes his directorial debut with this comedy where two brothers (Ed Helms and Owen Wilson) learn from their mother (Glenn Close) that she’s been lying to them for years about who their father is. This sends the brothers on a cross-country quest to find their real dad, while hearing more about their mom’s past than they ever wanted to know.
Susan: I didn’t even finish watching this trailer because I got bored of watching Ed Helms and Owen Wilson sputter around. I can’t imagine anyone paying to watch them do this for 90 minutes. BOMB.
Thomas S: Looks like it might be funny, and with so few comedies coming out this month, this will probably be a HIT.
Mendo: I had no idea this movie even existed. Um, HIT, I guess? It’s always nice to see Owen Wilson in a movie.
Thomas R: How many times can you do a “who’s your daddy?” road-trip movie before the well of ideas runs completely dry? I don’t know if Father Figures will provide an answer, and I’m pretty sure people won’t be queuing up en masse to find out. BOMB.
Last month, for the first time ever, we predicted everything would be a hit. Here’s how we did:
Budget: $180M | Earnings to date: $291M | Projected total earnings: $305-315M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (5 of 5)
Budget: $300M | Earnings to date: $198M | Projected total earnings: $220-230M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
Budget: $175M | Earnings to date: $109M | Projected total earnings: $160-175M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
Reality: MINOR BOMB
Daddy’s Home 2
Budget: $70M | Earnings to date: $83M | Projected total earnings: $95-100M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
Murder on the Orient Express
Budget: $55M | Earnings to date: $85M | Projected total earnings: $95-100M
Prediction: 60% said HIT (3 of 5)
Final Score: 3 correct, 2 wrong
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).