Jan 3, 2019
Hit or Bomb? December 2018 movie predictions
It’s the holiday season and we’ve got a lot of wide releases to cover this month, so let’s get to it. Our box office gurus this time around are Tyler Peterson, Thomas Ricard, Julie Kushner, Jordon Davis, and Rick Lewis.
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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14)
An animated adaptation of the popular Marvel Comics storyline where Peter Parker travels between dimensions and teams up with Spider-Men and -Women of alternate universes, including Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man Noir, and Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham.
Tyler: I don’t have much to say about this movie other than that I initially mistook Peter Parker’s voice actor for Doug Benson, and I should’ve known that was too awesome to be real. HIT, I suppose.
Thomas R: Not too sure about the experimental styles of animation meshing together; some of the movements lack smoothness and feel a bit slower than they should for a Spider-Man movie. Still, it’s been getting rave reviews so I’m curious about this, but I’ve got a feeling this is going to be too weird and confusing for people with less than a passing knowledge of Spidey or Marvel Comics. BOMB.
Julie: Finally, a solution for the film industries’ massive continuity problem of having everybody and their mother starring in about 25,000 Spider-Man movies over the past decade, all with vastly different ages, physical appearances, and personality traits: They were all just alt-world Spideys! Yeah, it is super meta. But if anyone can get behind a meta, super-confusing plot concept, it’s a Marvel Comics fan. Oh, and Spider-Ham needs his own movie franchise like yesterday. HIT!
Jordon: This is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s going to be great. And the voice of Gwen Stacy is provided by Hailee Steinfeld, who is easily my third favorite Jew. Happy Hanukkah, Hailee! HIT.
Rick: I was originally skeptical that anyone but the most hardcore of superhero fans would want to see a movie about an alt-universe Spider-Man jumping into a million other alt-universes. Seems pretty insider-y. Plus, this is the kind of thing DC releases direct to video, but Sony is spending $90 million on it? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But the early buzz is that it captures all the manic humor of The LEGO Movie and is pure fun to watch, so look out! Here comes the Spider-HIT!
Mortal Engines (December 14)
A Peter Jackson-produced adaptation of a YA steampunk novel where entire cities have been mounted on wheels and travel around the world preying upon each other. Against this post-apocalyptic backdrop, masked assassin Hester (Hera Hilmar) pursues a vendetta against Thaddeus (Hugo Weaving), a powerful man whom Hester blames for her mother’s murder.
Tyler: One of my trailer pet peeves is phrases like “From the filmmaking team that brought you X”, which sounds, and almost always is, entirely meaningless. (It’s almost as bad as “presents”, like all those awful mid-’00s kung fu movies that said “Quentin Tarantino Presents”, which always boiled down to “Quentin Tarantino told us this movie was rad”.) It’s always used by movies with very little else to hang their hat on. In this case, we’ve got a cliché-ridden movie with elements of YA dystopia and steampunk (arriving several years too late to exploit either trend), anchored by a bunch of dull pretty nobodies with exquisitely blow-dried hair. I don’t see many people who don’t wear goggles as a fashion statement clamoring to see this. BOMB.
Thomas R: 2015 called: it wants its Mad Max: Fury Road rip-off and YA dystopia clichés back. The dated tropes, the aggressive promotional campaign, the name “Peter Jackson” not being preceded by the words “Directed by”… Everything about this smells of a gigantic MEGA-BOMB.
Jordon: This film looks cool and new and different, which means nothing but bad things. Peter Jackson has spent years developing it, but it’s by a first-time director. It was an expensive movie and it might make its money back, but it won’t in the US. Also, no Jews. I’m rooting for this movie, but I fear it will be a BOMB.
Rick: Did someone not get the memo that YA adaptions are over? And steampunk never even got started? This’ll go the way of the most recent Insurgent, Percy Jackson, and Maze Runner movies and BOMB.
Mary Poppins Returns (December 19)
In Rob Marshall’s sequel to the 1964 classic, magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) descends from the clouds and reenters the lives of the Banks children, who are now all grown up. Along with a lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and a wacky cousin (Meryl Streep), she helps them deal with loss and rediscover the joys of childhood.
Tyler: So Lin-Manuel Miranda’s almost as good at doing a cockney accent as Dick Van Dyke. The nostalgia tugs are just as strong here as in Christopher Robin, but Mary Poppins Returns has the good sense to not seem so desperate. It appears to say, “Buy a ticket or don’t. We don’t really need your money.” That simple expedient will push it to HIT status.
Thomas R: I really want to like this, but Rob Marshall’s post-Chicago output has been consistently mediocre, and there’s little in this trailer that fills me with any confidence this will be different. On the bright side, Emily Blunt seems to be putting her own spin on Mary without resorting to a Julie Andrews impression, and it’s always great to see Dick Van Dyke work his magic at 92. Whether or not it recreates the magic of the original, you can always bet on the sheer power of nostalgia to make this a HIT.
Julie: I’ll be honest, in terms of classic Disney films, the original Mary Poppins never did much for me. For one thing, there was something about the title character that I always found kind of creepy. (Like, why did she have make all the other nannies blow away in the wind to get the job? That seems super rude and unnecessary, not to mention psychotic and serial killer-like. Why couldn’t she just ace the interview like a normal person?) For another, apart from the scene with the cute dancing penguins, I was just kind of bored. Nothing happened… for the entire movie. All that aside, this is perfect family fare for Christmas. It’s G rated. There’s singing and dancing with positive sociobehavioural messages about being “good little girls and boys”, and yes, cute dancing penguins. Also, there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. And let’s be honest, he poops gold. HIT.
Jordon: This movie confuses me. I was never a real fan of the original. Now this one has both Emily Blunt and Emily Mortimer who I thought, until now, were the same person. And Lin-Manuel Miranda is playing Dick Van Dyke, but Dick Van Dyke is also playing Dick Van Dyke? That’s a whole lot to take in. I guess it’ll be a HIT, but only because Disney’s going to make a whole thing out of it.
Rick: Having Mary Poppins kidnap Fred Savage and read him a toned-down PG-13 version of the original Mary Poppins is a bold and brilliant holiday cash grab. HIT.
Aquaman (December 21)
Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), the son of a human and the queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), is called upon to assume the throne and save his underwater kingdom from what surely must be an awful catastrophe masterminded by his arch-enemy Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Tyler: It’s got the right director: James Wan’s schlocky horror credentials are just the stuff this franchise needs to shake off its Snyderian ponderousness. And it’s got the right star: Jason Momoa’s mixture of stolid sarcasm and whooping enthusiasm makes him an outlier among the DCEU Snore Squad. And as the cherry on top, it’s got the perfect mentor/obvious eventual “real” villain in Willem “Human Trollface” Dafoe. HIT.
Thomas R: I suppose it’s only a fitting irony that the DCEU’s last hurrah would come from a movie centered on the guy whose name was practically synonymous with “lame superhero” for decades. It’s giving me Avatar flashbacks, and I’m not entirely convinced Jason Momoa can carry a whole movie, but early reviews are great so mark this one as a HIT.
Julie: I know, I know: Everybody’s hyping this film up to be the Great Watery Blue-Green Hope of the DC Comics film universe. After all, Aquaman is sassier and less asexual than Cavill’s Superman, and less like an advertisement for pharmaceutical anti-depressants than Affleck’s Batman. Plus, the trailer just looks better than those other movies. The color palette is brighter (ie, it actually has a color palette), the special effects are more impressive, and the cast seems to be having more fun. But as a Game of Thrones fan, for me, this is all about Khal Drogo’s revenge. Khaleesi would be so very proud of her Sun, Moon, and Stars. Speaking of which, can somebody get this guy a dragon? HIT!
Jordon: I like it. Looks good. Still, I really wish there was another movie this month with Hailee Steinfeld. HIT.
Rick: What if Marvel had made Lord of the Rings but, like, underwater? It’s not a question I’d ever thought to ask, but I’m pretty excited to see the answer. Praise Warner Brothers for finally forcing its DC universe to give up on brooding and have some fun. HIT.
Bumblebee (December 21)
In this Michael Bay-free spin-off of/prequel to/reboot of the Transformers series, it’s 1987 and a teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld) buys a Volkswagen Beetle that turns out to be the titular Autobot, and soon both girl and robot are being hunted by government agency Sector 7, led by Agent Burns (John Cena).
Tyler: The Transformers franchise is exactly the wrong kind of franchise to spin off. A smaller, more restrained story is exactly what people do not go to Transformers for, and having a standalone adventure would only mean something if the continuity of the Transformers movies mattered at all. Plus, and I can’t believe this wasn’t brought up before, everybody hates Bumblebee. BOMB.
Thomas R: I don’t believe it. A Transformers movie that doesn’t look programmed to decrease humanity’s collective intelligence? A protagonist that’s actually likeable? A genuine bond between human and Autobot? Sincere, honest-to-god emotions? It took 10 years, but it looks like they finally did it. Assuming it overcomes Transformers fatigue (it will), this one’s a HIT.
Julie: I’m just loving how non-Michael Bay everything about this trailer happens to be. For one thing, Hailee Steinfeld, our female lead is 1) wearing a normal amount of clothes for someone about to be pursued by bad guys and monsters, 2) has a delightfully hideous ’80s haircut, and 3) is portrayed as having an actual, honest-to-goodness personality. For another, Bumblebee is getting played up for the adorable hero he happens to be. Also, is this a Transformers movie with an actual plot? Please wait while I retrieve my jaw from the floor. All of this is just my long-winded way of saying I’m rooting super hard for this film to be a hit. So, in hopes of this being a self-fulfilling prophecy on my part… HIT.
Jordon: This actioner is directed by Travis Knight, who’s developed an extraordinary visual style. I’m excited to see what a competent director can do with the material. Still, I wish it had… Wait, Hailee Steinfeld stars in this movie, too? SMASH HIT.
Rick: If you ever wondered what could make a Transformers movie worse, John Cena is the answer. BOMB.
Holmes & Watson (December 25)
Step Brothers stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite for this comedic take on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, who must use their not-very-brilliant minds to prevent Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) from assassinating the queen.
Tyler: In most respects, a more sober and restrained interpretation of Sherlock Holmes than the Guy Ritchie version. Probably won’t be as funny though. HIT.
Thomas R: If this was circa 2011, this would be timely and a surefire hit. Sadly, with the future of BBC’s Sherlock uncertain and the third Robert Downey Jr. movie still only in pre-production, this spoof is about two presidential terms too late. That being said, I did laugh at Ferrell and Reilly’s accents. BOMB.
Julie: If the Spider-Verse theory is true, and every actor who plays the same character is just an alt-world version of that character, I’m choosing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as my Holmes and Watson. (Coincidentally, I think that movie came out around Christmas time, too.) I like Ferrell and Reilly as much as the next person; I just wish they’d find another less trodden-upon literary duo to bastardize. Maybe George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men? Nobody has ever made an inappropriate buddy comedy about them. BOMB.
Jordon: I’m not sure whether this movie will be funny. Ferrell and Reilly have made money before and I’m still not sure those other movies were funny, either. But the director was born in Israel, which is sort of like being Hailee Steinfeld. HIT.
Rick: Hmm, just how lame would it be for me to make a “Hey, 2006 called and it wants its movie back!” joke? About as lame as this movie. BOMB.
Vice (December 25)
In Oscar-nominated director Adam McKay’s followup to The Big Short, Christian Bale gains forty pounds to play Dick Cheney, the former Secretary of Defense and Halliburton CEO chosen by George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) to be his running mate in the 2000 presidential election. Once elected, Cheney quietly sets about becoming the most powerful man in the world.
Tyler: Comparisons to The Big Short are inevitable, but I might actually be able to understand this movie. Everybody’s talking about Fat Bale as Cheney, but I’m honestly more impressed with the fact that Sam Rockwell’s doing pretty much his exact character from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and it just happens to be exactly like President Bush. The only thing that could’ve sunk this movie’s success was a starry-eyed morally ambiguous cheerleading vibe, but from what I’ve read of Adam McKay’s politics—he ruffled some feathers recently when he (correctly) said that Bush was a worse president than Trump so far—I think he’s too clear-headed to fall into that trap. HIT.
Thomas R: I’m not one to judge a performance by the trailer, but all I’m seeing here is Christian Bale performing familiar tics and mannerisms while showcasing the makeup team’s Oscar-worthy work. The rest of the cast look like they’re performing in an extended SNL sketch, but at least they feel more believable. Given the hype, I expect a modest HIT.
Julie: Given all that’s going on with our current administration, it’s become de rigueur to look back at prior presidential eras (George W. Bush’s included) as the Good Old Days. But in doing so, it’s easy to forget how many truly effed-up things happened during Dubya’s presidency. And Dick Cheney was the driving force behind a lot of those effed-up things. (Like, remember the time he shot a guy while hunting? Or the time he spent weeks holed up in some “undisclosed” bunker after 9/11, and no one could find him?) There’s certainly more than enough intriguingly bizarre events from Cheney’s vice presidency to make for a good two-hour movie (and maybe even enough for an eight-episode Netflix series). Plus, Christian Bale is the perfect chameleon to take on this role. The man can transform himself into absolutely anyone, and he isn’t afraid to yo-yo diet to do it. I can definitely see this one bringing in award nods and meriting critical acclaim. But in terms of box office? Apart from him vaguely resembling Santa Claus, nothing about Dick Cheney screams “Christmas movie” to me. So I’m going to have to say BOMB.
Jordon: 100% Grade-A awards bait being released just six days before the 2018 deadline. I would call this a flop just for the crass Oscar nonsense. But it looks really good. Plus, it has Amy Adams in it as Lynne Cheney. Remember the hot girl Jim dated who looked like Pam? That was Amy Adams! HIT.
Rick: This could be a brilliantly written and acted movie, but who’s going to pay money to watch it? Not people on the right, for obvious reasons. Not people on the left, either; why would they bother going to the theater to be outraged at Dick Cheney when they’ve got the current White House to provide them with more than their fill of outrage in real life?
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $52M | Earnings to date: $164M | Projected total earnings: $180-190M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: Momma, I just MEGA-HIT.
Budget: $75M | Earnings to date: $203M | Projected total earnings: $240-250M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: The three words that best describe you are as follows and I quote: Stink. Stank. MEGA-HIT.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Budget: $175M | Earnings to date: $119M | Projected total earnings: $180-200M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: HIT-It-Ralph. (Wait, that sounded dirty. Sorry.)
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $81M | Projected total earnings: $110-115M
Prediction: 60% said HIT (3 of 5)
Reality: Right jab! Upper cut! HIT!
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Budget: $200M | Earnings to date: $134M | Projected total earnings: $155M
Prediction: 67% said HIT (2 of 3)
Reality: You’re a BOMB, Harry.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Budget: $120M | Earnings to date: $51M | Projected total earnings: $53M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Reality: Sugar Plum MEGA-BOMB.
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).