Feb 7, 2020
Hit or Bomb? December movie predictions
It’s that time again where we predict the success of upcoming films based solely on a single, half-interested viewing of each movie’s trailer. December is the time of the year that brings yule tidings, whatever the hell those are, along with the studio’s most family-friendliest blockbusters and their most Oscar-batiest of awards contenders. The release of another Star Wars film is imminent and looms large over this month’s releases, but there are still plenty of other films vying for your hard-earned ticket dollars this December.
And make sure to stick around after the predictions to find out how well we did in our November predictions. (Read our November movie predictions here!)
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Office Christmas Party (December 9)
An uptight CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close down the company branch where her hard-partying brother (T. J. Miller) works, so he rallies his fellow co-workers (Jason Bateman, Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance, Vanessa Bayer, and many more) to throw an epic office Christmas party to impress a potential client and save all their jobs.
Jonathan: A pretty good premise, but the same sort of crud humor and dialogue that we’ve seen a million times before… And unfortunately, these things somehow always make money. HIT.
Julie: As if it didn’t sufficiently suck that we all have to attend our own office Christmas parties every year to ensure job security. (Because if you don’t go, you’re supposedly like “not a team player” or something?) But, hey, at least we technically get compensated for enduring those. Now Paramount wants us to pay $13.95 to attend somebody else’s? Pass, and BOMB!
Thomas R: You know, for a comedy that’s trying to advertise itself as wild fun, Office Christmas Party is a remarkably boring title. It probably won’t help the movie’s chances at the box office, as I think people are past the “Hangover/Project X-style R-rated comedy” phase, although the presence of McKinnon and Aniston might help a bit. I’m gonna call this a tentative BOMB.
Joel: The trailer makes it look a lot less fun than an actual party, an actual Christmas, or an actual office. BOMB.
Thomas S: This actually looks like it could be fun as hell. I’m going with HIT because everybody needs a break from the holiday films and Oscar whoring vanity projects.
Rick: Damn it, Jason Bateman! I’ve been a huge fan since It’s Your Move, but you suck at picking movie scripts, especially when playing against type as a party boy. At least your ersatz son Michael Cera understood he was a one-trick pony and played up to it. Another BOMB for you!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)
The first standalone Star Wars film takes us back to a story told in the opening crawl of Episode IV, as a group of rebel fighters (led by Felicity Jones) band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon. Also: Darth Vader!
Jonathan: Seems like an improvement on The Force Awakens in terms of quality, and while I doubt it will be anywhere near as good as the originals, it’ll still provide more genuine positive nostalgia than its predecessor. (Also, reviewer dibs.) HIT.
Julie: This is an easy one. This movie could have been nothing more than Yoda and Chewbacca discussing the frustrations of constipation for two hours, and just because the words “Star Wars” are in the title, it would have been a hit anyway. But will it actually be good? That remains to be seen. Rogue One has all the ingredients Star Wars fans expect in a franchise film: perfect placement in the Star Wars timeline, prior to the much beloved original trilogy, but after the slightly-less-than-beloved prequel trilogy? Check. Plucky, tough, and snarky but also objectively attractive lead female? Check. Hot broody male foil for said female? Check. Adorable robots who say the darnedest things? Check. Darth Vader? Check. Obligatory shots of the elaborate explosion/demolition of futuristic looking space ships? Check. But I think deep down, what really appeals to people most about the Star Wars franchise is that, at its core, it’s just so gosh-darn earnest and hopeful in its belief that, though it may take a few movies to accomplish, good will always inevitably triumph over evil. Light will ultimately win out over dark. And given recent events of late 2016, can’t we all use a little bit of that right now? HIT!
Thomas R: A non-Force-sensitive female protagonist? A glimpse at everyday life under the Empire? A diverse crew of people from different walks of life? Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, and Ben Mendelsohn in the cast? I’m really excited about the possibilities offered up by this one. It goes without saying that this will be a massive HIT.
Joel: Filling in the gaps in the Star Wars timeline nobody was asking to be filled? A backstory whose ending is literally the opening text crawl of the original Star Wars? And remember how excited the fans were to see Jabba the Hutt again in Phantom Menace? Of course the fandom will show up, if only to find stuff to nitpick. HIT.
Thomas S: Yeah, it’s gonna be a HIT regardless of how I think or feel about what the franchise has become.
Rick: A nymphomaniac at prom on her birthday is less of a sure thing. Samantha from Sex and the City on ecstasy at Burning Man is less of a sure thing. Your mom is less of a sure thing. HIT.
Collateral Beauty (December 16)
Will Smith is an ad executive who’s despondent over losing a child. He decides to seek answers from the universe by writing letters, not to people, but rather to the concepts of love, time, and death. To his surprise, he actually gets a response, as well as personal visits from Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Death (Helen Mirren), who help him understand that everything is connected and the world is full of meaning and beauty.
Jonathan: Will Smith’s last movie Concussion didn’t seem to impress many people, and this one looks ten times more cringe-worthy and self-indulgent. BOMB.
Julie: Initially, I was getting a serious Seven Pounds vibe off of this Will Smith vehicle with a maudlin Oscar bait premise, which is attempting to affirm life by putting its protagonist in a situation where he’s forced to contemplate the true nature of mortality. And that’s not a good thing. (If you’ve never heard of Seven Pounds, don’t worry. You aren’t missing much.) There was a time, not too long ago, when the Will Smith name alone could sell a film. Unfortunately for him, that time has passed. That said, I was moved in spite of myself by the unique premise of this film, its genius of casting big name actors as Love, Death, and to a lesser extent, Time, and the boxes of Kleenex I will inevitably eviscerate six months from now when I watch this film on demand during my time of month and use it as an opportunity to aggressively emote. For this (admittedly embarrassing) image of myself alone, I’m calling this film a HIT, perhaps against my better (and less hormonal) judgment.
Thomas R: Wow. This looks so diabetes-inducingly treacly, so completely lacking in irony or self-awareness, so earnestly convinced of its “heartwarming” and “inspirational” nature, that I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t some sort of stealth parody. It’ll likely suffer from competition with Rogue One, but should otherwise do okay. HIT.
Joel: Where can I address a letter to Time to ask for two and a half minutes of it back? BOMB.
Thomas S: This actually looks like an interesting movie. But unfortunately, I think it’s going to BOMB.
Rick: Somebody watched Inside Out and thought, “Yeah, so, that was okay, I guess, but what if we made it so effing self-serious that people wanted to simultaneously vomit and gouge their own eyes out? That would be awesome, right?” BOMB.
Assassin’s Creed (December 21)
In this film based on the Ubisoft video game franchise, a criminal (Michael Fassbender) is saved from execution by the powerful Templar organization. He’s then exposed to technology that unlocks his “genetic memories”, allowing him to experience the adventures of his 15th Century ancestor who belonged to a secret society of assassins in the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
Jonathan: Eh. Looks like cheesy fun. And it has been reasonably anticipated. On the other hand, it’ll be competing with Rogue One, so… cautious HIT.
Julie: Dammit! See? This is why I’m so bad at this game! I’m clearly not the target audience for this film, as I have boobs, and the last video game I played had “Super Mario” in the title. I liked the Game of Thrones-esque timeline and scenery for this film, and I think Michael Fassbender is kind of sexy. But I was put off by the super anachronistic Kanye West soundtrack and the prosaic fight sequences in this trailer. Not to mince words, but I was honestly kind of bored by the whole thing. So I’m going to say BOMB. But it’s entirely possible that gamers, action film lovers, and ardent Kanye West fans will make me look like a total asshat in the coming weeks for making this prediction.
Thomas R: I’ve never really played the games, but I understand the appeal of Assassin’s Creed lies in exploring great cities’ history and affecting events related to them. So why does the movie look and sound so grimly self-serious? I’ve really liked Justin Kurzel’s films in the past, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to set a new bar for movies based on video games here. It may draw in enough fans of the game to turn a profit, but it should be a BOMB in the long run.
Joel: They’re making so many video game movies these days that one of them eventually has to be good, right? Right? This one’s premise is too convoluted for a mainstream audience, and fans of the video game series already have the cutscenes. While Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich can sequel-ize a video game movie by force of personality, Fassbender comes off as generic as a cutscene CGI character. BOMB.
Thomas S: I’ve never played the games, so I have no idea how faithful the movie is to the source material. That being said, I’m going to say that since most movies based on video games suck and/or fail, I’m going to give this one a BOMB rating.
Rick: There’s a very real chance this will be awesome. That’s too bad, because it slit its own throat with that $200 million budget. That’s an astronomically high bar. It’ll need to rake in cash like a Marvel superhero movie to clear it, and that’s just not going to happen. BOMB, despite pretty big box office numbers.
Passengers (December 21)
A starship is on a 120-year trip to a distant planet, carrying thousands of colonists in suspended animation. A malfunction causes two of those colonists (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) to wake up early, and being the only two people awake on a decades-long journey, they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, dangers soon arise, and they learn the real reason for their premature awakening.
Jonathan: This one looks like it could be really good, and the mystery element has me intrigued. I’m worried again about its competition, but given the time of year and its intended audience, I guess it could succeed, and honestly, I want it to be good. HIT.
Julie: Unlike 2016-era Will Smith, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt actually can sell a film based solely on their names and mugs alone, particularly when that film involves one or both getting naked with each other… in space… amongst billion-dollar special effects and a possible twist ending. Critically, in terms of the reviews, I think this film might end up being a disappointment. Commercially, and in terms of technical awards for special effects, sound editing, and the like, I think it’s going to be a HIT!
Thomas R: I guess it was only matter of time until Hollywood’s two most beautiful-yet-kinda-sorta-relatable stars got matched up together, though I didn’t expect it to be for a romantic sci-fi adventure. It looks a little more plotted than necessary (does there really have to be a sinister secret behind their awakening?), but it should at least be a fun time out. HIT.
Joel: The prospect of being alone on a spaceship with either Chris Pratt or Jennifer Lawrence will appeal to enough people to make this a HIT.
Thomas S: In an era where it seems movie stars play less of a factor in selling a movie than ever, will Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt’s visibility be a factor in this movie’s success? I’d have to say “yes”. I’m calling this movie a HIT.
Rick: This is a gorgeous movie with gorgeous people, but is it a romance or a disaster flick? Are there really just two people the whole damn time? There’s a lot to make moviegoers skeptical of this one. Too many people are going to take a wait-and-see approach and end up not seeing it at all. Mild BOMB, though “disappointment” might be a better word.
Sing (December 21)
In a world of talking (and singing) animals, a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) works to keep his once-grand theater from closing down by hosting a singing competition. The top five finalists are an arrogant mouse (Seth MacFarlane), a shy elephant (Tori Kelly), an overworked pig (Reese Witherspoon), a Cockney gorilla (Taron Egerton), and a punk-rock porcupine (Scarlett Johansson).
Jonathan: Honestly? …I was smiling throughout this trailer. Yes, I am weak. HIT.
Julie: Every Christmas needs a family-friendly film with cute furry characters which won’t make said parents feel the need to blow their brains out due to the insipid quality of most kid-approved programming. Sing is this season’s obligatory Christmas family film. It’s got cute animals for the kids, adult characters and mature jokes for the older set, and adorably clever animated pop song covers for everybody in between. What’s not to like? I figure, heck, if nothing else, the soundtrack downloads from this film on iTunes, Spotify, and the like alone will be enough to put this movie in the black, if it isn’t there already. Not to mention the fact that trailers for the film are averaging 24 million views already, weeks before the premiere. So HIT!
Thomas R: Illumination’s track record isn’t exactly inspiring, but even by their standards, this looks pretty damn lazy; Animated anthropomorphic animals singing the latest pop tunes in a musical talent show with a “be yourself/follow your dreams” message and a cast of celebrities grabbing an easy paycheck? In short, it appears to be a compilation of various stuff people like carefully designed to produce a HIT.
Joel: Enough families who have seen Moana too many times will make this a HIT.
Thomas S: Since this is a kid’s film, and hence twice as many tickets will be sold, I’m calling this one a HIT.
Rick: So it’s like Zootopia, but instead of cops, they’re all on American Idol? Okay, why not? Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets was huge, and this seems to be cut from the same cloth. HIT.
Why Him? (December 23)
Ned (Bryan Cranston) is horrified to find out his daughter’s boyfriend is an obnoxious, foul-mouthed Internet billionaire named Laird (James Franco). After Laird announces plans to propose to Ned’s daughter, Ned does everything in his power to keep that from happening.
Jonathan: While it looks a bit better than Office Christmas Party, it’s still got a sense of humor that just grates on me. BOMB.
Julie: I just wish I hadn’t already seen at least 35 versions of this exact same film in my lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, creativity still earns you points, Hollywood! And it’s important to note that this is coming from someone who actually likes James Franco, and would totally smoke a bowl with him, if given the opportunity. And I don’t even like smoking pot, mind you. It makes me paranoid. And dehydrated. And the munchies it inevitably causes give me indigestion. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, BOMB!
Thomas R: If the film is even half as funny as the trailer, I expect this is a question Bryan Cranston will be hearing a lot of people ask about his agent. BOMB.
Joel: The most unpromising red band trailer since the one for the Vacation reboot-quel. BOMB.
Thomas S: Wow, two raunchy comedies in the same month? I’m going with HIT, as I know a lot of guys are going to need a break from the family this holiday season, and this seems like the perfect refuge.
Rick: Yep, it’s Meet the Parents from the parents’ perspective, written by the same guy who wrote all four Meet the Parents movies. If that’s not a big enough red flag for you, it’s a raunchy comedy where the straight-laced old guy is the hero, not the villain. And if that’s not a big enough red flag for you, James Franco. Look, we all want to love Bryan Cranston, but this is a clear BOMB.
Fences (December 25)
Directed by Denzel Washington from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Washington plays a former baseball player who never got a chance to play in the Major Leagues due to segregation, and who now struggles to provide for his wife (Viola Davis) and son (Jovan Adepo) in the time before the civil rights movement.
Jonathan: Could either be a powerful piece of cinema or a melodramatic dud. Looks like Oscar bait, and while the performances look amazing, the story seems unclear and something about it makes me think it won’t do very well. BOMB.
Julie: Brilliant Oscar bait casting on a film based on a Tony Award-winning play. Eloquent, contemplative, with tear-jerking monologues. This is the kind of film you watch in order to talk about it with your friends and co-workers, just so they think you’re super cultured, and will never guess that you go home every night to watch the Kardashians on E!, pick your nose when you think nobody is looking, or play Assassin’s Creed on your X-box 360. HIT!
Thomas R: I’ve never read August Wilson’s play Fences, but I hope the film isn’t as didactic as the trailer makes it seem. On the plus side, Viola Davis looks to be giving a dynamite performance, so there’s always that to look forward to. In any case, Denzel Washington is one of the last reliably bankable movie stars we have, so expect a HIT.
Thomas S: I have zero interest in seeing this film, and I think a lot of people will feel the same way and stay away from it. BOMB.
Rick: Who bothers to go see an acting tour-de-force on the big screen anymore? Probably just enough people for this to be considered a minor HIT.
Gold (December 25)
In this film loosely based on a real-life gold mining scandal, Matthew McConaughey plays a down on his luck businessman who teams up with a geologist to find gold deep in the uncharted jungles of Borneo. They soon draw unwanted attention from the FBI, the IRS, bandits, and the Indonesian government itself when the gold deposit they discover appears to be worth billions of dollars.
Jonathan: Similar views to Fences. More Oscar bait, with what looks like an amazing lead performance, but I’m suspecting it won’t be a major hit and to be honest, I think we’ve seen this kind of film a few times already. BOMB.
Julie: There comes a point in every former pretty boy actor’s life where they have to play a paunchy, greasy, fifty-something bald dude just to prove they have staying power in an industry that glorifies being a 27-year old with smooth skin, a six-pack, and a perpetual hard-on that doesn’t require a little blue pill to make it work. This, apparently, is Matthew McConaughey’s time. That said, I liked the trailer. It reminded me of American Hustle, which was big at the box office back in the day, won tons of awards, and like Gold, featured a couple of “pretty” male actors uglying it up for the sake of their craft. Hollywood is nothing if not a sincere patron of the paint-by-numbers arts. HIT!
Thomas R: Didn’t we already have a ripped-from-the-headlines Scorsesean crime tragicomedy this year with War Dogs? At any rate, this probably won’t interest many people outside of die-hard McConaughey fans. Insert your own Fool’s Gold joke here. BOMB.
Thomas S: Aw damn, I loves me the Matthew McConaughey, but I don’t think this movie is going to make the cut. With reluctance, I’m saying this one is going to BOMB.
Rick: There seems to be a decent audience out there for these stylized, true-story period pieces about the rise and fall of eccentric, morally questionable men. It’ll do fine. HIT.
And finally, if there’s anything we believe in at Agony Booth, it’s comfy sweaters. But if there’s two things we believe in, that second thing would be accountability. So here’s how we did with our November predictions. (Special thanks to Rick for compiling this list!)
Prediction: 7 out of 7 said HIT (100%)
Prediction: 5 out of 7 said HIT (71%)
Reality: HIT, but only because of its relatively meager $40 million budget
Prediction: 3 out of 6 said HIT (50%)
Prediction: 4 out of 7 said HIT (57%)
Billy Lyn’s Long Halftime Walk
Prediction: 1 out of 6 said HIT (17%)
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
Prediction: 5 out of 6 said HIT (83%)
The Edge of Seventeen
Prediction: 4 out of 7 said HIT (57%)
Reality: Debatable, but probably not a hit, so BOMB
Life on the Line
Prediction: 0 out of 7 said HIT (0%)
Prediction: 5 out of 6 said HIT (83%)
Prediction: 2 out of 6 said HIT (33%)
Bad Santa 2
Prediction: 1 out of 5 said HIT (20%)
Rules Don’t Apply
Prediction: 1 out of 7 said HIT (14%)
TOTAL: 11 correct, 1 wrong, and 1 tie at 50/50