Feb 20, 2020
Hit or Bomb? February 2019 movie predictions
It’s a new month, and this one isn’t quite as much of a dumping ground as the last one, but still not a whole lot better. Nevertheless, our box office gurus are going to persevere and again take the time to determine which of these films will BOMB and which will be HITs based solely on watching the trailers. Our soothsayers this time around are Jordon Davis, Julie Kushner, Thomas Ricard, Tyler Peterson, and Rick Lewis.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (February 8)
It’s been five years since the first LEGO Movie and the whole gang is back, including Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett), who now have to face off against the menacing DUPLO invaders from outer space who are out to wreck Bricksburg.
Jordon: I didn’t have high hopes for the first movie, because it looked like a terrible cash grab. Instead, it turned out to be a really fun and touching cash grab. And this one has everything that made the first one great as well. Also, Bruce Willis is listed in the credits as playing Bruce Willis. Sign me up for that. HIT.
Julie: Everything most definitely remains awesome for the recently-engaged-to-a-Schwarzenegger Chris Pratt and his LEGO-ified alter ego Emmet, as the pair venture into another installment of this seemingly surefire successful film franchise. This one is pretty much a no-brainer. The LEGO movies are just pure fun. They always look great on screen. They’re sharply written for adults, complete with wry humor and the always amusingly meta “kids just playing with toys” overarching subplot. Kids absolutely adore them. Plus, they’re films that parents can count on taking the kids to see without experiencing any anxiety whatsoever apart from, “How many massively overpriced LEGO action sets am I going to be forced to by for the little ones after this film is over?” HIT!
Thomas R: While I maintain the first movie isn’t quite as subversive as it thinks it is, it had a freshness to it that set it apart from the blockbuster scene, which may be hard to recapture now that everyone else is trying to copy it. That said, it looks at least as visually creative as its predecessor, which is still fresh in enough people’s minds to make it a modest HIT.
Tyler: The toys are still talking, the visuals are still sharp and clever, the meta-commentary is still meta-commenting, LEGO Batman is still this century’s best movie Batman, and everything’s feeling fine but maybe fraying a bit around the edges, like maybe we’re approaching the edge of how far we can take this whole idea? Whatever. This franchise’s two main audiences (kids and stoned adults) are still firmly in the bag. HIT.
Rick: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU’RE PART OF A NO-BRAINER SEQUEL TO MEGA-HIT KIDS MOVIE! Despite two pseudo-sequels and their diminishing returns, this true follow-up to the original won’t have any problems clicking right into place with audiences young and old. HIT.
Isn’t It Romantic (February 13)
Rom-coms get the metafictional treatment when Rebel Wilson gets hit on the head and wakes up to find that she’s now the self-aware star of a romantic comedy.
Jordon: I’m on board with this premise. I’m a little worried because neither the director, writer, or star really have any solid work behind them. But it’s February and people are aching to see just about anything that isn’t about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I don’t think it’ll be very good, but it’ll be a HIT.
Julie: There was a time back in the late ’90s and early aughts where any romantic comedy starring a B-list or above actress and an “inoffensive” and “good looking enough” male lead was guaranteed to score, if not massive blockbuster bucks, at least enough to make back the cost of production and then some. This was also a time when Netflix was still mainly peddling rent-by-mail DVDs and Hallmark was only showing its “original” rom-coms during Christmastime. Nowadays, your traditional rom-com loving gal-pal has about a million free opportunities, any day of the week, at any time, to see these (let’s face it) not-particularly-good-or-at-all-unique movies on any number of cable and streaming platforms, without having to admit to their friends that they actually watch them. All this is basically my long-winded way of saying that the makers of Isn’t It Romantic have chosen to skewer a genre of film about twenty years past the time when such jokes would be relevant. What’s next, a parody of silent films? This is not to say that the trailer doesn’t look funny enough, and that a certain type of couple wouldn’t get a kick out of seeing this together on Valentine’s Day. I just don’t think that enough people will be willing to shell out actual cash to see this in theaters to make the venture worthwhile. BOMB. Should do great on Netflix though. In about five months.
Thomas R: This would have probably felt more timely back in the late ’00s when romantic comedies still dominated the box office and weren’t yet relegated to being that thing you zap through on Netflix on a Saturday night when you’re bored and there’s nothing else new to watch. That being said, nostalgia and meta-commentary are both in right now, and I Feel Pretty did a bit better than anticipated, so I’m going to mark this one as a HIT.
Tyler: Last year at around this time, we had a movie named after a song from a musical, in which a blonde, frumpy (well, Hollywood-frumpy) woman hit her head and woke up to her perceptions being changed in a way that shed satirical light on chick-flick tropes. This year, we have another. The difference is that this one features a leading actress who’s actually been funny in a movie before. HIT.
Rick: Wow, it’s been a long time since there’s been a really good romantic comedy. I’m not saying this is one, but it just made me realize what a drought we’re in. I want this to be good. I really do. I like rom-coms, and I like movies where modern “real world” people get dragged into fictional universes, and I really like Rebel Wilson. But even if it’s not, there should be enough of a Valentine’s Day crowd to make this a HIT.
Alita: Battle Angel (February 18)
Robert Rodriguez directs and James Cameron produces this adaptation of the post-apocalyptic Japanese manga, where discarded cyborg Alita (played by Rosa Salazar via mo-cap) is rescued by Dr. Ido (Christoph Walz) and given a new life, but soon discovers the truth about her mysterious past.
Jordon: Premise? Check. Actual writer? Check. Director who’s seen a camera before? Check. Jennifer Connelly? Check and check. There’s some uncanny valley stuff going on here, but count me in. HIT.
Julie: I remember once reading about this theory called the Uncanny Valley, which basically states that dolls, robots, and other human-like constructions should look real, but not “too real”, lest their mere appearance will disturb the general populace. I always thought it was kind of BS, until I saw the trailer for Alita: Battle Angel and it FREAKED THE HECK OUT OF ME! For the record, I’ve watched and enjoyed many a film where flesh-and-blood human actors interact with a whole host of “fake stuff” from cartoons, to CGI, to puppets, to audio-animatronic stuffed animals with human-like expressions. But this? No. Just no. The film is based on a Japanese manga, correct? So why not just make her a full-on cartoon, rather than a super-creepy humanoid with cartoon eyes? Was it because they needed it to be believable that a teenage boy would fall in love with her? Riiiight, because no teenage boy in the history of ever has been turned on by a female cartoon character. And for the record, those cartoon characters had certain oversized body parts, too; they just weren’t in the facial region, if you catch my drift. Beyond creepy-eye girl giving me the willies, the trailer just seemed kind of Generic Sci-fi Comic Book Origin Story to me. In short, I feel like it’s the kind of film where a lot of people will be talking in the media about “how it looks”, but very few folks will actually be “seeing it” in theaters. BOMB.
Thomas R: Let’s put aside the trite dialogue and predictable beats for a moment and just look at the symptoms here: Metastasized budget? Repeatedly delayed release? Aggressive promotion, with Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron themselves appearing in trailers to all but beg audiences to come see it? Yep, this is a BOMB if I ever saw one.
Tyler: An unwieldy, tonally confused, $150M+ cyberpunk romp, saddled with needlessly unnerving CGI (those eyes!), that was stuck in development hell for years and finally released in a graveyard month? I had to double-check to make sure the Wachowskis weren’t involved in this. BOMB.
Rick: Those uncanny valley eyes are all I had to see to know this is going to BOMB. Not just because it’s creepy, which it totally is, but because making a live-action movie look like anime is like trying to sell spaghetti at McDonald’s. It doesn’t matter how much people like spaghetti; they won’t buy it there. I’m all for making anime properties into live-action movies, but holy crap, make them look like live-action movies or just fucking animate them.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (February 22)
In this third and final installment of the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) has realized his dream of creating a peaceful dragon utopia, and Toothless is now a leader of his own kind. But then a threat appears and the two must journey to that hidden world mentioned in the title.
Jordon: Yeah, okay. I give up. I liked the first one. I liked the second one. I have to watch something until Captain Marvel comes out. It might as well be this. HIT.
Thomas R: Can you believe this franchise is almost ten years old? Although I kind of find “cute animal sidekick finds love interest” subplots inherently annoying, this looks like it might end the franchise on a suitably epic note. Plus, it’s nice to see F. Murray Abraham still getting work. HIT.
Tyler: God damn, they’re still making these? There hasn’t been much of a detectable marketing push, and it seems like they’re really banking on everyone having seen The LEGO Movie already when it drops. I’m going to tentatively say HIT just based on the past movies’ performance, but I don’t think it’ll do much better than breaking even.
Rick: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! EVERYTHING IS COOL WHEN YOU’RE PART OF A NO-BRAINER SEQUEL TO MEGA-HIT KIDS MOVIE! The only problem here is that they’re lying to our faces and pretending there won’t be a fourth one after this one gobbles up all the money. HIT.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $20M | Earnings to date: $73M | Projected total earnings: $100-110M
Prediction: 75% said HIT (3 of 4)
Reality: Transparent HIT
The Kid Who Would Be King
Budget: $59M | Earnings to date: $7M | Projected total earnings: $20-25M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Reality: The movie who would be BOMB
Budget: $9M | Earnings to date: $48M | Projected total earnings: $55M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Reality: HIT the door
Budget: $30M | Earnings to date: $4M | Projected total earnings: $4M
Prediction: 0% said HIT (0 of 4)
FINAL SCORE: 3 Right, 1 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).