Feb 14, 2020
Hit or Bomb? January 2017 movie predictions
The shitshow that was 2016 has finally come to an end, which can mean only one thing: It’s time for us all to stock up on ammo and shelf-stable foodstuffs and retreat to our bunkers to prepare for the true dumpster fire that will be 2017. But in the meantime, January is upon us, which as we all know is the time of year reserved for that curious mix of Oscar bait finally going wide, obvious duds that got pushed back from summertime/holiday releases, and the rare diamond in the rough taking advantage of a total lack of competition. In other words, expect Rogue One to dominate the box office for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, all your favorite Agony Booth writers are here to once again dutifully suffer through trailers for every wide release coming out this month so we can deliver our snap judgments about which ones will be HITs and which ones will BOMB. And once again, make sure to stick around after the predictions to find out how well we did in our December predictions. (Read our December 2016 movie predictions here!)
Underworld: Blood Wars (January 6)
In the… let’s say fifth… installment of the Underworld franchise, Kate Beckinsale returns as vampire hunter Selene, who must fend off attacks from both the Lycans as well as the Vampires who betrayed her, while trying to end the eternal war between these two factions.
Susan: One time, my college boyfriend tried to sit me down to watch the first Underworld, but I hated it so much that I offered to make out with him in exchange for turning the DVD off. I don’t know how this franchise has enough fans to justify five installments, but unless I make out with every single one of them, this movie is going to be a HIT.
Tyler: It’s the… good Christ, fifth installment of the series that had lithe, pretty vampires stabbing horrendous CG werewolves five whole years before Twilight. (I just thought of a good prank: make a fake trailer intercutting scenes from all the Underworld movies, steal a subtitle from a Resident Evil movie, and release it as a trailer for Underworld 6.) Anyway, this film looks like rubbish: violently blue, wretched graphics, bland lines spouted stiffly by bored actors, and released in one of the deadest movie months of the year. But you can say the same of every film in the series, and they all made money somehow, so I can’t see any reason this won’t also be a HIT.
Thomas S: I liked the first movie, and I actually thought the sequel was pretty decent. And when the third movie was a prequel, I didn’t see it, but I thought, yeah, okay, a prequel is about the only way to go now. And now here we are, the fifth movie, and I swear I can’t remember what the fourth one was about. I’m calling it a BOMB, but only due to the utter indifference I have for this franchise.
Mendo: Probably gonna be a modest HIT like all the other Underworld movies, but I’m more interested in how cool this preview would look under a blacklight! It’s like, how much more black could it be? And the answer is, “None, none more black.”
Thomas R: “I’m finished with this war.” “Well it’s not finished with you.” Normally, I’d be inclined to side with Kate Beck—I mean Selene, but the movie’s already made a respectable $42 million overseas, so it’ll probably make enough money in US and UK theaters for at least one more sequel. HIT.
Joel: Nobody will be interested in the dimly-lit goings-on besides the existing fans of the series (unless the Twilight fanbase starts getting nostalgic for vampires vs. werewolves action), but they’re loyal enough to make this 2017’s first HIT.
Rick: At this point, Underworld movies are made solely for its own cult of fans and screw everybody else. There’s something kind of awesome about that. Yeah, this movie will be lucky to break even at the US box office, but so what? This so-called BOMB is guaranteed to rake in so much money overseas and on DVD/streaming that it’ll end on a cliffhanger with a sequel already in the works.
Hidden Figures (Expands wide January 6)
The true story of three black female mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae) who in the time of segregated workplaces are tapped by NASA to crunch the numbers that help John Glenn become the first American to orbit the earth.
Susan: Look at Taraji pushing her glasses up her nose, all cute and stuff! Look at Janelle Monae sassing that NASA guy, all cute and stuff! Look at Octavia Spencer doing… well, she’s not doing much in this movie, is she? She’s still cute and stuff. This movie is cornier than an Iowan cornfield, but it’s got an audience: black families who want to show their kids positive role models, women in STEM who want to cheer on their historical counterparts, and people who want a cheesy, feel-good movie but are too ashamed to buy a ticket to Sing. HIT.
Tyler: Taraji P. Henson should be a box office draw (hell, even my parents watch Empire), and it turns out that “biopic about a brilliant mathematician” is a surprisingly viable niche, as is evidenced by the success of The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. Despite the trailer’s reliance on clichés from every racially-themed biopic ever made, the advance reviews are good. I’m labeling this one a HIT.
Thomas S: Honestly, this just feels like Oscar bait to me. It sounds like an interesting premise, but I doubt if I’ll see it. Still, I figure it’s going to be a modest HIT.
Mendo: This is another one of those movies (like Loving) where it doesn’t actually matter if it’s a hit, since it’s still going to earn a spot in the rotation of movies kids watch during Black History Month for the rest of time. Maybe some Oscar buzz will change things, but I’m calling this a BOMB.
Thomas R: I admit I tend to be a bit sniffy about historical events being given the lighthearted blockbuster treatment, as seems to be the case here. But it looks fun, and given the current political atmosphere, fun is probably what audiences want in a story about overcoming institutionalized bigotry. I’m calling it a minor HIT.
Rick: Sometimes earnest, on the nose, and even a little smug is exactly the right approach to take when it comes to a feel-good drama. HIT.
A Monster Calls (Expands wide January 6)
In this film based on the children’s fantasy novel of the same name, a young boy is dealing with the terminal illness of his mother (Felicity Jones), harassment from the school bully, and a lack of sympathy from his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) when he encounters a “monster” (voiced by Liam Neeson) who takes the form of a giant tree who tells him stories and helps him fix his unhappy life.
Susan: If I need a good cry, I’m just going to pop in Toy Story 3 instead of watching some pale British kid frolic around with Groot voiced by Aslan. The visuals look very well done, but I think this is a story that would have best been kept to the pages of its book, where imagination can run more freely and no one has to watch Sigourney Weaver do a bad British accent. BOMB.
Tyler: 2016 already gave us a film adapted from a children’s novel about a sad kid who makes friends with a kindly monster. There’s no reason to think this one will do any better. BOMB.
Thomas S: Dibs on the “I am Groot” joke. Anyway, I’m thinking this’ll BOMB.
Mendo: It’s probably not a good thing if the whole time I’m watching the preview, I’m thinking to myself, “The magical-buddy-who’s-a-metaphor-for-your-most-pressing-problem genre really hasn’t gone anywhere in a few years, has it?” It reminds me of The BFG, but that movie shockingly bombed, so this will probably BOMB too,
Thomas R: It’s grimly appropriate that grief would be such a prominent theme in so many 2016 movies both good (Arrival) and bad (Demolition). Not having read the book, I can’t judge the story as presented, but it looks like a good enough balance of serious and whimsical to appeal to all ages. HIT.
Rick: You know who loves weepy melodramas? Ten-year-old boys! No? Oh, then BOMB.
Silence (Expands wide January 6)
In Martin Scorsese’s latest (and also a passion project he first talked about over 25 years ago), Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play two 17th century Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who travel to Japan to rescue their mentor (Liam Neeson), but instead are subjected to persecution and torture.
Susan: Aw man, Marty’s hit the motherlode here: fangirls who love Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, and zealous Christians who are going to flock to this like it’s Passion of the Christ. Plus, it’s mega Oscar bait. HIT.
Tyler: Martin Scorsese’s hit-and-miss at the box office. For every Wolf of Wall Street on his resume, there’s a Hugo, and for every The Departed there’s a Bringing Out the Dead. This trailer, though, looks absolutely stunning and I really want it to be a hit. Given that it was made on a relatively modest budget, and given that Andrew Garfield is riding a crest of good buzz for his performance in Hacksaw Ridge, I have hope. Tentative HIT.
Thomas S: Hm, this is a potentially politically charged movie. We have a film where the Japanese might be portrayed as villains and it’s about Christian persecution. It’s going to generate a lot of sizzle, but will there be steak? I’m thinking yes, and this will be a HIT.
Mendo: A film critic I’ve really come to hate in recent years has called this one of Scorsese’s weakest, and while I want him to be wrong, the preview suggests that this movie will be a lovingly crafted, beautifully shot snoozefest. Plus, do we really need another Jesus movie? Christ, we’re getting a romantic comedy with Shawn Michaels in it a few months from now! Yes, D-Generation X’s Shawn “The Heartbreak Kid” Michaels is playing the sidekick in a Christian romantic comedy. And as batshit as that is, that fact is infinitely more interesting than this trailer. Still, if the budget isn’t too high, I’m predicting a modest HIT.
Thomas R: Scorsese struggling with his Catholic faith usually yields beautiful and profound cinema, so I’m quite looking forward to this, even if Adam Driver’s accent sounds a little off. However, it might be a little too dark and gloomy for faith-based audiences, and mainstream audiences will be too busy flocking to A Monster Calls, so unless Oscar buzz gives it a boost, I’m predicting a narrow BOMB.
Rick: Oppressed Christian torture porn? There’s a disturbingly large voter base movie audience that’s super into this stuff. HIT.
Monster Trucks (January 13)
A high school student builds a truck out of salvaged parts, only to discover a strange tentacled creature has taken up residence inside the vehicle, using its own body as the engine, thus turning it into a literal “monster truck”. Originally slated for a May 2015 release, the studio has already lowered its quarterly earnings forecast due to the expected poor performance of this movie.
Susan: Wasn’t this the movie that was based on an idea by a 4 year old? Enough said. BOMB.
Tyler: This trailer baffles me. This razor-thin concept might have been successfully stretched into a 70-minute direct-to-Netflix film for undiscerning six-year-olds. Instead, it got a wide theatrical release and a budget of 125 million real U.S. dollars. It reminds me of Small Soldiers, in that it provides compelling evidence of an entire movie studio’s possession by brain-switching aliens, but whereas Small Soldiers is one of my favorite films of all time, Monster Trucks looks dreadful. Obvious BOMB.
Thomas S: This will be a monster BOMB. Moving on.
Mendo: Everyone’s predicting this will BOMB, and I see no reason to disagree, but can we take a moment to appreciate the fact that this movie got made at all? It’s like there’s a little bit of magic still left in the world!
Thomas R: Well, I may have lost a few dozen brain cells just from watching this trailer, but I’m glad at least someone in Hollywood got to fulfill their dream of combining Transformers with Doug’s 1st Movie. BOMB.
Joel: The most unwelcome literal visualization of a pun in a movie since “bridge on the captain”. And the vehicular computer graphics are worse than the light cycles the director animated for Tron. BOMB.
Rick: The studio is already warning that it’s going to take a $115 million bath on this $125 million movie. That’d put it at #9 on the all-time biggest list of BOMBs, between Speed Racer and Heaven’s Gate.
Sleepless (January 13)
Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) is a Las Vegas cop being investigated by internal affairs officer Michelle Monaghan. After a drug bust gone bad, the mob decides to personally target Downs for payback, kidnapping his son, and now Downs will have to rescue his son and take down organized crime and evade corruption charges all in one sleepless night.
Susan: In the trailer, Gabrielle Union asks, “What is going on?” through gritted teeth, and that was my exact reaction to this trailer. It’s like Taken, but then also Fast and the Furious, and then Lethal Weapon? Let’s just all wait for the Fast and Furious 8 movie and skip this BOMB.
Thomas S: I like Jamie Foxx, but I don’t think this is going to make waves. I’m thinking it’ll BOMB.
Tyler: Destined to be played on FX or a similar channel endlessly during the doldrum hours, ironically providing the background noise for many a Sunday afternoon nap. BOMB.
Thomas R: Oh look, another movie about dirty cops and generic gangsters in the urban nightlife. I love me some Jamie Foxx, but I think most people will wait for it to air on basic cable. That, or just watch Collateral again. BOMB.
Rick: Mid-January for a gleefully ridiculous action flick about an absurdly badass cop? That sounds like a red flag to me. BOMB.
Live by Night (Expands wide January 13)
Ben Affleck directs, writes, and stars in this Prohibition-era tale of a WWI vet and son of a Boston police captain who moves to Florida and becomes a rum-running bootlegger, and then a notorious gangster.
Susan: Ben Affleck likes to direct, write, and star in gritty flicks, but they’re only good if it’s not completely obvious that it’s a ego-driven vehicle for himself. BOMB.
Tyler: Some kind of sorcery has gone on. I clicked the “play” button on the trailer for Live by Night, and the next thing I remember, another trailer was queued up to play. I can give no clear account of the intervening period. BOMB.
Thomas S: It’s an interesting premise, I’ll admit. I don’t think anybody else has done a prohibition story taking place in Florida before. But I don’t think it’s going to be very popular, even with Batfleck in the lead. BOMB.
Mendo: Oh, I think this will be a decent HIT, and not just because every idiot is gonna think from the trailers that this is a movie based on Mafia III. Ben Affleck is one of our most important emerging directors at the moment, and since I’ve never been one of the rampaging homunculi of the internet who hates him because he’s pretty, I’m predicting that this will be the true start of a hot streak for him, where he’s as successful commercially as he is critically. You heard it here first!
Thomas R: Prohibition gangster epics are kind of passé by now, and while he may have improved as an actor, I’m still not convinced Ben Affleck has enough gravitas to carry one. BOMB.
Rick: They keep making these 1920s gangster movies, and people keep not watching them. BOMB.
Patriots Day (Expands wide January 13)
Based on the true story of the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon. Mark Wahlberg plays police sergeant Tommy Saunders (a fictional composite character) who helps victims at the scene of the bombing, investigates in the aftermath, and joins the manhunt to apprehend the Tsarnaev brothers.
Susan: Despite it being almost four years after the fact, it still feels too soon to do a movie about the Boston bombings, but Marky Mark is on a hot streak of based-on-a-true-story disaster films. Thankfully, Patriots Day appears to handle the subject matter respectfully, but not so respectfully that it becomes a snoozefest like Sully. HIT.
Tyler: No way this’ll go wrong. A based-on-a-true-story flick with Mawky Mawk stickin’ it to terrorists? The American Sniper/Lone Survivor crowd will eat it up. HIT.
Mendo: Oh Lord, that preview wasn’t a dream, was it? BOMB. Just… BOMB…
Thomas R: Looks about as subtle and sober a film about the bloodiest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 as you’d expect from the director of Battleship. So naturally, expect this to be a #1 box-office HIT.
Rick: They keep making these true story disaster movies, and people keep not watching them. BOMB.
The Founder (January 20)
Michael Keaton is Ray Kroc, a milkshake machine salesman who gets word of an extremely popular burger joint called McDonald’s, and eventually acquires the restaurant and turns it into a fast food chain and then into a multi-billion dollar empire.
Susan: Michael Keaton is a lean, mean Hamburglar and I know I should hate him for stealing McDonald’s away from Ron Swanson and his brother, but instead, I want to give him my money. In exchange for french fries, of course. HIT.
Thomas S: Okay, this movie looks really, really good. Keaton looks like he’s on top of his game here, and with the new Spider-Man coming out this summer, I’m thinking this is gonna be his year. HIT.
Mendo: This one I’ve been looking forward to with some interest, and not just because it looks like a more interesting version of The Master. (Whether you like a movie that talks smack about Scientology or not, can we all agree that The Master really ran out of steam in the second half?) I hope the early Oscar-qualifying tour it’s done so far does right by my boy Michael Keaton, being as he should have won for Birdman and all. Modest HIT!
Thomas R: I had plenty of reasons to be skeptical about a Hollywood biopic about the guy who made McDonald’s the international face of American global capitalism, not least of which is the guy responsible for The Blind Side in the director’s chair. And then Michael Keaton opened his mouth and I suddenly forgot all those reasons. HIT.
Rick: This movie reportedly cost about the same as a Big Mac to make. Therefore, HIT. (Big Macs cost $7 million, right?)
Split (January 20)
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest directorial effort stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man suffering from multiple personality disorder who abducts three teenage girls. As the girls are held captive, they get acquainted with all of Kevin’s many personalities, though things get freaky when Kevin manifests a brand new personality known only as “the Beast”.
Susan: The twist better not be that they’re all dead all along or the trees are killing everyone, because this actually looks good. I think James McAvoy’s performance might be enough to cancel out any of M. Night’s blunders, so I cautiously say it will be a HIT.
Tyler: M. Night Shyamalan’s having a bit of a career renaissance since The Visit, after spending a decade as the poster child for “huge decline after an excellent debut” (though Neil Blomkamp is trying his best to top him). James McAvoy looks compellingly creepy, but the goofy premise, unfavorable release date, and the memory of After Earth are working against it. Tentative BOMB.
Thomas S: An M. Night Shyamalan movie? BOMB.
Mendo: (To the tune of the Tetris theme song) HIT. HIT-HIT-HIT. HIT-HIT-HIT. HIT-HIT-HIT. HIT-HIT-HIT. HIT-HIT. HIT. HIT. HIT! HIT! Sorry. M. Night’s been born-again as a maker of cheapo gonzo horror hits, and this is one Video Nasty I’m looking forward to adding to my collection.
Thomas R: Has M. Night Shyamalan finally realized the comic absurdity inherent in so many of his movies and decided to go for black comedy? I certainly hope so, because James McAvoy looks to be reaching Nicolas Cage-levels of over-the-top craziness here. Given the small budget and positive word-of-mouth, I’m inclined towards HIT.
Joel: For a brief moment, the trailer is grippingly suspenseful… and then McAvoy’s acting becomes a self-parody of an M. Night Shyamalan role. Shyamalan has made something of a comeback with The Visit and Wayward Pines, but McAvoy’s schtick and the multiple personalities gimmick play into all of his worst tendencies. This will be received more like something from the 13 years they skip over during the trailer when they list Shyamalan’s movies. BOMB.
Rick: James McAvoy’s performance looks amazing. Everything else about the movie looks like shit. But who cares when it only cost $5 million to make? HIT.
xXx: Return of the Xander Cage (January 20)
The much delayed third installment of the xXx series (State of the Union came out in 2005), Return of Xander the Cage finds Vin Diesel reprising his role as an extreme sports enthusiast turned secret agent, as he tries to stop a super villain from acquiring an unstoppable weapon.
Susan: In the modified words of Lucille Bluth, “I don’t understand the trailer and I won’t respond to it.” Let’s just wait for Fast 8, everyone. BOMB.
Tyler: This looks astoundingly dumb, which is entirely to be expected, but moreover, it’s been so long since we’ve had an xXx film (and even longer since we had one featuring Vin Diesel) that the brand may have gone stale. But since finding out that the cast includes both Rogue One’s Donnie Yen and Tony Fucking Jaa, I’m now confident that The xXx: Return of Xander Cage will clean up in Asia. HIT.
Thomas S: I confess I loved the first xXx movie, in part because it poked fun at what had begun to be a very tired James Bond franchise. I never saw the second one because they got rid of a big reason why the first worked: Vin Diesel. With him back, I think this will be at least a modest HIT.
Mendo: Damn, I used my Tetris joke too early. Anywho, Vin Diesel’s on a hot streak of his own lately, and I see no reason why another movie featuring the beloved character who made him the star he is today could be anything other than a HIT. Oh sure, some people claim Riddick is his signature character, but these people are going to Hell for lying. Here’s to the return of extreme sports in action movies (other than parkour)!
Thomas R: I’ve never seen the xXx movies, but my impression is that they were deeply steeped in that late ’90s/early ’00s obsession with exxxxtreme sports, much like the Fast & Furious franchise. However, whereas those movies have stayed relevant by focusing on team-building and heists, this franchise doesn’t appear to have evolved that much. BOMB.
Joel: Who expected Vin Diesel’s Fast Five to be a breakout hit? But this time, there’s no Dwayne Johnson (who’s busy showing how to make an otherwise-dubious revival look promising in the Baywatch trailer), and the stunts are conspicuously less spectacular than the first xXx. And, well, it’s being dumped in January after being made a decade too late. BOMB.
Rick: Vin Diesel is back! And he’s ready to do to this franchise what he did to The Last Witch Hunter. BOMB.
Bastards (January 27)
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 Bastards will provide an answer, and I’m pretty sure people won’t be queuing up en masse to find out. BOMB.
A Dog’s Purpose (January 27)
Based on the bestselling novel, we follow one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) through his lifetime, and then through his subsequent lifetimes via a series of reincarnation cycles, as he teaches a succession of human companions (Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, and many more) how to laugh and love.
Susan: Okay, I will admit that I saw this trailer, described it to my roommate, and we both said “aww”, with at least 16 Ws. There’s more than enough dog lovers out there to make this a HIT.
Tyler: This insipid hunk of mawkish blubber is the official sign that we’ve reached peak Josh Gad. Dump this vomitous treacle on the Hallmark Channel where it belongs. BOMB.
Thomas S: This one looks a little too syrupy sweet for my tastes. BOMB.
Mendo: So, The Three Lives of Thomasina, then? BOMB.
Thomas R: I have a theory that this project came about after someone created a Facebook algorithm that combined every inspirational post ever made involving dogs and somehow managed to dramatize it. For that reason alone, I predict a modest HIT.
Rick: It’s a schmaltzy Hallmark card of a movie, except with a dog that dies every 10 minutes. They’re not just tugging at your heart strings; they’re wrapping them around your neck and choking you out with them. BOMB.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (January 27)
In the… let’s say sixth… installment of the Resident Evil franchise, Milla Jovovich is back as Alice in what promises to be the conclusion of this series based on the Capcom video games. To defeat the undead, Alice must return to where it all began, and face off against the Umbrella Corporation as it gathers it forces for one last strike against humanity.
Thomas S: Oh, Jesus Christ, please let it be true that this is the last movie in the franchise. Please let the nightmare end. Who the fuck goes to see this garbage? Please let it BOMB… BOMB… BOMB!
Mendo: This will not be the final movie. No movie with “Final” or “Last” in the title is ever the end of a franchise. Modest HIT.
Thomas R: “I can’t remember much before all this started.” You’re not the only one, buddy. And unless this one ends with the entire galaxy imploding or something, I don’t think any of us are going to ever remember a time when the latest film in the Resident Evil franchise wasn’t an inexplicable HIT.
Rick: Do you live in the US? Then you probably gave up on this shit like four movies ago. But the last two films made 80% and 82% of their total revenue outside our borders. Hey, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but like the newest Underworld movie (above), it means a meek BOMB at the domestic box office.
And finally, here’s how we did last month with our December predictions. (Special thanks to Rick for compiling this list!)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Prediction: 100% said HIT (6 of 6)
Prediction: 100% said HIT (6 of 6)
Prediction: 84% said HIT (5 of 6)
Prediction: 60% said HIT (3 of 5)
Prediction: 33% said HIT (2 of 6)
Office Christmas Party
Prediction: 33% said HIT (2 of 6)
Reality: Racking up a likely total in the neighborhood of $55 million on a $45 million production budget (not including marketing) is not what we’d call a hit, but “bomb” isn’t quite right either. “Bubble” seems to be the most accurate word. But that’s not how the game is played, so we’ll be generous and call this a HIT, barely.
Prediction: 17% said HIT (1 of 6)
Reality: Another one right on the bubble (likely around $45 million on a $38 million production budget). Once again, HIT, kind of, sort of, barely.
Prediction: 17% said HIT (1 of 6)
Total: 5 correct, 3 wrong (but 2 of those were barely hits).