Jan 16, 2020
Hit or Bomb? January 2018 movie predictions
Welcome to a particularly barren January in terms of sci-fi/fantasy/comic book blockbusters (i.e., the only movies of interest to anyone reading this). Regardless, we here at the Agony Booth are determined to soldier on and once again make knee-jerk assessments about which of this month’s releases will be domestic HITs and which ones will BOMB based solely on the trailers. Just don’t expect us to brave the weather and actually go see any of these movies in the theater. (Read our December 2017 movie predictions here.)
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The Post (expands wide January 12)
Steven Spielberg’s latest is set in the early 1970s, as the first female publisher of the Washington Post (Meryl Streep) and her editor (Tom Hanks) debate whether to stand up to the Nixon administration and publish the Pentagon Papers, and reveal the true scope of the US government’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
Jordon: Finally, a film that brings together David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. Every time these two get together, it’s satire of the highest quality. This time, they’re turning their jaundiced eye to the Supreme Court case that established the modern doctrine against prior restraint. Hysterical! I can’t wait to see what these comic masterminds do with their take on 1971. It’ll win a bunch of awards. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep also appear. HIT.
Thomas R: While I’m not too sure about Tom Hanks’s “grizzled veteran newsman” mannerisms, Spielberg’s political movies almost always end up among his best, and this one looks at least as good as Bridge of Spies. Trouble is, Bridge of Spies was a box-office flop, and this movie will have to compete with the latest Insidious sequel and the staying power of The Last Jedi. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m going to go with minor BOMB, though the inevitable Oscar nominations should help it make its money back.
Julie: At first blush, it’s easy to dismiss a movie about deciding whether to publish a historical document as way too dry and esoteric/nowhere near sexy enough to put butts in movie theater seats. But films like All the Presidents Men and Spotlight (both of which were Oscar nominated, the latter of which went on to win Best Picture) have proven that with solid scripts, a stellar cast, and standout performances, movies about something as seemingly mundane as workaday investigative reporting and/or business decisions regarding the publication of controversial topics can captivate the public. They can also spark important conversations about the nature of news, and the heavy burden of responsibility placed on those who dispense it. But all that aside, let’s face it: this movie has the trifecta of Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks attached to it. So, basically, just give The Post all the awards right now, and we can all go home. HIT.
Marion: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks act the shit out of this Very Important Movie about the real news. It doesn’t have car chases or cute aliens, the core audience is olds, and most people will wait till they can watch it and/or fall asleep trying in the comfort of their homes. While it will may make money eventually, it won’t do well in theaters, so for our purposes it’s a BOMB, unless of course Trump hate-tweets it, which will only help in some markets.
Tyler: If I programmed a predictive algorithm to create a Spielberg Oscar-bait vehicle, I bet the result would look something like The Post. Unlike Spielberg’s last such movie, Bridge of Spies, The Post benefits from a contemporary political landscape in which its themes appear (unfortunately) very timely. It looks good, not great; it’ll be a HIT, but not a big one.
Paddington 2 (January 12)
In this sequel to the 2014 family film, Paddington the talking bear returns to live with the Brown family in an unusually bright and clean version of London. But then an antique book is stolen, and a washed-up actor (Hugh Grant) frames Paddington for the crime, sending the bear to an unusually bright and clean prison, from which he must escape if he hopes to clear his name.
Jordon: A story of an innocent searching for spiritual freedom after being framed and jailed, this British import is a brave, new interpretation of Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption. In true King fashion, our hero is just a touch otherworldly. Prison gangs, hard labor, rich fantasies, and escape all lay in his path. As always, this metaphor for life itself is compelling and a bit disturbing. Also, it has a computer-animated talking bear. HIT.
Thomas R: I’m not sure how successful the first film was in the US given American audiences’ general unfamiliarity with Paddington, but there won’t be much else to take the kids to in January, so it should do alright. Not that it needs to, given how much money it’s already made back in the UK. HIT.
Julie: I’ll admit I was too distracted by Paddington using his electric toothbrush to clean out his ears, then using the same toothbrush to pick his nose and brush his teeth to pay much attention to the rest of this trailer. I guess I should be relieved that our male lead didn’t his eat his own ear wax this time, like he did in the trailer for the first movie. Why so gross, Paddington? Bear personal hygiene issues aside, the first installment of this franchise did super-well. And there’s clearly a dearth of new kid-friendly movies out in January (see: every other movie in this post). So, I think it’s a safe bet that this movie will also do fairly well financially, whether or not it’s actually any good. HIT.
Marion: Wasn’t it everyone’s childhood fear to be punished for something we didn’t do? Let’s see how the world’s third or fourth favorite talking bear handles that one. Plus, Lord Grantham! HIT.
Tyler: It appears this movie has been released in jolly old England already, and made a pretty penny (or pence or whatever those people use) and that’s good, because it’s going to BOMB here.
12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers (January 19)
The true story of the first US Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Capt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) and his team must learn to ride horses as they forge an uneasy alliance with an Afghan warlord to fight the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies.
Jordon: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been getting funnier and funnier. Now, two of its biggest stars get a chance to show off their comedic chops. Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Ant-Man‘s Michael Peña lead a cast of comics including Man of Steel‘s Michael Shannon and dramatic powerhouse Rob Riggle (playing against type) in a romp about twelve mismatched and underfunded soldiers sent with no supplies or directions into the heart of Afghanistan. Expect to laugh so hard you start to cry about how a badly mismanaged foreign policy led to the wholesale slaughter of some of America’s best for poorly-defined reasons. HIT.
Thomas R: Hoo boy… Look, fictionalizing real wars is always a risky endeavor, but watching the opening act of a still-ongoing war being filtered through Bruckheimer action clichés and pseudo-inspirational taglines makes me all sorts of uncomfortable. That being said, it’s got the tone of optimistic patriotism that American audiences love in war movies, and it doesn’t seem to have much competition, so it should probably be a HIT.
Julie: I can tell that I’m absolutely not the target audience for this movie, because every single war/military mission film trailer looks exactly the same to me. (Though, to its credit, this one did feature Thor… and some cute horses.) Yes, I know, I know; this is an important moment in history, and we need to learn from history, or we’re doomed to repeat it and all that good stuff. But honestly, I just don’t see the masses shelling out the big bucks to watch two plus hours of whatever was in that snoozy two plus minute trailer I just watched. The movie is going to get a ton of play in high school history classes in a couple of years though, so at least there’s that. BOMB.
Marion: Helicopters! Horses! Things blow up! And the hottest Chris! Yes, please. HIT.
Tyler: I have no idea why they didn’t go with the original title of Horse Soldiers. People love war and they love horses. Look at the success of War Horse. Without the emphasis on the horses, it’s just another hyper-clichéd based-on-true-events terrorist turkey shoot that will one day be shown to kids in red-state high schools instead of career counseling. BOMB.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure (January 26)
In the delayed final installment of the Maze Runner saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the boys from the Glade have to solve one final maze, as they break through a WCKD-controlled labyrinth and presumably learn all the answers to the questions we’ve been asking since the first installment.
Jordon: A lot of people are wary of third movies. Are they just another adventure or are they a real end to a trilogy, bringing a story to a full and satisfyingly final conclusion? I can say for certain that The Death Cure is that final movie. And it’s not just because it concludes powerful story and character arcs. It’s because the second one was incomprehensible. Nobody understood it and almost nobody cared. It cost twice as much as the first one and made less. This looks completely insane. Watch the first movie, turn it off five minutes before the end and drip acid, and you’ll hallucinate a better story than the one they made. BOMB.
Thomas R: Does anyone even remember the first two movies? The whole YA dystopia fad has mercifully passed, so I don’t expect anyone other than the saga’s biggest fans will flock to see this. At least Giancarlo Esposito seems to be having fun. BOMB.
Julie: I read the first two novels in the Maze Runner trilogy, and saw both films. I adored the first book, and found the Maze Runner movie to be an enjoyable and fairly faithful adaptation, bolstered largely by Dylan O’Brien’s solid acting skills, and the fact that he’s just so gosh darn likable in every single role he plays. I wasn’t a huge fan of the novel The Scorch Trials, and actually found the movie version, which departed aggressively from the events of that novel, to be an improvement over the written installment, albeit nowhere near as good as the original. The Death Cure, which I’ll admit that I have not actually read, is probably the most controversial installment of the Maze Runner trilogy, due to some not particularly popular choices made by the author in his conclusion of the saga, and the treatment of some of its most beloved characters. Having already departed so far from its source material, the script writers here will have to grapple with these choices, and decide whether or not to include them in the film, which is likely to lead to a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation among fans of the series. From a strictly financial perspective though, I think the producers of this film unfortunately waited too long after the release of the second film to come out with this one. (Though I recognize that some of that delay was inevitable, as a result of the injuries O’Brien suffered during filming.) Many have already forgotten what the heck happened in the last movie, or worse, that it existed at all. So, I’m going to have to go with BOMB on this one.
Marion: Sure, the dialogue sounds like it could have been lifted from every apocalyptic film featuring attractive young people ever, and the sets and costumes may have been recycled as well, but given the box office receipts of the previous two Maze Runner films, this is a surefire HIT.
Tyler: Which are movie audiences more sick of: dystopian teen novels, or zombies? BOMB.
Last month, we were split 50/50 on 4 different movies, so let’s see how that worked out for us…
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Budget: $200M | Earnings to date: $532M | Projected total earnings: $600-650M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (5 of 5)
Reality: Kinda, sorta, maybe a HIT
Budget: $111M | Earnings to date: $57M | Projected total earnings: $85-90M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
The Disaster Artist
Budget: $10M | Earnings to date: $18M | Projected total earnings: $21M
Prediction: 50% said HIT (3 of 6)
Reality: Minor HIT
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Budget: $90M | Earnings to date: $185M | Projected total earnings: $250-300M
Prediction: 50% said HIT (3 of 6)
Reality: Mega HIT
Budget: $68M | Earnings to date: $19M | Projected total earnings: $30-35M
Prediction: 50% said HIT (3 of 6)
Reality: Mega BOMB
Budget: (Shame-faced studio refuses to say) | Earnings to date: $14M | Projected total earnings: $20-25M
Prediction: 50% said HIT (2 of 2) (Although, to be fair, these predictions were made way back in January 2017 when the movie was first scheduled to be released)
Reality: Mega BOMB
Final Score: 1 correct, 1 wrong, and 4 split down the middle
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).