Hit or Bomb? January 2020 movie predictions
Another new year and another January are upon us, and I think by now we all know what that means. Here to predict which of these (mostly long-delayed) films will be HITs (unlikely) and which will BOMB are Thomas Stockel, Tyler Peterson, Julie Kushner, Rick Lewis, and Jordon Davis.
Underwater (January 10)
A team of aquatic scientists (including Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, and T.J. Miller) in a research station seven miles underwater are terrorized by mysterious creatures, and the trailer completely rips off Alien, letting us know exactly what the filmmakers are aiming for. Also, this film sat on the shelf for two and a half years, letting us know exactly how low to adjust our expectations.
Thomas S: Hey, it’s a movie starring actress of the decade/box office poison Kirsten Stewart. This one is going to BOMB hard, and rather than blaming the decision to hire an actor no one wants to see, they’ll probably blame men or something.
Tyler: Old formula with a modern twist. It’s Alien except Ripley is on benzos and bisexual. It’s The Abyss except Michael Biehn got #MeToo’ed. I personally could dig it—the hostile, hemmed-in atmosphere feels oddly appropriate to the Midwest in January—but I still think it’s gonna BOMB.
Julie: Back in 2005, there was a small horror flick called House of Wax (based on a 1953 film of the same name and general concept) that starred a woman named Paris Hilton, a somewhat celebrity of that era, revered almost entirely for her family name (which enabled her to become a wealthy, privileged, if not entirely innately talented, reality TV star). And yet, at the same time, Paris was somewhat maligned by the general public, both for the ease of which she obtained her monetary and celebrity success, and the utter lack of natural talent that she exhibited. In House of Wax, Paris plays a likeable, if a bit gullible, college coed, who meets her demise roughly an hour into the film, due to the fact that the killer adeptly rams a sharpened pole through her skull, while she’s attempting to hide from him. Why am I telling you this? Because House of Wax, which was a terrible film, ended up being a commercial success, partly because an arguably obscene number of males and females lined up just for the opportunity to see the “rich bitch” impaled by a pole on the big screen. So the question of Underwater (an obviously pale, derivative remake of the original Alien) is not whether it will actually be a good movie (spoiler alert: it won’t), but whether the inevitably gory promised deaths of T.J. Miller (AKA the douchey douche who quit HBO’s Silicon Valley because he couldn’t get along with its creators and cast) and Kristen Stewart (AKA the annoying Bella from the Twilight movies and that sexually ambiguous character from the new Charlie’s Angels) will be enough to cause people to pay to see them get murdered House of Wax/Paris Hilton style. My guess? They won’t. This is good news for T.J. Miller and Kristen Stewart (because I think that neither of their reputations is quite bad enough for this level of schadenfreude, which can only mean good things for their respective future careers). But bad news for Underwater, because it looks pretty lame otherwise, so BOMB.
Rick: Wow, this looks incredibly boring for a high-concept horror movie, right down to the uninspired title. Generic monsters chase generic scientists/explorers through generic sci-fi hallways. Who will get out alive? Who gives a crap? I almost feel sorry for Kristen Stewart that this is her follow-up to the disastrous Charlie’s Angels, except then I remember I don’t actually care. This is exactly what modern horror audiences aren’t looking for: unimaginative stories entirely divorced from any situation they might ever find themselves in. BOMB.
Jordon: January. January is not a great month for new releases. Everybody saw fifteen movies over the last five weeks and nobody wants to trek out to anything. If a studio had any faith in their movie, they would have released it during the holidays. And this goes doubly for Underwater. The studio not only didn’t release it over Christmas, but they ended principal photography in May of 2017. This movie has been sitting around fully completed, just getting older for years. And it looks like it was expensive. BOMB.
Dolittle (January 17)
The children’s novels about a doctor who can talk to the animals—famously adapted into a 1967 Rex Harrison musical and a 1998 Eddie Murphy comedy—gets yet another live-action adaptation, this time starring Robert Downey Jr. in his first attempt in years at having a non-Marvel hit. The release date should give an idea of how successful he’ll be.
Thomas S: Please, someone, anyone tell me who was asking for this film to be made? This is definitely the wrong movie for Robert Downey Jr.’s post Iron Man career and I’m guessing he’ll be hoping they can retcon his death. BOMB.
Tyler: For the past few years Disney’s been making the worst garbage it can just to rub our noses in the fact that they’ll still make money. Dolittle, by contrast, is Disney actively trying to lose money, just to see if it’s still possible. BOMB.
Julie: This trailer would actually work really well as a fever dream that Iron Man had while he was stuck out in space at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame. You know, the kind of dream where he envisions himself with a British accent (because he’s always wanted to try one!), and all his fellow Avengers are now the voices of his new animal pals, Wizard of Oz-style. As a standalone film though, I feel like this movie is going to have a bit of a “tone/target demographic problem.” On one hand, it’s got cute and only slightly creepy CGI talking-animals going on adventures, and Robert Downey Jr. is wearing a whimsical hat. So… for kids! On the other hand, there a period piece element to this film. And it kind of seems like it’s vaguely based on an old classic literary book that you were supposed to read in high school English class, but ended up just skimming the Cliff Notes online, and also seeing the movie based on it (which you hoped didn’t take too much literary license with the story, so you wouldn’t fail the test). So… adult… but also… high school homework? Yuck! Don’t get me wrong. I love RDJ. He’s basically the cool uncle I never had. As a result, I really want him to succeed in the post Avengers world of film. But I’m going to have to vote BOMB on this one. Better luck next fever dream, Iron Man.
Rick: > Hollywood: We’re remaking Dr. Dolittle! > Me: Why the fuck?! > Hollywood: No, but with, like, modern ultra-realistic CGI animals and the effortlessly charming Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead. > Me: Huh, you know, that just might be a good– > Hollywood: Here’s the trailer! > Me: Why the fuck?! BOMB.
Jordon: So here’s all you need to know about this January disaster: It was finished in 2018, underwent 21 days of reshoots after poor test screenings, was scheduled for release in April 2019, and is now being dumped in January. Kids film or not, this movie will be terrible. BOMB.
Bad Boys for Life (January 17)
The third and final installment in the Bad Boys trilogy (and the first to not be directed by Michael Bay) finds Will Smith and Martin Lawrence once again playing a pair of Miami cops, who this time have to reunite when a Romanian mob boss comes to exact his revenge on the duo, presumably for whatever drug deal/kidnapping/heist they foiled in a previous film.
Thomas S: Huh, I honestly thought Martin Lawrence had died. Maybe I was just thinking about his career? Both men need a bonafide hit, but reprising this old franchise ain’t the way to go. BOMB.
Tyler: This movie represents a major social justice victory. Black guys have been action leads for long enough that we’re officially getting our first round of Black Expendables. Next up: Beverly Hills Cop 4-Ever, Rush Hour: After Hours, and New Jack City: Gentrified. HIT.
Julie: Fun fact (but only because I just looked this up on Wikipedia): The original Bad Boys movie came out in 1995. 25 years ago. And the sequel came out in 2003, 17 years ago. This is a super-long time to wait to produce a sequel featuring the original cast. Especially when you consider that most of the film’s current target audience was in diapers during this franchise’s original run. I mean, a reboot? Sure. But a sequel? That’s risky. All that said, this trailer kind of worked for me. You’ve got the original cast of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, still doing their own stunts and still looking pretty good (except that their life insurance premium payments are obviously way higher now). You’ve also got a new cast: Gabriella from High School Musical (but she also played a sexy sociopath in Spring Breakers) and Reggie from Riverdale, both of whose dual job it is to be hot, but also to inevitably fail miserably at their jobs, thus making the Gen-Xer and elder Millennial fans of the original films feel happy because they “still got it over these young whippersnappers.” But most importantly, you’ve got car chases, killer soundtracks, sexy weapons, and things getting blown up on a regular basis. By George (and despite all rational arguments to the contrary), I think we’ve got ourselves a minor HIT here.
Rick: Bad Boys was never a particularly good movie, but it was a very ’90s movie, capturing the zeitgeist of that particular era of dumb action flicks. The sequel came a preposterously long eight years later, after the turn of the millennium, by which time the original already seemed a relic of a different, somewhat embarrassing age. And now we’re back again, and wow, just hearing that old COPS theme song really hammers home how dated this franchise (is that the right word? Is three movies over 25 years a franchise?) really is. I almost feel sorry for Will Smith that this is his follow-up to the disastrous Gemini Man, except then I remember Bright, Collateral Beauty, Suicide Squad, After Earth, Men in Black III, Seven Pounds, and Hancock, so yeah, that’s just who Will Smith has been for the past decade or so. BOMB.
Jordon: I’m pretty sure January is trying to kill me. This third movie in the Bad Boys series has been in development since 2008. But I think people will see it. They saw the first two and they’ll come out for this one. I won’t. Still, it’ll make some level of profit. HIT.
The Gentlemen (January 24)
Aladdin director Guy Ritchie returns to his British gangster comedy roots with a story of an American (Matthew McConaughey) who’s gotten rich off building a marijuana empire in London, and when word gets around that he wants to cash out of the business, it inspires plenty of other shady characters (Henry Golding, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant) to try to steal his fortune.
Thomas S: I love me some British gangster action, and it’s great seeing Guy Ritchie return to his roots. But will his going back to his bread and butter equal success? Call me an optimist and maybe more than a bit biased, but I think this one will be a HIT.
Tyler: The tone here is all over the place. If you watch it with the sound off, it looks like a Kingsmen prequel. Why did they try to make McConaughey look slick by throwing a bespoke suit over his Rust Cohle look? Why is Colin Farrell’s aging process a series of increasingly more bizarre jackets, glasses, and beards? Why do the British make their action and crime movies so unbearably overwritten and dorky? How do I know five guys who are going to love this? HIT.
Julie: Holy crap! Jeremy Strong is in this! AKA Kendall Roy, AKA the rapper/songwriter of the cringe-worthily amazing “L to the OG” rap from the HBO series Succession. You know what? I don’t really care about the plot of this film, and whether it actually “makes sense” plot-wise. All I know is that it features the likes of Matthew McConaughey, the hot guy from Crazy Rich Asians, and the sexy damaged biker lead from Sons of Anarchy. Way to go, Guy Ritchie! Your movie trailer is nonsensical, but it features a lot of hot male actors who are both beating and shooting the crap out of each other. As a result, you had me at “hello” (said with an accent, of course). HIT!
Rick: Remember when Guy Ritchie was interesting? This movie might remind you, if you bother to see it, which you won’t. He’s twenty years and five children removed from Snatch, so this all seems too much like a self-homage rather than a return to form. Sorry, man, you grew out of being stylish and groundbreaking. It happens to the best of us. BOMB (domestically, anyway).
Jordon: Cool, an art movie from Guy Ritchie that wasn’t released in time for Oscar consideration. It also doesn’t distinguish itself from other Guy Ritchie films produced long ago. And that’s not just my opinion. It’s already got a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, the equivalent of a collective critical shrug. All of January is a shrug. It’s a very stupid month. Still, Guy Ritchie movies are usually pretty cheap. So, I shrug hard, hope for summer to start, and call it a very mild HIT.
How did we do on last month’s predictions?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Budget: $275M | Earnings to date: $362M | Projected total earnings: $500M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (3 of 3)
Reality: May the HIT be with you.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Budget: $125M | Earnings to date: $175M | Projected total earnings: $210-230M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (3 of 3)
Reality: Can you smell what the HIT is cooking?
Budget: $45M | Earnings to date: $16M | Projected total earnings: $20M
Prediction: 67% said HIT (2 of 3)
Reality: Accused BOMBer
Budget: $95M | Earnings to date: $18M | Projected total earnings: $23-26M
Prediction: 0% said HIT (0 of 3)
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).