Oct 14, 2020
Hit or Bomb? July 2019 movie predictions
The July box office starts early this year thanks to Independence Day falling on a Thursday, and this month sees one of the first (but certainly not the last) months where most major releases are produced or co-produced by Disney. Here to sort it all out and let you know with pinpoint accuracy which films will be HITs and which will BOMB based solely on watching the trailers are Agony Booth staffers Thomas Stockel, Julie Kushner, Tyler Peterson, Marion Stein, and Jordon Davis.
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Spider-Man: Far from Home (July 2)
After the death of [Endgame spoiler redacted], Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a European vacation with his classmates when he’s called upon by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to team up with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), a super-being from another dimension (meaning, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse) who’s on our Earth to hunt down gargantuan creatures known as the Elementals.
Thomas S: As we enter Phase IV of the MCU, we see how Tom Holland has a pretty heavy load to bear, since we’ve lost certain key cast members. I found Spider-Man: Homecoming to be, well, okay. Not bad. Holland gave a great performance and Michael Keaton played a tremendous villain, but maybe I’m just tired of Spider-Man. Or maybe this supporting cast doesn’t feel right; I don’t care what color she dyes her hair—Zendaya’s MJ is not an acceptable replacement for Mary Jane Watson. And maybe too I miss J. Jonah Jameson, seeing Peter Parker’s financial struggles, and the tropes I’m so used to from the comics. Despite my misgivings, I predict there will be plenty who don’t have a problem with the new Spider-Man and it’ll be a HIT.
Julie: Tom Holland’s Spider-Man only received roughly five minutes of screen time in Avengers: Endgame, and still managed to somehow pull off what is arguably the most emotionally resonant scene in the entire film. Such is his great power (or great responsibility; whichever you prefer). This incarnation of Spider-Man is truly a superhero for the masses. As Spider-Man, Holland’s presence in Marvel films so far has evoked all the fun, nonstop action, cheesy jokes, and wish fulfillment fantasies you expect from superhero films, with none of the hand-wringing whiny angst of his web-slinging predecessors, or the introspective “deep” moral ruminations of films featuring some of his older, angrier, fellow Avengers. This installment of his story promises to be no different. I see Spidey on vacation, hanging with his pals, making lame jokes, getting into hijinks, ducking Nick Fury, aw-shucksing the thought of Aunt May having a new boyfriend, tussling against a guy with a fishbowl on his head, and oh yeah, saving the world. All good fun. And hey, Zendaya is looking so refreshingly PG as love interest MJ that you can almost forget that she was last seen passed out on a drug dealer’s couch from ODing on fentanyl while being fondled by a middle aged man with a snake tattoo on his face in HBO’s Euphoria. …Almost. HIT!
Tyler: They seem to have recaptured the light and human tone of the first one, but in the aftermath of a massive event like Avengers: Endgame, those qualities take on the timbre of a hushed whisper saying, “Hey, it’s okay! You can skip this one! No big deal!” So there’s going to be an inevitable drop-off. But kids still love Spider-Man and the movie has Marissa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhall, so no matter which parent takes them, they’ll have some eye candy. HIT.
Marion: There is no “endgame”. The Marvelverse lives on and so does one of its most appealing characters (by which I mean Spider-Man, not Nick Fury, but him too). Can we all give Tom Holland a hand for being the most charismatic Spidey? It’s too bad that he’ll probably age out of the role soon and they’ll be rebooting again. No question here: HIT.
Jordon: I don’t understand this movie. I think people have pretty much had their fill of the MCU. It ended in a satisfying way and there’s no real reason to see what comes next. Why, I’d be surprised if this movie makes its budget back on pre-sales alone! My estimate, and I’m being generous because I do kind of like this basic concept: $500 million domestic. I guess these days that counts as an enormous smash HIT.
Stuber (July 12)
(Safe for work trailer.) In what looks like a comedic version of Michael Mann’s Collateral, unassuming Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) picks up a passenger (Dave Bautista) who turns out to be a cop on the edge who’s hot on the trail of a sadistic terrorist, thrusting Stu into an unexpected night of adventure.
Thomas S: I like Big Dave. I’ve been a fan going back to his wrestling days, when he ditched the “Deacon Batista” gimmick and became the enforcer in the Evolution stable. Dave could convey subtlety, comedy, menace—whatever the situation called for. And while it took years, we finally saw him in a role that really allowed him to showcase all his talents in Guardians of the Galaxy. But Stuber? Ah, I don’t think Dave’s name is going to be enough to carry this movie. BOMB.
Julie: The person responsible for titling and marketing this film should be fired. I started seeing posters for Stuber around the city a few weeks ago, and had not a clue what this was about. For one thing, the posters feature a guy driving a car, while staring blankly at a camera. For another, the movie is called Stuber. I can’t think of a less exciting or appetizing name for a film. Might as well call it Fart. Now that I’ve seen the trailer, I still have no idea what this movie is about. Don’t get me wrong, this film might actually be very funny. But all I saw was 1.5 minutes of Nanjiani screaming like a girl while in a cheap car. It looked like a bad SNL skit that they squeeze into the last ten minutes because the host snuck out early to snort cocaine. BOMB!
Tyler: I feel so bad for this trailer, because Kumail is trying so hard and flailing, and Dave isn’t trying at all and crushing it. BOMB.
Marion: When I first saw the trailer in a movie theater, I felt really uncomfortable. The whole thing felt off and distasteful. There seemed to be some underlying message that this was not meant to be fun, but was designed to get us to think about the awfulness of senseless cartoon violence. Or maybe that was just the impression I got from Nanjiani’s deadpan performance. Despite the success of The Big Sick, and Bautista’s work in the Guardians movies, I don’t think either of them has the charisma/chops to pull this off. BOMB.
Jordon: Okay. This looks funny. Kumail Nanjiani is funny. Bautista has shown a surprising gift for comedy. And I’m pretty sure that, like The Big Sick, this is based on a true story. HIT.
The Lion King (July 19)
The animated Disney classic is now… um… animated again, but this time the cartoons look more like real animals. There’s no need to summarize the plot, since everybody knows it, and it’s basically just Hamlet in the jungle with Elton John songs anyway, but suffice to say that Simba (voiced by Donald Glover) and Nala (Beyonce) will feel the love tonight as they and the rest of an all-star voice cast take their places in the circle of life.
Thomas S: I don’t care what Disney claims, this is still an animated movie. That being said, I predict thousands of children will beg their parents—who probably saw the superior prior version, or even the stage musical—to see this and be forced to subject themselves to an inferior product. Sadly, another HIT for Disney.
Julie: Part of me wishes Disney took a few more risks here in updating what appears to be a slavishly faithful shot-by-shot “live-action” copy of the original film. I also wish they somehow got these admittedly adorable CGI characters to emote more, at least when certain powerful lines were delivered. They kind of just seem to stare blankly at the screen. And anyone who has a pet will tell you, they have feelings! They emote! Eh, who am I kidding? The original Lion King is my all-time favorite Disney movie. I loved it as a kid. I love it now! And I can’t even begin to objectively analyze it. HIT! HIT HIT!
Tyler: God, that music gave me a headache. It’s a really queer sensation, watching blank-faced fake animals walk listlessly around one another while drums boom and 3,000-strong choruses holler majestically into your ear trying to get you to feel something. But don’t worry, folks, this isn’t just steroid-pumped nostalgia—they’ve also managed to amplify the bizarre crypto-fascist undercurrents from the first Lion King! I wish so badly this crap weren’t going to HIT but it totally will.
Marion: As a fan of classic Disney animation, I’m not sold on the computer-generated “realistic” images here, and I’m not sure the main audience for the film—the kids—will be either. On the other hand, it’s still The Lion King, and has a killer soundtrack plus Beyonce, so it’s unimaginable that it will be anything other than a mega-HIT.
Jordon: I. Don’t. Understand. This. Movie. What is the point of a live-action remake if none of the characters are human? And if you’re going to CGI the whole thing, why replace the entire voice cast except for James Earl Jones? Everybody is still alive. Matthew Broderick? Alive. Rowan Atkinson? Alive. Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg? All alive. Johnathan Taylor Thomas? Honestly, I’d have to check, but let’s at least hope he’s still alive. Frankly, I wish Disney would just stop. But this year’s Aladdin made a ton of money and this will, too. Oh, wait. Robert Guillaume is dead. Maybe that’s why they had to remake the entire thing. HIT.
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (July 26)
The ninth film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino takes us to 1969 Los Angeles, where a fading TV star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double (Brad Pitt) come to grips with their declining showbiz careers, while crossing paths with notable real-life figures like actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and cult leader Charles Manson (Damon Herriman), which has many wondering if Tarantino’s film will end with gruesome murders or Inglourious Basterds-style revisionism where the good guys win.
Thomas S: While not every Tarantino movie thrills me (Hateful Eight was okay, if overly long. And I wasn’t a fan of Death Proof), there’s no denying the man has his own inimitable style (which didn’t stop other directors from trying to copy it) and this movie’s premise is intriguing. On top of that, we’ve got veteran Tarantino actors Pitt and DeCaprio on board, and Robbie has consistently impressed, so I think their combined talents along with Quentin’s name will make this movie a HIT.
Julie: You can reliably count on a few things when going to see a Tarantino film: (1) It will feature an all-star cast and bloated budget, (2) the cinematography will be awe-inspiring, (3) the plot will evoke nostalgia for a bygone era and be campy, funny, and wryly intelligent, though maybe none of these things quite as much as the director assumes, (4) it will be egregiously and shockingly violent, but in a strangely artsy way, and (5) and it will be at least a half-hour too long, and contain at least two subplots too many for a cohesive plot. All in all, this will probably end up being a pretty good movie. Though, none of that matters in terms of box office success. With this cast and director tied to it, the movie could feature Brad Pitt reading the back of cereal boxes for three hours, and people would still turn out in droves. HIT!
Tyler: It’s a sign of the times that a non-franchise period piece by a well-known auteur, with no way of telling from the trailer what genre it belongs to or where exactly the story is going to go, should feel strange coming out in summer. You could say all the same of Inglourious Basterds, but I remember that one being pretty clearly (and deceptively) marketed as a pure action flick. I’m afraid there’s not a lot of room for a movie like Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, marketed the way it’s been marketed, to find an audience in today’s tentpole-heavy summer movie market. And at a budget reportedly approaching $100 million, there are just plain too many X-factors at play to bet on it recouping its money domestically. BOMB.
Marion: Brad Pitt is always at his best in a character role where he doesn’t have to be the prettiest boy in the room. I love that DiCaprio is playing the TV star to Pitt’s stunt double. The trailer feels both passionate and personal. Despite the Manson/Tate possibilities, this looks like less of a blood-fest than your average Tarantino offering, which could give it wider box office appeal. HIT.
Jordon: I don’t understand this movie. And I don’t care. I didn’t really understand Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds either. But they were masterpieces and his one will be, too. HIT.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Toy Story 4
Budget: $200M | Earnings to date: $396M | Projected total earnings: $415M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (5 of 5)
Reality: You’ve Got a HIT in Me
Annabelle Comes Home
Budget: $30M | Earnings to date: $70M | Projected total earnings: $73M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (5 of 5)
Secret Life of Pets 2
Budget: $80M | Earnings to date: $154M | Projected total earnings: $156M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
Reality: Who’s a good HIT? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!
Men in Black: International
Budget: $110M | Earnings to date: $79M | Projected total earnings: $80M
Prediction: 80% said HIT (4 of 5)
Reality: Men in BOMB
Budget: $26M | Earnings to date: $63M | Projected total earnings: $70M
Prediction: 40% said HIT (2 of 5)
Reality: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club HIT
Budget: $200M | Earnings to date: $66M | Projected total earnings: $66M
Prediction: 20% said HIT (1 of 5)
FINAL SCORE: 4 Right, 2 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).