Hit or Bomb? Late-August/September 2020 movie predictions

Hello, movie predictions, my old friend. The last time we did this, in the bygone days of March 2020, we were looking forward to movies like The Hunt and The Quiet Place Part II and wondering how Mulan would do in China thanks to that crazy virus thing they had going on over there, which surely would never reach our shores. And then [waves arm like Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor] all this happened, and plans changed, and we soon found ourselves stuck at home streaming movies instead.

But now, movie theaters are slowly starting to reopen, and while many experts are recommending that you really, really do not go out to the movies right now, we’re coming back after a nearly six-month absence to predict whether the films being released in this extremely abbreviated summer blockbuster season will be HITs or BOMBs. Here to make their guesses based solely on watching the trailers are Thomas Stockel, Tyler Peterson, and Julie Kushner.


Unhinged (August 21)

A young mother (Caren Pistorius) leans on her car horn and pisses off the wrong guy (Russell Crowe), who turns out to be an unstable wacko who’s ready to take the concept of road rage to a whole new level.

Thomas S: This looks like a thriller in the vein of Halle Berry’s The Call or Idris Elba’s No Good Deed, projects that would be considered B-films but are elevated by the star power of the lead. Crowe might not have the best judgement when it comes to film choices (e.g., The Man with the Iron Fists, The Mummy) but no one can deny he seems to deliver 100% every time. In a market where people are starved for entertainment outside their own homes, I predict a HIT.

Tyler: Well, it looks like all those people who said you couldn’t make Falling Down in this day and age are about to see if they were right. BOMB.

Julie: True story. Once during my early driving days, a massively tall and large drunk guy walked out in front of my car in the middle of traffic at an intersection, when I had both a green light and the right of way. He was coming from a sporting event of some sort. I had to stop short in traffic as a result. Being a new and nervous driver, this indignity made me both anxious and mad, so I… flipped him the bird. The guy responded by bodily throwing himself onto the windshield of my car, spread-eagled, his beefy hands leaving two sweaty imprints indelibly etched on my car. The guy wouldn’t remove himself from my car for a full two minutes. People were honking at me the whole time. I drove home shaking and in tears. It took me weeks to get those handprints off my windshield. Needless to say, I never flipped the bird while driving again. At least, not to anyone who could actually see me doing it. Look, from a film perspective, this is not a new concept. Ever since Taxi Driver, every sixth months or so, someone makes a movie about a person going “postal” (too soon?) over a small offense (usually piled on top of a lifelong list of offenses) and terrorizing the unsuspecting populace as a result. But this is the first time that a film like this has been made sixth months into a worldwide pandemic/quarantine, at a time when, let’s face it, no one’s mental health is exactly at its best. So is this a both timely and mildly triggering topic for most of us right now? Heck, yeah. But do I think most of us want to choose—for the one movie we see in actual theaters for the first time in six months—the film that features the majority of its cast literally sitting in traffic for two hours, especially given the other flashier, splashier options on the table? Heck, no! BOMB!

The New Mutants (August 28)

This long delayed spin-off (original scheduled for an April 2018 release) of a dead studio’s dead X-Men franchise features Maisie Williams and Anya-Taylor Joy in a cast of young mutants being held at a secret facility where they’re terrorized by a supernatural presence, in a horror-tinged story inspired by the Demon Bear saga from the comics.

Thomas S: Wait, Disney decided not to shove this onto their streaming service? And Mulan is going to go for $29.99? Color me legit shocked. From what I’ve seen, I’m not impressed and even people desperate for a superhero movie aren’t going to see this one in theaters; likely the target audience is willing to wait a year to see it at home. BOMB.

Tyler: Here it is, folks, the Chinese Democracy of superhero movies. The movie whose cast, tone, and relationship to established canon have been shuffled around about as many times as the X-Men movie timeline. New Mutants benefits from the sudden dearth of superhero movies after a lengthy stretch of time with a new one coming out every month; moreover, I think a lot of people are going to be pretty curious about what’s actually going on in this movie. HIT.

Julie: I know, I know, this film has been in development hell for over two years, and that usually spells box office doom for most films. And I fully recognize that the X-Men franchise went out more with a whimper than a bang in its most recent installment (Dark Phoenix). But I think the moviegoing public is hungry for a bit of superhero content, especially in the wake of the hardcore villainy seemingly taking over this world in 2020 in all of its human and semi-natural forms. And if those “heroes” are dangerous antiheroes, instead of squeaky-clean cookie-cutter types, even better. (It always takes a Little Bit of Evil to fight True Evil, right? Hair of the Dog Philosophy?) I for one applaud the idea of the X-Men franchise leaning in a bit more toward the horror genre this time around. After all, creepy kids have been a staple of Japanese horror films for decades, and that’s worked super-well for them. And, honestly, in real life, if you ran into an impulsive, angry, and hormonal Werewolf Teen, or a Firestarter Teen, or a Human Cannonball teen, you would be way less inclined to say, “Yay! Please protect me from those Bad Evil Doctors and Unsmiling Adults that I see every day!” and more likely to say, “Holy heck! You are totally freaking me out! You would probably kill me just because I looked at you funny, while you just so happened to be both hormonal and hungry. Get me out of here!” HIT!

Bill & Ted Face the Music (August 28)

Nearly 30 years after traveling through time and visiting heaven and hell, righteous dudes Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are enduring the crushing monotony of middle-aged life, until a visitor from the future (Kristin Schaal) arrives to tell them they’re destined to write a song that will save all life in the universe.

Thomas S: Oh man, I’m so torn here. On the one hand, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a favorite of mine back in the day. Then Bogus Journey dropped and I couldn’t have been more disappointed (granted, the Star Trek joke was epic). I’m a huge fan of Keanu (especially recently, what with John Wick and my recent discovery of just how damn good Constantine is), but I get the feeling we’ve seen all the funniest jokes in the trailer. Despite this feeling, I think Reeves’ newfound star power is going to make this one a HIT.

Tyler: Another movie that’s been in development forever! Unlike New Mutants, I don’t see many people risking their lives for this one, because you can just close your eyes and imagine a new Bill & Ted movie and this will probably be a lot like it. BOMB.

Julie: Yeah, this trailer looks terrible, in an almost farcical way… like in a “The Last Sketch of the Night on SNL Back in the Early 2000’s” kind of way. But people are really nostalgic nowadays, possibly because the current state of the world (in the words of Bill and Ted themselves) just sucks so hard. Will young’uns see this film? Probably not. After all, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey came out in 1991, and that was the second film in this franchise. A good portion of Millennials and nearly the entirety of Generation Z have no clue who Bill and Ted even are. So you would think easy BOMB, right? But then I looked at this trailer, and saw that most of its special effects seemed to come straight from the mid ’90s. In fact, the entire film seems like it could have been shot on someone’s iPhone. And let us not forget, Keanu Reeves is in this. This is a guy who could go viral for grumpily eating a sandwich on a bench. So I think between the low cost of filming, and nostalgic Gen-Xers and elder Millennials wanting to revisit that time in their lives when everything was totally awe-some (insert cheesy electric guitar solo here), this film will eek out a modest but definitive financial HIT.

Tenet (September 3)

John David Washington and Robert Pattinson are spies who can reverse the flow of time? And catch bullets? And are trying to prevent something that’s even worse than Armageddon? No one knows what the hell this movie’s about, but nobody cares, because it’s a Christopher Nolan movie and his fans will happily brave a pandemic to see it.

Thomas S: Just when I finally figured out Inception and Interstellar, Nolan’s dropping this on us. Still, you can’t deny Christopher has a true talent for high concept stories and stunning visuals. This one is going to be an easy HIT.

Tyler: Nolan’s the only one who can make non-franchise tentpole movies anymore, so you can see why this pandemic has been sticking in his craw. This one’s got all the classic Nolan ingredients: crisp suits, cool stunts, wide and splashy shot compositions, I Can’t Believe It’s Not CGI effects, TED-talk-y pseudoscience, themes spoken aloud by characters so that stupid people can think they’re smart for picking up on them, and just enough plot crumbs dropped for an optimized Spoiler Panic marketing strategy. It’s like baking a cake from a boxed mix at this point. HIT.

Julie: Now this is a movie that people will come out of quarantine for! It’s directed by Chris Nolan, for crying out loud. The man who made a spinning top from the 1950s into the most talked about and controversial kids’ toy of all time. You will come to see the awesome special effects, the bullets flying back into their chambers, the massive planes exploding on the ground, and the sexy cast wearing suits that cost more than your salary. You will stay for the doubtless hours that you will spend on Reddit trying to find out enough about this movie (which you already saw and enjoyed, but didn’t actually understand) to seem vaguely intelligent when you talk about it with your friends. Maxwell’s Demon and the Laws of Thermodynamics have never been so cool! HIT!

The Kings Man (September 18)

In this prequel to the Kingsman films, Ralph Fiennes founds the world’s first independent spy agency when history’s worst tyrants and criminals come together to start a war.

Thomas S: Remember what I said about the Bill & Ted films? The same thing goes for the Kingsman series; I loved the first, hated the second. Is this series beloved enough to warrant a third film? I… have to say I don’t think so. I’m going to say this one’ll BOMB.

Tyler: Not gonna lie, I thought this one had already come out and bombed. The original Kingsman: The Secret Service was an amusing diversion, kind of a “what if Austin Powers was way more violent” experiment, but one look at the Austin Powers sequels ought to have been enough to convince them that their concept had a freshness date on it. I don’t see many people bothering with this. BOMB. 

How movies are judged:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
Tag: Box Office Predictions

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