Oct 2, 2020
Hit or Bomb? May 2019 movie predictions
Even though it’s a rare month with absolutely no comic book superheroes in sight, we’ve still got a plenty of potential blockbusters to evaluate as we decide which will be HITs and which will BOMB based solely on the trailers. Our box office gurus this time are Thomas Stockel, Julie Kushner, Jordon Davis, Tyler Peterson, and Rick Lewis.
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Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (May 10)
In a city populated by both humans and Pokémon, a former Pokémon trainer named Tim (Justice Smith) is visited by a talking Pikachu (the voice of Ryan Reynolds) who once belonged to his father, and together Tim and this mystery-solving Pikachu (a “detective”, if you will) investigate the disappearance of Tim’s father.
Thomas S: I’ve never been into Pokémon; I never saw the appeal regarding the card game, the cartoon, or whatever it is the kids are playing on their phones. Despite that, I think that Ryan Reynolds’ stock is seriously high at this moment and people are going to see this film mainly because of him, expecting him to be as funny here as he is in the Deadpool films. Whether or not that’ll be the case remains to be seen, but I predict a modest HIT.
Julie: Through the Deadpool franchise, Ryan Reynolds established himself as a brilliant comedic voiceover artist, albeit a definitively R-rated one. Hearing Deadpool’s trademark snarky voice coming out of the mouth of an adorable Pikachu is a bit of a disconnect. Couple that with the dingy, dark-alley, noir color palette of this film, the allusion to a character who may or may not have been murdered, and the random appearances of other Pokémon (which, in this setting, appear more like fever-dream or drug-induced hallucinations than anything remotely whimsical), and I’m not entirely sure (a) what tone the filmmakers are trying to strike here, or (b) who their target audience is meant to be. Comparisons will certainly be made to this film and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film that successfully subverted expectations by blending cartoon characters into a similarly noir universe, and by doing so, was able to pay homage to (while also cleverly roasting) the genre. But Roger Rabbit was clearly a movie for adults, while Detective Pikachu seems a bit too cute and cuddly for adults to even watch ironically, while at the same time, a smidge too convoluted, dark, and arguably creepy for the tiny tots. Poke-BOMB.
Jordon: Hey, guess what game and movie franchise I have no experience with? I don’t know what this movie is. I cannot make sense of any of the images I’m seeing. I think children might understand this. I sure as hell don’t. I’ll call it a minor HIT.
Tyler: If you don’t see this, you are legally not a Millennial anymore. HIT.
Rick: Back before superhero movies were any good, I still rushed to the theater to see every single damn one of them, because the spandex-and-capes set was quintessential to my childhood. That’s what’s going to happen here with Millennials, making things like this a HIT no matter whether it’s Batman Begins or Batman & Robin in quality.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (May 17)
Ex-hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns, and this time he’s fighting and killing his way out of New York City after a $14 million contract on his head makes him the target of the world’s top assassins.
Thomas S: Keanu says he’ll do as many John Wick movies as the audience wants. I so want there to be many, many John Wick movies, and to see Keanu kill people in numerous interesting and fun ways. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I predict a big HIT for Mr. Reeves this time out.
Julie: John Wick the First, AKA The Puppy that Launched a Thousand Murders, was surprisingly delightful for a movie about a merciless, cold-blooded killer. From the adrenaline-pumping, bass-thumping soundtrack, to the artfully executed shootout and fight scenes, to the lovingly filmed locations, to those random moments when sounds heard and dialogue spoken in the film would randomly float across the screen, comic book-style, I didn’t always know exactly what I was watching, but I knew I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Chapter 2 expertly offered up more of the same, except that the action took place across the pond in Europe, which threw an extra layer of travel porn into the mix. Parabellum promises to do the same, except with a couple of Oscar-winning actresses (Anjelica Huston and Halle Berry) added for good measure, and more importantly (for me anyway) more adorable dogs to love and savagely avenge. Will this movie be a recycled cash-grab that very closely resembles the last two? Probably, but if it isn’t broken… you just need to add more cute puppies to it. HIT! HIT! HIT!
Jordon: Hey, guess what movie franchise I have no experience with? I couldn’t even watch this trailer, it was so confusing. It would be like my father watching Endgame. “Which one is Wonder Woman again?” The first two made money, and I’m told this movie is exactly like them. So based on nothing but the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article, I’ll call this a HIT.
Tyler: There’s not much to be said about living in this era, but the fact that my generation made its own Roadhouse, and it not only didn’t flop, but led to two sequels and a TV show, really warms my heart. HIT.
Rick: Bold of them to release this in summer rather than the winter or fall off-season like the others. Can this cult-ish kill-fest of a movie hang with the big dogs? Well, thanks to Endgame scaring off the competition for most of May, probably. HIT. Although the addition of big name stars in supporting roles, I predict, means the franchise will soon jump the shark with core fans.
Aladdin (May 24)
In the second of three live-action remakes of Disney cartoons out this year, a street urchin (Mena Massoud) lusts after a princess (Naomi Scott) and discovers a magical lamp containing a genie (a mo-capped Will Smith) who grants him three wishes that he uses to woo the princess.
Thomas S: Am I the only one sick and tired of these live-action remakes of classic Disney cartoons? I suspect I’m not, but there aren’t enough people like me to keep this one from being a solid HIT. Dammit.
Julie: Full disclosure: Aladdin was never one of my favorite Disney films. I’m a bit more of a Lion King kind of gal. So when I saw the first trailers for the film, which to me looked less “fantastically whimsical Disney adventure romp” and more “low-rent straight-to-streaming Bollywood musical”, I was less than enthused, to put it mildly. Then I saw the footage of Will Smith as the genie, and my opinion changed. I suddenly became… afraid. Very afraid. I understand that there’s a large population of Aladdin fans who wouldn’t consider Aladdin’s Genie to be Aladdin’s Genie if his face doesn’t resemble King Joffrey’s on the day of his wedding on Game of Thrones, and that put the creators in a bit of a pickle in terms of CGI and costume design. But knowledge of that pickle won’t help me to sleep at night after I saw what I saw. My being traumatized for life aside, name recognition and nostalgia alone should make this a commercial HIT, even if it bombs critically and terrorizes your children in the process.
Jordon: Finally, something I’ve heard of. Am I mad that Disney is cannibalizing itself? Yep. Am I mad that they’re virtually erasing the memory of Robin Williams? Yep. Am I just confused that the director of this is Guy Ritchie? Yep. But Dumbo made money, and it was horrible. This one actually looks kind of fun. It won’t be a whole new world, just a whole familiar one. But it will also be a HIT.
Tyler: Well, this one looks colorful, at least. People bitch about these live-action remakes a lot, and don’t get me wrong, a tipping point is coming in due course, probably sooner than Disney thinks, but it’s not here yet. This one looks okay and will probably do okay. (Remake The Black Cauldron, cowards!) HIT.
Rick: There’s not a lot of good will for this flick, thanks mostly to the typical over-the-top internet reaction to Will Smith as the genie and not helped at all by the lackluster Dumbo. Disney clearly misunderstood why Beauty and the Beast was such a smash hit in live-action. It’s not just nostalgia but the epic grandeur it captured in its brilliant execution. This one looks hokey, silly, video-game-y, and almost high school play-y in its costume and set design. But nostalgia ain’t nothing and it’ll be a minor HIT anyway.
Brightburn (May 24)
A horror spin on Superman’s origin story, where a couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) adopts a baby who crashes to earth in a spaceship. But as the boy begins manifesting superpowers, he chooses not to become a hero, but something far more sinister.
Thomas S: In a field of remakes and sequels and adaptations of existing properties, we’ve got ourselves an interesting little premise here. The question is, will people drop money on it to make it successful? Sadly, in a month of heavy-hitters, this movie will fail. BOMB.
Julie: Creepy kids (1) staring creepily at adults, (2) popping out of dark spaces to startle adults, (3) demonically hurling furniture, fire, and other objects at adults, (4) brutally murdering adults, and then (5) fooling other adults into thinking they’re sweet and adorable has been a ho-hum horror movie template for decades. But having the Creepy Kid actually be a dark take on a much beloved comic book (and now slightly less beloved) film character like Superman is a fairly ingenious idea. After all, when you think about it, superhero and supervillain origin stories are all shockingly similar, in terms of their basic premises. What makes one radioactive spider bitten guy into Spider-Man and another into… almost every other villain in the Spider-Man series… may seem like a morality tale for some, and just luck of the draw for the more jaded among us. Because with great power may come great responsibility, but also the ability to eviscerate your enemies and creepily murder some adults who didn’t let you stay up past your bedtime. HIT.
Jordon: Okay, I’m lost again. This is a live action remake of Megamind? But now it’s a horror film? And it stars Pam’s boyfriend Roy from The Office? I cannot imagine anyone seeing this movie on purpose. Maybe it’ll be hailed as a brilliant masterpiece of a brand new genre. It won’t. BOMB.
Tyler: Well, this looks interesting. And at a budget of $7 million, it pretty much can’t not make money. I just hope it’s not dismissed as too similar to Chronicle. HIT.
Rick: Horror doesn’t fail unless someone’s trying to make it into art*, which this ain’t. Great concept here, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the creepy evil kid subgenre of horror on the big screen. Elizabeth Banks is an odd choice, but awesome nonetheless. Easy HIT. (*Jordan Peele excepted, but even he keeps his budgets low.)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31)
In this sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, the giant lizard is back and now must face off against three ancient monsters from classic Godzilla lore: Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah.
Thomas S: I was underwhelmed by the 2014 Godzilla, a film that ran a little too long and focused a little too much on humans who I didn’t really care about. Will this film do the same? Logic says that with so many monsters, we’ll get more “let them fight” this time out, but I’m not too optimistic. That being said, the king of the monsters will rule the box office. HIT.
Julie: The best thing about this trailer was the clever use of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing amidst the destruction and ruination of our planet by large, uniformly unremarkable CGI creations. The worst thing about this trailer is… everything else. Come on, guys, are we really still remaking Godzilla movies? Please let this monster and all his tentacled friends go retire to Boca, and spend the day playing shuffleboard and canasta, where they belong. BOMB.
Jordon: No. Just, no. I realize the 2014 movie made money. I realize this one will probably make money. And I realize that they will never stop making these. But I refuse to participate. Unless this is a back-door Wonder Woman sequel, I’m out. Sadly, it’ll be a HIT.
Tyler: Toho has got to be one of the most committed fandoms. I lost any hope of following the continuity of the Halloween franchise four movies ago, and there are three times as many Godzilla movies. HIT.
Rick: This looks like shit on a stick. HIT.
Rocketman (May 31)
Billed as a “musical fantasy” that follows the early years of Elton John (Taron Egerton) as he prepares to release his first breakthrough album.
Thomas S: I have a lot of respect for Elton John and his songwriting collaborations with Bernie Taupin, and I think they created some of the most influential music of the ’70s. That being said, as morbid as it sounds, with Elton being, you know, still alive, I don’t think there’s the same mystique around him that there is with the late, great Freddie Mercury. While a story about Elton John’s early years sounds interesting, I don’t think it’s interesting enough right now to appeal to audiences. This one is going to BOMB.
Julie: A rock biopic about a legendary musical talent with a guaranteed killer soundtrack, a couple of rowdy concert reenactments, and a few drug-fueled, violent, and/or weepy moments to signify “angst” and “dark times” are pretty much guaranteed box office success stories these days, whether or not the films in question actually end up being critically acclaimed or, you know, particularly good. And if you don’t believe me, just rewind to about a year ago and see what happened with Bohemian Rhapsody. HIT.
Jordon: How can there be no comic book movies this month? Is that even legal anymore? Whatever. I’ll see Endgame with my father before I’ll go to an Elton John biopic. I didn’t watch Bohemian Rhapsody and I won’t watch this. And this one is supposed to be the better of the two. HIT.
Tyler: I really don’t know what they mean by calling it a “fantasy”, but if they’re smart, it means they’re going to concern themselves as little as possible with what actually happened, because those are the most entertaining kinds of biopics. I would say that Bohemian Rhapsody struck gold even though it sucked enough shit to fill Wembley Stadium, so this is a no-brainer, but I don’t know. Something I can’t put my finger on tells me that won’t happen. It somehow lacks the tentpole gravitas that Bohemian Rhapsody had, and it looks either too good or too bad to find a large audience. BOMB.
Rick: Why is this coming out in May and not November? That scares me because it means they don’t think they’ve got what it takes to compete for Oscars, which is what biopics are supposed to do. And the movie’s central conceit that Elton John is telling his life story during group therapy in rehab seems cheesy. On the other hand, Elton John is awesome and so is the trailer. At least a minor HIT.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $356M | Earnings to date: $621M | Projected total earnings: $850-900M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: Snap HIT
Budget: $100M | Earnings to date: $135M | Projected total earnings: $140M
Prediction: 75% said HIT (3 of 4)
Reality: Child-sized HIT
Budget: $21M | Earnings to date: $54M | Projected total earnings: $55M
Prediction: 75% said HIT (3 of 4)
Reality: Cat sHIT
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $22M | Projected total earnings: $22M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Reality: Damned BOMB
Final Score: 4 for 4!
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).