2012 is right around the corner, and while it may or may not be the year of the apocalypse, it will most certainly be a banner year for blockbusters. Not only will Batman and Spider-Man return to America's megaplexes, but so will James Bond, a Hobbit, and, of course, everyone's favorite moony-eyed sparkly vampire.
"The Dark Knight Rises" (July 20th)
The giddy anticipation around this movie is hard to overstate. Fans ardently praised "The Dark Knight" for director Christopher Nolan's somber, respectful take on the Caped Crusader and Heath Ledger's mesmerizing performance as the Joker; the movie is, in certain circles, considered the "Citizen Kane" of superhero movies. "The Dark Knight Rises" will be the final Batman movie for both Nolan and lead actor Christian Bale, so expect this one to be bigger, badder, and bleaker than the last. But will it have the same impact without Ledger's Joker?
"The Amazing Spider-Man" (July 3rd)
As great as Sam Raimi's first two "Spider-Man" movies were, the third felt tired. Marc Webb, director of the emo indie hit "(500) Days of Summer," gives Spidey and the gang a much needed reboot, featuring Andrew Garfield as a skinnier, nervier Peter Parker.
"The Avengers" (May 4th)
And just in case you didn't think there were enough movies out there for superhero enthusiasts, there's "The Avengers." That's right, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk are all joining forces to battle the bad guys. It's a veritable sampler menu of costumed crime fighters. Add to that the fact that Joss Whedon of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is directing the epic, and you have something close to a perfect storm of fanboy-dom.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (November 16th)
The "Twilight" series has enthralled millions while leaving millions more befuddled over the appeal of shirtless werewolves and glittering members of the undead. "Breaking Dawn - Part 1" saw Bella, in very short order, get married to Edward, have a picture-perfect honeymoon at a vampire resort in Brazil, and give birth to a baby with supernatural powers. And that's just part one. Part two promises more drama with the evil Volturi and more vampire-on-werewolf tension. Expect Twi-hards to flock to this flick, the last of the series.
"The Hunger Games" (March 23rd)
With "Twilight" coming to an end and with "Harry Potter" wrapping up in '11, Hollywood is casting about for the next big franchise. There are high hopes that "The Hunger Games," based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, will be just that. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a 16-year-old living in a dystopic future who volunteers to participate in the most messed-up reality TV show around: teens battling to the death before live video cameras. Collins has two followup books, too, so if this flick's a hit, expect sequels.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" (June 1st)
Another sign that Hollywood is looking to cash in on the "Twilight"/ "Harry Potter" audience, there are not one but two movies based on Snow White coming out in 2012. "Snow White and the Huntsman," starring Kirsten Stewart, is more Joan d'Arc than Disney; she spends much of the movie in plate mail and, judging from the trailer, looks pretty handy with a sword. Charlize Theron also stars as the evil Queen.
"Django Unchained" (December 25th)
Quentin Tarantino killed Hitler along with much of the SS in his bizarro WWII thriller "Inglourious Basterds." For his next film, he's taking on an even touchier historical subject: slavery in the antebellum South. Dubbed "a Southern" by the director, the movie is a Spaghetti Western-style tale about an escaped slave and a German bounty hunter looking for vengeance against a Mississippi plantation-owner. The flick stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, and Christoph Waltz. Watch for some serious pundit bloviating about the flick this time next year.
"Brave" (June 22nd)
Pixar's last movie, "Cars 2," left a lot of people underwhelmed. Thankfully, Pixar is leaving its mildly creepy world of talking cars behind in favor of the Highlands of Scotland. Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a fierce lass with a luxurious head of red hair, chafes against the obligations of being a princess when she makes an ill-fated wish. "Brave" is the first movie in Pixar's long oeuvre to have a girl as a protagonist. Between this movie, "The Hunger Games," and "Snow White," it looks like we'll be seeing a trend of female action heroes in 2012.
"Skyfall" (November 9th)
It's been three years since James Bond graced the silver screen, due in part to the bankruptcy of MGM. Precious little information has been released about this latest 007 action spectacular except that Daniel Craig is returning as the leaner, meaner Bond and he is facing off against a yet-to-be-named villain played by Anton Chigurh himself: Javier Bardem. There are even rumors that Bond's most famous nemesis, Ernst Blofeld, might make an appearance.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (December 14th)
Ever since the premiere of "The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King" back in 2003, fans have been asking when Tolkien's other great Middle Earth tome would get a big-screen, big-budget adaptation. A change of directors, lawsuits, and the aforementioned bankruptcy of MGM delayed things for a while, but the first half of Bilbo's saga will be in theaters next Christmas. The second half will be released the following year.