Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 movie preview

"Baggins, we loves it, we loves it, we loves it forever!"

For super-fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and the film trilogy based on "The Lord of the Rings," 2012 can be summed up this way: the arrival of "The Hobbit," and a bunch of other movies.

With the "Harry Potter" series all wrapped up and the "Twilight" franchise sputtering to an end, there's nothing bigger on the cinematic calendar than the prequel to "LotR," which (in a familiar move) is being split in two.

Super-heroes will flex even more muscle this year, with "Spider-Man" seeing a reboot and the latest Batman iteration attempting to outdo "The Dark Knight." A potential new roster of heroes rises with "The Avengers," who could potentially ride this thing into the 2020s.

Here is a look at the year in movies, with personal favorites starred. (Release dates can and will change.)

*Red Tails (Jan. 20) -- Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. star in this WWII action/drama based on the exploits of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen.

The Grey (Jan. 27) -- Liam Neeson, rejuvenated as an action hero, leads a group of oil drillers stranded in Alaska and hunted by wolves.

W.E. (Feb. 3) -- Madonna (yes, that Madonna) wrote and directed this dramatic take on the affair between England's King Edward VIII and an American divorcée.

The Woman in Black (Feb. 3) -- Daniel Radcliffe tests the post-Harry Potter waters in this supernatural period thriller.

Safe House (Feb. 10) -- Denzel Washington goes deliciously bad again playing a criminal held prisoner in a CIA facility overseen by rookie agent Ryan Reynolds.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17) -- Nicolas Cage opts for a sequel of perhaps his most craptastic cinematic effort -- and that's saying something.

The Secret World of Arrietty (Feb. 17) -- A Disney animation effort in the Japanese anime mold about a family of tiny people discovered by big people.

This Means War (Feb. 17) -- Spy action/comedy about two agents who discover they're dating the same woman. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hardy and Chris Pine.

Wanderlust (Feb. 24) -- Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd play Manhattanites who lose their jobs and end up in a free-love commune.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (March 2) -- The good doctor's lesser-known titles haven't fared so well as animated adaptations. Taylor Swift and Zac Efron provide voices.

*Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (March 2) -- Could be the year's first big action tentpole, with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as post-fairy tale arse-kickers.

*The Raven (March 9) -- John Cusack stars in this highly fictionalized take on the life of Edgar Allen Poe, recast as a hunter of serial killers.

Mirror Mirror (March 16) -- The first of two very liberal Snow White adaptations, this one starring Lily Collins with Julia Roberts as the evil queen.

*The Hunger Games (March 23) -- A ton of expectations are waiting for this film version of the Suzanne Collins YA novel about a world where teens fight to the death on TV.

Wrath of the Titans (March 30) -- Sequel to the remake of "Clash of the Titans"; Perseus goes to hell to rescue Zeus. Let's hope the 3D is better.

The Three Stooges (April 13) -- Still sounds like a bad joke, but the Farrelly Brothers (remember them?) go retro looking for some nyucks.

*The Avengers (May 4) -- Four super-heroes previously featured in their own films (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and The Hulk) team up with some new recruits to battle Loki, the evil god of tricks.

Dark Shadows (May 11) -- Johnny Depp and Tim Burton team up again for a movie version of the cheesy TV show about vampires.

The Dictator (May 11) -- Prankmeister Sacha Baron Cohen's latest stars himself as a fictional Middle Eastern potentate who comes to America.

Battleship (May 18) -- The desktop game becomes a CGI-laden action flick with ships and spaceships. The trailer produced much mockery.

Men in Black 3 (May 25) -- MiB2 was one of the laziest sequels in memory -- can a 10-year layoff improve matters?

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1) -- The second Snow White movie, and much grimier. Kristen Stewart is Snow, Charlize Theron is the queen, and Chris Hemsworth is the third wheel.

*Prometheus (June 8) -- A lot of mystery surrounds this Ridley Scott sci-fi thriller, with most people guessing it's a prequel to "Alien." Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace star.

Jack the Giant Killer (June 15) -- Jack the Beanstalk gets the big-budget treatment from "X-Men" director Bryan Singer.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) -- The first of those classic literature/horror mash-ups arrives onscreen, with Abe honestly kicking butts of blood-suckers and slave owners.

Brave (June 22) -- The newest animated film from Pixar stars their first female protagonist in a Scottish-flavored sword-and-sorcery tale.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) -- Just five years after the trilogy ended, Spidey gets a reboot with an all-new cast, including Andrew Garfield as the webslinger. Could be good, but falls firmly into the "But, why?" category.

*The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) -- The Batman franchise has a huge hurdle to top the last film, which featured one of the greatest villain performances of all time. Somehow I doubt Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Bane will measure up to the Joker.

Total Recall (Aug. 3) -- Colin Farrell replaces Ah-nold in this remake of the 1990 sci-fi minor classic.

Argo (Sept. 14) -- Ben Affleck directed and stars in this action/drama about a CIA "exfiltration" expert tasked with getting six Americans out of Iran during the revolution.

Looper (Sept. 28) -- This sci-fi thriller stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a time-traveling hitman who realizes his next target is his future self (Bruce Willis).

Frankenweenie (Oct. 5) -- Tim Burton remakes his first short film as a stop-animation feature about a boy who jolts his dead dog back to life.

Gangster Squad (Oct. 19) -- This highly stylized look at the fight to keep New York mobsters out of 1940s Los Angeles stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin.

Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 12) -- The bad guy of a video game wants to be the hero in this Disney animated flick.

Skyfall (Nov. 9) -- This long-delayed James Bond flick arrives with Daniel Craig battling a villain (Ralph Fiennes) from M's (Judi Dench) past. Sam Mendes directs.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (Nov. 16) -- Vampire lovers and werewolf enemies face off against nosferatu royalty in the culmination of the often-hootworthy series.

Gravity (Nov. 21) -- Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut stranded in space trying to get back to Earth and her daughter. With George Clooney.

Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21) -- Fall's big animation tentpole finds mythical creatures (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, Tooth Fairy) ganging up to fight the Bogeyman.

Les Miserables (Dec. 7) -- Victor Hugo's epic novel has been made into numerous films, but this version is based on the Broadway musical. Starring Hugh Jackman.

*The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14) -- Peter Jackson wove magic with "Lord of the Rings," and there's no reason to expect less from the prequel tale. Boring Bilbo Baggins sets off on an adventure with a baker's dozen of dwarves, acquires some jewelry and sees the world. The second half, subtitled "There And Back Again," arrives in 2013.

*World War Z (Dec. 21) -- Based on the best-selling book that takes a serious, sober look at a zombie apocalypse. Starring Brad Pitt.

Django Unchained (Dec. 25) -- Jamie Foxx stars in this Civil War-era actioner from Quentin Tarantino, as a slave-turned-bounty hunter takes the fight to a Mississippi plantation.

The Great Gatsby (Dec. 25) -- Leonardo DiCaprio plays the title role and Carey Mulligan is Daisy in this ambitious adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald book.

*Lincoln (December) -- Steven Spielberg tackles the life of Abraham Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. Less a biopic than a portrait of leadership during America's darkest days.

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