The Dark Knight Rises (July 20)- Ever since the release of the new trailer, anticipation for Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film has is at an all-time high. 2008′s The Dark Knight left a lasting impression with the help of the late Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of The Joker, but it was also a masterpiece of big studio filmmaking. Christian Bale’s Batman is up against Tom Hardy’s Bane in this installment, though uncertainty still surrounds the allegiance of Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle. If Nolan comes anywhere close to where he did with the last two films, this will be a phenomenal success on both a financial and artistic level.
The Master (TBA)- While there are a lot of big budget films coming out this year with a lot of potential, Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film has more potential than them all. There Will Be Blood was our pick for the best film of the 2000s, and rumors that the film faced production problems because it attacks Scientology only make the hype greater. Though the Behind the Scenes photos that have been released feature only extras, they give a feel for the vintage aesthetic Anderson is going for by shooting on 65mm film. With Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the main roles, this film seems preordained to triumph.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)- Peter Jackson is following in the footsteps of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises by splitting up the Lord of the Rings prequel into two films. It actually seems necessary, though, when considering the attention to detail he brought to those other outings in Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is arguably more esteemed than Lord of the Rings, so Jackson must take care to do it justice. There’s no better director for the task in our book.
Gravity (Nov. 21)- In his first film since the legendary sci-fi masterpiece Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón brings us a much smaller but no less ambitious film with Gravity. Set in outer space and starring only two actors (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock), the film is about a doctor trying to return home to her daughter after their mission to repair the Hubble Telescope goes wrong. The first 20 minutes were reportedly shot in a single take, no small task with the 3D technology Cuarón is utilizing to make it.
Skyfall (Nov. 9)- Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in this latest installment of the 007 franchise with some esteemed company in front of and behind the camera. Director Sam Mendes is taking the helm, though we doubt the suburban repression of American Beauty or Revolutionary Road will accompany him. Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem are set to star as the villains, and we sincerely hope some of the creepiness they’ve brought to other movies makes their way to this one.
The Great Gatsby (Dec. 25)- A flashy, 3D adaptation of a somber Roaring 20s novel may not seem like the best angle to take, but with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan starring, it’s hard not to be excited about The Great Gatsby. Hopefully Baz Luhrmann can find the right emotional tone to go with this grandiose 3D vision of one of the great American novels.
Brave (June 22)- The pratfalls of Cars 2 lost Pixar some street cred in the film world, but hopefully their new original film can redeem it. Brave marks the first time the company has a female protagonist at the center, chronicling a red-headed princess’ journey to take control of her own fate. The trailer makes it seem like an animated Hunger Games, but the beauty of Pixar is that you never really know what the final product will look like.
Prometheus (June 8)- The trailer for this new Ridley Scott sci-fi epic sent the world into a tail-spin. It’s been confirmed that it’s some sort of prequel to Alien, though like the Star Wars films will be made using digital filmmaking technology that far surpasses the original. Scott’s original was largely a horror movie; it was James Cameron who elevated the scale in Aliens. This is Scott’s chance to return the series to glory and have his own opportunity to one-up.
Django Unchained (Dec. 25)- Quentin Tarantino’s new film follows the journey of a slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) in the Old South trying to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a sinister racist (Leonardo DiCaprio). Of course explaining the premise of a Tarantino movie is only about 5% of the actual experience, but without the release of a trailer, all we can do is list the cast (which also features Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kurt Russell) and prepare for obscure movie references and obscene, poetic dialogue.
Dark Shadows (May 11)- Tim Burton and Johnny Depp continue their filmmaking courtship together in this moody vampire romp based on a hit TV series. Vampires have been way overdone in recent years, but Burton’s entire gothic catalog indicates he’s not just yielding to a trend.
World War Z (Dec 21)- Adapted from the hit book, director Marc Forster is teaming up with Brad Pitt to bring a zombie story set in the aftermath of the apocalypse. Though there will likely be plenty of on-screen carnage, Forster’s diverse directing repertoire so far (Quantum of Solace, Hobo With a Shotgun and Finding Neverland among them) give no hints as to what his approach will be.
Terrence Malick Double Feature (TBA)- According to IMDB, the man legendary for his 30 year break between films is making up for lost time in 2012. With two films on the docket, one titled Voyage of Time and the other currently untitled, Malick has two chances to top his career peak last year in The Tree of Life. Voyage of Time, which lists Brad Pitt and Emma Thompson as the only people in the movie, claims to be about “the birth and death of the universe.” The untitled one has a huge cast that features Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem and Tree of Life alum Jessica Chastain.