As the flurry of year-end top tens has slowed, it's time to anticipate the films of 2012. What have the studios got to offer?
According to NPR, while 2011 was the year of the "staggeringly disappointing superhero movie," 2012 will be the year of the smart superhero movie, with high hopes for "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Avengers" and "The Amazing Spider-Man." Meanwhile, WIRED's Most Tantalizing Movies of 2012 includes surefire box office hits "The Hobbit" and "The Dark Knight Rises" as well as less-certain titles, from "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" and "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" to David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" and Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows."
Hype too often leads to disappointment. Many projects we were excited to report in 2011 will soon arrive for our consumption–and our enjoyment and praise, we hope.
Below, the ten studio films we're most excited to see –along with cause for concern, which we rank from #10 – high to #1 – low:
10. "The Great Gatsby" – Warner Bros, December 25
Great Expectations: You couldn't ask for a better cast; Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.
Cause for Concern: Why are we telling this story again? And why did director Baz Luhrmann's choose to make the film in 3-D? It's a terrible sign that the film could end up a soulless, incoherent spectacle like his 2008 "Australia."
9. "World War Z" – Paramount, December 21
Great Expectations: Brad Pitt is enjoying the peak of his career, with knockout naturalistic performances in both "Moneyball" and "The Tree of Life" (which could win him an Oscar). This post-zombie war sci-fi-thriller from Marc Forster should deliver action goods with substance. Forster told ThePlaylist that the film departs from Max Brooks' book, and will be more than just entertainment: "Zombies have always been a metaphor for the darker side of humanity…it’s a very interesting time we live in."
Cause for Concern: It's hard to predict where Forster will go. He's inconsistent at best, from "Monster's Ball" and "Finding Neverland" to "Quantum of Solace" to "Machine Gun Preacher," which was heavy on cliches and flat on feeling. "World War Z" is new genre territory for him, and it's hopefully what he's been saving his smarts for.
8. "Gangster Squad" – Warner Bros, October 19
Great Expectations: The cast is killer: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Frank Grillo, Anthomy Mackie, Michael Pena and Mireile Enos. The film is set in the 1940s, where a special LAPD unit is tasked to fight against East Coast gangster Mickey Cohen's (Sean Penn) corrupting power over Los Angeles. Will Beall adapted the screenplay from a 2008 seven-part LA Times article written by Paul Lieberman (Beall is also writing Nicolas Winding Refn's "Logan's Run" and "Lethal Weapon 5").
Cause for Concern: Director Ruben Fleischer's 2009 "Zombieland" had many fans, but "30 Minutes or Less" earned more critical insults. We must assume the script — not Fleischer — was the draw for the stars to board this project.
7. "Dark Shadows" – Warner Bros, May 11
Great Expectations: Stepping into Tim Burton's universe is always worthwhile. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green and Michelle Pfieffer star in this gothic horror remake about vampires, witches and ghosts, which seems well-suited to his talents.
Cause for Concern: Depp's transparent nonchalance could be damaging. He's getting paid stupid amounts of money to do inflated studio fare like "Pirates 4" and "The Tourist." He seems to be stuck in over-the-top mode. His more creative pursuits have also been disappointing of late ("The Rum Diary"). Is it asking too much for him to bring something new to a character? Depp does his best work in Burton's hands.
6. "Les Miserables" – Universal, December 7
Great Expectations: Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper ("The Kings Speech") may do wonderful things with Hugh Jackman (the man can sing and dance), Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Eddie Redmayne. This edition of the Victor Hugo classic was written by William Nicholson ("Gladiator," "Elizabeth: The Golden Age") and Working Title is producing.
Cause for Concern: Having any actor sing on film is a risk. Hathaway sang well on the Oscars, but disappointed in her last two films ("One Day," "Love & Other Drugs"), while Crowe's recent work has been mediocre ("The Next Three Days," "Robin Hood," "State of Play").
5. "Lincoln: – Touchstone, December
Great Expectations: With the exception of "Nine," Daniel Day Lewis never disappoints. And the rest of the cast aint too shabby either.
Cause for Concern: Yes, Spielberg is movie-making royalty. But J. J. Abrams is the one who kept it interesting in 2011 with his Spielberg-inspired "Super 8." "Tintin" and "War Horse" were both painfully glib. Please, "Lincoln," prove us wrong.
4. "Brave" – Disney Pixar, June 22
Great Expectations: Finally, a Pixar movie with a female lead! And she doesn't look like a cliche.
Cause for Concern: With Pixar's track record, there isn't much, as long as Princess Merida and her story is given the same consideration as "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc.," "Ratatouille" and "Up."
3. "The Dark Knight Rises" – Warner Bros, July 20
Great Expectations: Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise ("Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight") is still the only superhero/comic-inspired franchise that not only justifies but honors the transition from page to screen. Adding Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard (all in Nolan's "Inception") to the cast is a great sign…
Cause for Concern: …again, it's Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. And this movie could be headed for an over-pixellated gargantuan scale.
2. "The Hobbit" – Warner Bros, December 14
Great Expectations: "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (with 17 Oscar wins) speaks for itself.
Cause for Concern: If anyone can make "The Hobbit" work in 3-D, it's Jackson and Weta Digital. But the movie features more new names than familiar faces, leaving room for a few questions marks in this otherwise guaranteed-to-please prequel.
1. "Prometheus" – Twentieth C. Fox, June 8
Great Expectations: While it does share some DNA with "Alien," this is still new, unexplored territory for audiences. Director Ridley Scott says the space epic's goal is "to scare the living shit out of you." With a cast of Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Peace, Idris Elba and Noomi Rapace, it's hard to imagine anything more exciting happening on a movie screen this year.
Cause for Concern: While the storyline– from writers Damon Lindelof ("Lost") and Jon Spaihts ("The Darkest Hour")–may fail to deliver, if the trailer is any indication, we're in for an eye-popping treat.