10 in 2012: The most anticipated movies of the year

Total box office receipts in 2011 dropped four percent from the year previous, but looking at the slate of movies scheduled for release this year, it doesn’t appear that Hollywood is changing its strategy much. 2012 looks like a lot of franchise continuations and reboots, as well as plenty of big-budget action movies and prestige pictures. In fact, at least 27 sequels, prequels or spin-offs are planned for release this year. Here are 10 of the most anticipated films of 2012 that already have.

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John Carter Trailer

John Carter – March 9

“Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E” director Andrew Stanton is mixing live-action with a heavy amount of computer-generated imagery for his adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulpy sci-fi hero known to most fans as “John Carter of Mars.” Largely based on Burroughs’ first novel in the series, “A Princess of Mars,” this project has been in development hell since the 1980s and has changed hands and concepts many times since then. “Friday Night Lights” star Taylor Kitsch is in the lead role, and Disney has a lot riding on the success of this one, as Stanton is hoping to make a trilogy of “Mars” movies.

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The Hunger Games Trailer

The Hunger Games – March 23

Suzanne Collins’ series of young adult adventure books has been nothing short of a sensation, so it’s no surprise its first filmic adaptation would be hugely anticipated. “The Hunger Games” is directed by Gary Ross (“Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit”) and stars Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence as two teens in a post-apocalyptic future where a televised event forces competitors to fight to the death. Lionsgate has a lot of faith that the movie will be a big hit, because it already has a sequel in the works as well.

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The Avengers Trailer

The Avengers – May 4

Marvel has seemingly everything riding on “The Avengers.” It is the culmination of five years of careful setup in movies like “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man” and its sequel, “Thor” and, most recently, “Captain America: The First Avenger.” All of the title characters will come together with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in 3D to battle for the fate of the planet — and writer/director Joss Whedon (“Serenity”) is the guy responsible for making sure that the story is compelling, the action is amazing and that none of the strong Marvel personalities get lost in an ensemble picture.

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The Amazing Spider-Man Trailer

The Amazing Spider-Man – July 3

After pulling the plug on “Spider-Man 4” due to budget concerns, Sony Pictures decided to take Peter Parker back to high school with a new cast and director. Former music video director Marc Webb, whose only previous feature is the eccentric romcom “(500) Days of Summer,” was an interesting choice to helm a superhero blockbuster, but Webb should have a good handle on character and he got approval to shoot the movie in 3D rather than have it be upgraded in post. Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) is the teen webslinger, while Emma Stone (“Easy A”) will play his love interest Gwen Stacy in this reboot, which is said to be focused on Parker developing his abilities. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans is an inspired choice as Dr. Curt Connors, the one-armed man who becomes the Lizard.

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The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

The Dark Knight Rises – July 20

After bending minds two years ago with “Inception,” director Christopher Nolan returns to his wildly successful Batman franchise for the final chapter. Christian Bale’s last outing as the caped crusader takes place eight years after the events of “The Dark Knight” and stars Tom Hardy as the bone-crushing villain Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle — an enigmatic Gotham personality who becomes Catwoman. While the film will not be in 3D, Nolan is utilizing even more scenes in IMAX than he did in “The Dark Knight” to take advantage of the format’s wider scale and improved picture quality.

The Bourne Legacy – August 3

In the feud between Paul Greengrass, the director of the last two “Bourne” movies, and Tony Gilroy, the writer of all three, star Matt Damon chose to side with Greengrass. Universal, however, had a script for the continuation of the action series that didn’t include Jason Bourne, but instead centered around another assassin created by the black-ops Treadstone organization. That’s the movie that got the greenlight, largely thanks to Gilroy’s script and his offer to direct the film as well. Jeremy Renner plays Treadstone’s latest victim, while Edward Norton is the villain, Rachel Weisz costars, and Joan Allen and Albert Finney return to the franchise.

Gravity – November 21

Alfonso Cuarón’s last film “Children of Men” was one of the most chilling and poignant sci-fi movies ever made, so his new movie “Gravity,” starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts fighting for survival in a damaged space station, has a lot to live up to. With the soon-to-be-Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski (“The Tree of Life”) on board, the vast expanse of space will no doubt look amazing. The entire movie was shot digitally and will be screening in 2D, 3D and IMAX when it hits theaters.

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The Hobbit Trailer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – December 14

Nine whole years after the release of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the first of two movie adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s prequel “The Hobbit” will finally reach theaters. After a long battle with New Line, MGM’s financial woes, and director Guillermo del Toro coming and going, Peter Jackson will finally deliver the epic and unexpected journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to the screen with the same production team responsible for the Oscar-winning “Rings” trilogy. Expectations couldn’t be any higher.

Django Unchained – December 25

Quentin Tarantino has assembled a massive all-star cast for his latest take on the spaghetti western. “Django Unchained,” set in the Deep South during the time of slavery, will feature Jaime Foxx as a freed slave trained as a cutthroat assassin by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). Leonardo DiCaprio plays a Mississippi club owner, Kerry Washington is the damsel in distress and Samuel L. Jackson reteams with Tarantino as Stephen, a brilliant slave. Rounding out the cast are such diverse actors as Don Johnson, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony LaPaglia and the RZA.

The Great Gatsby – December 25

The last movie we got from “Moulin Rouge!” director Baz Luhrmann was the soulless “Australia,” which showed the master of effortless charm trying too hard to make a romantic epic out of leftover pieces. Let’s hope his big-budget adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary 1925 novel with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role and Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire supporting restores Luhrmann’s sense of operatic melodrama.

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