Getting into The Hobbit
Return to Middle Earth is just one of the highlights of an action-packed 2012
While some observers declared 2011 a vintage year for quality films, I personally thought it was pretty average, especially in the summer when JJ Abrams's Super 8 was just about the only blockbuster of interest.
The good news is 2012 looks a lot more promising, with Ridley Scott's Alien reboot Prometheus, a new Bourne film and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Rises among the big releases to look forward to.
Sacha Baron Cohen has a new film out in May, The Muppets are back, Peter Jackson's Hobbit will finally appear and Daniel Craig returns as James Bond after a four-year hiatus.
Of course it's hard to say at this remove if all of these big releases will live up to their promise, but here's our pick of what to watch out for in 2012.
Ralph Fiennes makes a very solid directorial debut this month with Coriolanus, a retelling of Shakespeare's bloody Roman drama in a present day Balkan setting. It's out on January 20, as is W.E., Madonna's altogether shakier debut feature about the life of Wallis Simpson.
George Clooney apparently gives his strongest performance in a long time in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, which is out on January 27. And Glenn Close spent 15 years trying to turn George Moore's short story The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs into a film. Shot mainly in Dublin and Wicklow, it's also released on January 27.
The One to Watch: The film we'll all be waiting for is Clint Eastwood's biopic of the controversial FBI supremo J Edgar Hoover, which features a typically powerful performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. J Edgar is out next week.
Jonathan Safran Foer's haunting 2005 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gets the big-screen treatment in a film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock and tells the story of a 10-year-old boy's attempts to make sense of his father's death in the 9/11 attacks.
It's released on February 3, as is Roman Polanski's Carnage, a tense drama in which two sets of middle-class New York parents come to blows over their kids.
David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method dramatises the conflict between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung over a beautiful patient, and stars Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender. It's out on February 10.
And Jason Reitman's new film, Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron as a self-absorbed novelist who causes chaos when she returns to her home town, looks great. Also out on February 10.
The One to Watch: If I'm completely honest, the film I'm really excited about seeing in February is The Muppets, a reboot of the famous franchise starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams and all the old Muppet favourites. It's out on February 10.
Jennifer Lawrence's star continues to rise in Hollywood and she heads the cast of The Hunger Games, a thriller set in a grim future in which children from the poorest families fight for their lives in televised contests. It's released on March 23.
Markus Schleinzer's Michael is sure to be one of the year's most controversial films. Due for release on March 2, it tells the story of a mild-mannered Austrian paedophile who imprisons a 10-year-old boy in his basement.
Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star in Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo, a comic drama based on the true story of a California family who moved into a rundown zoo. Out on March 16.
The One to Watch: Eccentric German director Werner Herzog has made some cracking documentaries in recent years, and Into The Abyss follows the last days of a man on death row awaiting execution for a triple murder. Out March 23.
James Cameron's Titanic has been given a 3D makeover and will be re-released in cinemas in early April.
Elsewhere, Marvel Studios will continue its highly lucrative superhero franchise with The Avengers (April 27), which stars Robert Downey Jnr and Chris Evans.
Dreamworks will be hoping for a spring success with The Croods, a comic animation set in the Stone Age and featuring the voices of Ryan Reynolds and Nicholas Cage.
And in late April the Duplass brothers will release Jeff Who Lives at Home, a comedy starring Jason Segel as a 30-year-old man who still lives with his parents.
The One to Watch: Peter Berg's Battleship, a big-budget action extravaganza about a US naval expedition that's attacked by an alien invasion force off Hawaii, looks like a lot of fun. It's out in late April.
The Farrelly brothers' The Three Stooges will attempt to transplant the classic 1950s slapstick partnership to the present day. It's out on May 4.
After the mixed reaction to his 2009 film Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen will be looking to bounce back with The Dictator, a black comedy about a cheerful Arab despot. May 11.
And 10 years after the last film, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will return as the intrepid alien hunters in Men in Black 3. Out on May 25.
The One to Watch: Tim Burton's film adaptation of the gothic TV soap opera Dark Shadows looks fantastic, and boasts a great cast, including Johnny Depp, Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer. May 11.
I've seen extended clips of the fantasy adventure Snow White and the Hunstman (June 1) and it looks pretty stylish. Kristen Stewart's Snow White is on the run from Charlize Theron's evil queen, who wants to eat her heart and gain eternal youth.
The summer blockbusters kick off on June 29 with GI Joe: Retaliation, a sequel starring Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum and based on the popular toy. It's a sequel to a 2009 GI Joe film that grossed $300m at the box office.
The One to Watch: No contest -- the film everyone's waiting for in June is Ridley Scott's Prometheus, a big-budget prequel to his 1979 classic Alien, starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Due out on June 8.
While everyone waits for Steven Spielberg's historical epic Lincoln to arrive, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will provide a more fanciful account of the life of America's 16th president. It's due out in late July, as is The Lorax, a hilarious-looking animation based on the stories of Dr Seuss.
The Spider-Man franchise will be relaunched from scratch on July 4, when Andrew Garfield replaces Toby Maguire as the young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man.
The One to Watch: Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises is probably the most eagerly anticipated film of the year. He says it'll be his last Batman film, and the trailers look incredible. July 20.
It will be interesting to see how Joe Wright handles Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (August 17). Keira Knightley plays the doomed heroine, and Jude Law and Matthew Macfadyen co-star.
Colin Farrell stars in a remake of the 1990 sci-fi hit Total Recall. That's out on August 24, as is Seth McFarlane's Ted, a comedy about a man and his very vulgar talking teddy bear that looks hilarious. And Pixar will enter the summer box office war on August 17 with Brave, a historical animation set in the Scottish highlands.
The One to Watch: Can the Bourne franchise survive the departure of Matt Damon? Jeremy Renner replaces him as an agent on the run in The Bourne Legacy, which arrives in your cinemas on August 17.
The Coen brothers have written the script for Gambit, a remake of the 1960s comic thriller with Colin Firth taking the Michael Caine role. Due out on September 14.
And on September 21 we'll get a first look at The Sweeney, an action film starring Ray Winstone and based on the iconic 1970s TV show.
Gillian Anderson, Clive Owen, Domhnall Gleeson and Aidan Gillen head the cast of James Marsh's Shadow Dancer, based on the story of an IRA woman who became an MI5 informer. (September 6)
The One to Watch: An animated comic horror from the people who brought you the brilliant Coraline, ParaNorman tells the story of a small boy who saves his town from a zombie attack.
Tim Burton's 1984 short film Frankenweenie was one of the things that initially got him noticed, and he's currently remaking it in 3D, black-and-white format. In it a boy named Victor is devastated when his dog dies, but then discovers how to use electricity to bring it back to life.
In Madagascar 3, the zoo animals take a tour of Europe's capitals on their way back to New York. Critics weren't overly impressed with Madagascar 2, but it grossed over $600m at the box office.
The One to Watch: The autumn will be dominated by the arrival of Skyfall, the 23rd Bond film and the third starring Daniel Craig (below left). Sam Mendes will direct, and Javier Bardem is to play the villain.
Much is expected of Rise of the Guardians, a big-budget computer-animated adventure in which Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost join forces to foil the dastardly plans of the Boogeyman. Due out November 21.
And Robert Pattinson will attempt to prove there's life after Twilight by taking on a meaty role in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, a dark tale based on a novel by Don DeLillo. (Late November)
The One to Watch: Ang Lee has taken on the daunting challenge of adapting Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi for the big screen. A shipwrecked boy gets stranded in a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra and a Bengal tiger. Late November.
There are bound to be elements of camp 1970s Blaxploitation to Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained (out on St Stephen's Day), a dark tale of sex and slavery starring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio will also star in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, playing the glamorous but unhappy 1920s millionaire who becomes obsessed with the things he cannot have. Due out Christmas Day.
The One to Watch: Will Peter Jackson's The Hobbit manage to recapture the magic and universal appeal of his Lord Of The Rings films? We'll find out on December 14.