Hope, for the dedicated cinemagoer, not only springs eternal, it does so with welcome regularity every Thursday. As one year ends and you try to make sense of how the same medium could give us Samson & Delilah and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, it's best to simply look ahead and wonder what 2010 has in store. Rest assured that of the 20 films listed below – a mere sample of what lies ahead – more than a few will be disappointments and one or two will even make us think kindly of G.I. Joe, but for now each is unsullied by viewing and full of potential.
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman – January 14)
Already one of the best reviewed films of this year in American, Jason Reitman's follow-up to Juno – with George Clooney as a smooth business traveler with no ties to anywhere or anyone who faces an identity crisis – will arrive in Australian cinemas to high anticipation.
Invictus (Clint Eastwood – January 21)
Sport and politics combine in Clint Eastwood's examination of the unlikely bond between a new black South African President (Morgan Freeman's Nelson Mandela) and the country's white rugby union national captain (Matt Damon's Francois Pienaar) forged during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Daybreakers (Michael & Peter Spierig – February 4)
Australian genre filmmakers the Spierig brothers (Undead) shot this atmospheric tale of a world where vampires are the everyday majority in sunny Queensland, assembling an international cast (Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan) for their tale of bloodletting.
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese – February 18)
Postponed from last October for corporate financing reasons, Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's thriller reunites him with Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays a 1950s U.S. Marshall searching for a murderer at an isolated prison for the criminally insane.
A Single Man (Tom Ford – February 25)
Another title that will come with Academy Awards buzz, specifically for British actor Colin Firth, who plays a closeted 1960s college professor planning to kill himself after the death of his partner. It's the first feature from Tom Ford, former head designer for the Gucci fashion house.
Green Zone (Paul Greengrass – March 11)
Now that filmmaker Greengrass has backed out of the fourth installment of the Bourne series, this is the only chance you'll have to see him in partnership with Matt Damon next year. The actor plays a U.S. Army officer whose search for weapons of mass destruction takes him outside the chain of command.
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow – March 18)
At one point this tense Baghdad bomb disposal procedural was down for a DVD release, but with Bigelow (Point Break) now a favourite for the Best Director Oscar, it's back in cinemas. The little known Jeremy Renner (S.W.A.T.) is her lead, with excellent, unexpected supporting work from Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes.
Clash of the Titans (Louis Leterrier – April 1)
Just how crazy are the gods? Leterrier, who helmed 2008's The Incredible Hulk, has a prime pick for fantasy fans, with Australian Avatar star Sam Worthington as Perseus, the mortal son of an ancient Greek god who must stop Hades (Ralph Fiennes) seizing power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and destroying humanity. Expect 300 with magical creatures.
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (Oliver Stone – April)
More than 20 years after the “greed is good” speech, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) gets out of jail on the eve of the 2008 global financial crisis. Shia LaBeouf plays the fiancé of his estranged daughter (Carey Mulligan), who Gekko helps in his quest for revenge against an amoral hedge fund manager (Josh Brolin).
Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau – May)
A sequel to one of the most entertaining blockbusters of recent memory, the next Iron Man brings back Robert Downey Jr, as cavalier billionaire Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow and director Jon Favreau. Joining them are Mickey Rourke and Scarlet Johansson and Don Cheadle.
Robin Hood (Ridley Scott – May)
If the trailer is any indication, this returns Scott and Crowe to Gladiator (and thankfully not A Good Year), with the latter as the returned Crusader who becomes a guerilla leader. Cate Blanchett will play Lady Marion, and it will be fascinating to see what kind of screen chemistry exists between the two leads.
Shrek Forever After (Mike Mitchell – May)
With a possible green election looming, the billion dollar box-office ogre makes a timely return for his fourth animated outing. Mike Myers, who must make amends for The Love Guru, will again voice the cantankerous protagonist, with Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas also speaking up.
Jonah Hex (Jimmy Hayward – June)
The mania for comic book adaptation is somewhat subdued in 2010, with this western one of the more intriguing. Josh Brolin plays a scarred American Civil War veteran turned bounty hunter, with Megan Fox and John Malkovich as the love interest and villain respectively. Please let this bear no resemblance to Wild Wild West.
Salt (Phillip Noyce – July)
Angelina Jolie's reign as the one woman who can draw an audience as a convincing action star continues, here playing a CIA agent on the run after being named as a traitor by a defector. Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce directs, reuniting with his star 10 years after The Bone Collector.
Inception (Christopher Nolan – July)
After The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan is the hero of film geeks worldwide. Putting Bruce Wayne aside, his next picture is a sci-fi thriller that to date has been shrouded in secrecy. Leonardo DiCaprio stars, possibly as a thief who breaks into the mind of his victims. Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page co-star.
The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone – August)
If you ever rented an action film on video in the 1980s then this one is for you. Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars in an old school action adventure – minimal digital effects – with an armada of arsekickers that includes Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren. Expect unhinged violence and cameos from a few other 80s icons.
The Social Network (David Fincher – October)
No-one seriously thought the creation of social networking site Facebook would make for a good film, but once Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) turned in his screenplay and David Fincher made it his follow-up to Zodiac opinions quickly changed. Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield play the accidental billionaires.
Due Date (Todd Phillips – November)
After The Hangover, the comedy hit of 2009, Todd Philips had his pick of projects. He chose a spec script about a cross-country journey taken by the mismatched pair of a highly strung father-to-be and an ageing slacker. If that sounds like comedy boilerplate, the cast isn't: Robert Downey Jr. and The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis play the respective leads.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One (David Yates – November)
The final book in J.K. Rowling's phenomenal teenage wizard saga gets divided into two pictures, with the second part due in 2011. Current director David Yates will stay until the end, alongside the now expansive cast. Will teenagers stay loyal to Harry and his erstwhile friends in the time of Twilight?
The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry – December)
Seemingly mortally wounded when mercurial Hong Kong superstar Stephen Chow dropped out as director and co-star, the unlikely idea of a slimmed down Seth Rogen playing a masked superhero was resurrected by DIY French auteur Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz – the talkative Nazi from Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds – round out the cast.