Every year more films are released; every year the focus is different. Coming after 2011, when there was no Iron Man but much interest in The Iron Lady, 2012 is a mix of blockbusters and biopics, comic book adaptations and cinematic originals. Even as the studio system grows ever more focused on billion dollar earners, the independent scene cuts across genres and borders to offer new alternatives. Here are 25 films currently on their way in 2012: some you'll love, some you'll hate, but a Thursday wouldn't be the same without the possibility of finding out which it which.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher – January 12)
David Fincher follows up Zodiac and The Social Network with an English speaking adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millennium trilogy, staying in an icy Sweden and bringing in Daniel Craig as investigative reporter Mikael Blomqvist and Rooney Mara as the celebrated anti-hero Lisbeth Salander.
Hugo (Martin Scorsese – January 12)
A 3D children's film from the director of Taxi Driver and Shutter Island may sound unlikely, but Martin Scorsese invokes the very beginnings of cinema in this movie, which is set in a 1931 Parisian rail station and involves a young boy's quest to fulfil his father's creative vision.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson – January 19)
John Le Carre's classic espionage novel of the hunt for a Soviet traitor within the security services gets an impeccable adaptation from Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson. The Swede recreates 1970s London as a place of moral rot and rampant paranoia, while Gary Oldman equals Alec Guinness in the role of spymaster George Smiley.
J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood – January 26)
The long-time F.B.I. director was a towering figure of the American 20th century, both as a crime fighter and a ruthless exploiter of his considerable powers, and Leonardo DiCaprio plays him in a biopic directed by Clint Eastwood and scripted by Dustin Lance Black (Milk).
The Artist (Michel Hazanavacius – February 2)
As celluloid gives way to digital, invocations of cinema's beginnings have become more common. In this French film – silent and shot in black and white – Cannes Film Festival Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin plays a Hollywood actor from the 1920s whose career declines with the arrival of the talkies
Any Questions For Ben? (Rob Sitch – February 9)
More than a decade after their last feature, 2000's The Dish, the Working Dog team return to film with this romantic comedy about a young Melbourne high flyer (Josh Lawson) who begins to wonder if there's more to his life. Rachael Taylor (Red Dog) co-stars with Snowtown's Daniel Henshall, who is obviously one versatile actor.
Shame (Steve McQueen – February 9)
A Camera d'Or winner at Cannes in 2008 for his remarkable feature debut Hunger, British filmmaker Steve McQueen returns with this explicit story about a New York sex addict (Michael Fassbender) unable to control his need who is visited by his troubled younger sister (Carey Mulligan)
Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes – February 23)
The great English actor Ralph Fiennes – a.k.a. Voldemort to anyone under the age of 14 – returns to his theatrical roots with this bloody, modern adaptation of a William Shakespeare play about a triumphant general who is felled by a conspiracy and his own beliefs. Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain and Gerard Butler co-star.
Carnage (Roman Polanski – March 1)
Yasmina Reza's 2006 play God of Carnage was a hit through Europe and then on Broadway, and for the film adaptation about two sets of parents who meet to discuss a fight between their young sons and soon become combative themselves director Roman Polanksi has Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz.
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi – March 1)
Awarded Best Film at various festivals, including Berlin and Sydney, in 2011, Asghar Farhadi's drama is about a middle-class Iranian couple (Leila Hataami and Peyman Moaadi) whose attempts to divorce and move on end up in limbo, allowing for a close examination of faith and class differences
The Hunger Games (Gary Ross – March 22)
Replacing Twilight as the young adult series of novels converted to blockbusters comes the first part of this series about a dystopic future America where the downtrodden provinces send teenage entrants to an annual, televised battle where only one survives. Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) directs, with the gifted Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone, X-Men: First Class) as the flinty heroine Katniss Everdeen.
Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Love – April 5)
Mia Hansen Love's Father of My Children was an unexpected gem in 2009, marking the French writer/director as a talent to watch, and for her new feature she documents the romance between a couple (Lola Creton and Sebastian Urzendowsky as adults) whose connection began when they were teenagers.
The Lady (Luc Besson – April 19)
Every year there is no shortage of action flicks instigated by Luc Besson (2012 has a sequel to Taken and Guy Pearce in Lock-Out), but the French dynamo changes tack with this drama about imprisoned Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband (David Thewlis).
The Avengers (Joss Whedon – April 25)
Expect comic book devotees to ascend to a state of bliss when this Marvel supergroup debuts: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) all feature. But it has an idiosyncratic voice courtesy of writer-director Joss Whedon, creator of television's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.
Wish You Were Here (Kieran Darcy-Smith – April/May)
Two Australian couples go on a carefree holiday to South-East Asia, but when only three people return questions are asked about the disappearance of one of the men and what really happened. After a series of shorts, actor Kieran Darcy-Smith makes his feature debut directing Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Antony Starr and Felicity Price.
The Dictator (Larry Charles – June 7)
The mockumentaries are no more. After Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron-Cohen co-writes and stars in this comedy about a despotic Middle Eastern ruler who has no interest in the Arab Spring. Cohen's regular director Larry Charles returns as well, with the supporting cast including Ben Kingsley and Anna Faris.
Prometheus (Ridley Scott – June 7)
Ridley Scott returns to his first triumph, 1979's Alien, for this prequel which will explain more about his nightmarish creatures, possibly including their creation. Set against a backdrop of planetary terraforming and corporate space exploration, the ensemble cast includes Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender.
The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb – July 4)
Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire reinvented Spider-Man as an opening salvo in the age of superheroes less than ten years ago, but the masked web-slinger has been rebooted already. Now Peter Parker is back in high school, played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), with Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) directing.
The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan – July 19)
Christopher Nolan says his third Batman film is definitely the final piece of a trilogy, unfolding eight years after 2008's The Dark Knight with Christian Bale's billionaire superhero returning to Gotham City to face new challenges (Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway). Michael Caine and Gary Oldman return, as do heightened expectations.
The Expendables 2 (Simon West – August 23)
Welcome to the Country for Old Men. Having resuscitated the eighties action flick (and some associated careers) with the original Expendables, Sylvester Stallone goes one better with the sequel by having expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and introducing Jean-Claude Van Damme to the tall tale of international mercenaries.
Savages (Oliver Stone – September 27)
After the inconsequential Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Oliver Stone puts aside the politics and obvious social commentary for a south of the border drama about a pair of marijuana growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) whose hippie girlfriend (Blake Lively) is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. Benicio Del Toro, Uma Thurman and John Travolta co-star.
Gangster Squad (Ruben Fleischer – November 1)
Young American director Ruben Fleischer has made one funny comedy (Zombieland) and a not so funny comedy (30 Minutes or Less), but this James Ellroy-like tale of cops and criminal in 1940s Los Angeles gives him a commanding cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.
Skyfall (Sam Mendes – November 22)
The 23rd official entry in the James Bond franchise (let's not think about Never Say Never Again) has an unlikely Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) directing Daniel Craig as 007, with a supporting cast – including Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris – that suggests seriousness will prevail over gadgets.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson – December 26)
After King Kong and The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson returns to the scene of his great triumph: Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings impresario has recalled many of his trilogy's cast for the first part of this sequel, with British actor Martin Freeman cast as the fantasy quest's protagonist, Bilbo Baggins
Mental (P.J. Hogan – Undated)
P.J. Hogan makes his first Australian-set film since 1994's Muriel's Wedding, reuniting with Toni Collette for the story of a philandering politician who impulsively hires an eccentric free spirit (Collette) to be the nanny for his five daughters after his wife is hospitalised. Anthony LaPaglia, Live Schrieber and Rebecca Gibney round out the comedy's cast.