As 2011 is laid to rest alongside Kim Jong Il and Pat Butcher, the dawn of a new year breaches the horizon and bathes us all in a warm, glowing, warming glow. With its birth comes two thousand and twelve shit Mayan jokes, a summer competition promoting the virtues of eugenics and one of the most spectacular years at the multiplex since Batman and Robin went head to head with Speed 2.
So join us, if you will, as The Dark Knight Rises, The Sky Falls and The Hobbit takes an Unexpected Journey...
Released on the other side of the Atlantic way back in November 2011, The Muppets' second coming is the only film on this list that's already been viewed by almost every film critic (including this one). The verdict? Just plain wonderful. Silly/fun, silly/touching, silly/silly, Jason Segel's love letter to all things Henson, complete with songs by Flight of the Conchords, is a joy to behold. Truly Heart...Felt.
Release Date: February 10
Or, When Pixar Went Live Action. John Carter marks the first non-toon of Andrew 'Wall-E/Finding Nemo' Stanton's career. Based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, the science fiction, action epic tells the story of a Civil War vet transported to Mars. Spunking a budget reported to be in the region of $250,000,000, expect to see every penny of it onscreen come March.
Release Date: March 9
Buffy and Serenity scribe Joss Whedon is in charge of keeping the broth from spoiling when The Avengers team up in April. Seeing as how elements of Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America all edged a little too close to product placement for the super hero supergroup's first outing, expectations are obviously high. The start of a new franchise or the death of Marvel? Four months until we find out.
Release Date: April 27
Men In Black 3
It's been 15 years and one lousy, lousy sequel since the Men in Black first came to protect us from the worst scum of the universe. It's also been four years since Big Willie Smith stepped in front of the camera lens, preferring instead to send his kids out to earn the bread. Can the magic of the first film return? If nothing else it'll evoke memories of summers past listening to the Top 40 on Radio 1. Altogether now “Don't fear us / cheer us / if you ever get near us / don't jeer us / we're fearless”. Quite.
Release Date: May 25
The Amazing Spider-Man
With great box office comes great need to keep franchise-churning. So it's come to this: rebooting a $800m-topping movie after less than a decade. Regardless of your views on the need for it, at least an amount of talent is being put into the newest round of the superhero tale. Music promo whiz and (500) Days of Summer helmer Marc Webb is behind the camera with the uber-talented pair of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in front. Just don't be surprised if the first act seems amazingly familiar.
Release Date: July 4
If ever there was a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns, the Alien film franchise would be top contender, from Ridley's classic original to Alien Vs Predator:Requiem's xenomorphic aborted turd of a film. But what if you could go back, go back to before the Versus Predator, before the DNA gobshite of Resurrection? Perhaps there's something left in the vacuum of space. The first trailer has certainly whet an appetite.
Release Date: June 1
The Dark Knight Rises
What is there left to say about The Dark Knight Rises? Quite a lot actually, but we're far too scared to find out any more about the Bat Man for fear of spoiling potentially the greatest cinematic experience of this, or any other, year. All we really need to know is that, if Bane gets his way, things are going to get very bad for The Dark Knight before any rising can get done. Can't. Freakin'. Wait.
Release Date: July 20
Pixar had their worst year by far in 2011 with the risible Cars 2 being slammed by critics and ignored (as much as a Pixar film can be) by audiences. What a difference a day or two makes, because Brave already looks like Lasseter and co. have bounced back. The Scot-centric tale of a princess (voiced by the wonderful Kelly Macdonald) fighting for respect from her tribe, has all the usual breathtaking visuals we've come to expect from Pixar. Let's hope it has the memorable characters to back them up.
Release Date: August 17
Skyfall: Bond 23
When we left 007 last time around it seemed that Daniel Craig had completed the character arc set up in Casino Royale. At the end of Quantum of Solace he was Bond. James Bond. Not that this necessarily means he'll be a one-trick, one liner-spouting cliché, especially considering angst guru Sam Mendes is calling the shots. With Javier Bardem on bad guy duties, could this be the first (not for technical awards) Oscar-Winning Bond?
Release Date: October 26
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Bilbo's (hairy) back. It's time, once again, to journey to Middle Earth. It's hard to believe that a decade has passed since Peter Jackson first helped immortalise J.R.R Tolkein's tome on the big-screen, reshaping epic cinema for the 21st Century. The Hobbit's success in 3D may well determine the future of the format. Expect big, big things.
Release Date: December 14
Which of the 2012 big hitters is most likely to get you front and centre on opening weekend?