17 Films to Look Forward to in 2012

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From hobbits to superheros to teddy bears to Lincoln, here's what's coming to theaters next year

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This past year could accurately have been called The Year of the Franchise. Eight of 2011's ten top-grossing movies have been sequels, with the remaining two—Thor and Captain America—earning an asterisk for being newer entries in the larger Marvel superhero franchise. Six of the movies were in 3D. Quality has been schizophrenic at best. The top-grossing movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, got very, very good reviews. But the next four on the list fared much, much worse, with none achieving higher than a 40 percent approval rating from critics.

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But brighter cinematic days seem to be on the horizon. Judging by what's been announced, 2012 will be refreshingly light on lazy franchise cash-ins (like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was), revivals of cartoons from the ‘80s (like The Smurfs), and the rare movie that manages to be both (hello, Transformers: Dark of the Moon). Do a little digging, and there’s plenty to look forward to in 2012. And much of it original: Of the 17 films on our list of the most promising films of 2012, only four are sequels, and only five are being released in 3D.

A few notes before we begin:

1. This list is confined to films set for wide release (2,000+ theaters) in 2012.

2. Re-releases of older films are excluded from this list. That includes 3D-converted versions of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Beauty and the Beast, Titanic, and Finding Nemo, which are each set for release in the upcoming year.

Without further ado, the most promising films of 2012:

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Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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