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Maybe babies

Our annual look at the less obvious films we might love this coming year

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The world couldn’t be better off now that 2011 is finally over. At best, it was a year of transition; the fast before the feast, if you will. 2012 already feels like a real year – the U.S. gets another presidential election, London gets the Olympics, the Mayans get their apocalypse and filmgoers get an abundance of geek-out spectacle.

Heralding the influx of big-budget blockbusters-in-waiting is the appropriate return of some old-school moneybags boasting a fresh coat of 3-D paint, like The Phantom Menace (Feb. 10), Finding Nemo (Sept. 14) and the big daddy of them all, Titanic (April 6).

New contenders hoping to challenge their all-time box-office status include Disney’s long-awaited John Carter (March 9), Y.A. juggernaut The Hunger Games (March 23), everything-but-the-kitchen-sink FX-fest Battleship (May 18), possible Alien prequel Prometheus (June 8), remakes of Total Recall (Aug. 3), Red Dawn (Nov. 2), The Great Gatsby (Dec. 25) and Frankenweenie (Oct. 5), and franchise installments from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14) to the Matt Damon-less The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3).

Then there are the bazookas – the movies all but guaranteed to shatter records and (they hope) blow minds: The Amazing Spider-Man starring The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield (July 3); Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy completion, The Dark Knight Rises (July 20); The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Nov. 16) and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (May 4).

Those are the easier ones to gauge, but what about the rest? Below, for the fourth year now, I whip out my crystal balls and predict, based on almost nothing but the people involved, what else we might love in 2012. Yes, it’s a grand tradition that has, in the past, brought you fingers-crossed analysis of such future winners as The Box, Paul and, of course, Season of the Witch. (Also The Tree of Life, Bridesmaids and Moneyball, to be fair.) Take it with a grain of salt. I’ll take the blame.

Wanderlust With the plus-sized exception of Bridesmaids, Universal Pictures had a horrific year for comedy in 2011, chugging out laugh-free cringers like Larry Crowne, The Change-Up, Your Highness, Paul, The Dilemmaand other travesties, but hope must be clutched and fingers must be crossed for this Universal comedy co-written and directed by The State alum and Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain. It stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston (who, let’s not forget, can be charming when indie-channeled correctly) as a Manhattan couple whose sudden unemployment lands them at a free-love hippie commune headed by a bearded Alan Alda. (Feb. 24)

Jeff, Who Lives at Home 2010’s Cyrus proved that the mumblecore sensibilities of writer-directors Mark and Jay Duplass could successfully translate to higher-budgeted pseudo-indie territory populated by actors like John C. Reilly and Catherine Keener. This year, the Duplasses have moved up a few more notches, employing genuine box-office draws Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Ed Helms (The Hangover) for their story of two brothers coming to terms with adulthood. (March 9)

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