Each year movie studios roll out a plethora of fresh flicks to impress -- or depress -- eager viewers. We never know which ones will be worth our box-office bucks until reviews and word-of-mouth offer insight.
The new year starts off with what could be a bang or a thud: Ruben Fleischer's "Gangster Squad." Fortunately, 2013 is brimming with tantalizing prospects after that. Here's a sampling of what the year has in store for cinema-goers:
Director Fleischer ambushed audiences with his pleasant-surprise debut "Zombieland" in 2009, but his sophomore effort, "30 Minutes or Less," missed the mark. Now he's back with his third feature, the "Untouchables"-esque "Gangster Squad" (Jan. 11) starring Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone, with Sean Penn as mobster Mickey Cohen.
The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, makes his big-screen comeback as a drug-busting sheriff in "The Last Stand" (Jan. 18). And the latest twist on a classic fable sees Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton chasing witches in the fairytale actioner "Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters" (Jan. 25).
In February, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken will play aging con men in the crime fiction/comedy "Stand Up Guys" (Feb. 1). "Bridesmaids" standout Melissa McCarthy swipes Jason Bateman's identity in the aptly titled "Identity Thief" (Feb. 8) from "Horrible Bosses" director Seth Gordon. New York City cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) heads to Russia and teams up with his equally bad-ass son (Jai Courtney) in "A Good Day to Die Hard" (Feb. 15). The best-selling novel by authors Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl comes to life in "Beautiful Creatures" (Feb. 15) starring Emmy Rossum and Jeremy Irons.
In March, a young farmer aims to rescue a captive princess in director Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Slayer" (March 1). Palo Alto's homegrown hero James Franco strolls the yellow-brick road alongside Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams in director Sam Raimi's fantasy epic "Oz: The Great and Powerful" (March 8). Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone lend their voices to DreamWorks Animation's prehistoric family adventure "The Croods" (March 22). Director Jon M. Chu, another Palo Alto native, rounds up the troops -- Duke (Channing Tatum), Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) -- in the long-delayed "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (March 29).
On April 5, director Paul Feig ("Bridesmaids") opens "The Heat" with Melissa McCarthy playing an ill-tempered Boston detective partnered with Sandra Bullock as an uptight FBI agent. The futuristic actioner "Oblivion" follows on April 19 with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman starring in a tale of an Earth devastated by a decades-long war with an alien race.
Billionaire superhero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes on the sinister Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) in "Iron Man 3" (May 3). The following week brings the big-screen treatment for F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel "The Great Gatsby," with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. And on May 17, the starship Enterprise continues its cosmic journey in director J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek Into Darkness."
In June, director M. Night Shyamalan of "Sixth Sense" fame (and "The Last Airbender" infamy) tries to regain his mojo with the sci-fi adventure "After Earth" (June 7) starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden. Superman soars across the silver screen yet again in "Man of Steel" (June 14), with "Watchmen" director Zack Snyder at the helm and Henry Cavill ("Immortals") in the title role. Pixar Animation's lovable monsters Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sulley (voice of John Goodman) go to college in "Monsters University" (June 21). Brad Pitt tries to put the kibosh on a zombie apocalypse in "World War Z" (June 21).
As the summer continues, Armie Hammer ("The Social Network") and Johnny Depp ride for justice in Gore Verbinski's adaptation of the popular TV western "The Lone Ranger" (July 5). Massive, human-powered robots are mankind's only defense against Godzilla-esque creatures in Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" (July 12). Hugh Jackman pops his claws and heads off to Japan in "The Wolverine" (July 26), an offering from director James Mangold ("Identity"). Matt Damon fights for equality in "District 9" director Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi drama "Elysium" (Aug. 9).
A host of other sequels set for 2013 include: "Scary Movie 5" (April 12), "The Hangover Part III" (May 24), "The Fast and the Furious 6" (May 24), "Kick-Ass 2" (June 28), "Despicable Me 2" (July 5), "Grown Ups 2" (July 12), "Red 2" (Aug. 2), "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" (Oct. 4), "Thor: The Dark World" (Nov. 8), "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Nov. 8) and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Dec. 13).
Also, here are two likely gems: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright (all of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz") reunite for the apocalyptic comedy "The World's End" (October). Meanwhile, mastermind filmmaker Martin Scorsese gathers an A-list cast (including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey) for likely Oscar contender "The Wolf of Wall Street" (release date TBA).
Happy New Year, movie lovers.