THERE are good reasons to be going to the cinema with high expectations this winter. Apart from festivals - which include the Spanish, Indian and Melbourne international film festivals - there is much on offer at the multiplex and the arthouse, and there are some tantalising blockbusters to come, hard on the heels of The Avengers. The movies for June, July and August cover all sorts of ground: there are male strippers and Danish physicians, superheroes and girl groups, time travel and love triangles. Ridley Scott searches for the origins of life, Peter Parker goes back to school as Spider-Man reboots, Batman hangs up his cape and Tom Cruise plays a tattooed rock star.
PROMETHEUS (June 7)
This was originally touted as director Ridley Scott's prequel to his legendary 1979 Alien, but now it seems that there's not a direct link between the two. No matter, as long as this movie comes close to recapturing the impact of his previous journey into space - and tantalising trailers lead us to hope for the best. Prometheus involves a group of explorers whose curiosity about the origins of life on Earth leads them to another planet. It seems that they might be caught up in more than the story of Earth's beginnings: they might also be witnessing its end. A strong cast includes Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender.
TAKE THIS WALTZ (June 14)
Actress Sarah Polley made her feature debut as a director with the beautifully observed Away from Her, starring Julie Christie as a woman with Alzheimer's who begins to forget her husband and turn her attention towards a fellow resident at a nursing home. Her second feature, Take This Waltz (which shares its title with a Leonard Cohen song) is another study of divided loyalties in a relationship: it stars Michelle Williams as a freelance writer, married to a cookbook author (Seth Rogen), who becomes infatuated with a free-wheeling artist neighbour.
ROCK OF AGES (June 14)
Directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), the musical that made bloated '80s stadium-rock nostalgia a Broadway hit comes to the big screen, with a cast that includes Alec Baldwin (in a long wig), Russell Brand and Paul Giamatti, not to mention the irresistible draw of Tom Cruise as enigmatic tattooed rock legend Stacee Jaxx, singing his heart out to the songs of Foreigner, Bon Jovi and Guns N' Roses.
A ROYAL AFFAIR (June 21)
A Danish drama, based on an intriguing true story, about a doctor at the royal court in the 18th century who played a particularly crucial and unusual role in not only maintaining the royal family's health, but also keeping revolution at bay. The peerless Mads Mikkelsen plays the physician with political and personal clout.
POLISSE (June 28)
Melbourne International Film Festival screened this movie last year: it's an excellent ensemble work set in the child protection unit in the Paris police force. Co-writer, director and star Maiwenn weaves together an involving mix of stories that take in not only the troubled lives of young victims but also the cops struggling with their jobs and personal lives.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (July 4)
With great power comes great responsibility, and this time the pressure is on English actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network,Never Let Me Go) putting on the tights for this reboot of the superhero series. The story revolves around Peter Parker's search for the truth about what happened to his parents: Rhys Ifans plays the man with the answers; Emma Stone plays the object of Peter's romantic interest. Marc Webb, from (500) Days Of Summer, directs.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (July 19)
''The legend ends,'' so the trailers proclaim: a suitably downbeat yet grandiose line to mark the final instalment of Christopher Nolan's grand and gloomy take on the Caped Crusader. Events take place eight years after the previous movie, when Batman took the fall for the dark deeds of another: there's a new threat to Gotham City, and it involves the spectre of terrorism and the presence of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (July 26)
Three magazine employees answer an advertisement seeking a companion for a time-travel journey. Something for fans of Aubrey Plaza (April in the TV series Parks and Recreation), who sometimes seems like the demonic twin of Zooey Deschanel, but has her own deadpan style. Jake M. Johnson (from Deschanel TV vehicle New Girl) co-stars.
MAGIC MIKE (July 26)
Steven Soderbergh's new movie draws on the experience of its star, Channing Tatum, who worked as a male stripper at the age of 19. Tatum plays the title character, a entrepreneurial stripper who really wants to make custom furniture, but takes a new performer under his wing. Matthew McConaughey co-stars.
MATTHEW PORTERFIELD (from July 26)
ACMI's First Look series presents an extended season of two films from acclaimed indie newcomer Matthew Porterfield: his first feature, Hamilton, the tale of a young woman trying to connect with the father of her child, and Putty Hill, a documentary-fiction hybrid about the death of a young man and its impact on the community.
THE SAPPHIRES (August 9)
Adapted from the play of the same name, Wayne Blair's feature debut, set in the 1960s, is the story of four Aboriginal girls in a singing group called the Sapphires who score a gig in Vietnam entertaining the troops. The cast includes Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (August 16)
Jeremy Renner of The Hurt Locker and The Avengers takes over from Matt Damon as the embattled but resourceful leading man on a mission in the fourth instalment of the Bourne series. He's not Jason Bourne, but a man with similar sources of danger. Several characters from The Bourne Ultimatum reappear, but Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton are new elements in the mix, and Tony Gilroy, who wrote the three previous films, directs this one.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (August 23)
From William Wyler to Jacques Rivette to Kate Bush, there have been plenty of interpretations of Wuthering Heights: director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) presents an elemental vision that, taking its cues from Bronte, imagines the marginalised young Heathcliff as a runaway slave.
COSMOPOLIS (August 30)
A prospect to savour: David Cronenberg tackles Don DeLillo's brief, eventful novel about 24 hours in the life of a wealthy young asset manager in New York. Robert Pattinson stars, alongside Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti. The movie premieres at Cannes this month, but its Australian release is delayed.
MOONRISE KINGDOM (August 30)
Wes Anderson's new feature is the opening film at Cannes but, like Cosmopolis, it won't be in Australian cinemas until August. After the delights of the animation Fantastic Mr Fox, Anderson turns his attention to the 1960s, and a story of youthful romance co-written with Roman Coppola, about two 12-year-olds who run away together. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are among the locals who try to find the missing pair, and Anderson's fetish actor, Bill Murray, is in the mix, naturally.
■Dates subject to change.