12 movies to watch for in 2010

List includes films from Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan.

Let’s dispense up front with all the obligatory sequels Hollywood has on tap this year: “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 1”; “Iron Man 2”; “Jackass 3D”; “Little Fockers”; “Predators”; “Saw VII” (yes, VII!); “Sex and the City 2”; “Shrek Forever After”; “Step Up 3D”; “Toy Story 3”; “Tron: Legacy”; “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”; “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.”

Ditto a lot of mostly unnecessary remakes: “Clash of the Titans”; “The Crazies”; “Death at a Funeral”; “Footloose”; “The Karate Kid”; “Let Me In”; “The Mechanic”; “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; “Red Dawn”; “Robin Hood”; “The Wolfman.” And that goes for anything based on a comic-strip character (“Marmaduke”), an old TV show (“The A-Team”), or some combination thereof (“Yogi Bear,” “The Green Hornet”), too.

Forget about run-of-the-mill comedies involving mismatched buddies — Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in “Cop Out,” Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in “Due Date,” Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys” — and never mind Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade in an ensemble piece illogically titled “Grown Ups.”

But there’s still considerable hope for more discriminating audiences in 2010. They may be fewer and farther between, but here are a dozen of the year’s most promising releases (opening dates subject to change):

"Alice in Wonderland" (March 5). Director Tim Burton and his favorite leading man, Johnny Depp ("Edward Scissorhands," etc.), reunite for this 3-D fantasy based on the Lewis Carroll books. In the live-action scenes, Depp plays the Mad Hatter to newcomer Mia Wasikowska's Alice, with Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Crispin Glover in other roles. The animated sequences feature the voices of Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen and Christopher Lee.

"The Ghostwriter" (spring). Ewan McGregor plays the title role in a drama of political and sexual intrigue from controversial Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski ("The Pianist"). While collaborating with a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) on his memoirs, the writer uncovers threatening secrets involving the man's wife (Kim Cattrall) and mistress (Olivia Williams).

"Green Zone" (March 12). Set during the U.S. occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Matt Damon plays a warrant officer whose search for weapons of mass destruction leads to the discovery of an elaborate government conspiracy. Directed by Paul Greengrass ("United 93"), who previously worked with Damon on "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," the film's supporting cast includes Greg Kinnear and Brendan Gleeson.

"Inception" (July 16). In this sci-fi thriller from writer-director Christopher Nolan ("Memento," "The Dark Knight"), Leonardo DiCaprio plays a business executive embroiled in a blackmail scandal. Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Michael Caine also star.

"Knight and Day" (July 2). What begins as a seemingly innocent blind date for Cameron Diaz develops into a globe-trotting espionage adventure when she realizes that Tom Cruise is actually a daring "superspy." The "Vanilla Sky" co-stars reunite under the direction of James Mangold ("Walk the Line"), with a supporting cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard and Viola Davis.

"Love and Other Drugs" (Nov. 24). Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a hotshot pharmaceutical salesman of a certain male enhancement drug. Anne Hathaway is the free-spirited woman with Parkinson's disease he romances; Gabriel Macht plays his personal and professional competition. Based on the book "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman." Directed by Ed Zwick ("The Last Samurai").

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (May 28). Speaking of male enhancement, based on early publicity photos, Gyllenhaal has definitely built himself up as producer Jerry Bruckheimer's latest action hero. Inspired by a series of video games, the movie casts Gyllenhaal as a rogue prince who battles the forces of evil to retrieve a magical dagger. And to think director Mike Newell's earlier films include "Enchanted April."

"Salt" (July 23). For a bit of equal-opportunity derring-do, Angelina Jolie plays a CIA agent who's on the run after she's accused of being a Russian spy — forced to rely on all her skills as a covert operative to elude capture and prove her innocence. Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger") directs a script written by Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential").

"Secretariat" (Oct. 8). Set in 1973, this inspiring drama chronicles the true story of the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery, a housewife and mother who joins forces with a veteran trainer (John Malkovich) to prevail in a decidedly male-dominated business.

"Shutter Island" (Feb. 19). In his first feature since winning an Oscar for "The Departed," director Martin Scorsese reteams with Leonardo DiCaprio for a story about two U.S. marshals (Mark Ruffalo plays the other) investigating the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from a high-security insane asylum.

"Somewhere" (fall). Written and directed by Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), this drama casts Stephen Dorff as a "bad-boy actor" whose self-indulgent lifestyle takes a turn for the better with an unexpected visit from his estranged 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning).

"Untitled James L. Brooks Project" (Dec. 17). Shooting has only recently begun and the plot details remain sketchy, but with the Academy Award-winning director of "Terms of Endearment" and "As Good as It Gets" at the helm — and with a cast that features Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson — let 2011's Oscar race begin!