Last year around this time, Tom Cruise was promoting Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol with Katie Holmes at his side and on his side. As you know, M:I4 did very, very good business, and it seemed like, finally, Tom was over the couch-jumping.

And in the dead of the night, she escaped.

Since then, nightly news shows and celebrity-friendly publications have run slam pieces on Scientology, alleging that Tom has a freakish habit of auditioning his girlfriends and future-wives, seemingly no longer afraid of retribution. Katie’s impressively strategic exit gave everyone permission to sh-t on Church Xenu and, by extension, its greatest prophet.

Jack Reacher opens on December 21, Tom’s first project after Katie blindsided him with the divorce and all the sh-t that fell on his ass afterwards, including accusations of parental absenteeism, given that he went 3 months without seeing Suri. Promotion for Jack Reacher begins now. And even though he has several big projects coming up, already in production, there’s a lot riding on this film -- is Tom Cruise capable of yet another comeback?

Here he is in Manchester yesterday for the match between Manchester City and Manchester United with Robert Duvall and author Lee Childs. By all accounts, he was friendly and personable and took his time posing with fans and staff, blinding them with his recognisable movie star smile. There’s something to be said for familiarity, non? This is a face many of us have known, and admired (at least up until 5 or 6 years ago) for a long, long time -- three decades! Ultimately, for the audience, will his old history weigh more than his recent history? He and the studios are counting on his old history to see them all through. I was at a show taping this weekend and half of my colleagues, entertainment news veterans, predict that Tom Cruise still has a few wins left. Me, I can’t decide. Totally fence-sitting on this one. But God it’s been a busy year in gossip, hasn’t it? Right to the very end, and it hasn’t slowed. Right to the very end of 2012, we’re watching what will happen to one of the biggest names in Hollywood.