When people learn I write this column for the newspaper, the inevitable question that follows is 'What's going to be good?'. They want a soothsayer's prediction, perhaps promise, of artistic excellence. They want to know what's coming up that will be interesting and entertaining, what's going to generate that watercooler buzz.
The truth is, I have no idea. Sure, I can take an educated guess, a wild stab based on early buzz, prior work and talent associated, but I'll be the first to admit that I've been burned often by movies, music and other entertainment options that I felt certain would be incredible. So instead of planting false hopes, I prefer to tell people about the things I'm looking forward to. Here's a few on my list right now.
L.A. NOIRE: Part of my issue with video games has always been the worlds they ask me to become a part of. I've never had much interest in being a space ranger, dragon slayer or cute character bent on collecting magic coins. But I wouldn't mind tooling around Chinatown.
The company responsible for the Grand Theft Auto series and last year's innovative Red Dead Redemption have taken on the gritty world of private eyes, mysterious molls and criminal conspiracies and I, for one, am ready to rock the virtual fedora.
U2 MEETS DANGER MOUSE: While little has been released about this mysterious project, I love the idea of one of rock's more iconic acts working with music's ruling iconoclast. Reports indicate that U2 have recorded at least a dozen songs with the Gnarls Barkley mastermind, conjuring up images of the band returning to its club-ready Zooropa sound.
PAUL: English actors Nick Frost and Simon Pegg previously collaborated on the movies Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the little seen but truly inspired British television series Spaced . It's a partnership built on an uncanny ability to both embrace and spoof pop culture iconography, be it zombies, buddy cops or, in the case of Paul , aliens. While I'm a little nervous about the pair leaving England (Paul takes place in the American Southwest), it's a partnership I'm always willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
AMERICAN IDOL: I haven't been engaged by this over-the-top talent search since ... well ... I'm not sure that I ever fully bought in. Still, the new judges have me begrudgingly excited. It's not that I think the addition of rocker Steven Tyler and superdiva Jennifer Lopez will improve the show, but the new blood could make it interesting. Both have reputations for being demanding, sometimes difficult and completely comfortable with the trappings of stardom. I'm curious to see how that translates within the framework of Idol.
THE LAST GREATEST MAGICIAN IN THE WORLD BY JIM STEINMEYER: When magic was a marquee entertainment, Howard Thurston was an enormous star. He was an illusionist comfortable with both simple slight-of-hand (he was a card trick master) and grand spectacle. In the early part of the 20th century, his was a household name. More than merely the biography of a master magician, Last Greatest Magician looks to also be a treatise on the fickleness of fame. After all, Howard Thurston is barely remembered and yet his chief rival, a guy named Houdini, is a legend.