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Published: Sunday, 12/28/2008

Things we're looking forward to in 2009

STAR TREK: Gene Roddenberry's franchise was deader than a red shirt on a scouting mission - that is, until J.J. Abrams decided to revisit the early Starfleet days of Kirk, Spock, Bones et al in a Star Trek film reboot. Based on the movie's trailer, Abrams and crew have put the special in the effects, something the increasingly low-budget Trek films have been missing for a while, as well as a welcomed sense of fun, danger, and interstellar geeky coolness that makes Star Trek a must-see May 8. - K.B.

WATCHMEN: Anyone who's followed the long and sometimes perilous journey of the graphic novel's trip to the big screen is likely amazed that the movie is going to happen. There are probably even a few of you who still won't believe the film exists until you're sitting in the theater on Watchmen's opening day, May 6. Based on Watchmen's promising trailer, Alan Moore's beloved and ground-breaking work seems to have survived the transition to cinema with its dark themes and murky emotional layers intact. - K.B.

STARCRAFT II, DIABLO III: Blizzard is best known for its MMORPG Warcraft. But there was life for the PC gamemaker before the online sensation. Starcraft and Diablo were wildly popular PC games that broke new ground in the 1998 and 1997, respectively. After years between updates to both titles, Blizzard is - hopefully - dropping the sequels, Starcraft II, Diablo III, this year. For many of us, weekends and weeknights will be spoken for. - K.B.

BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM: Superhero games have been even less successful than superhero movies. (Superman for the N64, anyone?) But just as The Dark Knight made audiences rethink comic books as film fodder, Batman: Arkham Asylum may do the same for superhero video games. In previews, the game often has been compared to Bioshock - which just happened to be most critics' choice as game of 2007 - only instead of set in a wretched, decaying underwater city, the game is set in a wretched, decaying asylum, home to Gotham's biggest criminals, and Batman's biggest foes. - K.B.

CONAN O'BRIEN: Jay Leno has been stealing all of O'Brien's thunder with the recent news of his move to prime time TV five nights a week next fall, but it's O'Brien I'm anxious to see once he inherits The Tonight Show desk June 1. NBC chose Leno over David Letterman in large part because Leno was the "safer" mainstream choice, and the network's decision proved to be correct as seen in Leno's ratings domination over Letterman. O'Brien's humor, while brilliant, isn't for mainstream America, so who gives in: audiences or O'Brien? And does Letterman then pick up viewers from his Late Night replacement? - K.B.

LOST: After losing ground in its unfocused, drawn-out third season, Lost regained its mythical mojo with its return in January. With an announced series end in sight, the show's writers finally stopped padding episodes with uninteresting characters and dead-end plots, and focused on shepherding diehard viewers to the show's conclusion in 2010. Considering the revelations and cliffhanger of last season's finale, the return of Lost on Jan. 21 cannot arrive soon enough. - K.B.

PHISH REUNION: The last memory I have of Phish is not a good one: sitting in a movie theater watching a live broadcast of the band's final concert Aug. 15, 2004, in Coventry, Vt. For Phish's encore, the last song the band would ever (supposedly) play together, "The Curtain With," guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio halted the jam a few minutes into the tune because the band was playing in the wrong key. They started the song anew and, presumably, in the right key. Still, it's not the way a band wants to go out - especially a band known for its musicianship. Thankfully, that won't be the case. - K.B.

UNKNOWN HINSON COMES BACK TO TOLEDO: The King of Country and Western Troubadors makes his way to the Glass City every year and here's hoping he brings his rawk and twang around for another blast of politically incorrect fun. - R.L.

THE NEW ARENA: Finally Toledo will have a venue for professional concerts, one that is (hopefully) acoustically sound, clean and upscale. After decades of the Sports Arena and the ill-fitting SeaGate Convention Centre, we deserve it. - R.L.

FIRST-TIME VISIT: Among the national tours of Broadway shows coming to Toledo for the first time next year will be The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This charmer has fascinating, likeable characters (including, maybe, some local volunteers), a lot of smiles, and maybe even a few sniffles when favorite spellers fail to make the cut. Not everyone can be a winner, you know, except for this Tony Award-winning show and the people who get to see it. - N.C.

"DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY": Yes, Bobby McFerrin, the musical phenom, creator of the iconic, upbeat song, vocal explorer extraordinaire, is coming back to town. He'll lead the Toledo Symphony in two Mozart symphonies - No. 29 in A Major and No. 40 in G Minor - during its Fifth Third Classics Series concerts at 8 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17 in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.Tickets are $25-52 at 419-246-8000 or www.toledosymphony.com. - S.V.

BE AFRAID: Salome is coming to town. The temptress and head-hunter of Biblical proportions will be front and center on the Valentine Theatre stage when the Toledo Opera's production of the Richard Strauss masterpiece opens March 14. With Amy Johnson in the title role as seductress who orders the beheading of John the Baptist; Deanna Meeks as her conniving mother, Adam Klein as the hapless Herod, and Bradley Klein as the prophet, the cast will perform on a set created in Toledo. Tickets are $49-68 at 419-255-7464 or www.toledoopera.org. - S.V.

A LEGEND: Marie Bollinger Vogt's 70 years of teaching, choreography, production, and dream realization at the Toledo Ballet will be celebrated with a special performance at 8 p.m. April 18 in the Valentine Theatre. Titled Reverence, for the classical deep ballet bow typically ending most classes, the production is being directed by Michael Lang and Lisa Mayer, and will feature the Toledo Ballet company and guest dancers. For ticket information call the ballet office, 419-471-0049. - S.V.



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