What are some of the things we're looking forward to this year?
How about a new murder mystery, set in 1870s San Francisco, by Emma Donoghue, whose disturbing 2010 novel "Room" was a tour de force?
How about jazz genius Wayne How about the farewell tour of country legend George Strait? Or the Noise Pop festival's always-quirky lineup of alt-rock icons and indie-pop up-and-comers.
How about Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey co-starring in an HBO cop drama; or, on the big screen, Josh Boone's adaptation of the acclaimed novel "The Fault in Our Stars."
Or a new mecha video game from the creators of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare?"
Yes, there's a lot to look forward to in the arts and entertainment world this year. Here's a rundown.
"The Fault in Our Stars": There's little doubt that Christopher Nolan's latest mind-bender, "Interstellar" (out in November), ranks high atop my list of most anticipated 2014 films. But the real sleeper, the one that has a special spot in my heart, is "The Fault in Our Stars." Based on one of my favorite novels of all time, "Fault" is a joyous, sad, inspiring and passionate story about an unconditional, intensely real relationship between two teens who just happen to have cancer. Shailene Woodley, of "The Spectacular Now," stars as the unforgettable and witty/wise Hazel Lancaster. Details: Due in theaters June 6.
"Titanfall": With "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare," developers Jason West and Vince Zampella created the shooter that defined a generation. Now, the two have split from Activision and started their own studio, called Respawn Entertainment, with this futuristic title in the works. Filled with mechs and new gameplay mechanics, this sci-fi epic could set the standards for shooters in 2014 and beyond. Details: "Titanfall" is coming March 14 on the Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC for $59.99. For details, go to www.titanfall.com.
Ballet San Jose: The company's star-studded gala in November felt like a coronation for new artistic director José Manuel Carreño, the dawning of a brighter era for a troupe that has seen its share of turbulence in recent years. But now it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty; that comes next month when Ballet San Jose presents its first new program under Carreño's stewardship. The wide-ranging lineup includes the company premiere of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin's famed improvisational "Minus 16," as well as reprisals of Jorma Elo's "Glow-Stop" (a big hit for the company last year) and Balanchine's revered neoclassical work "Serenade." Details: Feb. 14-16; San Jose Center for the Performing Arts; $20-$105; 408-288-2800, www.balletsj.org.
"Modernism From the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection." Get an amazing overview of the work of major postwar-era American painters. For half a century, the Meyerhoffs of Maryland and Manhattan collected nearly 300 works -- by notables such as Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella and Barnett Newman -- eventually donating them to the National Gallery of Art. This show, featuring some 50 works, will be the first from the collection to be seen outside the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area. Details: At San Francisco's de Young Museum June 7- Oct. 12; tickets available to public starting 9 a.m. March 11; museum members at 9 a.m. March 4; http://deyoung.famsf.org.
Wayne Shorter: The Wayne Shorter Quartet is the Grateful Dead of jazz: Will they put you to sleep or will they blow your mind? Last fall at the Monterey Jazz Festival, it was the latter -- and, given the potential payout, it's always advisable to check them out. On March 27-30, the genius saxophonist/composer/ conceptualist and his high-wire band (pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade) perform at the SFJazz Center, a rare multinight run in an intimate venue. To the galaxies! Details: $35-$85; 866-920-5299, www.sfjazz.org.
Noise Pop: The Throwing Muses, one of the best and most innovative bands in alt-rock history, highlights this year's festival. The group is touring in support of "Purgatory/Paradise," its first new album since 2003's eponymous affair, and performs Feb. 28 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. The festival, San Francisco's annual celebration of indie music, hosts several other recommended shows, including Bob Mould (Feb. 27) and Real Estate (March 1), as well as an array of movies. Details: Feb. 25-March 2 at various San Francisco venues; shows cost $12-$28, with package deals available for $150-$350; www.noisepop.com.
George Strait: "The King of Country" is set to hang up his spurs at the conclusion of his lengthy Cowboy Rides Away Tour. Local fans definitely shouldn't miss this farewell trek and the chance to hear such classics as"A Fire I Can't Put Out," "You Look So Good in Love" and "Let's Fall to Pieces Together" performed live one more time. Martina McBride, arguably one of the top five female artists in country music history, opens the concert.
"True Detective": Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey bring their considerable star power to this cable drama, which doesn't look or feel like the typical TV cop show. They play former partners in Louisiana's Criminal Investigation Division who are forced to relive a macabre 1995 murder with occult overtones when a similar case unfolds 17 years later. Swiveling between past and present, the eight-part story reveals how the bizarre crime affected their lives in unexpected, and sometimes catastrophic, ways.
Details: Debuts 9 p. m. Sunday, HBO.
"Frog Music": Man Booker shortlist author Emma Donoghue wowed me almost against my will with her powerful 2010 novel, "Room," about a kidnapped young woman raising, in excruciatingly confined captivity, the 5-year-old child fathered by her abductor. So I am even more eager to read a new crime thriller based on a historic case she has set in San Francisco in the Gilded Age. "Frog Music"has a pivotal character who earns her living by hunting frogs to sell to local restaurants. The main narrative stars an exotic dancer who is also a mother, investigating the murder of a friend shot through a saloon window in a city beset both by a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Details: Due out in late March; Little, Brown and Co. , $27, 216 pages.