December is all about looking back at the year that was. Now, it's time to look forward -- to the films, musical events and more heading our way in 2013.
Here are some that have us excited about the year ahead:
• "The Americans" -- For TV viewers suffering "Homeland" withdrawal, FX has a remedy. The cable station debuts "The Americans" Jan. 30. The 1980s-set drama stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as KGB spies posing as Americans Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings in suburban Washington, D.C. They're forced to balance a network of other spies, the escalation of the Cold War, Phillip's growing connection to America and an FBI agent neighbor. And, oh ya, two kids who have no clue about their parents' double lives.
• Earth + Ocean -- The crew that first worked together at the acclaimed Sundra in Chicago plans to open a new eatery in Mount Prospect's retail/restaurant/entertainment complex known as Randhurst Village. Chef Rodelio Aglibot and partners Aeron Lancero and Paul Lee hope to open Earth + Ocean in February. The restaurant's menu will reflect the philosophy that wholesome food is connected through earth and ocean.
• Pat Benatar -- Benatar owned the 1980s with a string of rock hits that showcased her tough persona and powerhouse voice. Few who were around back then can forget songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Heartbreaker" and "Love is A Battlefield." Benatar and her husband/guitarist/producer Neil Giraldo will appear Feb. 7 at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Tickets are going fast, so don't wait on this one. oshows.com.
• "Picasso and Chicago" -- The Art Institute of Chicago this year celebrates its unique 100-year relationship with Pablo Picasso with an exhibit that brings together 250 of the Spanish artist's paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and ceramics. Running Feb. 20 to May 12, "Picasso and Chicago" is the first large-scale Picasso exhibit in 30 years at the Art Institute, which in 1913 became the first art museum in the country to display his work. artic.edu.
• "Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg," "Rigoletto" and "Joan of Arc" -- Commemorate the 200th anniversary of the births of 19th-century opera composing titans Richard Wagner and Guiseppe Verdi with three special Chicago productions. The Lyric Opera of Chicago goes big with a new coproduction of Wagner's 5½-hour comedy, "Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg" (Feb. 8 to March 3). The Lyric also revives Verdi's popular tragedy "Rigoletto" (Feb. 25 to March 30). And Chicago Opera Theater does its part to appease Verdi fans by presenting the rarely staged "Joan of Arc" ("Giovanna d'Arco") for four performances on Sept. 21, 25, 27 and 29. lyricopera.org or chicagooperatheater.org.
• "Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux" -- Full-sized replicas of prehistoric cave engravings and paintings are part of "Scenes from the Stone Age: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux," opening March 20 at The Field Museum. Visitors can walk through a cavelike galley with oil lamps and torch lights to see the drawings -- first discovered in 1940 in a cave in southern France -- as the ancient artists would have viewed them. Other highlights include a lifelike sculpted stone-age family. The exhibit runs through Sept. 8. fmnh.org.
• "Big Fish" -- Musical theater fans will be abuzz when the Broadway-bound world premiere "Big Fish" tries out at Chicago's Oriental Theatre starting April 2. This musical version of Daniel Wallace's 1998 book, "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions" (which in turn inspired the 2003 film), features an A-list of creative theater types to tell this American Southern fantasy of epic adventures and tall tales. Tony Award-winning actor Norbert Leo Butz will star in the production staged by five-time Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Susan Stroman. "Big Fish" will feature a score by Andrew Lippa and a script by John August (who also wrote the "Big Fish" screenplay). broadwayinchicago.com.
• "Evil Dead" -- Can Uruguay-born director Fede Alvarez possibly pull off a worthy remake of Sam Raimi's 1981 ultra-low-budget cult horror movie about demons bothering young people in an old cabin? The original movie cost an estimated $150,000. The remake, due out in April: $14 million. Alvarez has promised no chintzy digital effects, but a reinvention of the project Stephen King referred to as the "most original" horror tale he'd ever seen. The unrated "Evil Dead" inspired a superior sequel, "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," an R-rated sequel "Army of Darkness," plus six "Evil Dead" video games.
• "The Great Gatsby" -- Robert Redford's 1974 "Gatsby" was such a boring flop that it took almost 40 years before anyone tried to make another movie based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel about the whims and tribulations of upper-crust society. This time, flamboyant Aussie filmmaker Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge," "Romeo+Juliet") promises to actually make Fitzgerald exciting with a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as his coveted Daisy, Joel Edgerton as Daisy's inferior-class hubby and Tobey Maguire as the narrator/witness to the plot that unfolds. Look for this one in May.
• "igNIGHT" at Great America -- The Six Flags Great America amusement park in Gurnee this summer will light up the night sky with a new show featuring pyrotechnics, video and laser elements, as well as music and dancing. "igNIGHT" will take place in the renovated Hometown Square. sixflags.com/2013news.
• "Man of Steel" -- Spring and superheroes are old hat. But Zack Snyder's Superman tale, due out in June, comes with lots of local flavor. Scenes were shot in Sugar Grove and other Illinois sites. This time out, Brit Henry Cavill dons the cape, with a supporting cast that includes Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Chicago's own Michael Shannon as General Zod.
• Taylor Swift -- America's favorite ex-girlfriend brings her live spectacle to the home of the Bears this summer, armed with a battery of hits like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Mean" and "Love Story." Standard tickets for the Aug. 10 Soldier Field concert will run you as much as $99.50, but Swift's elaborate, explosive stage production gives you plenty of bang for the buck. British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will open the show. ticketmaster.com.
• "Next to Normal" -- Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook scores another coup with the regional premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Next to Normal" by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book, lyrics) that will likely take subscribers out of their comfort zones. The show about a woman suffering from bipolar disorder and the impact her illness has on her family asks the question: What sacrifices and accommodations are we willing to make to be "normal"? Previews begin Aug. 15. drurylaneoakbrook.com.