Critics’ Picks: April 12-18, 2013

Los Angeles Times entertainment, arts and culture critics choose the week’s most noteworthy openings, new releases, ongoing events and places to go in and around Southern California.

This week’s selections include a new TV drama about Leonardo Da Vinci on Starz, a meaty meal at Melrose restaurant Chi Spacca, film noir at the Egyptian Theatre, the Hear Now Music Festival and a touch of Sicily in a new exhibit at the Getty Villa. It’s also your last chance to catch “Tribes” and other theatrical productions closing this weekend. And, of course, there’s Coachella.

Click through to explore more and, where applicable, find directions to venues.

CB Richard Ellis

Safety Last!’

There may be no more famous stunt in all of silent film than Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a huge clock overlooking downtown Los Angeles in 1923’s “Safety Last!” Though his star has eclipsed a bit, Lloyd has always been considered one of the great silent clown triumvirate along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and on April 18, in honor of the film’s 90th anniversary, it will be possible to see a brand-new digital transfer of that celebrated film at 7:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Read more

LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd Los Angeles

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

John Lund, Gail Russell, Edward G. Robinson in "Night Has a Thousand Eyes." (Film Noir Foundation)

Festival of Film Noir

If you haven’t found your way over to the Egyptian Theatre to partake of the perfectly pulpy fun of the 15th annual Festival of Film Noir, it is not too late. One of my favorites is there Friday night as part of the double feature package of film based on just two of some 30-plus novels and stories from crime fiction maestro Cornell Woolrich that would make it to the big screen. Some like “Rear Window” would become classics. Few, though, have made it to DVD. That’s what makes Friday night’s noir lineup such a rare treat. The night starts at 7:30 p.m. with “Street of Chance,” an entertaining amusement, but not a classic. For that, you have to wait for the second feature — “Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” starring Edward G. Robinson in one of his more contemplative roles. Read more

Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd Los Angeles

Betsy Sharkey

Film critic

Other recommendations:

'Bless Me, Ultima'

A deeply satisfying feat of storytelling, taken from Rudolfo Anaya’s celebrated novel, that makes a difficult task look easy. Set in 1944 New Mexico, it combines innocence and experience, the darkness and wonder of life, in a way that is not easy to categorize but a rich pleasure to watch. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'From Up on Poppy Hill'

Written by the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro, this is as beautiful a hand-drawn animated feature as you are likely to see. It’s a time-machine dream of a not-so-distant past, a sweet and honestly sentimental story. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'Ginger & Rosa'

An empathetic, sensitively modulated movie about a teenage girl’s worry about nuclear destruction, this Sally Potter film is most noticeable as the showcase for a performance by Elle Fanning that is little short of phenomenal. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

'No'

The nation of Chile voted “No” in a 1988 referendum, causing a political earthquake that uprooted Augusto Pinochet’s tenacious dictatorship and formed the basis of this smart, involving and provocative new film starring Gael Garcia Bernal as the ad man who made it happen. In Spanish with English subtitles. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

Ryan Gosling in 'The Place Beyond the Pines'

Ryan Gosling, currently starring opposite his real-life love Eva Mendes in the darkly wrought drama of "The Place Beyond the Pines," is always chemically combustible on screen. That romantic power crystallized early on in 2004's "The Notebook." His rain-soaked embrace of co-star Rachel McAdams, also an off-screen love for a time, made him into an overnight heartthrob. But Gosling was never a one-night stand. Over time the roles, and the performances, have only gotten better. (Betsy Sharkey) Read more

'M'

Whether it's the first time or the revisiting of a favorite film, seeing Fritz Lang's classic "M" in its new digital restoration should not be missed. Few films are gripping and effective 82 years after their original release, but this one surely is. (Kenneth Turan) Read more

Tom Riley in "Da Vinci's Demons" (Ollie Upton / Starz Entertainment LLC)

Da Vinci’s Demons’

Just as “Spartacus” breathes its last, Starz may have a new spring/summer hit here. With a creator versed in both big box office (“The Dark Knight”) and gamer spectacle (“Call of Duty: Black Ops”), the show puts one of history’s most famous and revered artists into an action hero-like context, complete with secret societies and a mystical text. Oh, and this being Starz, plenty of sex ‘n’ violence. It’s great fun, romping through Renaissance Florence and Tuscany on the tunictails of Leonardo (Tom Riley) as he develops his talent for portraiture and engineering. Friday, 10 p.m., Starz. Read more

Mary McNamara

Television critic

Kevin Mazur / HBO

Louis C.K.: Oh My God’

Funny, deep and unsparing of himself, Louis C.K. is arguably the most important comic going, both for his adventures in form — his FX series “Louie,” now on hiatus between its third and fourth seasons, grafts art film, standup and situation comedy — and his experiments in business. He earned more than $1 million by selling unrestricted-use downloads of his 2011 “Live at the Beacon Theater” straight to fans at $5 a pop; similarly he sold tickets to the tour during which “Oh My God” was taped/filmed/recorded directly through his website, cutting out ticket agency fees and keeping prices low. (One hundred thousand tickets were sold, at $45 per, in 45 hours.) Also in the spirit of giving value for money, it’s his habit to burn all his material after a year, so the jokes in this concert, from the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, are all fresh. (Robert Lloyd) Premieres Saturday, HBO. Read more

Robert Lloyd

Television critic

Other recommendations:

'Veep'

Returning for a second season, Armando Ianucci's profane political farce loosely transports the gestalt of the Parliamentary "The Thick of It" (and its spun-off film, "In the Loop") to the office of the VPOTUS. (And "farce" is the word: In the classic style, doors are always popping open and slamming shut.) As the titular second-in-command, trapped in the limbo of her meaningless office, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a compact whirlwind of hope and rage. (Superficial resemblance aside, she is more an elaboration of Elaine Benes than a riff on Sarah Palin.) In the way of the workplace sitcom, she is surrounded by incompetents who nevertheless keep their jobs. Cool bonus: The great Christopher Morris ("Brass Eye," "Nathan Barley," "Four Lions") directed the season opener. (Robert Lloyd) Season premiere Sunday, HBO. Read more

'Bates Motel'

The A&E series has a lot to live up to, but it also has Vera Farmiga as Mama Bates. She's reason enough to watch this gloriously insane prelude to Alfred Hitchcock's classic film. (Mary McNamara) Monday, 10 p.m. A&E. Read more

'The Good Wife' (April)

We hate it when scheduling conflicts bump this show. Fortunately, it's back, with Alicia (Julianna Margulies) taking on rape and the Internet. Unfortunately, there are only three episodes left of this season. (Mary McNamara) Sunday, 9 p.m. CBS. Read more

'Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines'

The fortunes of the famous comic-book character and TV heroine are linked to those of her real-world sisters, from riveters to riot grrrls, in an exuberant documentary by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan. A proto-feminist (and then a feminist) icon, the Amazon also known as Diana Prince had to fight not only her comic-book enemies, but cultural mores that wanted to keep women weak. (For a time she was stripped of her powers, and set up in a mod boutique). With journalist Gloria Steinem, "Bionic Woman" Lindsay Wagner (who rather resembles Steinem, it occurs to me now), comic artist Trina Robbins, Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna, scholars, costumed fans and female citizens of all ages, dreaming big. (Robert Lloyd) Monday, PBS. Read more

'The '80s: The Decade That Made Us'

That's right, the '80s. For those of us who still think fondly of shoulder pads and "The Official Preppy Handbook," it's a Rob Lowe (!) narrated trip down memory lane. For the post-app generation, a message in a bottle from an ancient civilization. (Mary McNamara) Sunday, National Geographic. Read more

'Veep'

Returning for a second season, Armando Ianucci's profane political farce loosely transports the gestalt of the Parliamentary "The Thick of It" (and its spun-off film, "In the Loop") to the office of the VPOTUS. (And "farce" is the word: In the classic style, doors are always popping open and slamming shut.) As the titular second-in-command, trapped in the limbo of her meaningless office, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a compact whirlwind of hope and rage. (Superficial resemblance aside, she is more an elaboration of Elaine Benes than a riff on Sarah Palin.) In the way of the workplace sitcom, she is surrounded by incompetents who nevertheless keep their jobs. Cool bonus: The great Christopher Morris ("Brass Eye," "Nathan Barley," "Four Lions") directed the season opener. (Robert Lloyd) Season premiere Sunday, HBO. Read more

'Mammoth: Back from the Dead'

I've only seen the trailer for this science-as-adventure special in which scientists go spelunking in Siberia in search of mammoth DNA to clone, but as one familiar from childhood with the concrete mammoths of the La Brea Tar Pits, frozen in their permanent tableau of death and loss, I am ready for the process to be reversed. (Robert Lloyd) Friday, National Geographic Channel. Read more

'Doctor Who'

Jenna-Louise Coleman is settling in nicely as Clara, the Doctor's new, and highly mysterious, companion on "Doctor Who" and she is certainly being tested by extremes. Last week took her to a galaxy far, far away to do battle with a hungry sun; this week finds her underneath the sea on a submarine doing battle with ice warriors. The Doctor doesn't often find himself under water, and as this episode is from the reliably unpredictable Mark Gatiss (who should be off somewhere filming the next installment of "Sherlock" if he knows what's good for him), it would be a mistake to miss it. Saturday, BBC America. Read more

Russell Harvard, Susan Pourfar in "Tribes" (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Tribes’

Nina Raine’s smart and sensitive (if somewhat overwritten) play centers on a young deaf man in the throes of love struggling to claim an independent identity within his quarreling family of artists, intellectuals and motormouth egomaniacs. The production, directed by David Cromer, might turn up the volume unduly on the domestic hubbub, but Russell Harvard and Susan Pourfar bring an eloquent silence to their characters’ romantic story line. (Ends Sunday) Read more

Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

Charles McNulty

Theater critic

Other recommendations:

'The Beaux' Stratagem'

How often do you get to see a classic bawdy Restoration comedy by George Farquahar, a long-lost Thornton Wilder meditation on marriage and other human foibles, and a frenzied Ken Ludwig farce — all for the price of a single ticket? Granted, they happen to be the same play, but this hilariously staged post-modern adaptation is a great deal nonetheless. (Philip Brandes) (Ends Sunday) Read more

A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.

'Dreamgirls'

In its sheer audience regard, this red-hot take on Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger’s Tony-winning landmark is an incandescent watershed for both DOMA Theatre Company and Los Angeles. Director Marco Gomez and his ace forces have re-conceived the original staging to serve the property’s sprawling needs, aided by our proximity to a marvelous cast. (David C. Nichols) Ends Sunday, May 5. Read more

Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.

'Heart of Darkness'

Actors' Gang stalwart Brian T. Finney invites us to venture deep into the interior of the African Congo in his adaptation of Joseph Conrad's classic novella. This stripped-down production zooms in on Finney's intensely contained performance as Marlow, the seaman who tells the story of his obsessive pursuit of the mysterious Kurtz, an ivory trader who has come to symbolize, among other things, the insatiable greed of imperial conquest. Flanked by two performers, Finney gives himself over to Conrad's words, the production's true star. (Charles McNulty) (Ends Saturday) Read more

The Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City

'End of the Rainbow'

As Judy Garland, Tracie Bennett finds the seamlessness in this bio-musical’s potentially unwieldy combination of screwball comedy, cautionary drug tragedy, and tribute concert. Even prone on a fainting couch, she’s utterly wired. As will you, even before Bennett really amps it up for the thrilling last-days musical numbers. (Chris Willman) Ends Sunday. Read more

Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.

'The Rainmaker'

N. Richard Nash’s 1950s-era chestnut about a “spinster” swept up in romance by a dazzling con man can be laughably archaic. However, director Jack Heller crafts a striking, specific portrait of a bygone time. As for the pitch-perfect performances, they should all be distilled, bottled and preserved for posterity. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends Sunday, Dec. 22) Read more

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica

'The Nether'

Jennifer Haley has written a truly 21st century play about virtual reality and responsibility. Set in what appears to be the dystopian future, the drama begins with the Kafkaesque interrogation of a businessman played by Robert Joy and travels to an alternative universe in which sexual morality is tested in ways that will have audience members squirming. The subject matter is daring in the extreme, but Neel Keller’s sensitively acted production leads us to the heart of a very modern ethical dilemma. (Charles McNulty) Ends Sunday. Read more

Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

'Last of the Knotts'

Raw, fluid and eloquently quirky, Doug Knott's unsparingly honest solo treatise on his avoidance of fatherhood conjoins vintage performance art tactics to the sort of descriptive specifics usually associated with classic short stories. The result is a tickling, touching portrait of considerable reach and impact. (David C. Nichols) (Saturday) Read more

Other Space, Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica

'Mrs. Warren’s Profession'

Among its many strengths, this superb revival illuminates what continues to shock most about Shaw’s mercilessly incisive analysis of Victorian-era social hypocrisy and the limited opportunities for women — namely, how little has really changed. A revisionist coda may give purists pause, but it balances abstract argument with emotional authenticity. (Philip Brandes) Ends Sunday. Read more

Antaeus Company, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood

'One Night With Janis Joplin'

In a cosmic collusion of persona and perception, this electrifying concert musical resurrects the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll with seismically sensational results. Under creator Randy Johnson’s direction, the astonishing Mary Bridget Davies goes from evoking Joplin’s essence to channeling her outright, a portraitist tour de force mirrored by Sabrina Elayne Carten’s breathtaking blues archetype, killer designs and an awesome band. They will rock your world. (David C. Nichols) Ends Sunday. Read more

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena

'Dirty Filthy Love Story'

Perhaps it’s appropriate that a play about hoarders would be so structurally shaky, with unresolved story points threatening to bury its characters at several junctures. But under the light-hearted guidance of director Elina de Santos, Rob Mersola’s world-premiere comedy is so buoyed by sheer lunacy that it floats triumphantly above its dramaturgical flaws. (F. Kathleen Foley) Ends Sunday. Read more

Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.

'Company'

Crown City Theatre Company has boldly revived this 1970 Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical hit, a perennial darling of the Tony Committee seldom staged here, in its small space. Although director Albert Alarr has set the tale of a commitment-phobic bachelor harassed by his married friends in the present day, plenty of late-1960s New York artifacts remain in the picaresque story lines and acerbic lyrics for those who want to relive boozier, grittier days. (Margaret Gray) Ends Sunday. Read more

Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St. St. Matthew’s LGBT Church, North Hollywood

'Walking the Tightrope'

Delicately poised between children’s fable and adult reverie, this pitch-perfect West Coast premiere of Mike Kenny’s perceptive take on the eternal cycle is as artfully simple, theatrically poetic and deeply affecting a chamber piece as any in recent memory — an indelible must-see for all ages. (David C. Nichols) Ends Saturday. Read more

24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Coachella 2013, opening this weekend, marks not only the beginning of the annual concert season, but increasingly offers an opportunity to create a viral moment that resonates globally. This year, as all six stages webcast live, more and more of the music world will experience the acts as they happen. This changes the whole scale of a performance. The goal of creating something that moves across many platforms simultaneously has led artists behind large-scale festival performances increasingly to try to convey emotion not only through music, but through the visual manifestation of that music as delivered onto screens. Read more

Coachella 2013, Empire Polo Club: 81-800 Ave. 51, Indio

Randall Roberts

Pop music critic

William Kraft (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Hear Now Music Festival

The 2013 Hear Now Music Festival is meant to be the sound of Los Angeles. What does that mean? No one really can say, anymore than what it means to be an Angeleno. Over two programs at the First Lutheran Church of Venice on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, a dozen pieces will be played by a dozen composers. They don’t all live precisely in Los Angeles — Altadena (William Kraft), Claremont (Karl Kohn), even Berkeley (John Adams) counts. Read more

First Lutheran Church of Venice, 815 Venice Blvd., Venice

Mark Swed

Music critic

Other recommendations:

Album: 'The Next Day'

'The Next Day' finds David Bowie at his best. The inventive artist's 26th studio album is the kind of record you hope for out of Bowie: versatile and magnetic. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'Impossible Truth'

William Tyler is a solo acoustic guitarist whose 2010 album “Behold the Spirit” was a quiet but oft-menacing joy. A self-described “Nashville lifer,” Tyler has strummed in service of acts including country-soul band Lambchop, country singer Charlie Louvin, soul vocalist Candi Staton and folk troubadour Bonnie “Prince” Billy. “Impossible Truth” is impossibly beautiful. The highlight of these eight meditations is the epic 10-minute “The World Set Free,” which injects distortion and percussion into his mantras. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'Nomad'

Two years ago in MacArthur Park during its Levitt Pavilion summer concert series, Tuareg guitarist Omaro “Bombino” Moctar and his four-piece band performed a free concert for a ragtag mix of Angelenos. Since then the guitarist, 33, has witnessed much on the way to his new album, “Nomad,” which was produced by Black Keys’ singer-guitarist and Grammy Award-winning producer Dan Auerbach. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Album: 'Woman'

Created by a Danish producer and a Canadian multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles, Rhye’s debut full length, "Woman," is a soft pillow of soul, just right for quiet nights when you want to groove loudly. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Chi Spacca

The first time you visit Chi Spacca, Chad Colby’s meat-intensive restaurant room in Mozza’s Italian-cuisine complex, you are probably going to want the bistecca fiorentina, a sizzling cliff of meat that weighs in at a stunning 42 ounces, rising from the plate in a spectacle that seems almost geological. Is there a sauce, a potato or a decorative sprig of parsley? There is not - just the steak, which feeds four. You will want to work your way through Colby’s roster of cured Red Wattle pig salumi too. Still, it is sometimes the quirks, not classically Italian, that make the restaurant lovable: Aussie-style beef and marrow pie; sweetbreads wrapped with pancetta; and a flat prawn omelet with curls of headcheese that is pretty close to a crisp Korean paejon. Read more

Chi Spacca, 6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Other recommendations:

Muddy Leek

A former underground dining club from Julie Retzlaff and her husband, chef Whitney Flood, Muddy Leek is less an edgy pop-up than a comfortable place to drop in for a glass of grenache and a snack on a Tuesday night. There may be the occasional tiny rabbit kidney garnishing a plate of rabbit hash, a little dish of rillettes made with the shredded remnants of duck confit, or a smear of chicken liver mousse on toast, but you are not here to be challenged, you are here because you want to eat nicely composed small plates, and it is nice. Read more

Muddy Leek, 8631 Washington Blvd., Culver City

Tamarind of London

Is it easy to mistake Tamarind’s careful spicing for blandness or the mild juiciness of its chicken tikka for timidity? Could it be a good thing that the parade of grilled-mushroom salads, coconut-scented vegetable korma, chickpea dal, smoky eggplant curry and hot nan stuffed with coconut and dates tends to complement the scent of a pretty Sonoma Chardonnay? Tamarind, the Newport Beach sibling of the first London Indian restaurant to earn a Michelin star, is Southern California’s most luxurious Indian restaurant. Read more

Tamarind of London, 7862 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach

Littlefork

The new restaurant from Jason Travi, whose Mediterranean-style cooking you may have tried at the late Fraiche in Culver City, is a really good bar with high-concept eats – channeling a 1950s New England seafood joint crossed with grungy Montreal bistro, and almost inexpensive unless you let the cocktails, the maple syrup eggs and the crunchy oyster sliders add up. You would be surprised how quickly you can inhale a plate of chilled oysters, nostalgia-flavored fish sticks or even a half dozen clams casino, whose blanket of crisp, bacony bread crumbs in no way slows you down. And there are freshly fried apple-cider doughnuts for dessert. Read more

Littlefork, 1600 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood

Hunan Mao

There are nearly a dozen Hunan restaurants in the greater San Gabriel Valley, and the best of them, including this one, concentrate on the oily, fearsomely hot dishes that make Hunan a paradise of peasant cuisine. What that means here may include gargantuan steamed fish heads, cucumber stir-fried with purple basil, lamb ribs fried with cumin, or the fearsome dish called "Hot Over Spicy," basically a stir-fry of chiles flavored with chiles, seasoned with yet other chiles, and dosed with a bit of ground pork. Try anything made with the awesomely smoky Hunan ham, which has the presence of great barbecue. Read more

Hunan Mao, 8728 Valley Blvd., Rosemead

J. Paul Getty Museum

Sicily: Art and Invention’ at the Getty Villa

There are at least three great reasons to see “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome” at the Getty Villa. Chronologically, the first is a straightforward male torso, his finely chiseled marble body quietly brimming with latent energy. Second comes a preening charioteer, physically just larger than life but expressively very much so. And third is a depiction of a minor god with major fertility on his mind, his powerful physicality an embodiment of the contortions of carnal lust, both corporeal and psychological. These major sculptures together tell an accelerating story of artistic and social power on the ancient Mediterranean island. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Monday, August 19) Read more

Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades

Christopher Knight

Art critic

Architecture: Dodger Stadium revamp

The new owners of the Dodgers didn’t just go on a spending spree to sign new players during the offseason; they also opened their wallets for a $100-million project to revamp 51-year-old Dodger Stadium. Many of the upgrades are invisible (such as improved wireless coverage), others buried into the hillside at the base of the stadium. The most noticeable changes, aside from new high-def scoreboards, have come near the entry gates, where several dozen parking spots have been replaced with new landscaping, souvenir shops, life-sized bobble-heads and even playgrounds. The goal is to make one of the most privatized stadiums in the majors, one designed near the height of L.A.’s love affair with the car, a little more public. (Christopher Hawthorne) Read more

Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave, Los Angeles

Christopher Hawthorne

Architecture critic

Other recommendations:

'Ming Masterpieces From the Shanghai Museum'

A new exhibition of Chinese Ming dynasty paintings includes just 10 works, but it’s more absorbing than many shows two or three times its size. These 15th and early-16th century paintings are high-wire acts of aesthetic dexterity, fusing philosophical perception with formal persuasion. (Christopher Knight) (Ends Sunday) Read more

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

'MexiCali Biennial'

The third installment of the MexiCali Biennial is winding down at East L.A. College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (the show closes April 13), and its somewhat shaggy theme of cannibalizing established cultures as a means for creating new artistic identities isn’t exactly fresh (it dates back nearly a century). But there is a considerable amount to like among the varied paintings, sculptures and installations by 26 artists and collectives working in the U.S. and Mexico, starting with Carolyn Castaño’s satirical video of a rapid-fire news broadcast. In “The Female Report,” she slices, dices and turns televised reality against itself to devastating effect. (Christopher Knight) Read more

East Los Angeles College's Vincent Price Art Museum 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park

Rachel Kushner (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The Flamethrowers’

Rachel Kushner’s second novel, “The Flamethrowers,” is a white-hot ember of a book. Taking place in Manhattan and Italy in the late 1970s, a time when each was awash in turmoil, the novel traces the experience of one woman, a young conceptual artist, as she navigates these disparate landscapes, a part of the action and yet always on the outside. For Kushner, the point is displacement – that, and the way art is, or should be, a provocation, with even the most abstract expression existing in (sometimes) violent reaction to the world. The result is a work of fiction that illustrates both character and culture, as well as the uneasy ways they intersect. Read more

David Ulin

Book critic

Other recommendations:

'The Book of My Lives'

There’s a tendency to look askance at essay collections, to see them as incidental, as if they had no urgency of their own. I defy anyone to make such an argument after reading Aleksandar Hemon’s “The Book of My Lives.” Ranging from his youth in Sarajevo to his present-day life in Chicago, this suite of 15 essays never looks away or pulls its punches — portraying if not a life exactly, then a life in collage. Particularly affecting is the heartbreaking “The Aquarium,” originally published in the New Yorker in 2011, which details the death of Hemon’s 1-year-old daughter Isabel from a rare cancer of the brain. Read more

'A Tale for the Time Being'

Ozeki’s third novel is constructed around a pair of interlocking narratives — the first that of Nao, a 16-year-old Japanese girl, and the second that of Ruth, a novelist who finds Nao’s diary when it washes up on the beach in Vancouver Island. Together, they make for a stunning meditation on meaning, narrative and our place in the universe. Written from something of a Buddhist perspective (the author is, among other things, a Zen priest), “A Tale for the Time Being” covers everything from the vagaries of love to the paradox of quantum physics, finding its resolution in an unflinching resistance to being resolved. Read more

Square Enix

‘Tomb Raider’

Out now for about a month, Square Enix’s reboot of “Tomb Raider” still feels nothing short of brave. Today’s Lara Croft is unlike any other iteration of the Indiana Jones-inspired globe-trotter. Though relentlessly fast-paced, the game takes time to pause and show Croft struggle with having to kill a deer for the first time. She hobbles after an injury, makes known her anxieties, crouches in guilt when she messes up and never stops asking enemies why they’re coming after her, even walking away in tears the first time she pulls a trigger. But above all else, Croft continually succeeds where her guy friends largely fail, almost single-handedly confronting a male collective that shoots at her, lusts after her, fears her and attempts to deceive her. Croft is not only battling an island full of crazed inhabitants, but decades of stereotypes. Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

Other recommendations:

‘Bioshock Infinite’

“Bioshock Infinite” is a mess, but it’s an ambitious, entertaining mess. This first-person shooter constantly hits the player with big ideas – issues dealing with racism, inequality and the intersection of church and state dominate the first half of the game – and ultimately it’s a disappointment that the action and the concepts never intersect. Yet it’s the only shooter released this year that’s attempted to say anything. Read more

‘Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon’

“Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon” offers an intimate look at the less famous half of Nintendo’s core brotherly duo. Yet unlike the cheery, easy-to-root-for Mario, who has confidently bounced his way through three decades of games, we’re on Luigi’s side in this action-puzzle title out of empathy. He shivers, groans, sighs and outright begs at times to be relieved of his ghost-hunting duties in this moderately paced, humorous 3DS title. Read more

'Fire Emblem: Awakening'

“Fire Emblem: Awakening” is on the surface a turn-based strategy game, but this 3DS game is ultimately a game more obsessed with matters of the heart than war. Who you marry, for instance, is more important than who you fight. It’s also deep, at more than 50 hours into it, I still can’t wait to pick it up, as this is the rare game that understands it’s more fun to mix-and-match personalities than it is weapons. Read more

Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Nicholson

Designer, retailer and Hollywood royalty Jennifer Nicholson, who once headlined Los Angeles Fashion Week and showed her collections in New York and Paris, has returned to fashion after a nearly five-year hiatus. Her new venture is Pearl Drop, a Venice boutique with a “boho goddess festival vibe,” opened just in time to dress customers for this month’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, one of Nicholson’s favorite springtime excursions. Read more

Pearl Drop, 328 S. Lincoln Blvd., Venice

Booth Moore

Fashion critic

Other recommendations:

Celine

The Rodeo Drive shopping scene heats up with the opening of the new boutique from Celine, the LVMH-owned brand that helped usher minimalism back into style under the direction of designer Phoebe Philo. What can you find inside? We'll start with Celine’s spring runway collection and tailored classics, must-have handbags, and the fur-lined, Birkenstock-like sandals and fur-covered high heels that have fashion followers buzzing. Read more

Celine, 319 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills