Critics’ Picks: April 19-25, 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.

The selections include director Terrence Malick’s latest film and the Geffen Playhouse’s revival of a David Mamet classic. On TV, a new Sundance series is more evidence of a “Golden Age.” If you’re out and about there’s a celebration of vinyl records and a Santa Monica restaurant that offers gourmet alternatives to all that meat.

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

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

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

To the Wonder’

Terrence Malick, as unconventional, esoteric and spiritual as ever, has created an ocean of love, with calm seas, treacherous storms, incredible beauty and a god who watches over it all. There is no new ground really, the distinction is in the way Malick covers it with glorious imagery, symphonies of sound, a cacophony of moods. Between the style and the substance, it is likely to leave some loving the film, others loathing it. I found it to be some kind of wonderful, flaws and all. (Betsey Sharkey) Read more

Betsy Sharkey

Film critic

Other recommendations:

'Upstream Color'

Shane Carruth is unwavering about telling his stories his own particular way, and he's so good at it that he pins us to our seats even when we're not exactly sure what's going on. Maybe because we're not exactly sure what's going on. (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

Sundance

Rectify’

If you need more proof that this is the real Golden Age of television, prepare to record “Rectify,” Ray McKinnon’s game-changing six-part mini-series on the Sundance Channel. I say record it because you’ll want to watch each carefully constructed, beautifully acted episode at least twice. Each follows a day in the life of Daniel Holden (Aden Young) just released from a 19-year stint on death row for the murder of his high school girlfriend. Freed but not exonerated by new DNA evidence, Daniel must return to a town he has all but forgotten and a life he no longer knows how to live. (Sundance Channel, premieres Monday, 9 p.m.) Read more

Mary McNamara

Television critic

President Mohamed Nasheed. (Lincoln Else / PBS)

Independent Lens: The Island President’

Comprising 2,000 pancake-flat islands in the Indian Ocean, with a mean elevation of about five feet above sea level, the Maldives will be the first nation to go, literally, when the oceans rise. Jon Shenk’s documentary follows then-president Mohamed Nasheed, the first on a mission to save his country, his people and maybe the world. A frequently jailed activist who once spent 18 months in solitary confinement in a corrugated iron shed, Nasheed hits the road to make his quixotic case for environmental responsibility. Handsomely shot and smartly edited, it works as a sort of dry, dark comedy of international diplomacy as seen from a low vantage point, as a soundtrack of Radiohead songs (the instrumental bits mostly) remind you that this stuff is serious. (KOCE, Monday, 10 p.m.) Read more

Robert Lloyd

Television critic

Other recommendations:

'The Bletchley Circle'

A Scooby Gang of female former WWII code-breakers reconvene several years later to solve a string of murders, no thanks to a lot of mostly useless men. An ode in browns, grays, brick-reds and dark-room-blacks to pluck, teamwork (with occasional disagreements), sisterhood and braininess. (Charts! Equations!) In three increasingly nerve-wracking installments. (Robert Lloyd) (PBS, premieres Sunday, 10 p.m.) Read more

'Game of Thrones' (April)

I know, I know, I picked this before, but this episode, "And Now His Watch is Ended," is just amazing, with a final scene that will knock your socks off. You do not want to miss it. Seriously. (Mary McNamara) (HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.) Read more

'Remember Sunday'

A TV-sized rom-com, sentimental yet hard-headed in the clutch, with Zachary Levi (Chuck on "Chuck") and Alexis Bledel (Rory the Gilmore Girl) in roles that in another day, on a bigger screen, would have been taken by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, speaking lines by Norah Ephron. (Alternately, it's a less wacky rewrite of "50 First Dates.") Levi plays a former genius cosmologist whose life has been circumscribed by a condition that wipes his recent memory clean when he sleeps: Everyone he meets stays a stranger. Bledel is a lovelorn waitress he manages to court. Much of it is pat, yet rewarding in its patness, and the final twist is a good one. Merrit Wever does fine, quiet work as Levi's sister. (Robert Lloyd) (ABC, Sunday, 9 p.m.) Read more

'Happy Endings'

I am not one of those critics who considers "Happy Endings" the world's best and most under-rated comedy and spends hours trying to convince you, and ABC execs, of same. But Megan Mullally and Michael McKean guest-star this week and there just isn't enough Mullally to go around these days. So I'm in. (Mary McNamara) (ABC, Friday, 8 p.m.) Read more

'Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington'

Sebastian Junger's documentary on the late photojournalist Tim Hetherington, with whom he co-directed the Oscar-nominated documentary "Restrepo" (about front line soldiers in Afghanistan). Tall, good-looking and personable, Hetherington, who was killed two years ago this month in Libya, had a touch with cameras and with humans. "Moral outrage motivates me," he says here, "but... I think we need to build bridges to people." Artists are sometimes elevated by early death, but Junger's film is a winning case for the work: From West Africa to Afghanistan, Hetherington made beautiful pictures that found the dailiness in the craziness, the stillness in the chaos, the peace within the war. (Robert Lloyd) (HBO) Read more

'Castle' (April)

"Castle." How it manages, in these days of graphic everything, to be smart, sexy and family-friendly may be the biggest mystery of all, but who's complaining? It's just good, old-fashioned great television. (Mary McNamara) (ABC, Monday) Read more

Bill Smitrovich, left, Freddy Rodriguez and Ron Eldard. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

American Buffalo’

This classic dark comedy by David Mamet about the con game known as the free enterprise system is set in a junk shop, but there are jewels to be found in the play, and they are thrillingly laid out for us in the Geffen Playhouse’s dynamically acted production. What a pleasure to experience again the ferocious gusto of Mamet’s language when it was still being composed for individual characters. Lately, Mamet seems to be writing for his own bullhorn, but this relatively early work reminds us of the reason his style set off a revolution in American playwriting. The revival’s success is a credit to the blue-collar commitment of its performers — Bill Smitrovich, Freddy Rodriguez and Ron Eldard — and to director Randall Arney for recognizing that, contrary to what Mamet has dogmatically asserted, a play without convincing characters is just a bag of air. (Charles McNulty) Ends Sunday. Read more

Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood

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.

'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.

'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

'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.

'Eurydice'

Sarah Ruhl’s delicately feminist play revisits the Orpheus legend from the perspective of his doomed bride, Eurydice, but the story is, somewhat unexpectedly, more a tale of enduring fatherly love than of star-crossed passion. Geoff Elliott’s deft direction and dazzling design elements result in a hypnotic and purifying atmosphere that is just right for catharsis. (F. Kathleen Foley) Ends Sunday. Read more

A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

'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

'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

'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

'Smoke and Mirrors'

As actor and Magic Castle illusionist Albie Selznick’s superb theatrical magic show explores the connections between his life and art, perhaps his greatest feat is making any trace of boredom completely disappear. (Philip Brandes) (Extended through Dec. 31) Read more

The Road on Lankershim, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

Neil Schield of Origami. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Record Store Day

The annual music geek holiday known as Record Store Day arrives Saturday and with it gifts for the fans and collectors looking to hold in their hands music that they could easily hear for free on the Internet. One of the great mom-and-pop merchandising success stories of recent times, Record Store Day sees music retailers across the world celebrating the joy of shopping through selling limited-edition vinyl by hundreds of artists. This year’s bounty includes stuff by David Bowie, Elliott Smith, Rhye, Captain Beefheart, Sharon van Etten, Steven Malkmus and the Jicks (covering Can’s classic Krautrock album “Ege Bamyasi), the White Stripes and many more. Read more

Randall Roberts

Pop music critic

Cameron Carpenter. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images / Cinema for Peace)

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter is like no other organist. And that is not just in the way he dresses, which is audacious but hardly shocking anymore. Moreover, he easily wins over an audience with the friendly irreverence of his running commentary and his intelligence. What is shocking is his command of his instrument, which is mind-boggling. What may also seem shocking in this age where glitter so often implies superficiality is his musical depth and his questing nature. He pushes his physical limits and he pushes musical limits. Carpenter’s appearances at Walt Disney Concert Hall will have two different characters. He is soloist in Aaron Copland’s Organ Symphony as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Brooklyn Festival this weekend, which otherwise focuses on today’s young composers who now occupy the borough in droves. Then Sunday night, Carpenter will give a recital on the great Disney organ. Read more

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles

Mark Swed

Music critic

Other recommendations:

Album: 'Floating Coffin'

Relentless, powerful, tight: This San Francisco psychedelic guitar band Thee showcases its wild, spastic rock on "Floating Coffin," its seventh record. Like last year's excellent "Putrifiers II," on the new one the five sharp players, centered on founder-guitarist John Dwyer, make four-minute garage punk sound positively epic. Surprises abound; no song travels where a dumber band would take it. "Maze Fancier" sounds like a crazy Fugazi song on speed. "Minotaur" pokes along drunkenly and features one of the best guitar lines you'll hear all year. (Randal 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: 'Replay Last Night'

Among the many stylistic traits of Southern California cultural offerings is a certain easiness, a smooth, groove-centered vibe found both in Dr. Dre’s G-funk sound two decades ago and the dubbed out sounds of Flying Lotus, Teebs and the Gaslamp Killer today.  It’s in the harmonies of the Beach Boys, the graceful delivery of Chet Baker and Frank Ocean’s relaxed story-tracks on “Channel Orange.”  “Replay Last Night,” the debut full length from L.A. beat producer Astronautica, taps into this wellspring. The alter-ego of 21-year-old Los Angeles native Edrina Martinez, Astronautica on her debut, which comes out Tuesday, crafts instrumental electronic dance music filled with pensive, muffled rhythms that wend through gratifyingly complicated melodies. (Randall Roberts) Read more

Chef Matthew Kenney at M. A. K. E. in Santa Monica.(Christina House / For The Times)

M.A.K.E.

If you are the kind of restaurant-goer who gets hung up on first impressions, M.A.K.E., Matthew Kenney’s raw-vegan restaurant in Santa Monica Place, may not be for you. But Kenney, who was a renowned New York chef well before he adopted the raw-food thing, is solidly a creature of the food world, and a lot of his techniques are also found in the famous modernist kitchens where dehydrators and Vege-Mixes are as commonly used as pots and pans. The spray of thinly sliced carrots erupting from a base of cumin-scented nut butter is a dish you might see in any modernist dining room. And if the lasagna, sushi rolls and kimchi dumplings are more raw-vegan riffs than the things themselves, it’s just the way the juice-cleanse generation wishes things to be. Read more

M.A.K.E., 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica

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

Robert Pinsky. (Eric Antoniou / Scribner)

The Best of the Best American Poetry’

Normally, I’m wary of “best of” designations, but the annual “Best American Poetry” collections recognize the limitations of the game they’re playing, the idea that any group of poems can encapsulate the breadth of poetry written in America in a given year. “The Best of the Best American Poetry” features 100 poems of the 1,875 that have thus far been published in the series. My favorite stuff here is the most direct, or, maybe, the most interior: Margaret Atwood’s “Bored,” which traces how childhood ennui can lead to adult curiosity; the long excerpt from A.R. Ammons’ “Garbage”; and Denise Duhamel’s magnificent “How It Will End,” in which a husband and wife watch another couple fighting, only to take sides themselves. Read more

David Ulin

Book critic

Other recommendations:

'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

'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

Guacamelee! (DrinkBox Studios)

‘Guacamelee!’

Games are wonderful at creating crazy, colorful universes full of whip-cracking vampire killers and interstellar space pirates, but they are less good at crafting ones inspired by more earth-bound cultural traditions. “Guacamelee!” is an exception. Perhaps not since LucasArts’ 1998 “Day of the Dead” noir title “Grim Fandango” has a game so lovingly draped itself in Mexican folklore. “Guacamelee!” is a colorfully humorous game centered almost entirely on the customs surrounding Day of the Dead. It’s a simple stylistic conceit that seems so obvious that it’s almost confusing it hasn’t been done with any regularity. Who needs zombies and vampires when there’s an entire holiday steeped in calavera imagery? Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

Other recommendations:

‘The Cave’

A charming exploration into the pitfalls of human greed, complete with a talking cave out to exploit the weaknesses of each of the game’s characters. This indie game remains one of 2013’s most replayable titles, as gamers can take control seven characters each with their own back stories. The latest from “Monkey Island” creator Ron Gilbert, “The Cave” is an accessible, must-have puzzle game, where each head-scratcher is directly related to exploring the environment. 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

‘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

‘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

Tom Munro

Paloma Picasso

Style icon Paloma Picasso has been creating jewelry for Tiffany & Co. since 1980, famously reinterpreting Xs and O’s in bold silver and gold and celebrating the raw beauty of colorful stones in her modern-looking Sugar Stacks rings. Her newest collection for the jeweler, Olive Leaf, is more naturalistic than what has come before, with prices ranging from $150 for a thin silver ring band to $975 for a silver cuff to $100,000 for a diamond and white-gold bib. Picasso, 64, is married to French osteopathic doctor Eric Thevenet and splits her time between Lausanne, Switzerland, and Marrakech, Morocco. Read more

Booth Moore

Fashion critic

Other recommendations:

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

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