What to do this weekend in L.A. Critics Picks: May 11 - 17, 2018

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.

Our food critic has a few movies to recommend. And speaking of the movies, “Sunset Boulevard” returns to the big screen.

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

William Holden and Gloria Swanson. (Paramount Pictures / Photofest)

‘Sunset Boulevard’

If you are a fan of inside-Hollywood dramas (and how could you not be?), you know that Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard” is one of the best. Now, as part of Fathom Events’ TCM Big Screen Classics series, it will play in numerous Southern California theaters Sunday and Wednesday. The story of what happens when William Holden’s down-on-his-luck screenwriter stumbles on a great mansion off Sunset Boulevard owned by Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, a great legend of the silent screen living in delusional splendor years after her prime with factotum Erich von Stroheim, never disappoints no matter how often its viewed. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including all four acting categories (Nancy Olson got a supporting actress nod), “Sunset Boulevard” should not be missed. Read more

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

Juliette Binoche. (Christine Tamalet / Sundance Selects)

Let the Sunshine In’

Juliette Binoche gives a marvelous performance as a middle-aged divorcee looking for love in all the wrong places, but Claire Denis’ exquisite and soulful romantic comedy defies every expectation of that premise. (Justin Chang) Read more

Justin Chang

Los Angeles Times Movie Critic


The Argentinian writer-director Lucrecia Martel makes a welcome return to feature filmmaking with this feverishly brilliant tale of European colonialism and its discontents, starring a superb Daniel Giménez Cacho as a Spanish magistrate in late 18th century Paraguay. Read more

Justin Chang

Los Angeles Times Movie Critic

Other recommendations:


Natalie Portman plays a biologist who joins an all-female expedition into the heart of an environmental disaster zone in this eerily beautiful and hypnotically unsettling mind-bender from “Ex Machina” writer-director Alex Garland. (Justin Chang) Read more

A Quiet Place

John Krasinski’s thrillingly intelligent post-apocalyptic horror movie, in which he stars with Emily Blunt as a couple trying to protect their family from monsters who hunt by sound, is walking-on-eggshells cinema of a very high order. (Justin Chang) Read more

'The Rider'

Brady Jandreau, a Lakota cowboy from South Dakota, enacts a version of his own harrowing story of loss and recovery in writer-director Chloé Zhao's stunningly lyrical western, a seamless and deeply moving blend of narrative and documentary film techniques. (Justin Chang) Read more

'You Were Never Really Here'

This grim, artful New York crime thriller about a tormented thug-for-hire (a rivetingly contained Joaquin Phoenix) confirms writer-director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) as one of the most exciting and exacting film stylists of her generation. (Justin Chang) Read more

Tetona Jackson, left, and Teala Dunn. ( AwesomenessTV / Hulu)

All Night’

Graduation day draws near, and as if on cue Hulu offers “All Night,” a 10-episode series set in a “lock-in” high school grad party. (More about those in a minute.) Apart from the chronological aptness of its arrival, the series, which begins streaming Friday, has as its main built-in advantage the presence of YouTube sensations Jenn McAllister (jennxpenn), Teala Dunn (Tealaxx2) and Eva Gutowski (MyLifeAsEva), with their hopefully pre-sold millions of followers. The series is set in a chaperoned grad-night party, where students are locked in together from dusk until dawn in an environment presumably free from drink and drugs. Such events are a feature of the real world. Hulu, Any time. Read more

Robert Lloyd

Television critic

Other recommendations:

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ second season

Any questions on how a modern, democratic society devolves into a brutal, authoritarian regime almost overnight are addressed within the first few moments of the bold season 2 opener of “The Handmaid’s Tale” that picks up where the 2017 finale left off, with handmaid Offred, a.k.a. June (Elisabeth Moss), being smuggled out of child-bearing servitude in the back of a windowless van, presumably away from the theocratic Republic of Gilead (formerly America’s East Coast) and toward the freedom of Canada. But this is no rescue. She’s been driven deeper into the dystopian nightmare, if that’s even possible given the grim premise of Season 1, which was based on Margaret Atwood’s equally foreboding 1985 novel of the same name. (Lorraine Ali) (Hulu, any time) Read more


Humans, beware. When “Westworld” returns Sunday with its highly anticipated second season, the gun-slinging robot thriller does so with a vengeance. And you’re the target. The mechanized hosts of this wild west theme park suffered every sort of humiliation, indignity and gruesome death imaginable last season (and the creators of this HBO series, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, have vivid imaginations). Now there’s a full-tilt rebellion across all sectors of the man-made park. And the myriad questions that caused this series to be such a mind-bender when it premiered in fall 2016 now play out across several storylines: Who’s controlling who? What constitutes free will? Is it the series that’s complicated, or am I just simple? Of course, there are a few new questions too. (Lorraine Ali) (HBO, Sunday) Read more

'The Terror'

The sight of a Victorian-era naval ship listing atop an Arctic ice field, her crew on board, hundreds of miles from civilization, is enough to send chills up the spine. Add blustery male hubris, British classism and a snow monster to the mix, and you have producer Ridley Scott's aptly titled television series "The Terror." (Lorraine Ali) (AMC, Sundays) Read more


In "Barry," Bill Hader plays Barry Berkman, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan working out of Cleveland as a freelance contract killer. Created by Hader and Alec Berg ("Seinfeld," "Silicon Valley"), it has something in common with Danny McBride's HBO comedies "Eastbound and Down" and "Vice Principals" in how it makes a hero out of an adult in a state of sometimes dangerous arrested development. But Hader's character is more complex and less self-involved — he barely has a self it seems at times. Half weary grown-up, half innocent child, he's shaped by Hader into a plausible single person. The show is similarly binary: silly and engaging, sunny and dark. It's funny where it wants to be, and sometimes isn't funny at all. (Robert Lloyd) (HBO, Sundays) Read more

'One Strange Rock'

In director Darren Aronofsky's new science-based thriller, Will Smith plays himself — a carefree guy living in an incredibly complex and fragile environment that he takes for granted. And no, that rarefied space is not the illustrious stratosphere of Hollywood celebrity. It's planet Earth, where a spec of dust from East Africa or a dew drop from the Amazon basin has as much impact on the survival of the human race as a violent volcanic eruption or galactic debris storm. If this sounds like a sequel to Aronofsky's last film, "mother!," the esoteric parable about man's abusive relationship with Mother Earth (played by Jennifer Lawrence), it's not. "mother!" was one strange movie. His newest venture is "One Strange Rock." The 10-part National Geographic docu-series pairs cinematic storytelling with earth science, turning the commonplace "global warming, time's running out" narrative into a graceful, nuanced look at the amazing things happening below our feet and above our heads. (Lorraine Ali) (Mondays, National Geographic Channel) Read more

'This Close'

“This Close” makes a bit of history as the first television series created, written by and starring deaf artists. (Each one of those things may be historic on its own.) Not surprisingly, the show, from and featuring Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman, first called “Fridays,” was born on the web, the place you go when, because you want something done, you have to do it yourself. A second version, titled “The Chances,” was produced under the aegis of the youth-oriented entertainment house SuperDeluxe; it was featured at Sundance in 2017, as part of the festival’s short-form episodic showcase. And a year later, here we are. It was a long road, but it was worth it. Stern and Feldman play best friends Kate and Michael. Kate works for a PR firm; she speaks, read lips and can hear a little (when her hearing aids work — we get an audio impression of what it’s like when they don’t). Michael, who doesn’t speak, is a graphic novelist with an award-winning book under his belt. (Robert Lloyd) (Anytime, Sundance Now) Read more

Tracey A. Leigh, left, Krystle Rose Simmons and Gabriel Lawrence. (Jeanne Tanner)

The Baby Dance: Mixed’

With the same finely detailed specificity that distinguished Jane Anderson’s 1989 drama, the heightened racial emphasis in this substantially rewritten mixed-cast version opens up new opportunities to personalize and deepen the characters — surpassing the original in key respects. Ends Sunday, May 20. Read more

Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura

Philip Brandes

Theater reviewer

Other recommendations:

'Bad Jews'

A dip in an acid-laced bubble bath, Joshua Harmon’s effervescently corrosive comedy about a fanatical Jewish ideologue and her more secular-minded cousin’s dispute over a religious artifact left behind by their Holocaust survivor grandfather receives a blissfully high-decibel staging from director Dana Resnick and a pitch-perfect cast. Harmon’s brilliantly caustic play frames serious issues of Jewish identity within a breathtaking blitzkrieg of invective guaranteed to make your eardrums smolder. (F. Kathleen Foley) (Ends July 1). Read more

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.

'Noises Off'

Director Geoff Elliott and a superb cast hit the banana peel running and never let up in their crowd-pleasing reprise of Michael Frayn’s 1982 farce-within-a-farce, a giddy glimpse of a theatrical hothouse populated by doddering drunks, vapid bombshells, and cue-challenged stars, where titanic egos and meager talents clash, hilariously. Ends Saturday, May 26. Read more

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

‘The Chosen’

Learning to see past differences and getting to know the person underneath is a lesson for all time in Chaim Potok’s 1940s-set novel, adapted by Potok and Aaron Posner. The tale of an unexpected friendship between Brooklyn teens from different strains of Judaism is given a poignant staging, with particularly fine performances by Sam Mandel as the youthful narrator and, unforgettably, Alan Blumenfeld as a charismatic rabbi. Ends Sunday, June 10 Read more

The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.

‘I Am Not a Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce’

In this meticulously researched solo biography tracing the life and prosecution of the groundbreaking early 1960s comic provocateur, actor Ronnie Marmo and director Joe Mantegna offer subsequent generations not only a sense of who Bruce was but more importantly why he mattered. (Philip Brandes) (Ends Sunday, May 13) Read more

Theatre 68, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

Janelle Monáe. (Christopher Polk / Getty / Spotify)

Album ‘Dirty Computer’

Janelle Monáe rarely goes more than a few minutes on her new album, “Dirty Computer,” without evoking the hardship and injustice that color the American experience for so many. Police violence, pay disparity, legislative malfeasance — they’re all part of a project whose sci-fi-inspired title summons an imagined near-future state in which nonconforming androids are “cleaned” of their “bugs.” Yet the spirit that animates “Dirty Computer” isn’t one of fear or even outrage. Instead, the third studio album by this adventurous R&B singer plays like an outright celebration — a warm and vibrant tribute to the marginalized people, especially women and those with fluid ideas about gender and sexuality, whom Monáe sees as the true embodiment of America’s promise. Read more

Mikael Wood

Pop Music Writer

Kacey Musgraves. (Rebecca Miller / Los Angeles Times)

Album ‘Golden Hour’

The promise of new love meets the thrill of new sounds on “Golden Hour,” Kacey Musgraves’ knockout of a third studio album. “Kiss full of color makes me wonder where you’ve always been,” the 29-year-old country star sings in “Butterflies” before adding, “I was hiding in doubt till you brought me out of my chrysalis.” The song layers folky guitar over a loping bass groove, but when Musgraves gets to that final word, her voice transforms into what could be a choir of robots — a nifty Space Age touch in a tune about life down here on Earth. Read more

Mikael Wood

Pop Music Writer

Toni Braxton. (Astrid Stawiarz / A&E / Getty Images)

Album ‘Sex & Cigarettes’

For Toni Braxton, maturity is no guarantee of stability. “I can’t believe it — we’re going through this again,” the veteran R&B artist sings in “Sex & Cigarettes,” about a woman whose unfaithful partner has stopped even trying to hide what he smells like when he climbs into their bed. “We’re too old, and I thought you’d outgrown this.” An uncluttered piano ballad with plenty of room for Braxton’s throaty vocals, “Sex & Cigarettes” is the title track from the singer’s strong new album, her first following a four-year stretch she spent focusing on her television career and dealing with the effects of lupus. Read more

Mikael Wood

Pop Music Writer

Mark Oliver Everett from Eels. ( Juan Naharro Gimenez / Redferns / Getty)

Five must-hear spring releases from L.A.-area artists

Whether chasing past glories or embracing the thrills of the here and now, music fans curious about the sounds of Southern California will find a predictably diverse bunch of melodies and rhythms this season. Below, five cool Los Angeles releases that will storm spring. Read more

Randall Roberts

Pop music critic

Other recommendations:

'All Nerve'

How many comeback albums can one band make — and in how many different forms? Kim Deal, the only constant member in the Breeders’ three-decade history, seems determined to find out. “All Nerve” is the first record in 10 years from this pioneering alternative rock group, which Deal formed in 1989 while she was also playing bass in the Pixies. Yet it hardly marks the first time Deal has un-called it quits: “Title TK,” from 2002, revived the Breeders (albeit with a fresh lineup) nine years after the band broke through commercially with 1993’s “Last Splash.” For “All Nerve,” Deal reconvened the players who created “Last Splash,” themselves a different bunch from the group behind the Breeders’ debut. (Mikael Wood) Read more

'Black Panther' soundtrack

There’s a scene in “Black Panther” — director Ryan Coogler’s breathlessly awaited Marvel Comics adaptation that promises to smash box-office records when it opens Thursday night — in which a bad guy busy raining fire from the passenger seat of a getaway car commands his driver to turn on some music. “It’s not a funeral,” the bad guy sneers, and suddenly we’re being pummeled by “Opps,” a throbbing, darkly futuristic hip-hop tune by a trio of rappers led by Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, who put together the movie’s all-star soundtrack and appears on each of its 14 songs. The villain’s line is a bleak joke of course, but he’s dead-on about his surroundings: “Black Panther” is most definitely not a funeral — and its wildly creative music accounts for much of its vital life force. (Mikael Wood) Read more

Album: ‘Dearest Everybody’

Before Inara George was a musician, she spent four years as the daughter of one. Well respected today in Los Angeles pop circles for her solo work and for her many collaborations — including the Living Sisters and the Bird and the Bee — George wasn’t even 5 when her father, Little Feat frontman Lowell George, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1979. The tragedy — Lowell was only 34 — went some way toward defining Inara’s childhood, says the singer, who grew up in Topanga Canyon with her mother. As she began writing her own songs, though, Inara became determined to establish a presence outside her father’s legacy. On “Dearest Everybody,” her fourth solo album, George, 43, finally turns her attention to the death of the man known for founding one of rock’s cleverest, most idiosyncratic bands. (Mikael Wood) Read more

Album: 'Soul of a Woman'

Sharon Jones struggled as a singer for too long to let anything interfere with her success when it finally arrived. That’s the impression you get from “Soul of a Woman,” the final album this tough, leather-lunged R&B belter made before she died in 2016 of pancreatic cancer. Due Friday, nearly a year to the date after her death, the 11-track set was recorded in the wake of some serious professional accomplishments, including Jones' first Grammy nomination and an acclaimed documentary that examined her unlikely breakthrough at age 40 following years of unnoticed labor in gospel choirs and wedding bands around New York. At the same time, Jones' body was slowly failing her. Bosco Mann, who produced "Soul of a Woman" and plays bass in the singer's longtime backing band, the Dap-Kings, says they scheduled their studio sessions around her treatment plan. (Mikael Wood) Read more

Album 'Reputation'

For Taylor Swift, love — or the idea of it — has always represented a refuge, an escape, a shelter in a storm. When she emerged, just over a decade ago, romance was a means of lifting herself out of the too-smallness of high school; later, its enduring promise cushioned her after any number of messy breakups. Swift's idealizing impulse resonated with fans, who were using her music the same way she was using her imagination, and she quickly became one of the biggest and most closely observed pop stars on the planet. Now, on her sixth studio album, "Reputation" love is an antidote to the celebrity she so doggedly cultivated (and then fumbled as soon as everyone was watching). (Mikael Wood) Read more

Album 'The Thrill of It All'

Who is Sam Smith kidding? “Every time you hurt me, the less that I cry,” he sings, vowing to guard his fragile heart, in “Too Good at Goodbyes,” the gospel-inspired opener from his new studio album, “The Thrill of It All.” But if there’s anything this young British soul star has made clear since he emerged five years ago, it’s that he’ll never, ever run out of tears. (Mikael Wood) Read more

Tim Buckley recordings

In early September 1969, the dynamic singer and songwriter Buckley played three nights at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. A tireless explorer influenced more by Nina Simone than Bob Dylan, he was accompanied during the gigs by himself and musicians playing a Fender Rhodes electric organ, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and congas. Reissue producers Bill Inglot and Pat Thomas recently unearthed a bounty of tapes from those three nights in September, some of which already had been mined for an earlier concert recording, “Live at the Troubadour 1969.” The results of their effort can be found on “Greetings From West Hollywood” and “Venice Mating Call,” which come out Oct. 13. the two new releases, the former available on LP and the latter on compact disc, present wondrously remastered, previously un-issued versions from those Troubadour nights. (Randall Roberts) Read more

A still from "Tampopo." (Janus Films)

Jonathan Gold recommends 10 food-centric films

In movies, food is rarely just food — it is a way of signaling obsession and atavism, consumption and desire. It is hard to interpret the flash of a knife as the portent of a really well-made brunoise onscreen; the combination of rabbit and stockpot does not equal fricassee. Even Nancy Meyers’ happy kitchens are foodie abattoirs in their way. Read more

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Carlos Salgado’s Taco María is The Times’ 2018 Restaurant of the Year

The Los Angeles area has seen a number of remarkable restaurants open in the last several years, including spaceship fantasies with no recognizable foodstuffs, sushi bars plucked whole from the better precincts of Tokyo and dining rooms so devoted to local produce that it occasionally seems as if they have massive gardens of their own backing up to the kitchen. Yet no restaurant in years may have had quite the impact that Taco María and its chef Carlos Salgado have had on the Southern California scene. The restaurant, which serves tasting menus of Salgado’s Mexican-influenced cooking, is at the center of a culinary movement that seems to grow in importance each year. Read more

Taco María, 3313 Hyland Ave, Costa Mesa

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Spanish octopus dish at Native. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)


What, I sometimes wonder, should a Los Angeles restaurant be? Does it need to reflect the city’s magnificent diversity, or will the occasional dash of Sriracha or snip of kimchi do? Will it find all of its produce in the better farmers markets? Should it try to invoke specific longings with G-funk soundtracks, summery vegetables and intricate hamburgers, or is it enough to plug into the hyper-amped howls of flavor currently popular in the local street food scene? Native, Nyesha Arrington’s cramped, busy restaurant crammed into the former Santa Monica Yacht Club space, is devoted, at least in the abstract, to the idea of being Angeleno: a place where flavors from a dozen culinary traditions collide on a plate, tied together with exquisitely seasonal produce from the nearby Santa Monica farmers market, a list of funky natural wines and music that seems drawn from a KJLH playlist circa 1983. If you squint, Native can seem a lot like a cruisy first-date pub that happens to serve tasty organic snacks — a function the place served in its last incarnation, as Andrew Kirschner’s SMYC. If you look away from the bar, Native leans almost toward fine dining, with bottles of Chablis on the tables, oysters with pastis-scented mignonette and crisp-skinned loup de mer with verjuice and batons of salsify. It is probably either. It is probably both. Read more

Native, 620 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Chef Morihiro Onodera. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


Morihiro “Mori” Onodera may have the most passionate fans in the universe of Los Angeles sushi, partisans who swapped pictures of his dishes on sites like Chowhound long before Instagram existed, blissed out at his deeply slashed sayori and tended to see praise of any other sushi chef as a backhanded swipe at their hero. I have been called out over the years not for dismissing Onodera but for not praising him quite highly enough. How did he wind up behind the counter at Shiki, a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant opened to showcase luxury Japanese food products? I’m not sure. But for now, it may be enough that he is there, building menus around well-caught wild fish and organic farmer’s market produce. Read more

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

Other recommendations:

189 by Dominique Ansel

The new Cronut — could it be the “avocado toast” at the new Dominique Ansel bakery, a trompe l’oeil confection of avocado ice cream, frozen ricotta and shortbread that looks more like the real thing than the actual avocado toast on offer? The ice cream-stuffed marshmallow blow-torched to order so that it resembles a cross between a campfire s’more and a baked Alaska on a stick? Or even the milk bread at the restaurant 189 by Dominique Ansel upstairs — a construction of soft bread cubes dusted with cotija cheese and filled with puréed corn that somehow tastes like the best street corner elote in East L.A. If you glance at food magazines, you know about Dominique Ansel. He’s the guy who started the kouign-amann fad a few years ago, the one that obligated every ambitious pastry chef in America to learn how to make the intricately folded Breton pastry. Read more

189 the Grove Drive, Los Angeles

Jonathan Gold's top 10 L.A. food trend predictions for 2018

1. Women in the kitchen Not so long ago, female-led kitchens in Los Angeles were so common as to seem almost unremarkable, and the era when the best restaurants were presided over by the likes of Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin, Evan Kleiman, Dominique Crenn, Lydia Shire, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Suzanne Tracht, Odette Fada, Sossi Brady, Monique King, Xiomara Ardolina, Genet Agonafer and Josie Le Balch, among so many others, was among the greatest in the history of American cooking. The history of new California cooking to a certain point was the story of women’s cooking in the state, and a chefs’ cookbook shelf without the works of Kleiman, Goin, Alice Waters and Judy Rogers is not really a shelf at all. Read more

Sari Sari Store

I have stopped by Sari Sari Store five times in three days, and I’m not sure if I should be admitting this to you or to a therapist. My colleagues and I have probably adored Sari Sari Store a little too much lately, partly because we’re as likely to become crushed out on a new restaurant as a 14-year-old is on the latest Zayn track, and partly because the idea of a Filipino-style lunch counter run by République’s Margarita and Walter Manzke is just too much, especially in downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market. Read more

Sari Sari Store, Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles


If you gaze long into Nothingness, or at least into the San Gabriel Sichuan restaurant of that name, the Nothingness that stares back at you is likely to include steamed whole fish, braised lamb with jelly noodle, and pig feet with hot pepper. The steam rising from hot pots may suggest an infinite void, but only for that moment before the vivid red of the roiling broth becomes visible through the mist. Also, I imagine the empty world does not smell quite so strongly of garlic and toasted chiles. Why is there something rather than nothingness? Because the presumption of nonexistence does not allow for the possibility of live crawfish steamed in chile sauce, while Nothingness the restaurant does. Does existence precede essence? I haven’t read a lot of philosophy since college, but I maintain that the snap of the shell, the softness of the flesh, indicate that it probably does. Read more

288 Nothingness, San Gabriel Blvd., Suite 103/104, San Gabriel


A juane is an unusual dish in the Peruvian repertoire, a huge, overstuffed tamal from the headwaters of the Amazon, a kind of combo meal made in its area of origin as a convenient takeaway lunch for travelers. Juanes take their name from John the Baptist — the bulging roundness is said to resemble the severed head of the saint on a plate — and they are often served on his saint’s day. When wrapped in the traditional bijao leaf, the late chef Felipe Rojas-Lombardi wrote, it looks a little like a hobo’s bundle on the end of a stick. You can stow almost anything in a juane before you boil it — rice and chicken, yuca root, plantains, hearts of palm, ground peanuts, sometimes boneless fish. At Rosaliné, the buzzy new Peruvian restaurant on Melrose, Ricardo Zarate makes his with chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs and pork shanks. Bijao is a little hard to find in California, so he steams everything in banana leaves. Read more

Rosalinén, 8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood

"The Divine Spouse," Miguel Cabrera. (LACMA)

Best art in 2017: Our critic’s top 10 exhibitions, plus one very big worry

Good things of course continue to happen in museums — in L.A., most notably, the Getty-funded initiative to underwrite a slew of exhibitions of Latino and Latin American art, the emergence of the long-sleepy California African American Museum as a lively destination and the announcement that a museum will be built at UC Irvine specifically to trace the development of California art. Here, in chronological order of their openings, are the 10 best museum exhibitions I saw in Los Angeles this year. Read more

Christopher Knight

Art critic

Other recommendations:

Alison Saar: Topsy Turvy

The physical expression and symbolic reclamation of power pulses through the paintings and sculpture in this vital show. Saar uses the character of Topsy, from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” to embody self-determination, the innate power to make and remake the self. (Leah Ollman) (Through May 12) Read more

L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice

Eleanore Mikus

Mikus (1927-2017) had a solid career in New York in the 1960s and beyond, but this is her first solo show on the West Coast. It is revelatory. The terms her wall reliefs in black and white, and her folded paper works call to mind — minimalism, monochrome painting, process art — give way, in time, to a more idiosyncratic vocabulary of sensation, having to do with silence, restraint, fullness and the implication of shadows. (Leah Ollman) (Ends May 19) Read more

Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 9953 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills


Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire

Just after donning our virtual reality headsets — and before pulling down the visors to completely surrender to a digital galaxy — four of us would-be rebels were given one major rule: no running. No running? No problem. As a skeptical admirer of virtual reality technology, I’m accustomed to the disorientation and even feelings of motion sickness that come from wearing any of the multiple headsets I have in my apartment. So while “Secrets of the Empire” promises excitement — namely a battle with Stormtroopers amid a space station built on a potentially unstable lava-filled planet — I was mainly worried that I’d eaten too much for lunch. A few minutes into the attraction, however, something unexpected happened. I started running. Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

"Cuphead." (Studio MDHR)


Video games often help define new entertainment frontiers, be they interactive, immersive or centered on virtual or augmented realities. Yet “Cuphead” resurrects a few nearly forgotten advances — namely the lost art of hand-drawn animation and the abandoned joy of big band jazz. Though the fast-paced and brutally difficult action game looks to bygone eras, its everything-old-is-new-again tone doesn’t exactly feel retro. By channeling the insanity of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Silly Symphonies” and the surreal but rough-around-the-edges work of Fleischer Studios, “Cuphead” possesses an anything-goes childlike weirdness with a sinisterly adult edge. Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

"Monument Valley 2." (Ustwo)

Monument Valley’

Some of the most popular modern fairy tales are played rather than told. Ustwo’s “Monument Valley” spun a story about a quiet princess — Ida — who worked, often alone, to restore a colorful, geometric habitat, one inspired equally by the meticulously designed illustrated architecture of M.C. Escher as well as the joy of optical illusions. Since its release in 2014, that experience has been downloaded more than 30 million times. Gray feels confident that “Monument Valley” succeeded in its mission statement. Now the design firm is back with a new game, one that once again wants to shift the mainstream awareness of what games can — and should — accomplish. On Monday, Ustwo unveiled “Monument Valley 2,” a sequel that aims to take the calm and abstract shapes and ruins of the first title and inject even more emotional depth. Read more

Todd Martens

Video game critic

Other recommendations:

The Nintendo Switch

Not since the debut of its original Nintendo Entertainment System has the Japanese company released a home video game console with as much potential to shake up how we play as the Nintendo Switch, which is out Friday. Thirty years ago, Nintendo reinvented the video game medium. Not only did the NES lead to such genre-defining interactive entertainment as “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda,” but it also liberated games from the arcade and brought them to the American living room. Where they could increasingly be played for hours, days, weeks, months. Rather than intense, cliffhanger-like action that demanded the next 25 cents, home games had pace, tempo and rudimentary stories. They were also accessible — no obscenely pricey home computer or trip to a teenage-infested arcade needed. The Switch takes that livability to another level. It is a home video game console that’s connected to a television. But it’s also a hand-held device designed for ultimate mobility. And at least one of its games barely requires the use of a screen at all. Read more

Playstation VR

I’m Batman. I’ve waited years — since the release of 1989’s “Batman” — to say those words and mean them. Considering that I’ve spent the bulk of my professional life writing rather than building a superhero’s physique, it seemed unlikely, save for Halloween, that such a day would come. This year we saw the release of the Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive, which makes it possible to put on a pair of goggles and disappear into a digital landscape — as long as you have a high-priced, top-of-the-line computer. Now with Sony’s PlayStation VR, an add-on to the PlayStation 4 so many of us already have hooked up to our TVs, virtual reality is coming to the masses. Read more


The opening screen of the new Variable States video feature "Virginia" welcomes players to a small town named Kingdom. It's laid before us as if it were a board game, with little trails leading to a cave or a gas station, a schoolyard or an observatory, all presented with the simple, cheery look of a brightly filled-in coloring book. Come in, stay awhile and bask in the beauty of small-town life, it seems to say. Press play, however, and things get twisted, and not with the typical things-are-not-what-they-seem subversion. Read more

'No Man's Sky'

Fourteen minutes and 54 seconds. I'm on a distant planet, and I need to get to my spaceship. Yet "No Man's Sky" is telling me that the vessel is a 14-minute, 54-second hike away. So I settle into the couch. But after three minutes of strolling through a salmon-colored rocky surface — and admiring some lavender plant life — I need a break, perhaps for good. This was the second time in one week I had quit "No Man's Sky." That's because there's another, more important number to mention when it comes to discussing "No Man's Sky": 18.4 quintillion. That is, there are more than 18.4 quintillion planets to discover in "No Man's Sky." You will not live long enough — here on Earth, that is — to collect them all. Read more