What to do this weekend in L.A. Critics Picks: May 25 - 31, 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.

A 1994 film is finally released in the U.S., and Joe Pera’s new TV series isn’t just for kids.

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

Saoirse Ronan. (Robert Viglasky / Bleecker Street)

On Chesil Beach’

A beautifully made film about the fraught honeymoon of a young couple who are very much in love and very much at sea, it reunites novelist Ian McEwan (“Atonement”) and luminous star Saoirse Ronan, under the able and discreet direction of Dominic Cooke. Read more

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

Virginie Ledoyen. (Janus Films)

Cold Water’

Never before released in the U.S. due to music-rights clearance issues, French writer-director Olivier Assayas’ breakthrough 1994 feature about youthful rebellion can now be seen in all its bracing, emotionally raw glory. Read more

Justin Chang

Los Angeles Times Movie Critic

Amanda Seyfried. (A24)

First Reformed’

A conflicted reverend (a superb Ethan Hawke) undergoes a profound crisis of faith in Paul Schrader’s soul-searching, career-resurrecting drama, a tribute to the contemplative cinema of Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu that nonetheless moves to the pulse of a thriller. Read more

Justin Chang

Los Angeles Times Movie Critic


One of the great services this clear-eyed and admiring documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provides is to emphasize not just her work on the court but how extraordinarily influential she was before she even got there. Read more

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

James Cameron. (Michael Moriatis / AMC)

James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction’

When James Cameron was growing up, he’s often said, “I read any book with a spaceship on it,” and science fiction movies inspired him to become a director. Now, with “James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction,” he’s returning the favor. Made under the AMC Visionaries rubric and debuting on that channel at 10 p.m. April 30, “Story of Science Fiction” is a six-part documentary series on the history of the genre, broken up into sections like “Aliens” and “Space Exploration.” AMC, Monday. Read more

Kenneth Turan

Film critic

Other recommendations:

'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

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

Joe Pera. (John Nowak / Adult Swim)

Joe Pera Talks With You’

In the odd and oddly lovely “Joe Pera Talks With You,” the New York-based comedian Joe Pera plays a middle-school choir teacher of the same name in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with a sideline in “presentation.” Each episode — “Joe Pera Shows You Iron,” “Joe Pera Takes You to Breakfast,” “Joe Pera Shows You How to Dance” and so on — begins as a sort of documentary, with Joe introducing himself to the camera, before sliding off into other business. Sunday, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Read more

Robert Lloyd

Television critic

Other recommendations:

'An Emmy for Megan'

My favorite Emmys are the ones for short-form series, because the bar to entry is set so low. Anyone with a smart phone and the most basic internet skills can produce an Emmy-eligible series, in a couple of minutes. Six episodes under 15 minutes posted online is all it takes. A series six seconds long could technically, if not conceivably, win an Emmy, and that this will never happen does not make me any less happy about the possibility. In 2016, the Television Academy in its wisdom (no irony intended) added best actor and actress categories to its short-form awards. In "An Emmy for Megan," Twitter tweeter, occasional internet guerrilla artist and well-credentialed TV writer Megan Amram ("The Good Place," "Silicon Valley," "Childrens Hospital," "Parks and Recreation," "Kroll Show") has taken this fact and ran with it, creating a web series about creating a web series to win herself a best actress Emmy. (Robert Lloyd) (Vimeo, any time) Read more

‘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

A scene from "Ripe Frenzy" at Greenway Court Theatre. (Michael Lamont)

Ripe Frenzy’

A mass shooting at a high school performance of “Our Town” sends a mother on a ghostly quest to try to understand what happened and whether anything could have been done to prevent it. Playwright Jennifer Barclay addresses a pressing issue with restraint, lyricism and even beauty, adopting much the same the style as Thornton Wilder’s classic play. (Daryl H. Miller) (Ends Sunday, June 17). Read more

Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.

Daryl H. Miller

Theater reviewer

Brandon Rachal, left, and Jon Chaffin in "Native Son." (Geoffrey Wade)

Native Son’

As profound as it is disturbing, Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s groundbreaking 1940 novel features a stellar cast in a surreal descent into a violent criminal protagonist’s internal consciousness, revealing the fractured black identity that remains an enduring tragic legacy of racism. Ends June 3. Read more

Antaeus Theatre Company, 110 E. Broadway, Glendale

Philip Brandes

Theater reviewer

A scene from "Noises Off" at A Noise Within. (Craig Schwartz)

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

F. Kathleen Foley

Theater reviewer

A scene from "Bad Jews" at Odyssey Theatre. (Enci Box)

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.

F. Kathleen Foley

Theater reviewer

Sam Mandel, left, and Alan Blumenfeld in "The Chosen." (Ed Krieger)

‘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.

Daryl H. Miller

Theater reviewer

Other recommendations:

'Violet' (Actors Co-op)

Hope, faith and a sense of adventure propel this 1997 musical, which is notable for featuring the first score by Jeanine Tesori (“Soft Power,” “Fun Home”). Its tale of a disfigured young woman’s journey to wholeness is vividly and quite movingly presented under Richard Israel’s direction. The exhilarating cast is led by Claire Adams as the title character. Ends June 17. Read more

Actors Co-op, Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood

Neil Young. (Gary Burden / Warner Bros. Records)

Album ‘Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live’

Both a searing, emotional performance of Neil Young and an ace band firing on all cylinders and a time capsule of West Hollywood in the early 1970s, “Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live” illuminates long-gone magic. Masterfully mixed, you can hear the delicate interplay among Young, guitarist-pianist Nils Lofgren, the late steel guitarist Ben Keith, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. Read more

Randall Roberts

Pop music critic

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

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


Liz Johnson, the chef at the new Echo Park delicatessen Freedman’s, has put in time at Noma, the Michelin two-starred L’Effervescence in Tokyo, and the tiny New York brasserie Mimi. Her three-tiered smoked fish platters at Freedman’s are the equivalent of a first-class plateau de mer (I encountered it as a Mother’s Day special). She makes her schnitzels out of sweetbreads and makes you believe they should always be made of sweetbreads. Her dense little matzo balls have the presence of quenelles. But the only time you see Johnson at Freedman’s, and then only if you order the $105 brisket for four, the emotion she is likely to inspire is not chefly reverie, but fear. She wheels a cart over to the table and flicks on a big battery-powered carving knife of a sort you may not have seen since your mom accidentally cut through the cord of hers on Thanksgiving 1983. She wordlessly slices the soft, herb-glazed brisket into thick slices, deftly angling the blade when she gets to the point. She turns the knife off, and you realize how ominous the sound had been; certain scenes from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” come to mind. Read more

Freedman’s, 2619 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Jonathan Gold

Restaurant critic

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

Other recommendations:


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

Marché Moderne

The new Marché Moderne has all the accouterments of a grand modern restaurant, the vast open kitchen and the oversized flower arrangements; the enormous bowls of crushed ice holding Champagne; the heavy Laguiole steak knives and the vintage red Berkel, the ‘50s-era meat slicer that every chef knows is the most glamorous way to shave transparent curls of meat from a well-aged ham. Important courses are rushed to the table in gleaming copper saucepans, which most of the customers have probably priced out at Williams-Sonoma. Tablecloths are ironed and white. The high, beamed ceilings are of the sort you might expect in an Aspen ski chateau. Most of the customers valet park although there is free strip mall parking literally three steps away. Read more

Marché Moderne, 7862 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach

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


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