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“I know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the Man left us to play.”

With those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another, the 1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful lament to go with its moody style, fabulous clothes and immortal Curtis Mayfield soundtrack. Directed by Gordon...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 12 Jun 2018 12:55:00 PDT )

The Trump administration, shamed by the national outcry over separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the border, has capitulated. The president Wednesday signed an executive order to end that brutal practice — and instead could imprison children alongside their parents indefinitely.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:30:00 PDT )

What Shohei Ohtani did for the Angels before injuring his elbow on June 6, and what minor leaguers Brendan McKay and Hunter Greene are doing after being selected with the first two picks of the 2017 draft, has opened Jared Walsh’s eyes to a possibility that did not exist before.

Walsh, 24, is a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 09:55:00 PDT )

Dean Butterworth, the drummer for Good Charlotte since 2005, has a buyer on the hook for his Woodland Hills home, listed for sale at $949,900.

Classic charm is mixed with contemporary design in the 1991 multiple-story house. The 2,136 square feet of white and bright interiors include a wide double...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

It’s been a long and winding road working on “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” for stars Jeremy Irons, Lesley Manville and Jessica Regan.

The three have been starring in the production, which follows a family over the course of one day as repressed pain, drug addiction and disappointment unravels,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 07:50:00 PDT )

La noticia de la muerte de XXXTentacion que atravesó el lunes las redes sociales no llegó sola, una prueba visual y sombría la acompañaba: imágenes sin vida del rapero de 20 años detrás del volante de un BMW negro en una calle soleada en el condado de Broward, Florida.

Las imágenes, y el fácil...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:17:00 PDT )

Authorities are investigating the death of a man who was shot and killed in a Home Depot parking lot in Torrance late Tuesday night, police said.

Officers responded to a call of shots fired at 11:38 p.m. in the parking lot on Crenshaw Boulevard, and found a man with gunshot wounds, said Torrance...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:35:00 PDT )

Every spring and fall, as major cruise lines reposition their vessels from the Caribbean and elsewhere to Alaska for the summer, residents of the West Coast and beyond get the chance to sample short cruises at bargain prices.

Pacific Coast cruises generally take place in April, May, September and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:30:00 PDT )

Sample Vermont’s craft beer culture on a six-day trip that will take bicyclists on winding roads from Middlebury to Stowe through the Champlain Valley and the Green Mountains.

Participants will also hike the Stowe Pinnacle Trail to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and sample artisanal beer...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 05:50:00 PDT )

“American Crime Story,” one of the anthology series from Ryan Murphy’s oeuvre, had a splashy launch in 2016 with its focus on the highly visible O.J. Simpson murder trial — its review of charged, prescient themes like systemic racism, sexism and media culture translated into ratings success and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

While the cancellation of the FYF Fest may have served as a canary in a coal mine moment for the concert industry, festivals with a niche may prove to be the way forward.

Consider Goldenvoice’s Arroyo Seco Weekend, a family-friendly selection of food, drink and music that doesn’t try to offer a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

He has sung repeatedly on national TV and now visitors to Las Vegas are requesting Carnell Johnson when they arrive at The Venetian.

Johnson, a Vegas native, swapped the gondolier’s costume from his day job for a Vegas Golden Knights jersey as he belted out the National Anthem in all 11 of the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

How do you pull off the biggest heist of the summer — and do it in style? That’s no problem if you’re criminal mastermind Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the estranged sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) from Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy.

“Ocean’s 8,” the Gary Ross-directed summer spin-off,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

When the credits rolled on Mario Tennis Aces' Adventure Mode, I vowed to never again laugh at a tennis player having an ugly meltdown on the court. I had felt the volcanic surge of adrenaline that comes when a rally has gone too long. I knew the sense of high alert while trying to suss out which corner of the court an opponent is going to attack next. I have spliced and invented new curse words to mutter when a ball goes out of bounds. Off-beat stages and creative use of characters from the Marioverse ensure that you'll never lose sight of simply having fun, but don't let the adorable exterior trick you; Aces takes its unorthodox tennis very seriously.

Mario Tennis' renewed vigor is driven by a suite of new mechanics that force you to make pivotal risk-reward decisions. Special shots are now tied to a meter that fills a little with every shot fired back at your opponent, more so if you're able to charge your swing ahead of time. Once the Energy Meter is at least a third full, a ball landing on your side of the court will be forecast by a glowing star. Initiating a special swing while standing on a star activates a first-person view that lets you aim a powerful Zone Shot.

When the Energy Meter is completely full, you can unleash your character's Special Shot. While Specials don't unleash the cavalcade of effects they did in Wii U's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, they do fire a lightning-fast ball that requires exacting maneuvers to return without incurring any harm to your racket--destroy your collection of rackets during a match, and you lose.

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Holding the R button slows down time at the cost of meter, allowing you to stroll over and hit hard-to-reach shots or gain a slight advantage when returning racket-breaking shots. Alternatively, a Trick Shot can be activated by tilting the right stick, which causes you to leap across the court at the last second . You can get away with basic shots during simple face-offs, but in advanced matches the exchange of powered-up strikes feels like a breathless symphony that requires you to be at the top of your game and on top of your options.

Even veterans of the series have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but Aces' Adventure Mode does a good job of both entertaining you and teaching you how and when to use your new tools. The story itself is ridiculous, but ridiculous in that very specific, quirky way Nintendo has been getting away with for decades. During the Mushroom Kingdom's annual tennis tournament, an evil tennis racket--yes, really--named Lucien takes possession of Luigi and flies off to find five Power Stones that will help him take over the world.

Instead of settling for a revolving door of opponents along the way, you're challenged to utilize Ace's new mechanics in a range of unusual scenarios. An average stage might simply challenge you to keep a rally going for a certain length of time, but bosses and puzzle stages require a greater level of ingenuity. You have to figure out how to disable protective barriers, earning enough energy to perform a Zone Shot, and aim at the right part of the court to inflict damage. Bosses also initiate hurdling challenges mid-match that reward precise use of your leaping Trick Shot. Adventure Mode mixes up your objectives from one stage to the next to ensure you're never simply going through the motions to progress.

Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior.

Aces is more difficult and devious than you might expect, especially in the latter half of Adventure Mode. Though not required, grinding through matches can improve your chances on the court. Win or lose, you earn experience points for every match played, allowing you to improve Mario's speed, power, and agility over time. But no matter how much XP you earn, the only way to make it to the end of Aces' campaign is to master its unique tennis mechanics. Those who persevere will find themselves better equipped and prepared to face anything the other modes have to offer than ever before.

Outside of Adventure Mode, you'll find a rather plain assortment of activities: a bracket-based tournament mode, exhibition matches against the computer or another friend, online modes, and the ability to play doubles matches, which can turn into downright anarchy before you know it. Online matches will be the true test of Aces' depth, but pre-launch servers being what they are, we still need to spend time playing once the game releases to form a solid opinion of its netcode and the competitive scene.

Perhaps the one major and surprising misstep is Swing Mode, where players can swing Joy-Cons like proper tennis rackets, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. At first it seems odd that this control scheme is isolated to a specific mode, but within a minute or two, it's obvious why: playing with Joy-Cons feels too imprecise, and even just executing a simple backhand was a twitchy comedy of errors. It's too bad that the motion controls seem to fall apart so easily, but considering that, it's probably best the option is siloed away.

It's not like Aces needs a gimmick like motion controls to win you over, anyway. The Tetris Effect is in full swing here; days after the credits rolled, I still crave the satisfying thwack from a Power Shot, mentally replay matches and imagine how I might do things differently given a bit more focus and know-how. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior. Fingers crossed that the online support stands up to the rest of the game after launch.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 05:00:00 -0700)

Canada's Senate gave final passage Tuesday to the federal government's bill to legalize cannabis, though Canadians will have to wait at least a couple of months to legally buy marijuana as their country becomes the second in the world to make pot legal nationwide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 20:15:00 PDT )

As XXXTentacion lay slumped over in his car -- mortally wounded by an unidentified gunman after an apparent robbery Monday in South Florida -- witnesses had their cellphones aimed at his lifeless body, one person getting inches away and zooming in.

The footage was disseminated in real-time on Twitter...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:50:00 PDT )

On a day normally set aside for the best hockey players in the world, much of the attention went to teenagers from western Canada wearing green and yellow junior hockey jerseys.

The nine surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos gathered Tuesday for the first time since the April 6 bus accident...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:30:00 PDT )

A controversial $2.2-billion plan to replace the overcrowded, crumbling Men’s Central Jail downtown cleared its last procedural hurdle Tuesday, when the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project’s budget and certified its environmental impact report.

The Consolidated Correctional...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 16:45:00 PDT )

The Incredibles are back, and all is right with the world.

Well, maybe not all. Superheros are still illegal, just as they've been for a decade and a half, and evildoers like the Underminer ("I am always beneath you but nothing is beneath me!") are still eager to empty the bank vaults of Municiberg...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Mon, 11 Jun 2018 09:00:00 PDT )

The broad premise of The Forest is far from unique. A plane crash lands on a seemingly deserted island, and you, a lone survivor, have to figure out a way to survive. It doesn't take long, however, until blood curdling screeches fill the night and glowing eyes appear in the distance. Once it sets in that your new home isn't as empty as it first appeared, The Forest evolves into a uniquely harrowing adventure that you won't soon forget.

Cannibals inhabit the grassy fields and pristine lakes around you, watching your every move; they are the source of The Forest's ever-present tension. You might expect monsters like this to attack on sight, but their behavior is erratic. Sometimes they'll charge forward to unsettle you during daylight but stop just outside striking distance to simply stare in silence. Other times they might feign a retreat before leaping into nearby trees to quickly get behind you. The Forest's enemies aren't easy to predict, which makes each encounter thrilling.

The breadth of enemy types is impressive too, and they can get surprisingly weird. As you explore the island more and dive into terrifying, pitch-black caverns, enemies transform into terrifying body-horror figures--amalgamations of appendages that bellow deep, disturbing howls. They're frightening to behold and even scarier to fight.

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The Forest does a good job of trickling out these surprises while you're already struggling to manage vital meters and resources. It's also imperative that you keep a close eye on the quality of the resources you find. Not every berry bush contains a bounty that won't poison you, and not all water is safe to drink. Meat you gather from hunted animals will rot if not cooked quickly. None of the resulting illnesses are serious enough to dissuade you from eating questionable food if you have no other choice, but needing to think about what you eat adds an additional layer to the minute-to-minute hunter-gatherer gameplay.

Chopping down trees for logs or scouting a route to clean water is paramount in your first few days on the island, and once you establish yourself, this goal shifts to fortifying your position with a base, and perhaps complex spike traps and tree swings. The sheer number of structures you're able to build is impressive, and thankfully The Forest doesn't gate your ingenuity with illusive blueprints. You're given a notebook filled with outlines at the start.

Building has a tangible effect on the island in several ways. Resources like small game and shrubs will respawn over time, but larger trees will remain felled for the entirety of your stay. You might turn a dense forest into an open field of stumps not long after you start, which gives enemies a clearer line of sight into your doings. The more you impose yourself on the island, the more aggressive your aggressors become. Patrols will grow and the more monstrous creatures will emerge from their caves for an all-out assault. The Forest doesn't force you to play in any specific way though, so a more reserved nomadic approach is sometimes safer and more viable. But the sheer delight at seeing an enemy trigger a well-placed trap during a raid is priceless, and well worth the risk of angering the locals.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner.

Crafting smaller items plays a big part when it comes to personal safety, too. Your inventory screen allows you to combine items you've collected to create new tools; from something as simple as combining a few sticks and stones to make an axe, to creating high-powered explosives using a combination of wristwatches, electrical boards, and spare change. The number of items you can both collect and craft is vast, but the inventory page eventually becomes cumbersome and overwhelming to navigate. And with only four customizable hotkeys, you don't have easy access to everything you want in a pinch.

Although it's constantly testing your perseverance and wants you to feel stretched thin, The Forest never feels overbearing. You'll always be able to depend on your crafted weapons as they aren't hampered by durability. Your pocket lighter will always help you see in the dark, never running out of vital fluid. This reliability frees you from the burden of worrying about the lifespan of any potential upgrades you can make to items too.

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Exploration in survival games is usually tied only to your immediate well-being, but The Forest features a narrative that's slowly uncovered by exploration and incidental environmental storytelling. Abandoned camps are a great hunting ground for modern resources and offer hints at past and present events. Putrid remains of long-dead victims aren't an uncommon sight, but you'll also come across small photographs, videotapes and magazines that flesh out a conspiracy with the island at the center.

Uncovering The Forest doesn't have to be a lonely experience, and it offers co-operative play for up to eight people. The time spent getting a fortified settlement up and running is drastically reduced, but remains just as compelling. Co-operative play does, however, deflate the the feeling of being exposed. Larger groups of enemies become easier to deal with, and the fear of diving into caves alone is undercut by both voice chat and the fact that enemies don't scale accordingly. The Forest might be silly fun with friends, but it's at its best when playing alone.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner. Combined with unpredictable enemies and captivating horror set-pieces, The Forest strikes a compelling balance between survival and horror that you won't soon forget.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 02 Jun 2018 10:00:00 -0700)

Dillon the Armadillo is every stoic hero of the Old West... but as an anthropomorphic armadillo. He doesn't say much because he really doesn't need to. His prowess with weapons and dedication to defending good folks just trying to make their way is essentially his whole character. And while, until now, he's been known for his forays within small downloadable games, Dead-Heat Breakers represents a big next step for the franchise.

Most of the game makes the transition well, in part because the premise is played in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Dillon's a no-nonsense guy, and seeing him surrounded by a colorful cast of goofy sapient animals works pretty well. But, after a time there's definitely the feeling that too little game is spread out over too much time. Dead-Heat Breakers grinds to a crawl at times, and while it's far from insurmountable, it's hard to shake the feeling that in this case less would have been more.

While Dillon may be the game's namesake and main action hero, he's not the actual protagonist. When you start up the game, you'll have a Mii of your choice polymorphed into an Amiimal. And it's this "person" that the story centers around. In short, you've narrowly survived an attack on your home town, and you've gone to get help from the infamous "Red Flash," Dillon. On your way, your big rig is attacked by some industrial monstrosities and Dillon and his sidekick/mechanic Russ happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Most of the proceedings are played for comedy, poking at the classic tropes of the western, while mixing a good bit of modern absurdity. Not too long after that encounter, for instance, Russ determines that the team needs a massive gun. And they aren't kidding. He maps it all out in his head and sets to work getting the materials to build a weapon that would put World War II-era train-mounted cannons to shame.

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This pair of scenes (the battle between your would-be attackers and Dillon, as well as the process for gathering materials after the fact) make up the two primary phases of play. They loosely correspond to the day and night and will follow that pattern throughout. In the prep part (daytime), you'll wander around town doing odd jobs for the people and participating in mini-games to gather up the required gear for your nightly missions. This works well for pacing at first, but you'll start to feel the drag as the cycles wear on.

Daytime will put you through a few different main activities, including time-trial races and bouts against the series' most iconic foe--the stone-headed, space-faring Groks. Here you can earn money which you can then toss to Wendon for supplies, which go to Russ for assembly into the Breaker (i.e. that giant gun). These are meant to help give you some practice for the more rough-and-tumble nighttime bouts but are too dissimilar to serve as a proper warm-up, and not unique enough to feel like a good break from the main action.

When that time does come, though, you and the Amiimals of your friends and other Miis on your system will assemble into a group, ready to tackle the big bad of the night. This is where the series' touted tower defense-action fusion comes in. Here, like in the opening segment, you'll command the Red Flash and have the option of hiring on the different Amiimals to play defense. Each carries a different weapon with their own attack styles and strengths. Ostensibly the daytime's mini-games are there to help acclimate you to these differences, but in practice, over the game's 15 missions, you'll know who does what pretty quickly and can make your own appropriate choices.

Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers is best enjoyed in spurts. Powering through the game quickly reveals its many weaknesses (the toll on your hands, and the repetitiveness of the combat and day-night cycle being chief among them), but no part of the adventure is bad, really; it simply wears thin.

Once you've made your choices, you're off to the fight. Your job as Dillon is to keep the pressure off the Amiimals. Using a powerful accelerator as well as Dillon's natural claws and thick hide, you can slam and slash your foes while zooming about the map. On the bottom screen, you'll be able to see a breakdown of the map, the attack range of your team, and which places need your help.

Recruiting more teammates helps take the pressure off you but depletes your coffers and therefore cuts your strategic options for later down quite a bit. Therein lies the big question for how to allocate resources.

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Dillon himself can be great fun to play, but the controls are perplexing. Most everything is handled with the joystick and the A button; attacks are somewhat contextual but rely on holding the button down, releasing before pressing, and holding or tapping quickly to different moves. This isn't ideal as it can be occasionally easy to accidentally dash instead of landing an attack, and the constant strain on your thumb during combat sections would have been reduced if you simply used another button or trigger when your attack was ready.

Many of these sequences devolve into high-speed chases where you'll have to clear out every foe during their final assault. There's an excellent bit of white-knuckled tension as you rush from enemy to enemy, spinning up, bashing them, and slashing to bits. Combined with some smart visuals and a great system for snapping you to baddies so you don't inadvertently overshoot them makes these segments a great bit of intense fun--even if they leave your thumbs sore.

Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers is best enjoyed in spurts. Powering through the game quickly reveals its many weaknesses (the toll on your hands, and the repetitiveness of the combat and day-night cycle being chief among them), but no part of the adventure is bad, really; it simply wears thin. It's a competent, fun little outing that's almost perfectly suited for kids who need something silly and ridiculous that won't require too much thought or technical mastery.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 02 Jun 2018 12:00:00 -0700)

Dulcet tones and somber notes played in time represent the curious duality of Moonlight. It is, at once, a heroic adventure and the name of the subdued storefront that you alone run. Centered in the heart of a once-bustling town, all the greats, the audacious plunderers of dungeons that were sealed long ago, have died out. The markets and the merchants of your hamlet have all but vanished alongside them. Always looking to the horizon, you see what could be--in both yourself and the town--and set out to claim your glory and bring riches back from the depths of dangerous dungeons.

On first pass, that's a tall ask, and one that doesn't necessarily fit together the way you might think. This isn't quite the same as saving a town the way you might in a classical Zelda game --though references to those nascent adventures abound. Instead, your eye is on unearthing the depths of five dungeons that lie just north of town. Each is like a world unto itself, and getting into and out of these spaces is often a feat--made that much more treacherous by the monsters that inhabit them. Still, the depths hold untold riches, artifacts, and supplies that were once essential for trade.

The balance that Moonlighter strikes then, is tasking you with battling beasts and carefully collecting trophies and supplies based on the needs of the people in your town. Instead of gathering loot and hauling it back to a shopkeep as one does in just about every similar adventure, you're on both ends of the equation and the way that your two pursuits play into one another essentially is the game.

You'll need to mindful of supply and demand and as well as good tips and gear for adventuring. Dodging monsters to jab their weak spot, before hopping away and nabbing their leavings is a regular cycle. But that, in itself, hides a lot of the nuance on offer. Prying the core of a mechanized stone golem and bringing it back to town will fetch a tidy price--but only a few times. People don't know how to use them, per se, nor do they really need that particular item. It's neat (and rare), but that's all, really.

Add to it the fact that few have seen such trinkets since heroes swarmed through these dungeons, and that immediately complicates the equation. You don't know what the value of it really is, because you're the shopkeep. It's worth what others will pay. So it falls to you to make educated guesses, learn from your customers reactions and hope that your initial prices aren't so low that you're getting ripped off or so high that customers balk and walk off.

Those same assessments follow with every item you plunder, meaning that you're always working the numbers, figuring out what you can carry up, and how it's going to affect your bottom line. This also keeps you from always gathering up the most valuable items. If you only grab the best loot, you'll quickly flood the market and bottom out your sales, and the same goes in reverse for the most basic stuff. Wood and vines can be valuable (though rarely). And all that calculus compounds when you begin examining the supplies you'll need for your own gear. Potions and new equipment don’t make themselves. Indeed, when you start, none of those types of facilities are even available in town.

This ties a lot of the game's progression directly into your choices, and gives you a powerful through line and a sense of thematic goals that tie into your physical journey. That feeling is fantastic, and grows every time you think back to the sparse hamlet you began with, and track just how far your adventure and the arc of the town itself join and progress together.

Saccharine melodies that playfully evoke the 16-bit era help sell the narrative as well. Few openers are as immediately alluring as Moonlighter’s theme. Melancholic notes blends with the sweet sounds of your hamlet, filling you with a sense of loss--for what your town once was. Because of the aesthetics, many of those feelings also get blended with kernels of nostalgia, particularly for those fond of the Super Nintendo era.

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Bright colors, and a sharp aesthetic are backed with crisp animations that not only sell the world, but help it breathe. Fireflies drift about town, settling near trees, illuminating the wooden giants. Down in the dungeons, spiders and moths flitter to and fro, while your battles with golems and monsters play out.

Now at this point you may have noticed that there not much has been said about the combat. And sadly, that's because it's the weaker half of this outing. There are five distinct dungeons, each with their own environments, foes, and array of tricks and traps to throw your way. But across them all, you use the same core movement--and it consists of two types of moves and a dodge. If you've got finesse, you can string some actions together, though. You can attack with one weapon, dodge, quickly switch, and then resume the onslaught. Or switch between a sword and shield for defense (where the secondary "move" would be a block), and a more offensive weapon. But that's generally the sum total of your combat choices. Combat, then, is thin and there's only so much that can be done with massively varied environments and a limited pool of combat techniques.

None of this to say that battles in Moonlighter are bad. Far from it. What it manages with those limited sets is quite impressive, and there will be plenty of moments when you dodge over bottomless pits that line a snaking path to approach an enemy from a novel angle. But they aren't common enough or varied enough to really get the full potential of what's here.

In some ways, the same could be said of the keeping the shop running at peak efficiency, but there's enough interplay with managing your limited baggage space and just enough anchored in supply-and-demand systems that it comes together nicely. It's a shame, then that Moonlighter's also a bit on the short end, as some of these ideas would do well with simply more--but then the combat would like thin out even more. Still, what's here is refreshing, and the balance struck between crawling through dungeons and working with the economics of the town are a good combo while it lasts.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 11 Jun 2018 13:00:00 -0700)

The discovery of a panga-style boat that may have been used to smuggle immigrants onto an Orange County beach triggered the temporary lockdown of an elementary school as authorities searched the area for the vessel’s occupants Tuesday morning.

The boat came ashore on Moro Beach, in Crystal Cove...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 10:45:00 PDT )

Through the first round of group play, Russia’s World Cup has been a decidedly European affair. Africa, not so much.

So when Poland and Senegal, the last two countries to open their World Cup, took the field Tuesday in Moscow, European teams were 8-1-4 while Africa was still looking for its first...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 10:10:00 PDT )

The international track federation said Tuesday it will defend a new rule that seeks to bar female athletes who have naturally high testosterone levels.

This week, South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge the standard, which is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:40:00 PDT )

With its warm, rustic setting, and an instantly endearing protagonist, the first Unravel had the outward appearance of a happily nostalgic adventure. That initial fuzzy feeling, however, gave way to a series of frustrating puzzles and a story that took some unexpectedly dark turns. In the game's final hours, the poor little hero Yarny was left all alone in a hostile world. What a relief it is to see him in a better place in Unravel Two, the sequel that's notably comforting thanks to the introduction of a second yarnling. Once they meet, Yarny and his new friend immediately hit it off and set out on a new adventure.

Similar to the original game, Unravel Two has ethereal slice-of-life scenes that play out in the background of each stage. This time, the literal background story involves two youths making the drastic decision to run away from their hyper-religious families. Yarny and his new partner make their own journey through the small town they live in, inadvertently helping the kids along the way with each new platforming challenge they surmount. Despite trips to more urban settings, the design philosophy and earthy aesthetic that made the first game such a visual treat haven't been abandoned. Aside from some mild industrial chaos--traipsing around construction sites, messing with the ventilation systems in a factory, and the like--much of what you experience is delightfully serene.

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Once again, we witness the world from Yarny's tiny perspective. You run through misty city streets at night under haloed streetlights. You push toy trucks around backyards on sunny days before riding off into the blue yonder on the back of a swan. You jump across rooftops at midnight, a skeleton city of antennas and vents where only the pigeons are awake. One of the most beautiful areas of the game has Yarny making his way along a stream of rushing water in a creek, letting the tide build up the momentum you need to get a full head of speed up for a jump. There's still such a sense of awe to how tangible and real Yarny's world is, but it never feels like a place where Yarny is in peril. Though it takes place in more challenging environments, it's a world where what little danger there is feels magical, and Yarny has never been able to move through it in as invigorating a way as he can with a partner in Unravel Two.

The swing mechanic--where Yarny can latch yarn onto a grapple point and either rappel up and down or swing to launch himself onto a higher point--has returned, but with a newfound kineticism. Many stages push you to swing across multiple wide chasms and tight gaps in quick succession, and soaring and flipping through these trials is always a thrill.

There will come times when you have to stop and figure out a way past complicated obstacles, and this is where Unravel Two's co-op nature shines. Obviously, the ideal way to manage two characters is to have a friend sitting next to you on the couch, controlling Yarny's new ally while you plot solutions. But even a single player can make use of both characters, switching back and forth between the two onscreen with the push of a button. When playing solo, the character you leave behind will continue to hold onto whatever they were holding, meaning you can always place your partner wherever you need them. You can even carry your partner through danger by absorbing them into your own yarn body--mildly disturbing but helpful nonetheless.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding.

With the two Yarnys tethered together, most puzzles are resolved by forming makeshift pulleys that allow you to create opportunities the environment wouldn't normally afford a single Yarny. Puzzles are typically open-ended and can be solved in a handful of ways. The only real barrier, besides pure logic, can be the game's control scheme. The same button used to jump is used to extend the tether between the two Yarnys, and it's fairly easy to accidentally send your partner plummeting to their doom. Unravel Two is undoubtedly a more welcoming and accessible game than its predecessor, but there are still demanding trials for those who want them, especially with around two dozen extra-challenging stages that are available.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding. Sure, a forest fire breaks out in one of the latter stages, but even then, the race to keep ahead of the blaze is fun and frantic instead of stressful. In almost every moment you're given ample time and space to breathe and take in the stunning photorealistic world from the viewpoint of the tiniest creatures. It's a game with boisterous birds, chases through meadows, and most importantly a cheerful partnership with a companion who's always got your back. With only six chapters that run roughly 30 minutes apiece, Unravel Two doesn't last long, but it's a game where the time you have is meaningful, memorable, and downright pleasant from beginning to end.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

President Trump and many of his supporters have dug in, as a backlash builds against his policy leading to the separation of migrant families.

TOP STORIES

Trump’s Divisive Border Policy

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has drawn condemnation from an ever-widening group,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

Television advertising is caught in the crossfire of the country’s political battles.

When TV stars such as Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee and Laura Ingraham get into trouble, advertisers retreat rather than risk having their brand names become collateral damage in the highly charged partisan atmosphere...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

The 1992 Merchant Ivory film “Howards End,” adapted from the E.M. Forster novel, won three Oscars, including one for leading lady Emma Thompson. So pity the actress who would attempt to tackle the same role a quarter-century later, right? Not necessarily. When “Howards End” returned on the Starz...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 05:00:00 PDT )
The best books to read to acquaint yourself with our northern neighbors. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:00:01 GMT )
“History of Violence,” out this month in the U.S., is the writer’s attempt to tell his own story of being raped and nearly murdered. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 04:01:04 GMT )

Mike Martin will take one more shot at getting Florida State a national championship in baseball.

The university announced on Monday that 2019 will be Martin's 40th and final season as the Seminoles' coach. The 74-year old Martin, who became college baseball's career wins leader in May, has a 1,987-713-4...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:00:00 PDT )

Authorities say an SUV knocked over a fire hydrant and damaged a water main, unleashing a torrent that caused a sinkhole on a Downey street.

Photos from the scene show parts of the street, sidewalk and private driveway collapsed into a crater of water more than 20 feet across.

Police say a woman...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:55:00 PDT )

President Trump has picked a nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, true to form, he’s made a bad choice.

Trump this week will nominate Kathy Kraninger, a little-known White House budget official, to serve as the nation’s top consumer watchdog.

She has no experience...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:55:00 PDT )

Barry Trotz resigned as the coach of the Washington Capitals on Monday, less than two weeks after he had guided the team to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

It was believed that Trotz’s contract ended after this season and that he had been discussing an extension. However, Eliotte...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:55:00 PDT )
In his new book, Richard Rhodes makes his way through four centuries of energy use, from oil to nuclear, and how each innovation has changed the world. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Mon, 18 Jun 2018 19:00:05 GMT )

The Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection is another example of Digital Eclipse going above and beyond to properly port and pay tribute to a bounty of classic Capcom games. This anthology includes 12 Street Fighter arcade ports in all, and four of the best have been updated for online play. You can also find plenty of insightful history to unpack outside of combat. From soundtracks to sprite animation breakdowns, to high-res design documents for classic and cancelled games alike, there's a wealth of high-quality reference material to round out the robust selection of games.

All told, the 30th Anniversary Collection includes the original Street Fighter, five versions of Street Fighter II, three iterations of Street Fighter III, and the Street Fighter Alpha, Alpha 2, and Alpha 3. It's great to have all of these seemingly arcade-perfect ports in one place today, and with any luck, for many generations to come. Eagle-eyed aficionados will note the absence of Alpha 2 Gold and Alpha 3 Upper, both of which were available in 2006's Street Fighter Alpha Anthology on PS2, but their omission is far from a deal-breaker.

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Likewise, while it may be momentarily disappointing that your favorite console ports are missing (understandable given the lofty scope of emulating multiple consoles) what is here plays wonderfully. If you already love these games, no matter how you played them in the past, the 30th Anniversary Collection will deliver a great experience. In some cases, you may just be looking for a quick trip down memory lane, because let's be honest, the original Street Fighter isn't great by modern standards; it is nonetheless awesome to see it preserved so well and be so easily accessible.

The enduring qualities of the collection's more notable games remain as strong as ever. Capcom's prowess for making exciting and attractive 2D fighting games was almost unparalleled during the '90s, and thus a game like Street Fighter III feels only marginally retro 19 years after the fact. In a similar fashion, Street Fighter Alpha 3's roster variety and variable fighting mechanics make it a fan-favorite to this day for reasons all its own. Does every version of Street Fighter II feel worth playing? Maybe not in isolation, but the evolution of that game in particular meant a lot to the community that grew up around it, and its prominent share of the games list helps tell the complete story of an important chapter in video game history.

Street Fighter's popularity rose out of tense face-to-face arcade bouts, and every game in this collection was released before the popularization of online battles. Over the years, however, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike would wind up on various connected platforms. Those same games makeup the selection of online-enabled games here, and they exist under a single roof (one lobby can support fight requests for all of the available games at once.) Digital Eclipse has implemented a customizable framework that allows you to dial-in settings tied to input latency, giving you a small but meaningful advantage in the battle against poor network connections.

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Just as the 30th Anniversary Collection breathes new life into classic games, its supplemental material helps you appreciate them in all new ways. There's an interactive timeline that chronicles 30 years of milestone and obscure events alike, often with breakout galleries accompanying the release dates of the biggest games. Each of the collection's 48 relevant characters has a dedicated profile with an interactive sprite gallery that lets you manually scrub through their most iconic attacks from each game, frame by frame. Perhaps most valuable of all, it's awesome to have complete soundtracks for each included game. There's a notable lack of video content given what was included in the 25th Anniversary Collection, but Capcom has otherwise given Digital Eclipse a ton of great and never-before-seen content to work with.

That's more or less the story of the 30th Anniversary Collection. It won't satisfy every specific demand, but it's still a big collection of awesome games and behind-the-scenes content that no Street Fighter fan should miss. Street Fighter is a series worth celebrating and Digital Eclipse has managed to do so in a manner that feels respectful to the series and to the people who keep the spirit of arcade battles alive.


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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 30 May 2018 16:00:00 -0700)

Hell, by its very nature, shouldn't be enjoyed, but there's still something enthralling and entertaining in seeing creators imagine it in various ways. Agony, on the other hand, is less about Hell as a vehicle for entertainment or even fear. Agony's version of Hell is simply a place of unimaginable horror. It is depraved beyond reckoning, a place whose very brick and mortar is composed of atrocities. It is a place that never opens its sick, emaciated maw except to blaspheme and torment. Hell is terrifying in Agony, which goes hand in hand with the fact that the game is also torturous to play.

In Agony, you are a freshly fallen wretch who wakes up at the gates of Hell with his memories--including his true name--burned away during the trip down. Under normal circumstances, it'd be torture time for the rest of eternity, but somehow, the new meat walks through the gates with most of his wits about him, and only one piece of knowledge: that Hell has a guardian angel, the Red Goddess. Only she can help him regain his lost memories, and help him escape perdition. So begins a long, arduous journey of survival horror--closer in function to Clock Tower or Alien Isolation than Resident Evil--to meet the Goddess, and beg for her dark blessing.

Agony's single most breathtaking achievement is Hell itself. It is an enormous, heretical province of terror, the ungodly conceptual Venn diagram between Hieronymous Bosch, H.R. Giger, and Clive Barker. The very ground you wake up on in the game's first level is made of rotting pink flesh, the mortar made from the crushed bodies and blood of the hideous unborn, a process a later cutscene even shows you in great detail. The architecture all around you is a pulsating gothic nightmare, cathedrals of wide-eyed corpses and skeletons, some of whom are still alive, trapped twitching inside for eternity.

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It's because the world itself is so impressive that the enemy design then comes across so disappointing and predictable. While beautiful in detail, demons look mostly like the typical Doom interpretation of demons, and female variants tend to veer closer to being strippers-with-sharp-teeth as opposed to something legitimately imaginative. The Red Goddess herself is a near constant source of eyerolls, mostly coming off as a bloodied burlesque performer, with an inappropriately over-the-top voice performance that wouldn't be out of place in a commercial for a sex hotline. There are design elements that push the envelope--mostly centered around some truly unsettling perversions of genitalia--but the game's ham-handed attempts to be sexy, even in a sinister manner, is incongruous with the skin-crawling nature of the rest of the game.

All the wretched humans shambling around Hell--you included--are little more than desiccated revenants. You can walk--or, more accurately, shuffle along at a snail's pace--perform a limited sprint, and jump. There are no weapons to be had, though you can pick up torches, which provide light, but little else. When you come across an enemy, you have only three options: run, sneak, or hide. You can technically sneak around, and there’s even a power-up to be gained later that supposedly lessens the noise you make. It is still very, very easy to be heard and seen, hiding spots aren't always close by, and aside from a rising musical sting, there’s no indicator of where exactly an enemy is in relation to you.

There's only a few different classes of enemy you see throughout your play time, ranging from swarms of insects to Lovecraftian behemoths that can snatch up your soul. With only a couple of exceptions, getting caught by an enemy is typically a one- or two-hit death. As such, an hour's work can be flushed down the toilet just by hitting the wrong enemy in a group. Later on, you can actually possess a few classes of demon, but this is never as empowering or thrilling as you might expect. Agony doesn't seem to know how to capitalize on its most promising aspects.

You do, however, have one big trick up your shriveled sleeve: if you should die another death in Hell, your soul can actually fly out of your current body, and forcibly possess another. That's only if you can find a vulnerable victim, though, and pull off the black shroud preventing them from being possessed. Otherwise, after about 10-15 seconds of being dead again, your soul dies a true death. The trick of it is not just finding the last person you unshrouded, but typically finding them in a maze, with an extremely limited and obscured field of vision while disembodied. If/when you die, the Goddess keeps you in Hell, though, and sends you back to the last checkpoint. Even then, checkpoints are a whole other problem. They're represented by a special mirror, where a soul must be sacrificed, but the mirrors are hidden deep in each level. Agony treats basic progressional milestones the way most games treat obscure collectibles.

The checkpoint issue is one tiny facet of the game's overarching issue: Hell is too big for its own good. Your one navigational tool, the Destiny Lines, sends out a little neon cluster of lights that can point you in the right direction, but often the cluster gets just as confused as you are, leading you through walls or ceilings, instead of along a proper route, which can be difficult to discern in the chaotic and painfully dim environments. In addition, on the game's default difficulty, the Lines are a limited resource. The idea here is sound, if the idea was, in fact, to make surviving in Hell feel like a Sisyphean struggle, wandering a realm that mortal men have no mastery over. It doesn't make for an enjoyable experience.

When you're not losing chunks of progress, the rest of the game pits you up against two types of glorified scavenger hunts: collecting a small number of important objects and arranging them in a very specific way to open a door, or finding the correct sigil among dozens written in the environment that will unlock the next area. The first kind is usually easy enough, though oddly, the most difficult one in the game is right at the beginning, where you're thrown into an expansive labyrinth full of enemies, and no way to save your progress when you've grabbed any of the resources you need to continue. Others are easier, but still more of a trudging annoyance than anything. The second kind involves exploring around to find the sigil, often involving backtracks into dangerous areas, only to get back to the door and discover the sigil you picked up doesn't unlock your door. This kind of slow and infuriating repetition typifies Agony from start to finish.

These are issues ironically exacerbated by the fact that it's all taking place in one of the most abominable, depressing, and fundamentally disgusting environments imaginable. Worst of all, you grow numb to Agony's uniquely repulsive flair over time. You start thinking about the environment in practical nonplussed terms, instead of the grim wonder that strikes you in the beginning. Distress turns to disinterest, then--even as the bigger revelations about the protagonist and the nature of his torture come to light--turn to total apathy. I entered Agony’s Gates of Hell with a slack-jawed gasp. It is such a disappointment to have to have left it with a shrug.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 31 May 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

Hollywood director and producer Michael Morris was driving his Tesla down Santa Monica Boulevard on Friday afternoon when a couple flagged him down to alert him about something happening to his car.

It was on fire.

Morris’ wife, actress Mary McCormack. tweeted a video of the electric car shooting...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 17 Jun 2018 10:55:00 PDT )

Depleted by a franchise-record worth of injuries, the Angels turned Saturday to a starting pitcher who hadn’t been in the big leagues in nearly two years.

John Lamb, it turns out, was just fine.

Instead, it was a reliever who has been with the team all season and has emerged as a versatile and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 16 Jun 2018 18:00:00 PDT )

South Koreans of a certain generation remember a hit children’s animation from 1978, featuring as its hero a Tarzan-like boy who battles an army of North Korean soldiers, depicted as packs of rabid wolves.

By the end of the anti-communist movie, through the courageous feat of the protagonist Ttoli,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 16 Jun 2018 16:40:00 PDT )
0.5 stars out of 5: BOO-RING
It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 23 May 2015 09:29:13 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: You can fly. Eventually.
In your initial visit to Tomorrowland, you're not really there at all. That's what scientifically-named Casey Newton (The Longest Ride's Britt Robertson) discovers when she first goes there by touching a tiny, metal, "T"-emblazoned pin. She takes...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 22 May 2015 05:11:54 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Songs about butts.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with a crazy, performance-based, wardrobe malfunction, one that, in the film's words, exposes the "down under" region of one of the a cappella Bellas. For this accidental offense they are mocked, chastised, and stripped of...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:04:29 GMT )
5.0 stars out of 5: Death to the patriarchy.
"Who killed the world?" yells a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road. This outburst comes after an earlier moment where camera pauses on the question painted on a cave wall. And since it's one of only a couple dozen complete and comprehensible...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:05:45 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
3.5 stars out of 5: Much Avenge About More Things
They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 01 May 2015 00:39:50 GMT )
1.5 stars out of 5: History written by the winners.
First-time director Russell Crowe has stepped in it, probably without meaning to. But it's happening all the same. His film, entirely devoted to an exploration of the aftermath of a key, nation-defining battle in Australian war history -- the...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:26:41 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Proustian mush
It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:25:37 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: A little much.
The past few years have seen a marked rise in the number of Christian-themed films getting wide theatrical distribution, but to call it a "new wave" of faith-based cinema is probably inappropriate. That designation is usually reserved for a...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:27:52 GMT )
Van Halen returned to Los Angeles to perform to a hometown crowd at the Staples Center, where band members David Lee Roth, and Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen performed during their "Different Kind of Truth" reunion tour. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts says the performance was often lackluster. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 12:49:42 -0700 )
The New Zealand band the Clean has been around a long time but still packs energy, especially when it performs ‘Tally Ho.’ Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 31 May 2012 14:57:42 -0700 )
On day two of UCLA's annual JazzReggae Festival, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Collie Buddz, Alison Hinds and others showcased the many sounds of the Caribbean, from soca and reggae to reggaeton and lovers rock. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts offers an overview of the day. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Tue, 29 May 2012 12:25:57 -0700 )
Live: Lil Kim driven to give till it hurts: The hip-hop diva's ambitious if erratic show was almost too much for the compact confines of Key Club. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:51:14 -0700 )
LMFAO's Redfoo and Sky Blu stay in character and play debauchery for laughs and fun at Staples Center as part of Sorry for Party Rocking Tour. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Wed, 06 Jun 2012 18:34:01 -0700 )
The Beach Boys reunited June 2, 2012, at the Hollywood Bowl for the band's first tour together in more than two decades. A review for the Los Angeles Times. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:21:26 -0700 )
If you closed your eyes during the sold-out Santigold concert at Club Nokia Friday night -- especially at any point in the first half -- it’d have been easy to feel like you were at one of the Hollywood Bowl’s annual flashback concerts featuring ‘80s British bands. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:49:57 -0700 )
Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 19:36:33 -0700 )
Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena celebrates music at its most casual and community-focused, and has grown from a festival that once largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can draw artists with national appeal. Boasting 149 performances and pop-up stages on Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers, and headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 17:39:47 -0700 )
Power 106 FM kept its annual summer hip-hop show, Powerhouse, old school and relatively orthodox, with rappers Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Young Jeezy leading a show that was light on the dance-oriented pop hits that dominate the airwaves. The Times' August Brown reviews. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews (Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:40:41 -0700 )

Borrowing liberally from “2001,” “Moon” and what TV writers call “bottle episodes,” the science-fiction mystery “2036 Origin Unknown” is speculative fiction with a strong human presence. The story’s too elementary, but a strong lead performance and clever staging make “2036” something committed...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 7 Jun 2018 14:25:00 PDT )

West of Loathing is not as simple as its art style might lead you to believe. Its black and white color palette, stick-figure characters, and crude hand-drawn art might appear to be devoid of personality. But in practice, its visual simplicity acts as a malleable canvas for its imagination to run away with reckless abandon. West of Loathing is an involved Western adventure game/RPG hybrid that embraces absolute absurdity with mechanical flexibility and comedic personality, making role-playing in its monochromatic old West thoroughly entertaining.

The backbone of the game is its jokes and ingrained humor. Every little thing in West of Loathing serves as either a punchline or the lead-up to one. It exists in the writing naturally--the main narrative involves a bizarre cataclysmic event involving demon cows and rodeo clowns. The flavor text is filled with irony and wordplay, and conversations with characters play out like short sketches. The sheer amount of jokes draws you into Loathing's crudely drawn and ludicrous world, but what's more impressive is that they rarely fall flat, and if they do, there's often another to draw your attention away immediately.

But West of Loathing's consistent sense of humor runs deeper, woven throughout your interactions and the game's menus and UI. Attempting to search spittoons for items will engage you in long lectures from the narrator as they attempt to stop you from doing so by describing, in great detail, how disgusting what you're trying to stick your hand into is. Choosing to playfully boast that "Sneaky" is your middle name will discreetly change your middle name on your character screen to just that. Searching a shelf and finding a book entitled "The Art of Silly Walking" will unlock a new character perk, which adds a new toggle in the game's system menu to visibly change the way your character moves in-game to everything from cartwheels to swimming. These are just a few very early examples of the game's sense of humor, but West of Loathing's commitment and follow-through on its jokes will surprise and delight you throughout its entire duration.

You begin the game by selecting from one of three different classes--farcical takes on familiar RPG character tropes. The Cow Puncher is a warrior-style class, the Bean Slinger uses legumes as a source of magic, and the Snake Oiler is the rogue equivalent. But although each class comes with their own set of unique skills, and a convenient option for auto-leveling will build out a nicely rounded character for you of that archetype, West of Loathing also allows you the flexibility of manually assigning experience points to build whatever kind of character you want. That means there's nothing stopping you from having a physically adept Bean Slinger who can also pick locks, or a Cow Puncher with a high moxie stat and the cunning required to outfox his opponents.

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West of Loathing's combat consists of a simple turn-based system situated on a 3x6 grid. There are some small nuances to consider regarding positioning and using cover when facing opponents with ranged attacks, and a number of consumable items can be used in battle to cause various effects. But aside from the novelty of seeing the amusing enemy and ability designs in battle, combat is a straightforward affair.

What's more interesting about West of Loathing's mechanics is that it is as much of an adventure game as it is an RPG, and one of the by-products of this is that there are multiple solutions to any given problem--and there is nearly always a completely viable alternative to engaging in battle. Having the right item in your inventory (some of which have multiple uses both in and out of combat), enough points in a particular statistic, or certain abilities unlocked means that you can complete quests or resolve random encounters without violence and still get enough experience points to spend on character progression. If you don't have the goods to pass these skill checks when you first encounter an obstacle, West of Loathing allows you to come back later with the right stuff if you so desire; it doesn't force you into any combat situations without warning, and it's a very welcome, player-friendly decision.

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There are a few minor issues--inventory management on Switch becomes cumbersome as you collect an increasing amount of things, fights with a lot of enemies can obscure some pertinent information, and the stakes sometimes feel a little too low to be completely motivating. But West of Loathing's focus on maintaining a flexible, open-ended nature and lighthearted, humorous feel keeps you engaged in what feels like an imaginative pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons campaign, led by a game master whose only goal is to make sure you're laughing and having a fun time. West of Loathing's visuals are monochromatic, but there's enjoyable comedy painted between every line, a pitch-perfect Spaghetti Western soundtrack, and a full spectrum of role-playing possibilities to choose from that make it a consistently enjoyable madcap cowboy jaunt.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 08 Jun 2018 07:16:00 -0700)

Like many of Nintendo's most memorable video games, Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido takes a seemingly mundane fixture of life and extrapolates it into a novel gameplay idea. In this case, co-developer Indieszero (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, NES Remix) has built an action-puzzle game around conveyor-belt sushi, which serves as a vehicle for its match-three-style duels. And thanks to a knowingly zany presentation and regular stream of new mechanics, Sushi Striker is a fun and consuming puzzler unlike anything else currently on Switch, despite a few niggling issues.

Battling foes by throwing plates of sushi is an inherently silly premise, and Sushi Striker fully embraces the concept by wrapping it up in an even more ridiculous story. The game begins in the aftermath of the Sushi Struggles, a bitter war that took the parents of protagonist Musashi (who can be either a boy or girl) and resulted in the Empire gaining complete control over the world's sushi supply. As it happens, Musashi displays a preternatural gift for Sushi Striking--the ability to conjure plates of sushi and throw them in battle--and soon joins the Sushi Liberation Front, a Republic force fighting for the noble cause of sharing sushi with everyone. The tale only gets more absurd from there, but it remains delightfully charming throughout thanks to the hilarious writing and amusing anime cutscenes.

Musashi's journey encompasses more than 150 puzzle battles, which offer a novel and deceptively simple twist on match-three gameplay. The object of these is to link together plates of the same color as they whiz by on the conveyor belts in front of you, then throw those plates at your opponent to dish out damage. You have seven seconds to match plates; the more you're able to link up at once, the taller your stack will be, which in turn will inflict more damage when thrown. You can also chain together combos by throwing stacks of the same color consecutively, further racking up your score and increasing the amount of damage you deal.

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As a result, battles are simultaneously frantic and strategic, as your success--particularly in the later stages of the game--hinges on effectively creating large stacks of plates before they disappear and chaining them into combos. The game also regularly introduces additional gameplay wrinkles as you progress through the story, which add further layers of complexity to battles and help keep the encounters fresh and exciting.

Chief among these are the Sushi Sprites--Pokemon-like magical creatures that can be called upon to unleash special skills. These abilities can be activated once you've eaten a sufficient amount of sushi, and they provide a temporary power that can help turn the tide of battle. One, for instance, imbues your plates with electricity, causing them to deal more damage; another turns all the plates on your lanes into the same color, allowing you to chain together a huge stack. There are more than 30 Sushi Sprites to collect in total, and experimenting with different combinations and devising the best way to leverage their abilities is one of the most satisfying aspects of the game.

On top of that, many battles introduce special capsule items, such as stopwatches or bombs. These randomly appear among the sushi and can be used against your opponent, provided you're able to link up the requisite number of plates before the item disappears. You can also outfit Musashi with different gears that alter the speed of your conveyor belts, as well as select a favorite variety of sushi; eat enough of it during a battle and it'll confer another passive ability, from an attack buff to health replenishment.

There's a lot to digest in Sushi Striker, but the game does a good job of parceling out new elements and gameplay ideas over the course of its single-player campaign, keeping it surprising and engaging for the majority of its duration. That said, the campaign does begin running out of steam toward the end. Later stages start to recycle earlier gimmicks without building on them (besides by imposing harsher restrictions), which results in some frustrating encounters. In particular, a stretch of late-game stages reintroduce wasabi plates. These temporarily stun you when eaten, slowing down the pace of the game considerably as you (often unsuccessfully) try to avoid grabbing them.

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Likewise, while Sushi Striker generally plays well on Switch, it was clearly designed with the 3DS in mind, and the controls didn't translate quite as well to the hybrid console. You can play the game with either a controller or the console's touchscreen, but the latter is much better suited for the fast-paced gameplay. Using a control stick to toggle between different plates of sushi is imprecise and often frustrating, as you'll struggle to select the right plate as they roll by. Linking plates with the touchscreen, by contrast, feels more intuitive, although the game would still have benefited from the precision of a stylus.

Both the Switch and 3DS versions support local and online multiplayer, although curiously, these options need to be unlocked as you progress through the story, and there is no cross-play between platforms. In either case, you can take on rivals in two game types: Tasty Battles, the standard mode that only features sushi, and Chaos Battles, which throws capsule items into the mix as well. Additionally, the Switch version allows you to play locally on a single console. Multiplayer battles don't have the same element of surprise as the single-player encounters, but they're still fun and strategic, as you can test your best Sushi Sprite combinations out against other human players.

Despite its imperfect transition to Switch, Sushi Striker is one of the more enjoyable puzzle games in the console's library. With a substantial campaign that's propped up by clever mechanics and a charmingly ludicrous story, the game offers a wealth of single- and multiplayer content to dive into. The controls suffer a bit in the move to Switch, and the campaign is stretched out for too long, but the fast-paced puzzle-matching gameplay offers a surprising amount of depth and is a real treat.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 08 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)


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