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FEATURED NEWS FEEDS


NEWS (LAST 200)
China expects to wean away Taiwans last ...
Fire in multi-story building in Indias M...
British brand offers £9.95 vaginal tigh...
Chilling final moments of tragic Kirsty ...
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Darius Boyd says Broncos fear nobody ahe...
Mets rookie dominates in return to bullp...
Santos to buy Quadrant Energy for $2.9bn...
Seven Sharp emotionally pay tribute to G...
Bachelor In Paradise: Raven Gates return...
Other managers in danger after Gary John...
Nainggolan responds after video emerged ...
Why Mathias Cormann has the power over M...
Lightning stars pre-final assignment...
ANALYSIS-New sanctions leave Russia debt...
Prue Leith reveals the one thing Paul Ho...
Friends of Simonne Kerr who was stabbed ...
Venezuela rocked by strongest earthquake...
Michael Cohen's Old Tweet About Hil...
Strangers Things star Charlie Heaton wil...
Halsey gives a leggy performance at Bill...
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Toddlers survive days in ravine after mo...
News24.com | Teachers demand safer schoo...
Midterms 2018: Trump on the campaign tra...
Liverpool: Why Trent Alexander-Arnold ca...
Lucy McHugh: Leaflet drop in teen murder...
Weve slept on it and we got it wrong: No...
Ryanair compensation cheques bounce afte...
Video of unwanted advance divides Egypti...
Father charged with drink driving after ...
Special counsel won‘t seek extension o...
CDP leader Yukio Edano eyeing Bernie San...
Wyoming rebuffs Trump, picks native son ...
News24.com | LIVE: Zim election petition...
Nutritional scientist explains the corre...
Boxer and mother-of-two dies after she i...
Venezuela hit by worst earthquake since ...
Nicki Minaj cancels US leg of upcoming t...
USFK chief calls on N. Korea to take ‘...
8 Fast-Food Companies Agree To End No-Po...
Giancarlo Stanton feels ‘pretty good...
Major earthquake hits ill-prepared Venez...
Body of missing man found in bushland no...
US prison inmates to launch nationwide w...
In Kenmore sale, Sears pension liabiliti...
Republican family which hired Mollie Tib...
Queanbeyan Open to $1.2m in improvements...
Telco share prices rally on back of TPG/...
Europes 20 hardest footballers: The Butc...
Jailed Iranian spy could be given diplom...
Hardline Italian minister vows tough jus...
Larry King, 83, and seventh wife Shawn K...
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Americas Got Talent: Tyra Banks, Heidi K...
HP Hewlett Packard LaserJet Laser 1000 S...
S&P 500 index set for record winning str...
Johanna Konta withdraws from Connecticut...
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Iranians say they dont hate Americans...
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Battle Squares
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Android TV (streaming) $100...
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Hacky Zack
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What you need to know about Panasonics L...
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Anker Apple Iphone Ipad Ipod Touch 6 Pin...
Hack the Core
32 inch monitor (Northern BLVD) $...
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Saiaku Naru Saiyaku Ningen ni Sasagu...
Hyped motorists strike flops as traffic ...
JQ: Beautiful Japan
ISLAND
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Rich and poor seen from above
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The Kings Bird
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Cybrus
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Intragroup mergers soar upon pressure fo...
2001 was the year that changed everythin...
Why Im delighted to see an LX100 II...
Meryl Streep lists four-bedroom luxury N...
Iconic Japanese mascot Kumamon to become...
Australian PM, fighting for political li...
Hundreds pray in south India, undeterred...
Beware of betting on Manny Machado and t...
Newly single Cheryl shows off stunning f...
Taiwan president says China is aiming to...
Suicide attack kills six Sunni fighters ...
Czech Republic - Factors To Watch on Aug...
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How 1.2 million jobs in Australia are un...
Cambodia opposition leader denied bail a...
Whitney Port announces shes returning to...
Playing bridge at the Asian Games: Athle...
Push for standardised Australian hospita...
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Trump, his former aides and Stormy Danie...
Dunleavy wins GOP nomination for governo...
Boone hoping Justus Sheffield can help p...
Ray Hadley appears to read out a text fr...
Rest in peace, dear friend: One News tea...
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Waiheke local board member charged over ...
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MLB roundup: Rays Snell extends home mas...
German actress accuses Harvey Weinstein ...
Cops find 17 dogs, 11 skulls while busti...
Alex Jones just made dungarees look incr...
Carson Kressley takes a dig at Queer Eye...
Australias AMP taps Credit Suisse banker...
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Starc makes return while Handscomb hopes...
Ohio State trustees deliberate Urban Mey...
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UKs Debenhams names Rachel Osborne as ne...
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PRESS DIGEST - Bulgaria - Aug 22
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REVIEWS & PREVIEWS (LAST 60)
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Nonfiction: A New View of Evolution That...
Samsung Galaxy S9+ Review
No Mans Sky Next Review: You Are Not Alo...
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Review: Japanese anime ‘The Night is S...
Newly retired QB Carson Palmer hands off...
Angel Flores does it all in 19-12 Angelo...
Review: The VMAs were wrong even when th...
Cyberpunk 2077 Teases With New Screens...
Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran hits ...
This weeks Prep Zone web schedule
Guacamelee 2 Review - Ready For A Challe...
Escape into the Chronicles of Narnia at ...
Experience the culinary heart of Israels...
As the economy tanks and workers flee, V...
Peak Design Capture Clip V3
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is cleared ...
No, Medicaid expansion did not worsen th...
Cayla Barnes and Dominique Petrie help r...
Review: The new All My Friends festival ...
Investigan reporte que dice que Asia Arg...
Netflix Renews GLOW For Season 3
News-Press Cartoon: Developers “R” U...
Leader Cartoon: Back to School
Rams agree to terms with offensive linem...
Adrian Peterson to sign a one-year deal ...
Californians with Blue Shield health pla...
GLOW gets Season 3 renewal at Netflix...
An unusually high number: 5 detainees di...
Gretchen Carlson claps back at Miss Amer...
Former NBA star and coach Paul Westphal ...
Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra make thei...
No surprise, defending champion Alabama ...
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 Review
Rainbow Six Sieges New Operators For Ope...
Dodgers Dugout: Heres what the Dodgers n...
‘Grey’s Anatomy’ scribe makes a sc...
Spring, one of the best restaurants in L...
Jack Flaherty, Daniel Poncedeleon to pit...
Simone Biles dresses for the survivors w...
From comedians to pop stars, some world ...
It’s come to this: A checkup with the ...
Easing wildfire liability rules for util...
SummerSlam live results: The Demon Finn ...
Former USC assistant Todd McNair is back...
A lighter Rochelle more nimble and effec...
Wandrd Prvke 21L Backpack
Buying Guide: The best cameras for trave...
Fujifilm X-H1 Review
Alien Skin Exposure X3 review
Pentax K-1 Mark II Review
We Happy Few Review
Buying Guide: The best cameras under $10...
Alpine Labs Spark vs Miops Mobile Dongle...
Body of missing L.A. County fire captain...
UCLAs Dorian Thompson-Robinson could get...
The D Train Review
Pitch Perfect 2 Review


Nothing about the hype, release, disappointment, and slow, disciplined redemption of No Man's Sky has been typical. As such, the great paradox of the Next update isn't exactly a surprise. It introduces some drastic improvements to the base game, not to mention a great deal of what Hello Games' Sean Murray promised and was pilloried for not delivering at launch. It is a grander, more cohesive experience that makes the infinite expanse of space feel much less lonely. But what Next really ends up emphasizing through all of its quality-of-life improvements and additions was that the game we got on day one was always going to be "the game."

You start out as an amnesiac astronaut stranded on a random planet with a broken ship that, once repaired, takes you on a potentially neverending search through a near-infinite universe. What you seek can vary; it may be answers that explain your identity crisis and the odd state of the universe or a wealth of natural resources to fund an extended tour of strange, far-off planets. Though you begin as a disadvantaged lost soul, it's entirely possible to study your surroundings, take advantage of what they have to offer, and become a social and military force in the eyes of No Man's Sky's alien races.

Through multiple updates, this has always been the very soul of No Man's Sky. Ever since the Atlas Rises update, "You are not alone" is the first phrase another living being speaks to you after you manage to escape your starting planet. There is an enormous amount of fear, hope, and power in that moment, especially after spending a couple of hours scouring your ersatz home planet for the resources to repair your ship.

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The power of that statement diminishes, however, the more the game gives you command and comprehension of your environment. Without a doubt, No Man's Sky has become a veritable sandbox. In fact, after a few initial goals are met, you receive a message asking if you'd like to continue the story, or define your own path--whatever that may be. Through a combination of new mining and terraforming tools and the freedom to build how and where you wish, it has never been easier to make any planet into a home. Finding the raw materials to do so and refining them into their most useful form is now a quick and relatively painless fact of life. Multiple land-based vehicles now exist, making traversal even less of a dangerous hassle. As for space, frigates and fighter crafts are easier to obtain. There are more missions available to haul in incredible amounts of resources or, if you're looking to play the role of a space pirate, seek out traders and fleets in other galaxies and ransack them for sweet loot.

All this is made more enticing by the fact that Next fulfills the much-touted promise of true multiplayer, where up to four people can now party up and take on the universe together. It's not entirely seamless. Multiplayer tended to create random stutters and bugs more than anything else I did in game--even when playing the otherwise technically astounding Xbox One X port. That said, you can still wander around, help people farm resources, and have backup while breaking into a well-guarded facility. Portals and teleportation devices are now a staple in No Man's Sky, and showing off your new home has never been easier. Altogether, No Man's Sky's universe finally feels like, well, a universe. It feels like a fine place to live a digital life, while simultaneously being the least innovative or interesting thing the game could become.

With Next, No Man's Sky becomes a competent space-faring sandbox. It's definitely good enough to turn some of the heads who angrily ranted against the game that released in 2016. Creatively, though, No Man's Sky neither gains nor loses anything by trying to become a mining colony sim. It greatly excels when it embraces being the No Man's Sky we've always known.

The things that make No Man's Sky a great experience are the things that have been there since the first version. In that game, you are well and truly alone. You were a drifter in a universe where the chances of meeting a stranger who spoke your language were in the single digits, and the chances of meeting one who said something coherent were even lower. In that game, you're not being led on by loot or having the best house. Your concerns are material inasmuch as if you wanted answers, if you wanted to see what new creations the procedural generation gods had bestowed on the next planet, you needed to barter, trade, and mine.

The good news is that side of the game is still very much here, and it has seen its share of improvements, most notably to the pacing and presentation. It's rare that graphics can make or break a game, but Next's visual upgrades truly make a difference. The worlds are vastly more detailed, with breathtaking new lighting and physics effects enhancing everything from pollen flying off plants as they sway in the breeze to gravity and light being vacuumed into the yawning void of a black hole. The third-person camera not only grants the game a sense of scale, but also gives you a better understanding of exactly who you are in the universe, especially since the look and species of your character is now customizable at space stations. The improved effects in space make an already magnificent environment even more amazing, especially with ringed planets now a common sight.

Where much of the game's initial hours are still spent introducing you to the core mechanics, they are now far more deeply embedded in narrative conceit; you are a newborn wholly unaware of who you are, your place in the universe, and who is guiding you along. Every new bit of information is found by you, clued in by anomalous broadcasts from derelict equipment strewn across the universe, learning from the failures of other explorers. There are aliens, but their help is unreliable until you put the time and effort into learning their language. You do this either by getting one of the aliens to teach you new words or finding the species' codices scattered in foreign monuments. There are many more of these opportunities now, especially in space stations which have been redesigned as wide-open forums where one might find friends bragging about new discoveries, hulking armies on furlough, or scavengers hawking their new finds. You're a stranger to them all at first, and it's only in choosing to take the risk of ingratiation that you can find yourself in a species' favor, with their representatives willing to offer help in your hours of need.

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All of this is in favor of the Artemis and Atlas Path storylines, introduced in the Atlas Rises update. The narrative beats of each story are largely unchanged, but they are both now far better integrated into the flow of the game as rewards for your curiosity rather than staunch waypoints impatiently waiting for your arrival. That said, players returning to old saves will find it's not as easy as just picking up where they left off, and much of what they already own gets shuffled around at random. It doesn't break pre-existing games, but it's a less-than-welcome relearning curve, to be sure. Both narratives still have their positives and negatives, though the original Atlas Path storyline is now a minor footnote in a journey much wider in scope, but what matters most is that both narratives encourage the things that distinguish No Man's Sky.

At its absolute best, No Man's Sky is a measured, gentle experience where you are rarely the agent of change, but a perpetual visitor who's constantly dwarfed by the magnitude of a universe neutral to your presence. It is not your job in these stories to colonize the universe. Your job is to comprehend it. Your job is to recognize the spirituality in it. The primary gimmick of No Man's Sky, since day one, has been awe. The best things about the Next update feed that gimmick. While features like multiplayer and base-building certainly put more proverbial asses in seats, they're also the least memorable additions to an otherwise thoughtful experience.

Read More

Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 04 Aug 2018 08:00:00 -0700)
David Quammen has written a sprawling history of evolutionary genetics, “The Tangled Tree,” that complicates familiar notions of how species evolved. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 17 Aug 2018 15:06:15 GMT )

Masaaki Yuasa is a leading figure in the alternative anime scene in Japan: His personal style, which uses both drawn animation and Flash to create brightly colored, often minimal visuals, bears little resemblance to most Japanese — or American — animated films. “The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl,”...

Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 14:00:00 PDT )

After wrapping up his NFL career with the Cardinals, Carson Palmer is finishing his business in Arizona. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has sold his Scottsdale home for $2.9 million.

He listed the place for half a million more in March, records show.

Privacy trees and gates front the estate,...

Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Tue, 21 Aug 2018 09:45:00 PDT )

A round of applause, everybody, for the folks at MTV, who did just what people wanted regarding the Queen of Soul — and still managed to make a royal mess.

Perhaps the loudest social media chatter in the days leading up to Sunday night’s annual Video Music Awards was worry that MTV would whiff...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 09:55:00 PDT )

CD Projekt Red last week teased that some news was coming out at Gamescom 2018 about the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. While we're still waiting to see what exactly that news will be, the official Twitter account of the game released some new screenshots this morning in what is hopefully a small hint of more substantial announcements to come in the following days.

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The four new screens show a variety of characters and environments from the game, including stills taken from the demo CD Projekt Red showed behind closed doors at E3 2018. In that sprawling demo, main character V and her hulking partner Jackie were tasked with tracking down a missing cyborg, and of course found themselves in trouble after being attacked by a gang of black market scavengers. GameSpot's Alessandro Fillari decsribed the demo as "overwhelming with all its detail, but it did give us the impression that there was a large world with all sorts of systems to explore and mess with."

Cyberpunk 2077 has been a long time coming, with CD Projekt Red first confirming it was working on a title based on the influential role-playing pen and paper game way back in 2012. The first official gameplay was seen at this year's E3, and while no release date has been officially confirmed, we do know that the game is set to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC .

GameSpot is on the ground at Gamescom 2018 this week, so make sure to come back and check out all of our coverage from the year's largest consumer video games show.

Read More

Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 10:18:00 -0700)

The mighty luchador Juan already had a devil of a time in the first Guacamelee, but that's nothing compared to his second round. Guacamelee 2 is the best kind of sequel, doubling down on everything that worked in the original. Though it's diabolically challenging, it always feels fair, letting its meticulously crafted level design and self-aware humor shine through.

It begins a few years after the original, with Juan, now married to Lupita (El Presidente's daughter), raising two precocious kids in a tiny house on the outskirts of Pueblucho. At least, that's what's happening in the good timeline. In the Darkest Timeline, one of dozens of parallel dimensions in--ahem--the Mexiverse, Juan actually dies trying to defeat the previous big boss, Carlos Calaca. A hulking meatslab of a lucha named Salvador is the one who finishes the job, and he hopes to use a sacred, arcane guacamole recipe meant only for the gods to merge the land of the dead with the realm of the living. That has dire consequences, of course, and Juan once again must mask up and trek all across Mexico for the power to defeat Salvador and his minions.

Though there are some new additions, the fundamentals of Guacamelee haven't undergone any sweeping changes. The clean look of the first game has been upgraded with some beautiful, evocative lighting effects, and the score has more variety, weaving hooks and catchy breakbeats with a wider range of Latin melodies, but that's about it, aesthetically. The atmosphere is still firmly in the realm of eye-catching and dazzling cartoon aesthetics, but even just those minor tweaks add just the right touch of looming dread to fit Guacamelee 2's intensity.

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Structurally, Guacamelee 2 maintains a balance between Metroidvania and side-scrolling beat-'em-up, and it doesn't feel like either genre is being lost in the mix. Just strolling into a room to lay the smackdown on skeletons still feels big and brutal, the way a wrestler slamming an opponent into the pavement absolutely should. A split-second fiesta in the upper right-hand corner that rewards you for big combos is the chuckle-worthy cherry on top of a savage job well done. Hours upon hours later, it never gets old watching the numbers rack up.

The magic lies in how the deadly physicality of your moveset directly feeds into where and how you can explore. Every new move--a frog slam, a flying uppercut--is more than just a way to lay waste to the undead menace, but the keys to mastering your environment. Taking care of a stone barrier between you and the next room, where the solution isn't some key you picked up clear across the map but the overkill of a big, booming punch or a massive headbutt, is satisfying like little else--especially coupled with the innate Metroidvania joy of being able to backtrack into an area and open up a route you couldn't take before with extreme, gratifying prejudice.

Guacamelee 2 retains the physicality of the original, but it focuses more on letting you use your physical moveset as a means of traversal and staying off the ground. Along with Juan's punches, kicks, and grab-and-slam maneuvers, a new magical grappling mechanic can shoot Juan off into different directions, which, until you earn the ability to fly, is the primary way you get through vertical sections of the map or areas where the ground is a hazard. Juan is once again able to turn into a chicken, but what was a cute, occasional gimmick is now integral to gameplay and the touchstone of all of the most delightfully absurd elements of the plot. Chicken Juan now has a high-powered moveset of his own, including firing himself diagonally into enemies and obstacles, sliding through tight spaces, and floating through the air.

As it turns out, staying off the ground is a job requiring more finesse than fight, and finesse is a trait for far more lithe and wiry wrestlers than Juan. The challenges of traversal you face are demanding, but it can absolutely be done, and the greatest challenge of Guacamelee 2 is looking at every obstacle and determining how to execute each of Juan's abilities--only some of which were designed specifically for traversal purposes--to get to a very precise target. Later challenges even require you to change from lucha to chicken Juan and back again for the same obstacle. Guacamelee 2 will frustrate those who don't cultivate the skills, but the exhilaration of succeeding and opening up a giant chunk of the map as a result is a wonderful motivator.

While you can now access upgrades at any time--rather than only at checkpoints--obtaining upgrades isn't just a matter of having enough gold but also performing feats in-game. Want to upgrade your health? You'll need to have found and opened a certain number of chests. Want more power out of a certain move? You'll need to have killed enough enemies with the basic version first. The side effect is that you're given further motivation to explore your environment and engage with even the easiest fights. Gold is still needed to make the purchase, however, and things do get mildly unbalanced there as the game goes on--after a few key upgrades, you'll be able to earn more gold than you can spend just from getting into one fight with a low-level goon.

Straightforward hand-to-hand fights usually aren't terribly difficult. Every enemy has a weakness, and once you figure out what attack leaves them wide open, it's just a matter of you learning how best to capitalize. The danger comes from the placement. To the game’s great credit, no gauntlet of enemies in the game is unfair or unbeatable, they just require a keen eye for picking up the numerous, sly visual cues that tell you exactly what’s possible in a given area.

There is, however, another way to earn the enhancements you'll need to take the fight to Salvador: Challenge Rooms. These tricky, self-contained obstacle courses with a treasure at the end are numerous in Guacamelee 2. The challenges themselves are wickedly conceived and executed, often designed to get you bouncing off walls, flying across rooms, and barrelling towards the ground at maximum speed, just barely missing a fatal hazard. Typically, you'll need to use every single available move in your repertoire to emerge victorious--anything less than surgical precision and command over the physics and minutiae of everything Juan can do will get you instantly killed.

The issue with the Challenge Rooms is that the reward at the end can vary. When you survive a rough room, and you're rewarded with a heart piece that extends Juan's life, you can walk away knowing it was all worth it. Getting through a difficult room but only receiving 400 gold, can feel like a slap in the face, especially when money is no object.

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Thankfully, with infinite lives and the game's generous checkpoints, you're never too far from where you started should you fail. You will scream and curse at the screen often, but there's no luck, glitches, or happy accidents involved in conquering Guacamelee 2's most stringent tasks; there's only deft, acquired, well-practiced skill.

But there's more than just steel-hearted challenges waiting in the dark corners of Guacamelee 2's world, and many of its secret areas hide the best jokes in the game. There's an RPG dimension where all of Juan's fights are turn-based and, probably the best of the bunch, a hilariously spiteful take on lootboxes where Juan must spend enormous amounts of gold to simply open a closet door in a poor family's home to get his reward for saving their lives. Choozo statues--calling back to Metroid's Chozo statues--are still where Juan gets his main powers, and the script consistently has fun with the idea that smashing each statue is smashing up Uay Chivo's private and precious property.

Everything about Guacamelee 2 comes off as smarter and more thoughtful than the first game, even while indulging in its self-aware shenanigans and Rick & Morty-esque dimensional hijinks. The game never stops finding new ways to hook you in, to the point that even the most painstaking and intensive playthroughs feel like they just fly by. Saving the numerous timelines in Guacamelee 2 is just as much about partaking in a marvel of devious, meticulous game design as it is about saving Juan and his family from peril.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 07:00:00 -0700)

British multimedia artist Bruce Munro, whose “Field of Light” sculpture continues to illuminate Australia’s Uluru, will be bringing a light show inspired by C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” to the Silicon Valley. It’s the first time his works will be featured on the West Coast.

“Bruce Munro at...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

Eat your way through Israel on a 10-day tour that combines walking with a survey of the nation’s history and thriving culinary scene. Highlights include private tours of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa, visits to specialty markets, a cooking workshop, lunch with a Druze family and a chance to explore...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 21 Aug 2018 05:50:00 PDT )

Maria Celeste Molina warily pulled cash from a downtown ATM and stuffed the bolivars in her purse. Come tomorrow, she had no idea what they might buy.

“I need the cash to travel tomorrow,” the 24-year-old university student said. “But I don’t know if there will be public transport or how much the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 17:20:00 PDT )

Kenley Jansen, sidelined since Aug. 9 because of symptoms related to an irregular heartbeat, was cleared to pitch after a follow-up visit with his cardiologist on Monday, providing a huge boost to a Dodgers bullpen that has floundered in the absence of its dominant closer.

Relievers blew late-game...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 15:50:00 PDT )

It was a moment that took years to achieve, but it might have gone unnoticed if not for the timely click of a camera in a hallway of a hockey rink in Calgary.

Happily, there is a photo of Cayla Barnes, a member of the Olympic champion U.S. women’s hockey team at Pyeongchang, holding up a blue USA...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 15:10:00 PDT )

One of the most popular partisan attacks on Medicaid is the claim that the program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act exacerbated the opioid crisis in America. —

You’ll find this claim retailed on right-wing websites all across the internet. It’s been energetically marketed by Sen. Ron Johnson...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 14:20:00 PDT )

As the sun fell on the last Sunday sets of the first All My Friends festival, it was clear that there’s a hunger for this kind of show in central L.A. — a smaller-capacity event that’s urbane and accessible, and maybe a little hipper than its predecessor Hard Summer, perhaps a little reminiscent...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 15:00:00 PDT )

El Departamento del Sheriff del Condado de Los Ángeles dijo el lunes que están contactando a un joven actor y a su abogado después de que el New York Times informara que la actriz y directora, Asia Argento, le pagó recientemente por un supuesto encuentro sexual en un hotel de Marina del Rey cuando...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 14:58:00 PDT )

The bodyslamming Netflix series everyone has fallen in love with, GLOW, has been renewed for a 10-episode third season on the streaming service. As of this writing, there has been no announcement of when Season 3 will air.

The series follows a group of women wrestlers and a C-List movie director coming together to try and create and successfully run a wrestling promotion. Season 2 revolved around the TV show finding its footing and battling for a better time slot. Without spoiling the finale, the ending put everyone in a peculiar situation.

All while this is happening, the characters on the show deal with personal issues and problems within their relationships to create a well-layer series. Because the series is set during the mid-80s, it adds an additional layer fun nostalgia and campiness.

GLOW stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, Betty Gilpin as Debbie Eagan, Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia, and Kia Stevens as Tammé Dawson. Stevens formerly wrestled professionally at WWE and TNA in the past as Kharma and Awesome Kong respectively. She wasn't the only wrestler to appear on the series though. In both Season 1 and 2, numerous wrestlers made cameos, like Chavo Guerrero, Carlito, and more.

Both seasons of GLOW were well received by both critics and wrestling fans. "Whether it's the 'glory days' gimmicks these women portray, from the American hero to the Russian red threat, or the silly segments filmed for the show, Season 2 of GLOW is a warm hug for wrestling fans," GameSpot said in its review of Season 2.

Season 2 of GLOW was recently nominated for 10 Emmys, and we'll find out whether or not Season 2 takes home any awards on Monday, September 17.

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Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 15:19:00 -0700)

The Rams on Monday continued to lock in key pieces of their offense, agreeing to terms with right tackle Rob Havenstein on a four-year contract extension, the team announced.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Havenstein, a second-round draft pick from Wisconsin in 2015, has a salary-cap number...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 14:00:00 PDT )

Free agent running back Adrian Peterson will sign a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins, according to multiple media reports.

Peterson, the 2012 league MVP who has led the NFL in rushing three times, tried out for the Redskins on Monday after the team lost three running backs — Derrius Guice,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 14:05:00 PDT )

Ashley Summers said she got an unpleasant surprise in February when she tried to pick up a prescription for her rheumatoid arthritis: Her pharmacy said her insurance had been canceled, even though her premiums were paid.

Summers called Blue Shield of California and got her policy reinstated — then...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 12:55:00 PDT )

Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and current chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, is defending herself and the group against accusations of bullying and silencing made by reigning Miss America Cara Mund.

Responding to a five-page letter Mund sent Friday to former Miss Americas that...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 12:00:00 PDT )

The men barged into Surendra Kumar’s home after a court hearing tied to his daughter’s accusation that a politician from the country’s most powerful party had raped her.

The four assailants beat him with sticks, guns and belts, leaving him unconscious, family members said.

In response to the April...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 11:45:00 PDT )

Former NBA player and coach Paul Westphal has parted with a house in the Seaside Ranchos area of his hometown of Torrance for $1.85 million.

The home, built in 1948, has been updated. A bay window and a portico with substantial columns add character to the front of the house.

The entry level features...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 11:00:00 PDT )

The Associated Press released its top 25 football rankings for the first time for the 2018 season, and it’s no surprise that the defending national champions opened at No. 1.

Alabama received 42 of the 61 first-place votes to claim the top spot. Clemson follows at No. 2, receiving 18 first-place...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 09:50:00 PDT )

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and it’s hard to believe there are only 37 games left in the season.

What the Dodgers need to do to make the playoffs

We can talk about the bullpen, the solo homers, the starters only going six, the slumps, the streaky...

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

Spring restaurant owner Yassmin Sarmadi and her husband, chef and partner Tony Esnault, have announced they will close Spring restaurant in downtown Los Angeles by the end of the month. Located in the 1989 Douglas Building on Spring Street, the restaurant was lauded for Esnault’s precision in the...

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

Television writer-producer Jason Ganzel, who has worked on such hit shows as “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” has sold his home in the Wood Ranch community of Simi Valley for $780,000.

Set on a cul-de-sac, the two-story traditional home features four bedrooms, three bathrooms and nearly...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 07:45:00 PDT )

Rainbow Six Siege continues to expand, and it will soon do so once more with Operation Grim Sky. The new DLC drop adds two new Operators, Maverick and Clash, and reworks an old map. Now, Ubisoft has finally revealed all the details on the Operators.

Clash, as we suspected from previous teasers, carries a shield similar to the one used by Montagne. The shield is always fully extended when equipped and, although she cannot hold a gun while using her shield, it does have an added electricity shot capability that slows enemies while dealing a small amount of damage. Her ability makes her the first defender to carry a shield and a useful support Operator, allowing her to gather intel on enemy positions and distracting them while teammates pick them off.

The new attacker is named Maverick, and his unique tool is a blowtorch that can burn through reinforced walls silently. Ostensibly an alternative to Hibana and Thermite, he can open up objective rooms to allow greater lines of sight--and kill opportunities. However, it takes a while to burn larger holes, making it difficult to stay alive long enough to burn a sufficiently large hole to crawl through. When combined with smoke grenades and Glaz's thermal scope, however, Maverick's blowtorch can be lethal.

You can watch gameplay of both Operators in the video above. There's also footage of the buffed Consulate map--which has had some small tweaks applied such as new wall placements--and the completely reworked Hereford Base, which is almost unrecognizable from its previous form. Ubisoft has not yet confirmed an exact release date for the new season of content; it merely states Operation Grim Sky will come to the test server on August 20 and to live servers on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in September.

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Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 08:16:00 -0700)

The color choice wasn't a coincidence. It was a statement. One Simone Biles felt compelled to make even as the organization she competes for struggles to find a compassionate and compelling message to sexual abuse survivors.

The Olympic champion designed the leotard she wore while winning her fifth...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 06:55:00 PDT )

Imagine a drug that could enhance a child's creativity, critical thinking and resilience. Imagine that this drug were simple to make, safe to take, and could be had for free.

The nation's leading pediatricians say this miracle compound exists. In a new clinical report, they are urging doctors to...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Generally speaking, a prerequisite for becoming a world leader is political experience. But not always.

Over the years, presidents, prime ministers and legislators have come from all walks of life. In their previous careers some were musicians, athletes or celebrities — even comedians.

Take former...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Bill Dodd is a longtime Napa County politician, who served as a local supervisor for 14 years before coming to Sacramento, where he now serves in the state Senate.

And so he knew when enough was enough: No matter how hard he and others might see the need to loosen the wildfire liability rules for...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 20 Aug 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

If it’s summer, then it must be time for WWE’s annual SummerSlam pay-per-view, live from Brooklyn. Let’s get right to the results.

Seth Rollins (with Dean Ambrose) d. Dolph Ziggler (with Drew McIntyre) to win the Intercontinental championship

McIntyre climbed onto the apron, but Ambrose took him...

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

Todd McNair couldn’t stop moving.

The Village Christian School assistant coach paced the sideline of Burbank High’s football field Friday night as the mountains in the background turned hazy purple. He jabbered with game officials. He hugged other coaches. He ran out of people to high-five after...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 19 Aug 2018 17:15:00 PDT )

Isaac Rochell is not the same player he was a year ago.

He’s significantly less than that. By his estimation, he’s close to 20 pounds less.

“You know you’re lighter so you just mentally feel lighter, a little bit more nimble,” the Chargers’ second-year defensive end said. “You feel better. I definitely...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 19 Aug 2018 17:05:00 PDT )

Just like the forcibly stretched grins of its inhabitants, the joy found in We Happy Few is a facade. The game's fascinating setting of a drug-fueled society wasting away in fake happiness is squandered on repetitive environments, poorly paced and downright boring quest designs, and a variety of confusing mechanics that never find harmony with each other. Its three individual tales of survival manage to deliver some surprisingly poignant moments, but We Happy Few does its best to dissuade you from wanting to play long enough to see them through.

We Happy Few takes place in a timeline where Germany reigned victorious after World War II and has England bowing to their whims. Children are sent to the German mainland without reason, and the quiet town of Wellington Wells is plunged into a drug-induced mirage of peaceful, happy co-existence. With pills called "Joy" helping citizens forget the atrocities of the past, uprising is far less likely. But this fake sense of tranquility brings about its own problems. Citizens refusing to live under Joy's medicinal spell are outcast to the borders of city, forced to live in decrepit, crumbling houses while they wait to starve to death. The citizens of Wellington Wells are always happy to see you, but only if you abide by their rules.

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Enter Arthur, Sally and Ollie--the three characters you'll control throughout three acts that show all sides of this horrific society. Arthur suffers from post-traumatic stress, reliving the moments where he lost his brother to the German kidnappings. Sally hides a secret within the walls of Wellington Wells while also providing black market drugs to those who pay enough. Ollie is just a confused war veteran, disturbed by events of the past that have shaped his future. The more personal aspects of each character end up being more interesting than the mythos surrounding them. Each new perspective lends context to previously puzzling interactions to create clever "aha" moments, and the stories have powerful themes of abandonment, parental sacrifice, and overbearing guilt. Each finds a satisfying (if not always happy) end to their journey, despite the mechanics fighting actively against you reaching their climax.

In Early Access (where the game sat for nearly two years), We Happy Few was a survival game. That's mostly stayed the same, despite the structure of its design changing around it. As any character, you'll need to manage meters for hunger, thirst, tiredness, and more (Ollie actually needs to watch his blood sugar, of all things), which impose penalties and buffs on your fighting and movement abilities. Early on, managing these statuses is difficult, with a scarcity of resources while you're still coming to grips with We Happy Few's many rules. But they soon end up being just frustrating. The resources to replenish them aren't hard to find, but constantly having to tend to them when you're just wanting to get along with the story is arduous.

There is an unbelievable number of items to pick up and carry in We Happy Few, but only a small handful end up being useful. You’ll frequently be forced to pick up flowers to craft healing balms or bobby pins for lockpicks, for example. But vials of toxins that can knock out or kill enemies don't give you a reason to choose one or the other. The crafting menus for each character change based on their abilities, but the core items that are shared between all three are likely the only ones you'll actually utilize--the specialized items hardly necessitate their complex requirements. It feels like such a waste having a vast crafting system attached to a game that never puts you in a situation where it feels necessary. We Happy Few has many ideas strewn across its menus but nothing mechanically that requires their use.

This frustration is only exacerbated by the lack of interesting quests to undertake in We Happy Few's relatively large open world. Its inhabitants treat you as their delivery boy, never giving you anything more complex than walking to an area, picking something up, and walking all the way back. Quest design works counterintuitively to the idea of having to scrounge to survive. Even if you wanted to reach into the world's nooks and crannies to find something interesting, inquisitive eyes are rarely met with any rewards aside from the plethora of items you probably already have stashed in your inventory. There's a point in Arthur's story where he exclaims, after a multi-staged questline, "All that, just to reboot a bridge?" and it feels like he's crying out for help from you directly.

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What attempts to break up this straightforward structure are the rules of Wellington Wells. Outside of its walls you'll be forced to don tattered clothing to fit in with the rest of the depressing crowd, as well as fighting off temptations to steal from their strewn-about dwellings. Inside is another story entirely. The inhabitants of Joy-infested cities will be quick to throw up arms should you do anything but walk. Haunting guards and eerie Joy-sniffing doctors pose a threat to your blending in, which can force you to pop some pills from time to time. Their effects keep you hidden for a time but have devastating withdrawal symptoms that prevent you from masking your depression, which can have an entire city on your tail in mere seconds.

The setting sounds intriguing on paper: a system where stealth is managed by social interactions and conformity. But its execution is lacking. Obeying the strictly imposed rules is trivial and only slows down your progress towards the next quest marker, negating any sense of tension they might have imposed. Outside, the rules are looser, but there's also far less to look at. You'll spend a lot of time simply sprinting through empty fields with no discernable landmarks, only to be greeted by another bridge into another strict state that brings progress to a crawl. It's a disappointing misuse of a system that might have otherwise been engrossing.

It feels like We Happy Few understands many of its mechanics are a chore to begin with.

The character progression system is even more underdeveloped. While each of the three characters has some unique characteristics, the abilities you're able to purchase are largely shared between them, and many give you ways to turn some of We Happy Few's rules off entirely. One allows you to sprint through cities without rousing alarm for example, while another lets you ignore annoying night curfews entirely. It feels like a concession--like We Happy Few understands many of its mechanics are a chore to begin with.

When rules aren't being (mercifully) stripped away, they often just don't work. The night curfew, for example, will have guards turn hostile should they spot you. But conceal yourself on a bench, and they inexplicably ignore you entirely. Melee combat is monotone and predictably boils down to you exhausting your stamina swinging your weapon and then simply blocking until it recharges. When you're not being forced to contend with that, you'll be sneaking around enemies with a barely functioning stealth system. Enemies are inconsistent in their ability to spot you, sometimes walking across your path without a whiff of suspicion. Their patrol lines are easy to spot and never deviate, making the reward of a successful infiltration feel remarkably hollow. Most times they're just far too predictable. They'll stare for extended periods at distractions you conjure and fail to search an area after spotting you briefly. We Happy Few's stealth is so transparently binary that it just feels like you're cheating the system most of the time.

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It's a shame that so many of these systems never fit together in a cohesive way, especially when the world itself is overflowing with potential. There's some rich environmental storytelling in We Happy Few, even if its visual variety is shallow. It's striking to transition from dilapidated walls with mad ravings written across them to neatly structured hollows parallel with rainbow roads. The way We Happy Few mixes up its visual representation based on your character's mental states is clever, too. On Joy you'll witness double rainbows as far as the eye can see, with a shiny veneer encapsulating the overly cheery nature of your character. Withdrawal sours this into a dreary grey world where the sounds of flies and visions of decay replace usually unremarkable facets of the environment.

This blends well with We Happy Few's interpretation of the era. Monochrome television screens hang from awnings and play the propaganda-filled ravings of the enigmatic Uncle Jack swing towards you as you pass with a startling red hue. The stretched faces of Wellington Wells' most behaved citizens are off-putting in a brilliantly creepy way, even if there's such a lack of distinct character models that you'll find multiple identical faces hanging out on a single street corner. Cartoonish robotic contraptions mingle in more strictly secure areas and whistle off cheery tunes as they pass by. They also tend to mess about with the pathfinding for Wellington's human inhabitants, which is hilarious only the first few times. For everything that We Happy Few gets right in terms of world building, its gameplay leads it astray.

For everything that We Happy Few gets right in terms of world building, its gameplay leads it astray.

Technical issues plague We Happy Few too, ranging from mildly annoying to borderline game-breaking. Characters will often clip through the floor or disappear entirely as you approach. Shifts between night and day see characters appear and disappear from one second to the next. The framerate suffers on capable PC hardware. Quest logs will sometimes not refresh, while getting an item at the wrong time failed to trigger a quest milestone, forcing me to reload an older save. Audio can disappear from cutscenes entirely for long stretches of time. From numerous angles, We Happy Few is in rough shape.

But even if you are able to overlook its technical shortcomings or perhaps wait for more stable patches in the future, We Happy Few's biggest problems are ones that are hard to remedy. Its entire gameplay loop is underpinned by boring quests and long stretches of inaction. And even when it forces you to interact with its world beyond just walking to waypoints, combat, stealth, and otherwise fascinating societies fail to impose the right balance of challenge and tension. There's a clear lack of direction that We Happy Few is never able to shake, which wastes its intriguing setting. It does manage to weave each of its three stories cohesively into a larger tale, but it's also one that's never critical enough to earn the right to repeat "happiness is a choice" any chance it can. There are just too many hurdles to overcome to enjoy We Happy Few, and not enough Joy in the world to cast them aside.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 11 Aug 2018 10:57:00 -0700)

The body of a Los Angeles County Fire Department captain was found Saturday in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.

Wayne Stuart Habell, 43, was last seen leaving his home in Newhall at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Deputy Trina Schrader of the Sheriff's Information Bureau said.

Habell's SUV was found Friday...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 18 Aug 2018 22:50:00 PDT )

Dorian Thompson-Robinson might have one major ally in his quest to become UCLA’s second true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback: the user-friendly offense his team is running.

“The spread offense is easier to teach than a lot of other offenses for the quarterback because it’s a lot...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 18 Aug 2018 14:40:00 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 )

The Madden series aims to be a true-to-life representation of the popular American sport, and Madden 19 is a refined step forward with advancements across the board. There are some issues hanging over from past games, and the Franchise updates are not as big and exciting as you might expect, but Madden 19, with its capable Frostbite engine and its compelling Longshot story mode, remains the best, most complete Madden game to date.

On the field, Madden's gameplay has never looked or handled better, and this is due in part to a new system EA calls Real Player Motion. One of the biggest pieces of this is the new "one-cut" feature for ball-carriers that allows them to change direction quickly and with a burst of speed to get around a defender. An appropriately timed cut, coupled with an acceleration boost, lets you make tight, fast, and precise turns that help you get through the line or to the edge when making runs. You can also perform hesitation moves that can make a big difference in those crucial moments when you see an opening or a gap, and it's thrilling to successfully execute a run, even if it's only for marginal yardage. Establishing the run game can be critical, and it's nice to see Madden 19 make running responsive, fun, and representative of what you see in real NFL games.

To balance out the new tactics for ball-carriers, Madden 19 adds a new strafe burst mechanic for defense. If timed appropriately, this can help you get into position faster than normal and improve your chances of stopping a big run. EA has always strived to give players more control and better responsiveness on the field, and the advancements this year are nice, even if they are only granular in nature. And in a further step towards emulating actual NFL games, Madden 19 lets you choose a custom celebration after a touchdown or a big defensive play with individual and team-based celebrations. Whether you're performing a simple spike on your own or doing the spoon-to-mouth dance with your team, it gives Madden a more authentic feel.

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This is the second year of Madden using EA's Frostbite engine, and it has indeed made strides to make the game look better. Character models are now more lifelike, while small things like player sweat (yes, really), the way bodies crunch and recoil after big hits, sunspots pouring onto the field at dusk, and weather elements like rain and snow get even closer to replicating an actual NFL broadcast. While the graphics looks better, the physics can still be really weird at times. I saw things like arms bending in ways they absolutely should not, mid-air collisions causing the ball to launch through the air at an angle and speed that makes no physical sense, and balls that disappear into the ground for no reason. Crowd animations can also be odd at times. The Madden franchise has always been replete with bugs and weirdness, and I tend to agree that this is part of the charm; none of the issues I encountered were enough to completely break the immersion. Also new in the presentation department are the menus, which now look sleeker and are less cluttered.

Madden 19's commentating is a big bright spot. The play-by-play/color duo of Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis return, and they have an excellent rapport. Their banter succeeds thanks to their football acumen, as well as their willingness and ability to emulate real NFL broadcast booths and shoot the breeze on topics like stadium food and Seinfeld references. While Gaudin and Davis turn in excellent performances, the Texas high school commentators from Longshot mode really steal the show with their over-the-top, homer play-by-play calls that left me laughing and wanting more. Another commentating update this year is former ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman as the pre-game/halftime host; he replaces Larry Ridley. Coachman is enthusiastic and fun to listen to, but most Madden players are likely to skip these segments. Madden 19's commentary will be updated on a regular basis with new dialogue lines that reflect what happens in the real NFL once the season kicks off later this month, though it remains to be seen if the commentators will tackle controversial subjects.

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One of the deepest modes in Madden 19 is Franchise. Last year's game was frustratingly light on advancements and improvements, but the new Madden thankfully adds more to the mix to give you a different kind of control over shaping your franchise--and the individual players on your team. One of the more notable new features is what's called the Archetype Progression system which adds different styles to positions and lets you continue to build and expand your players over the course of one or multiple seasons. The XP you earn in games gives you skill points that you can then spend to upgrade one of the archetypes for your player instead of assigning them to specific attributes. This can feel frustrating as it effectively limits the amount of fine control you have to shape your players as specifically as you were able to previously. This might have been done to help balance teams in online play, but whatever the case, it's a bit of a bummer to have that kind of precise control taken away.

Madden 19's new custom draft class creator for Franchise is another welcome addition. At launch, you'll be able to download draft classes made by the community, so you can expect some dedicated player to create the latest real-world NFL mock drafts in real time.

Another way to play Madden is through the card-based Madden Ultimate Team mode, which remains Madden's deepest pursuit--and it's stocked with things to do this year. In addition to the standard challenges, of which there are more than 100, there are Solo Battles where you can go up against other fan-created MUT squads in weekly tournaments, while there will also be a playlist for MUT squads made by EA Sports developers, NFL players, and celebrities. It's a thrill to take on a different squad each playthrough in Solo Battles, and I can see myself returning again and again to this mode to see how my team stacks up. Already a deep and robust mode, MUT adds the brand-new MUT Squads Challenges, where you and two others take on the CPU in a series of football challenges. Provided your teammates know what they're doing this is a mode that delivers yet another compelling reason to play MUT online and keep coming back. Yet another online mode, MUT Champions, goes live on August 13.

MUT still pushes you towards microtransactions, and that may be a concern for some. But it remains as exciting and satisfying as ever to put together a fantasy team where Tom Brady can throw a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice.

Returning from Madden 18 is the Longshot mode, which was arguably the biggest, most impressive, and fleshed out new feature that the franchise had ever seen. It wasn't perfect, and neither is this year's version, Longshot: Homecoming. The story picks up with Devin Wade having a tough time in the Dallas Cowboys training camp, with Colt Cruise struggling through life in Mathis and getting blindsided by a major life event that puts his entire life and career into question. The voice acting and performances of all the major characters, Wade in particular, are solid. EA also recruited celebrities like frequent Adam Sandler collaborator Rob Schneider, Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Jimmy Tatro (American Vandal), and Joey King (The Kissing Booth) for the mode, and they turn in memorable performances.

Homecoming's story is one of pain and struggle, loss and redemption, and how football really doesn't matter when compared to issues at home and in life. Homecoming, like Longshot before it, has bold ambitions in terms of the story it tells and the feelings it wants to evoke, but it doesn't always work. At one point early in the story, Cruise remarks to a character about "some of the most cliched stuff I've ever seen," and this could also apply to Homecoming's story. At times, it can be uneven and inconsistent in its tone, coming across as very hokey and ham-handed.

And in what is a surprising move, EA (almost) completely dropped the Telltale-style dialogue options from the first iteration. It was fun to make choices and steer the conversation in the original Longshot, even if the story never really branched, so it's a real shame that EA moved away from this in favour of a more traditionally structured story. That being said, the narrative will pull you through and, at just about four hours in length, you may finish it in one sitting. Unfortunately, I experienced a significant difficulty spike at the end of Devin's story where he goes up against a much better team and has to make all the right plays to get the win. A lack of variety in this sequence and the upswing in difficulty made what should have been a climactic conclusion a boring and frustrating affair. Those issues aside, I had a fun time playing through Devin and Colt's story, which reached a satisfying and heart-warming end.

Madden 19 is an excellent football game that improves on last year's entry in almost every way. There are problems, but there has never been a football game that more authentically represents the NFL than this in terms of presentation, controls, and depth.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sun, 12 Aug 2018 16:01:00 -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 )
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 )
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 )
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 )

USC coach Clay Helton knows what to expect from his veterans.

So Helton rested his upperclassmen during the team’s scrimmage Saturday. It was time for the young Trojans to prove themselves — Helton’s last chance to study them before the upcoming week of practice, the team’s mock game week.

“We...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (星期六, 18 八月 2018 15:50:00 PDT )

Manny Machado punctuated the frustration of his first month as a Dodger with a powerful but fruitless gesture. On Aug. 12 at Coors Field, after striking out to strand a pair of runners late in an eventual loss to the Rockies, Machado gripped his bat with both hands and snapped it over his thigh.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (星期六, 18 八月 2018 15:10:00 PDT )
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:00:00 Z)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:00:00 Z)

Battle royale games have established themselves as more than just a fad, and as the space becomes more crowded, games strive to carve out their niche. With the console port of H1Z1, focusing on simplicity and streamlined mechanics is how it stakes its claim. Significant changes were made to H1Z1's original formula on PC to get you moving and encourage more action, which is further supported by intuitive controls. Where H1Z1's lacking is in variety, due in large part to an uninspired map that's missing interesting setpieces for its most intense firefights. But if the thrill of besting 100+ other players is what you seek, H1Z1 delivers just that.

As with many battle royales, your first objective is to quickly scavenge the dropzone for anything to improve your chances of survival. H1Z1 limits what's available on the ground and in abandoned structures to common loot, but you'll find enough to stay competitive in the opening minutes of a match. It's not too difficult to get equipped with a pump shotgun, basic assault rifle, a few healing items, low-level armor, and small backpack, which alleviates the frustration of coming away with nothing even after combing through buildings. However, the good stuff is tucked away in supply crates that litter the map as the match progresses. Boxes of high-level equipment dropped from the sky is a genre staple, however, H1Z1 focuses on this element by strictly keeping the best items exclusive to crates.

By cranking up the frequency of supply drops and shining brightly colored beacons on them (that are visible in the distance), crates serve as hotbeds for action. The risk-reward nature instigates tense firefights, and encourages improvising a tactical approach; will you stake out the crate from a distance and use it as bait, or do you rush to loot it and get out of dodge before you're preyed upon? When powerful weapons like the RPG, scoped burst rifle, or automatic shotgun are likely within grasp, it's impossible to ignore these drops. Even if you're unfamiliar with the effectiveness of specific gear, traditional color-coding to indicate rarity--white, green, purple, gold--makes it easy to identify what's worth swooping up. It's not groundbreaking, but H1Z1 devises a way to sensibly deliver the better elements of battle royale.

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It also helps that H1Z1 doesn't hide much from you as it conveniently plots out nearby vehicles and supply crates on the map. While it takes some of the mystery out of this style of game, it's another tweak that gives you the tools get to the fun parts without delay. Especially because the deadly gas zones close in on the remaining players quickly, it's nice that the means for mobility are readily available. Considering that players parachute into the map at random locations (there's no choosing where to drop), making resources available and visible upfront mitigates the feeling of getting the short end of the stick.

The systematic changes to the core of H1Z1 would be all for naught if there wasn't a practical control scheme to tie it all together. Thankfully, the changes to gameplay mechanics feel as if they were done with a gamepad in mind. Support items like grenades, bandages, and first-aid kits have dedicated buttons, and swapping out weapons or changing your armor is as easy as picking up a replacement. Small backpacks open a third weapon slot, while the rare ones grant a fourth slot in a simple weapon wheel, effectively negating cumbersome weight management that'd be tough to incorporate for gamepads. Most significantly, item crafting has been nixed altogether. As a result, combat flows smoothly, and you're a lot less likely to fumble around with the controls under high-pressure situations since there aren't any clunky menus to navigate.

As with the PC version of H1Z1, though, there's a dissonance between its military-sim DNA and quirky rules of engagement. Movement and weapon behavior are still very much in line with what you'd see in a tactical shooter. But being able to instantly pop out of cars at full speed without taking damage itself seems incongruous, and using that as a tactic to close the distance for shotgun kills adds further dissonance. To top it off, vehicles don't inflict damage when ramming players. The wide-open design of the map makes these oddities stand out in a way that feels both thematically incoherent and disparate in a gameplay sense.

H1Z1 also falls short in its single map that's largely made up of open fields and a scattering of deserted buildings. There's a striking lack of features or interesting backdrops to stage the frantic firefights and make encounters feel fresh from match to match. The more dense locations like Pleasant Valley, Ranchito, or Dragon Lake offer some of those tense moments when you don't know if enemies are weaving through buildings or peeking around corners. But overall, even marquee locations are visually uninspired and plainly laid out, which makes battles grow stale over time. Outside of outlandish cosmetics, the distinct lack of style or variety to how the game presents itself makes it hard to want to stay for long.

As a free-to-play game, microtransactions come part-and-parcel. Crowns work as purchasable in-game currency, and Credits are solely earned through playing the game and completing daily challenges. Here, H1Z1 has evolved with the times by incorporating a Battle Pass which unlocks an exclusive line of rewards--like cosmetics, emotes, and in-game currency--to earn as you level up (though nothing that provides gameplay advantages). It may be irksome that a loot box system remains the prevailing method for rewards, but it's worth noting that each box spells out the rarity of the items you'll receive.

H1Z1 doesn't shake up the battle royale formula in any big way, but instead offers a simple, streamlined experience. It differentiates itself from its PC counterpart to its benefit by revamping the core systems at play, giving you just enough to work with in battle without being overwhelmed. But it's still missing diversity in its action that would create lasting appeal. Bare presentation aside, the only map available isn't the best vehicle for solid gameplay as its largely made up of uninteresting locations. In a crowded space of battle royale games all vying for your attention, H1Z1 makes room for itself by just focusing the action-packed moments--nothing more, nothing less.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 18 Aug 2018 12:00:00 -0700)

This is it.

I’m going into retirement and wanted you to be the first to know.

But I worked out a really sweet deal with my employer.

I’m going to keep writing columns for five more years so that I can collect my regular pay and my retirement pay simultaneously.

It’s a double-dip bonanza.

All I’ve...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 18 Aug 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

Happy Saturday. It’s halfway through August somehow, and as the summer draws to a close, it’s time to appreciate the last few weeks of having the kids at home and the somewhat lighter traffic. Head to the beach if you can, and hit up all the ice cream shops and taquerias on the way there. Speaking...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 18 Aug 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

About a week ago I was heading out of Alabama, hoping I’d get to Oxford Miss., before William Faulkner’s house Rowan Oak closed for the day. I did, but that’s a story for another day. I’m Books editor Carolyn Kellogg, and here is this week’s Books newsletter from the L.A. Times.

THE BIG STORY

I’d...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Sat, 18 Aug 2018 07:00:00 PDT )


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