System Update: A look at Halo’s live-action  Web series, ‘Forward Unto Dawn’

The first "Silent Hill" film was completely silent at the box office. "Max Payne" was so awful that you get the feeling Rockstar would rather pretend it didn't exist. And "Dead or Alive"? That film was better off dead. The history of video game-to-film adaptations is not a brilliant one. It's a study in monster budgets blown on projects that seemed to have potential, in odd decisions to cast American actors as Princes of Persia, in wild attempts to give context to fighting games that are built on the most nonsensical of stories. It's no wonder we've never seen a live-action Halo flick; too many game-based movies are simply destined to fail. But in anticipation of next month's Halo 4 video game, Microsoft and developer 343 Industries are trying to give us a live-action glimpse into the world of Master Chief, using a very unique channel to do so: YouTube. Log onto everyone's favorite video site, and you'll find "Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn," a series of live-action webisodes that Microsoft began releasing earlier this month. Two of the near-20-minute webisodes are already in the books and readily available, and the third one goes live Friday. "Microsoft and 343 Industries, they knew they wanted to do something special," said Josh Feldman, executive producer of the series. "They'd seen other instances of new media properties making a big splash. So they decided to give it a try." The resulting series of webisodes attempts to set the scene for Halo 4 by giving us an inside look at a squad of UNSC trainees, the Hastati Squad. There is no war with the Covenant yet, and the trainees worry about far lesser opponents. It's a smart way to start a prequel, especially since it allows Feldman and Co. to keep costs down. The group had to work "in a record amount of time," Feldman said, and he admits there were naturally budgetary constraints. But they still managed to cast a little bit of star power in "Chronicles of Narnia" veteran Anna Popplewell, who Continue Reading

Celebrating the groove — a look back at Groovefest

For a music lover like me, there are few annual events in Southern Utah that rival Groovefest.It’s a week full of events, culminating in two days of free music at Main Street Park in Cedar City. It’s the brainchild of founders Tim and Lisa Cretsinger, who started it initially as a birthday celebration for their record store, Groovacious.Through the years it quickly grew into something much more than a simple celebration of a business. That’s partly because Groovacious is more than a simple business.When you walk into Groovacious you have the chance to become more than a customer. You become part of a community, a family of music lovers that spreads throughout southwest Utah. That’s why Groovacious and Groovefest have always been so special. It’s not about selling music; it’s about celebrating music.I don’t exactly remember the first time I walked into Groovacious. But my first memories of the store come from the summer of 2002, a few years after it opened. I was still attending school at the University of Idaho, but I spent the summer living in Cedar City with my grandpa, Dee Cowan. As a poor college student, I didn’t have much money to spend, but what I had pretty much went to Groovacious.I distinctly remember purchasing Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “By The Way” there. More memorable than those albums, though, are the people who sold them to me. By the end of the summer, I thought of Tim and Lisa as friends.When I moved to Southern Utah in 2004 to take this job with The Spectrum & Daily News, I began making frequent trips to Groovacious. Good business people get to know their customers, and that’s what the Cretsingers do. As I purchased music from them, they made mental notes of my favorite styles and genres, often playing new releases with me in mind when I returned for future visits.Of course, they also mentioned Groovefest to me in those Continue Reading

Smartwatches get smarter, but not quickly enough

Apple and Android smartwatches are getting better as their makers sand off the rough edges that have frustrated many early adopters. But the improvements are just small steps in a long journey to convince people they need a computer on their wrist.The Apple Watch, for instance, promises faster app launching and a one-button 911 call. Android Wear watches soon will let you track gym workouts such as weight training. Both systems will let you swipe-write texts with your finger. All are nifty features — just nothing likely to turn a smartwatch into the day-to-day necessity a smartphone has become.That’s not too surprising. Smartphones didn’t get intelligent overnight, either. In the meantime, current smartwatch enthusiasts have a fair bit to look forward to as Apple and Google push out free software updates in the coming months. WATCH: 5 must-have travel apps Apple Watch FASTER: With the upcoming watchOS 3 software, your favorite apps will launch automatically and load data in the background. You no longer have to wait several seconds for the app to start up and retrieve data from the phone. This could address a major frustration today: It’s often faster just to pull out the phone from your pocket.EASIER NAVIGATION: Apple Watch currently offers favorite apps through Glance, but it gives you limited information and works only from the watch face. The Glance replacement, called Dock, gets you full apps from any screen with a press of the side button. Meanwhile, swiping up will soon get you frequently used settings, and message replies will be possible without first hitting “reply.”BEYOND VOICE: Entering text on a small screen is challenging, but voice dictation isn’t always the right answer. It might be noisy, or you might want privacy. With Scribble, you’ll use your finger to write characters on the screen one at a time. The watch translates them into computerized text. You’ll still have the current options Continue Reading

Trade for Ryan McDonagh looks like steal for NY Rangers as defenseman thrives in NHL playoffs

It might not quite be the acquisition of Manhattan by Dutch settlers for $24, but the Rangers’ trade for defenseman Ryan McDonagh is starting to look as if it will go down as one of the better deals in New York history. McDonagh, a former first-round pick obtained in a multi-player trade that sent Scott Gomez and his prohibitive contract to Montreal in 2009, enjoyed another standout performance in the Rangers’ 3-0 victory over the Devils in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday. LUPICA: KREIDER NOW A VARSITY BLUESHIRT McDonagh, whose acquisition for Gomez also freed up salary-cap space for GM Glen Sather to sign Marian Gaborik, was promoted to the top defense pair with Dan Girardi this season when Marc Staal spent the first half on the injured list with a concussion. “Now, I’m not sure if I’ll ever split those two guys up,” John Tortorella said of Girardi and McDonagh before an optional practice Tuesday at the Garden in preparation for Wednesday’s Game 2. “That’s just the way it works, and that’s the interesting part when you have injuries, how things work out. “We always talk about when there are injuries, another guy gets an opportunity. You never know where it’s going to lead you. But with Mac, the amount of time he got so quickly in key situations because of (Staal’s) injury has accelerated his pro gress, where that maybe a year down the road if we didn’t have an injury.” McDonagh, who played a whopping 53 minutes in a triple-overtime win over Washington, seemed as if he was everywhere in Game 1 against the Devils. The former Wisconsin star used his speed to cover up a few early mistakes by Girardi and thwart breakaway attempts for Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, finishing with a plus-2 rating and three blocked shots over 24:27 of ice time. “Obviously, it’s easy to play with Mac on the ice. He’s such a good skater, it Continue Reading

MAC notebook: Western makes foes pay in overtime

Western Michigan has no problem working overtime, earning its second OT win in the past three weeks Saturday with a 20-17 victory over Eastern Michigan at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti.The Broncos pulled out a 71-68 win at Buffalo in a record 7 OTs on Oct. 7 and needed a win over the Eagles to remain in the hunt for the MAC West title after suffering a 14-13 home loss on Oct. 15 against Akron in Kalamazoo.While WMU (5-3, 3-1) has no problem going to OT, the same can’t be said for the Eagles (2-5, 0-3) who dropped their second overtime game of the season, falling to Ohio 27-20 in 2 OTs at Rynearson Sept. 23 which, by the way, started a five-game losing streak with each of the losses one-possession games.That’s right, no other team in the nation has experienced five consecutive gut-wrenching losses by a combined total of 20 points.WMU first-year coach Tim Lester is looking forward to having a little extra time before the Broncos’ next game, a Wednesday Night showdown Nov. 1 against rival Central Michigan (4-4, 2-2).“The biggest thing is to just get them healthy,” Lester said. “We have a lot of people banged up after eight weeks straight and we took them to the pool this morning and tried to do a less impact workout in the pool and we’re giving them a day off tomorrow.“We’re going to slowly take these couple of days to recover, then we’ll start out with Central Michigan on Wednesday. We have a couple of extra days, but we really just want to make sure that we get as many people dressed on that Wednesday, November 1st when they (Chippewas) come into town.”Yes, the rivalry game against CMU at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo will be a big one for the Broncos who will try to clinch their fourth straight Michigan MAC championship — a sweep of EMU and CMU — while setting up their final quarter of the season, a home game against Kent State (2-6, 1-3) on Nov. 8, followed by road games at Continue Reading

Spring Training Hot Spots: Strasburg, Mac are must-visits as Johnny Damon looks for soft landing

Not sure which has been the bigger snow job - the one that has buried New York and the mid-Atlantic region or Scott (Avenging Agent) Boras' latest spin on Johnny Damon's colossally botched winter in which he now supposedly can't make up his mind between the Tigers' two-year, $14 million offer or their one-year, $7 million offer. Duh? Methinks Tigers owner Mike Ilitch did Boras a huge favor, allowing him to save face, by putting out the word that he had approved a two-year offer for Damon, even though his general manager, Dave Dombrowski, had made it clear there was no way he could justify doing that after trading Curtis Granderson. In any case, the rest of baseball is getting out of the snow and cold this week and heading off to spring training. Here are some "hot spots" in Florida and Arizona that bear particular scrutiny this spring: Viera, Fla.: Ordinarily there's been no reason to visit Florida's most remote spring outpost, where the lowly Washington Nationals reside. Not so this spring. Or at least not on the days that Stephen Strasburg, the 21-year-old $15.1 million righty phenom pitches. Strasburg, the top pick in last June's draft, figures to be the biggest attraction in Florida. Jupiter, Fla.: The defending NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals, with MVP Albert Pujols, his newly signed middle-of-the-order sidekick Matt Holliday and dual pitching aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, are kind of like the Yankees of Florida's East Coast, but this spring they figure to get a lot of unwanted attention with new batting coach Mark McGwire and his accompanying steroids stigma. No Vegas "over-under" line yet on how many days into camp before Cards manager Tony La Russa angrily declares a moratorium on steroids questions. Lake Buena Vista, Fla.: Bobby Cox's last spring as manager of the Atlanta Braves will not include Damon, but will feature another outfielder being billed as the most exciting position prospect in baseball, 20-year-old Jason Continue Reading

Exec pay limits gain support; FBI looking at financial fraud

WASHINGTON - Executives whose companies get a piece of the $700 billion government bailout will have their pay packages strictly limited under proposals that are broadly supported by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Bush administration was resisting the move as it scrambled to overcome widespread misgivings on Capitol Hill and swiftly push through its plan to rescue tottering financial firms by buying up their rotten assets. Lawmakers in both parties are demanding changes to the administration's rescue proposal despite dire warnings from top economic officials of recessions, layoffs and lost homes if Congress doesn't approve it quickly. Both parties' presidential candidates also insist on alterations to the drastic prescription. "We have got to look at some alternatives," said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the panel's chairman, said the Bush administration's position was "not acceptable." Meanwhile, world stock markets were mixed Wednesday amid reports of a plan by Warren Buffett to invest at least $5 billion in the embattled Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs. That development helped allay some fears about the world's troubled financial sector, but uncertainty in many quarters internationally about the massive U.S. economic rescue plan persisted. Congressional leaders say they are working to approve the rescue by week's end, but the chances of a quick deal were dwindling. "Just because God created the world in seven days doesn't mean we have to pass this bill in seven days," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the House Financial Services Committee chairman, was in intense negotiations with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on key elements of the plan. "As long as it looks as if we are seriously engaged, it's not too late" to act, Frank said. Sen. Charles Schumer, told CNN Wednesday: "We proposed some kind of FDIC for Continue Reading

Does Drew Barrymore’s ex-boyfriend Justin Long, the Mac Guy, still long for her?

If Drew Barrymore thought ex-boyfriend Justin Long just wasn't that into her, she was definitely mistaken. Although the pair split last July after dating for nearly a year, Long was on hand to support his ex-gal pal — and act as a boyfriend figure — at Tuesday's premiere of her HBO flick "Grey Gardens." The lady of the hour was more than happy to have Long by her side. "Oh yes! I’m so happy [he’s here!]," Barrymore told us at the film’s after-party at the Pierre. She was quick to add, "We’re just friends, but I love that he supports me, and I always support him. We’re actually making [another] Wethinks the lady doth protest too much — as does Long. When we approached him with the "just friends" line from Barrymore, he muttered, "ugh ... " before casting a shifty eye toward his ex and saying, "Umm, yeah. Good friends." The Mac Guy was more than complimentary of his lady’s acting skills in "Grey Gardens," gushing: "I have no words — it was amazing. It was beautiful; she was beautiful. This [movie] was transformative, and on another level from how I know her. She went really deep; she worked her ass off. [But] I always knew she was talented and amazing. I’m very proud, and very happy." "Justin couldn't stop talking about how amazing Drew is," said one partygoer. "He’s very clearly into her. Neither Drew nor Justin brought dates, and they gravitated toward one another for the entire evening." Although the two left separately just before 1 a.m., they met up immediately afterward at the Bowery Hotel. Says a witness, "They were definitely together and looked so, so happy."A rep for Long says the pair are "just friends," while Barrymore's flack offered a "no comment." SEEN & HEARDVivica A. Fox celebrating being "The Cougar" at La Esquina ... Rod Stewart dancing with wife Penny Lancaster at Guy's while son Sean made out with a hot blond nearby ... Flight of the Conchords' Continue Reading

Millennials, look no further: Moxy Hotel in Tempe was made for you

If there's one thing that will give you a quick impression of the new Moxy Hotel in Tempe, it's this: the doors on the guest rooms read "DISTURB."In other words, this is not your typical stodgy business hotel or high-end resort.The hip hotel celebrated its grand opening on Thursday night complete with local bands, a fashion show, catered Italian food and plenty of champagne. Moxy Hotels is the offbeat brand by Marriott International that was created in the style of a boutique hotel and geared specifically to millennials. The Tempe hotel opened in early March, featuring 186 rooms ranging from $99-$159 a night, and is the first one in the U.S. The original location opened in Milan in 2014.MORE: Hey Millennials, these 10 Valley restaurants are for you | 5 pool parties around Phoenix | Meet Phoenix's newest hip hotel: The Camby​ | Las Vegas Travel GuideLaunched by Twenty Four Seven Hotels, Moxy Hotel focuses on several key necessities: technology, communal spaces, local partnerships and a creative staff. Curtis Pandes is the general manager, or "Captain," as he is called. He said everything about the lifestyle brand is carefully curated for millennial travelers."The generation is due to take over the travel sector as the previous generation ages," he said. "Many hotels are built for Baby Boomers, and we've become conditioned to the cookie cutter brands when we travel. Moxy Hotels are a lifestyle brand."The hotel lobby features an industrial chic aesthetic with tables, chairs and shelves blending wood, black iron pipe and leather. Accents come from the colorful artwork, patterned throw pillows, mismatched rugs and eclectic thrift store items on shelves such as a Cabbage Patch Kids doll, a Yosemite Sam cookie jar, vintage cameras and gilded pig bookends. Depending on the room, Continue Reading


There could a doozy of a catfight the next time Karl Lagerfeld crosses paths with Elton John. The Chanel designer viciously disses ­Elton's beloved Princess ­Diana in the new ­issue of New York magazine. "She was pretty and she was sweet, but she was stupid," declares Lagerfeld, who apparently never heard about not speaking ill of the dead. He much prefers Prince Charles' new wife. "The public does not know who Camilla is," he tells interviewer Vanessa Grigoriadis. "She is the life of the party! She's sparkling, she's witty, she's ready for everything, and not pretentious, not one bit. If you had to make a choice to live with somebody, this is the one. " Lagerfeld, who's expected in New York for fashion week, might want to steer clear of Lindsay Lohan, who's shooting in town. The high-collared 67-year-old fashion baron dismisses rumors that the "Mean Girls" star might be the new face of Chanel. "I prefer Nicole Kidman and that generation," Lagerfeld says dryly. He also won't be inviting Christina Aguilera back for a photo shoot. One member of his team remarks, "She is horrible! She did not even kiss Karl good-bye. She just sticks out her head from the door, 'Bye! '" Then again, if you see him at Bryant Park, don't try to be too affectionate. "In the whole world, there is nowhere I can go," the designer says. "In Japan, they touch me. I have Japanese women pinch my a-, so now I must say, 'You can have the photo, but please don't touch me. ' You cannot pinch the a- of a man my age! " And those dark sunglasses of his aren't just for protection from the sun. "I cannot go out without something for my eyes, because someone might throw chemicals in my face. " Perhaps he's thinking of the animal activists who detest him for his furs. At a recent Fendi party, a dreadlocked white guy snarled at him, "Blood for money, that's what Karl Lagerfeld wants. Karl is greedy! Karl is evil! Karl is wicked! Karl is ... the Devil! Continue Reading