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E3 2012 preview: The Wii U, 'Call of Duty' goes to the future, and the return of Master Chief and Lara Croft

The Electronic Entertainment Expo: The videogame industry’s annual celebration of innovative button-mashing, finely pixelated storytelling, and more sequels, threequels, and prequels than a Hollywood studio chief could dare to conceive. This year’s E3 doesn’t officially begin until tomorrow, when conference-goers flood into the two massive showroom floors in the downtown Los Angeles Convention Center and embrace the flashy gaming pavilions and bone-melting sub-woofers. But the festivities kick off in earnest today, with press presentations by hardcore gaming rivals Microsoft and Sony, as well as showcases by major gaming publishers EA and Ubisoft.

So what are the biggest titles and stories grabbing our attention heading into this year’s E3? EW’s Darren Franich, Adam B. Vary, and John Young break it down:  READ FULL STORY

'Happy Endings': The reruns are even better!

The Skype Table. Never forget.

Penny should totally date Brian Austin Green for all of season 3, right?

Happy wedding season everyone! Good luck out there.

Read more: ABC renews ‘Happy Endings’

Apple CEO Tim Cook promises 'incredible things,' hints at refined Apple TV

Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down for an interview at the All Things Digital conference yesterday. Without saying anything specific, he spent his 40 minutes on stage responding to pointed questions with detailed-yet-abstract answers, giving the impression that Apple as a company was in a quantum phase of working on everything and nothing at the same time. After noting his excitement for “all the things I cannot talk about today,” he promised the crowd: “The juices are flowing, and we have some incredible things coming out.”

The juice must flow! Zooey Deschanel doesn’t know if it’s raining!

Still, a close reading of Cook’s responses may offer some hint about Apple’s near future. (The interview was not streamed, but All Things D has a full live blog of the event.) READ FULL STORY

Facebook Camera: Just like Instagram, except...well, just like Instagram!

FACEBOOK-CAMERA

Say, remember when Facebook purchased Instagram for one kabillion dollars? Well, in news that is completely unrelated, the beloved social network/high-class stalker-enabling mechanism has announced the impending release of a new photo application called Facebook Camera. Facebook Camera — or FaceCam, as I’ll henceforth call it until Twitter tells me not to — also allows you to add all kinds of exciting filters to your photos. And those filters are not too different from Instagram’s. Mike Isaac at AllThingsD refers to the camera as “Instagram Redux,” which could just be reference to the fact that FaceCam features a wholly unnecessary French plantation scene. READ FULL STORY

John Malkovich talks to Siri in new iPhone ads

Confession: I can’t stand the new batch of iPhone advertisements. Apple spent the better part of a decade dropping zeitgeist-grenade TV commercials. But when it came time to show off audio helpmate Siri, the marketing team decided to fall back on random celebrity pitchmen. The result was Zooey Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson meandering around identical IKEA households. (Absent from these advertisements: The celebrities’ assistants, a.k.a. “Siri With Limbs.”) I have to admit, though, that I’m a bit tickled by a new pair of advertisements featuring adorable cult weirdo John Malkovich, who speaks to Siri as if she’s the only one who really understands him. Check out the two commercials below: READ FULL STORY

Facebook begins testing redesigned 'Timeline'

It has become routine: First Facebook changes its format, and then users grumble about leaving the social network site before eventually settling in and accepting it – just in time for a new round of changes.

Facebook has been busy lately: Mark Zuckerberg and Co. may have just completed converting everyone to the new “Timeline” feature, (not to mention a well-publicized IPO on May 18) but they aren’t slowing down. The company in now rolling out a new timeline, currently to just a few select users, that has some subtle changes to the display, including streamlining the ‘Friends’ and ‘Photos’ tabs, as well as changing ‘Likes’ to ‘Favorites.’

READ FULL STORY

Dish Network's new DVR system eliminates commercials

DISH-NETWORK

We all used to be annoyed by commercials. Thanks to the wonders of DVR, we’re now just annoyed by the need to fast-forward through commercials, and then maybe also rewind for a few seconds if we go too far, and thus still be forced to experience the last few annoying milliseconds of that Zooey Deschanel iPhone ad. But what if there were a way to eliminate advertisements from your TV-watching experience? That’s the pitch behind a new DVR feature released last week for Dish Network subscribers called “the Auto-Hop,” which replaces commercial breaks with a few pregnant moments of black screen. READ FULL STORY

'Disney Epic Mickey 2': Go behind the scenes in new trailer -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

The first Disney Epic Mickey game, released in 2010 on the Nintendo Wii, was a witty, inventive action-adventure platformer that was held back by a few blemishes. Now here’s Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, and in an exclusive behind-the-scenes video, the developers at Junction Point Studios don’t shy away from addressing those prior complaints.

Dismayed by the graphical limitations of the Wii? Epic Mickey 2 will be released on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC/Mac, in addition to the Wii. Tired of reading text bubbles? The game now features full speech. Wish you could play with a friend? The sequel will offer drop-in, drop-out co-play. And if you were ever frustrated by the original game’s clunky camera, this quote from creator Warren Spector will be music to your Mickey Mouse ears: “The camera is dramatically enhanced — we’ve made hundreds and hundreds of changes.”

Epic Mickey 2 returns players to Wasteland, an alternate universe inhabited by Walt Disney’s discarded or forgotten characters and ideas. In addition to playing as Mickey, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — one of Disney’s earliest hit characters — can now be controlled by a second person. And in what sounds like a delightful twist, the game is being described as a musical in which the plot will be advanced through original song numbers.

Check out the exclusive behind-the-scenes trailer below: READ FULL STORY

'BioShock Infinite' delayed to 2013, causing millions of gamers to simultaneously weep

BIOSHOCK-INFINITE

The release of BioShock Infinite, one of the most anticipated games of 2012, has been pushed back from Oct. 16, 2012, to Feb. 26, 2013, according to a message posted on developer Irrational Games’ website. “We’ve come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make Infinite into something even more extraordinary,” wrote game director Ken Levine. “I won’t kid you: BioShock Infinite is a very big game, and we’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter.”

Sadly, that means we’ll have to wait four extra months before being able to visit Columbia, the game’s floating steampunk metropolis — and a relative of sorts to Rapture, the underwater utopian setting of BioShock and BioShock 2. Set in an alternate-universe 1912, Infinite lets you play as Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, who travels to Columbia to rescue a woman with some incredible — and incredibly dangerous — magical powers. It was the most promising game I saw at last year’s E3 convention; speaking of which, Levine also mentioned that Infinite will not be making an appearance at this year’s E3.

Levine and his team should have all the time they need to finish this game. But I wouldn’t be opposed to sending a Big Daddy to the company’s Quincy, Mass., headquarters just to politely keep their feet to the fire. How crushed are you about BioShock Infinite‘s postponement?

Read more:
‘Diablo III’: Chris Metzen discusses the inspiration for Peter Chung’s ‘Diablo: Wrath’ video
‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 2′ sends the franchise into the future. Gamechanger or shark-jumper?
‘God of War: Ascension’: Director Todd Papy talks multiplayer

Will Ferrell, Louis C.K., Pinterest, and 'Sesame Street' Muppets among Webby Award winners

Over a decade after it debuted on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush impression is still paying dividends. The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences announced today that Ferrell had nabbed a Webby Award for Best Individual Performance in an online video; the clip in question, which appeared on Ferrell’s site Funny or Die, shows Ferrell’s Bush learning about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Ferrell wasn’t the only big name to score a spiral-shaped Webby. Icelandic fairy Bjork won a Special Recognition Award for Artist of the Year, while Graydon Sheppard and Juliette Lewis of the “S— Girls Say” videos got cited as Actresses of the Year — despite the fact that Sheppard isn’t actually a girl. Funny or Die’s “Drunk History Christmas,” which featured performances by Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Jim Carrey, won for Best Online Film or Video Comedy, although none of those stars received individual awards. New essentials Pinterest and Spotify won for top social media site and music app, respectively. The adorable Sesame Street Muppets page was named Best Youth Website. READ FULL STORY

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