This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

THU 20
Hail to the king, baby. Despite the lion's share of controversy that has dogged Simba and company ever since they hit the silver screen more than a decade ago -- including charges of gender stereotype reinforcement, plagiarism, and the sexual orientation of Scar -- we're going to adopt a "Hakuna matata" attitude, give a heave-ho to all that hullabaloo, and simply sit back and enjoy a benefit staging of The Lion King touring show at ASU's Gammage Auditorium, 1200 South Forest Avenue in Tempe, on Thursday, January 20. Not only will director Julie Taymor's production of Disney's Shakespeare-on-safari musical epic give us a chance to get reacquainted with characters we loved from the film (like Timon, Pumbaa, Rafiki, and Zazu), but proceeds will benefit Boys Hope and Girls Hope of Arizona with a cocktail and buffet reception preceding the show. Feel the love starting at 5:30 p.m.; performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $133 for the show, or $200 including the benefit reception, and are available by calling 602-266-4873 or visiting www.asugammage.com.

FRI 21
When we can't get backstage for a personal introduction with our favorite rock god, we get the girl to flash the roadie and hope for the best. When that doesn't work, well, we're pretty much screwed. Unless, that is, we've got an in with a world-famous rock photographer, namely Robert M. Knight, who's been snapping shots of the monsters of rock for more than 40 years. He might not get us a ticket to the deli tray, but we'll live vicariously through Knight on Friday, January 21, when he shares his stories (well, maybe not all his stories) and "one-of-a-kind" photos of Hendrix, Zeppelin, the Stones, and Van Halen at Scottsdale's Rock Star Gallery, 16451 North Scottsdale Road, Suite 103. A reception hosted by Knight begins at 6 p.m. with a "private" showing (just RSVP at www.rockstargallery.net to get in), including photos of current guitar-rock masters John Mayer, and Velvet Revolver. For details call 480-275-4501.

SAT 22
It's been a while since a new skateboarding icon emerged on the scene -- say, a Lance Mountain, a Steve Caballero, or, of course, a Tony Hawk. We can't promise a "900" on Saturday, January 22 -- or the next Thrasher cover boy -- at Mesa's Reed Park Skate Court in Mesa, 1601 East Broadway Road, but we're sure the kids competing at the 2005 Skatefest will shred their best for the hometown folks. ColdFusion provides music to McTwist to at the free event ($16 to compete), and prizes include $300 for first place, $150 for second, and $75 for third. To preregister for the competition, visit Pacific Skate Shop at 1650 East Broadway Road in Mesa, or call 480-827-3360. See www.cityofmesa.org/parksrec for more information.

SUN 23
We just love opening nights at the multiplex -- the lines, the teenyboppers, the sold-out 7-o'clockers. Okay, pardon the sarcasm. In truth, Friday at the cinema blows massive chunks. But what's a movie première junkie to do? (Cue the horn section.) Why, it's Talk Cinema, the "national sneak preview film and discussion series" that starts up again at 10 a.m. Sunday, January 23, locally at Harkins Camelview 5, 7001 East Highland Avenue in Scottsdale. The mystery meat in Talk Cinema is that you never know what movie you'll screen until the lights go down. But if last year's TC laundry list of critically acclaimed flicks -- including Sideways, The Motorcycle Diaries, Kinsey, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to name a few -- is any indication, we've got a hunch that Extra-Buttery Popcorn Benedict is about to become the breakfast of champions. A full season's membership for seven films (through May 1) costs $120; individual film admission is available. For details call 800-551-9221 or see www.talkcinema.com.

MON 24
At our most romantic, we can candlelight it, wine-and-cheese it, and Barry White it with the best of 'em. It's when we bluff astronomy -- "Look, baby, it's the mighty 'Desipio' shining bright in the southern sky" -- that we blow the goodnight kiss goodbye. But thanks to Tony LaConte, whose "Stargazing for Everyone" two-night class begins Monday, January 24, at the Glendale Adult Center, 5970 West Brown Street, we might just get lucky still. The class, also on January 31, is for beginners and even "seasoned stargazers" who want to learn more about their own telescopic equipment, as well as the moon, planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies above. The class, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., costs $27 for Glendale residents, $32 for non-residents. To register, call 623-930-4321 or see www.stargazingforeveryone.com.

TUE 25
Voices carry across the Valley's most urban playground on Tuesday, January 25, as Phoenix's "longest-running" spoken-word gathering steps up to the mic for the 15th year of Poetry in the Park at the Historic Boathouse behind the Encanto Park Clubhouse, 2605 North 15th Avenue. Non-Native Transplants join notorious local poets The Klute (not the "taut action thriller starring Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda") and Stephen G. Roy (who is the man who hosted the recent Poe Celebration at the Paper Heart) for the event, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. For more information, contact Carol at 602-942-3060.

WED 26
Now we know where those annoying kids with the pinpoint precision and the keychain laser beams hang out: Stratum Laser Tag Arena, at 1455 South Stapley Drive in Mesa. And we're about to go ballistic on their asses on Wednesday, January 26, from 6 to 10 p.m., for Stratum's five-year anniversary celebration, during which Stratum will offer $5 games (through January 29) at the 13,000-plus-square-foot facility, which happens to be the "world's largest technotainment laser tag arena." After we wax the little mercenaries, we'll grub pizza, nachos, churros and Slush Puppies (all of them laser-tag essentials) at the theater-style food court. For more details, call 480-545-5500 or see www.stratumhq.com.

 
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