BEST USE OF A VALLEY FREEWAY IN A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

The Kingdom

Traffic on Loop 202 can be a major bitch sometimes. On any given workday, our commute along the East Valley artery is plagued with rampant gridlockery and loads of dumbass drivers who cause our blood pressure to shoot skyward. We've come dangerously close to road rage a few times but, thankfully, we've never resorted to tossing grenades into the gas-guzzling SUVs that cut us off. We'll leave that up to the magic-makers in Hollywood, who transformed a portion of Loop 202 in Gilbert last summer into an orgy of vehicular violence for the recently released Middle Eastern action thriller The Kingdom.
With its barren desert setting, the two-mile stretch of the Santan Freeway between Higley and Power Roads served as a passable stand-in for a Saudi Arabian expressway where an elite team of FBI agents (including Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper) are attacked by terrorists, resulting in an explosive-drenched, car-crunching action sequence. It packs such a pulse-pounding wallop that we're willing to forgive the fact you can spy a few saguaros in the background.
Now that we've all grieved over the paved paradise where the old Ciné Capri used to stand in Phoenix, and moved on to newer pastures in North Scottsdale, Dan Harkins surprises and delights us once again. In the new Tempe Marketplace at Rio Salado and Loop 202, a second star is born. Nearly identical to the theater complex at the Harkins 101, the Ciné Capri part deux in Tempe offers nothing surprising, but that doesn't mean we're not still enchanted by the grandiosity of the spectacular gold curtains that open before each performance, the 70- by 30-foot screen, and the pomp and circumstance you just don't find much anymore, at the movies. Makes even a summer guilty pleasure like Superbad seem almost classy.
We've finally figured out what downtown Phoenix really needs: a good old-fashion repertory film house. Some kinda old school theater à la the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin or the Loft in Tucson, where we can kick back and screen cult classics, Russ Meyer's outrageous oeuvre, vintage cinematic epics, or other trashy filmic gems that can only be fully appreciated when viewed on the silver screen.

Since the chances of this dream theater being built are as likely as the Cardinals winning the Lombardi trophy, our celluloid thirst is gonna have to be slaked by the "Midnite Movie Mamacita," Andrea Beesley-Brown. Having nursed a lifelong love affair with sleazy cinema since her teenage years, the 28-year-old native New Zealander has brought the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) in B-movies to Valley audiences over the past two years. The second Friday of every month, Beasley hosts "Revenge of the B-Movie Babes" at the Paper Heart, which has featured a host of gory slasher and horror titles, while over at the Chandler Cinema, on the last Friday of the month, she presents "Grindhouse Redux," a double-feature pairing of a seedy sexploitation flick like Jailbait Babysitter with a carnage-laden film such as Death Race 2000.

Save a seat for us, Andrea; we'll bring the popcorn.

There are several free, outdoor film series in the Valley every year, so why Reels & Wheels? Two things: 1) demo, 2) environment. Tempe, at least around ASU, is cool. It's the only place in the Valley other than downtown Phoenix that has street people, which lends a certain urban savoir-faire to the area — like Times Square before Giuliani. And while families do live nearby, they're seriously outgunned — and their damping-down cultural influence negated — by the sheer force of Gen X will.

Long story short: The films, in general, play to more mature audiences, though the city of Tempe will occasionally throw neighborhood nuclears a G-rated bone. As for environment, we don't mean the surroundings, however charming the Sixth Street/Mill Avenue microregion might be. We're talking about the City's laudable "green" policy of encouraging attendees to get to the park via alternative means of transportation: bicycle, skateboard, foot, or shopping carts for the residence-challenged. Only in Tempe.

On the rare occasions when our elected officials get something right, they nail it — as with Concerts Under the Stars. The monthly live-music hoedown provides a cultural oasis in our Sargasso Sea of summer, offering up casual, Bic-flickin' outdoor performances by some of the Valley's best pop and rock bands at a very nice price.
With global warming shortening monsoon season and the urban heat island forcing storms out of central Phoenix, we've had to get creative in order to feed our storm-chasing fever. Until we're all carbon neutral, we'll head to the Burton Barr Library on Central Avenue to watch the monsoons unfold.

Take the elevator to the fifth floor of Will Bruder's architectural masterpiece. Walk past the computers and stacks until your nose presses against the glass facing north. To the left is the west side, to the right Camelback Mountain. From here, you can see 180 degrees of nature's fury and some of the best electrical storms this side of Twister. While everyone else is rushing home to avoid the storm, we'll revel in the flashes of light, whip-cracks of thunder and haze of a quick desert rain. Lightning really does strike twice. We've seen it.

The hepcat hair salon and bizarre boutique of stylist Tad Caldwell has something of an arty bent to it, as the funky follicle fortress also functions as a gonzo gallery of sorts for local photographers, painters, sculptors, and fashion designers. So it's only fitting that its ultra-eclectic entranceway resembles a piece of assemblage art writ large.

The surreal storefront of Way Cool stands out from its neighbors by boasting exotically disjointed metal work (including a curlicue jumble of electrical conduit and sheet metal) covering the front door and signage, while stickers from Valley bands and the trippy graf-style paintings of Joerael Elliot adorn the front windows.

There's also a ramp-like metal structure for skaters to pull plenty of tricks and get some air, and when the salon's open for business, a madcap mannequin covered in feathered boa and other freaky fashion sits in a wheelchair on the sidewalk.

In our automobile-infested metropolitan oasis, parking spots are hardly at a premium, and yet we circle the lot endlessly in search of that perfect space to rest our ride. We shop for a spot that meets our criteria for location, shade, safety, and accessibility, and are prideful when we acquire or forfeit a prime spot. You can't do better than the beautifully designed parking spots at the 24th Street and Camelback Starbucks. Here, a select collection of spaces are individually delineated by well-tended palm trees, dazzling botanical specimens by daylight and dramatically lit architectural columns by night. The trees provide a natural barrier from dings and dents, while your tires rest comfortably on a bed of cobblestone. Parking time is free but limited, so you'll have to share the wealth. Your jalopy deserves some pampering, and you could probably use some caffeine, so pull in to one of these parking gems and you'll hop out of your heap thinking you've just emerged from a Rolls-Royce.
This may sound like an award for a high school cheerleader, but we wanted to give a well-deserved nod to a smile that will brighten anyone's day (or night). When the sun starts setting, check out Dr. Jeff Mix's office on Central and you'll see a smirk unlike any other in town. Above the front entrance perches their glowing logo of two cherry red lips curled to reveal a pearly set. The backlit colored Plexiglas gleams, and the bright white teeth are adorned with a dazzling spark made of glowing white neon. This gorgeous grin has all the glitz of a Twizzler mouth on cocaine and we love it. And this smile won't age or get messed up with a round of collagen injections.
We've sat in more than a few courtrooms over the years (as observers, thankfully, not as defendants — at least most of the time), so we feel confident that we can fairly "judge" which guy or gal in those old-school black robes is the best around. And isn't it just our (and the community's) lousy luck that the gentleman we are selecting as our numero uno jurist has left the Maricopa County Superior Court bench after more than two decades for greener pastures? What a loss!

Here are a few words that come to mind when Ron Reinstein's name comes up: Compassionate, thoughtful, even-handed, funny, egalitarian. Reinstein has presided over more high-profile cases (most of them death-penalty homicide trials) than any other judge, though his judicial star may have shone most brightly when the powers that be inexplicably rotated him off the criminal bench, first to Family Court and later to Juvenile Court. There, finally out of the spotlight, Reinstein quickly distinguished himself as a go-to guy, the judge whom everyone wanted to appear before because of his attention to detail and always-courteous demeanor.

The courthouse is more than a little darker in his absence.

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