Best Budget Movie Theater 2011 | Pollack Tempe Cinemas | People & Places | Phoenix
There is only one way to describe the lobby of Pollack Tempe Cinemas: jacked-up. Michael Pollack (you might recognize his name, since it's on practically every strip mall from here to Tucson) has a big, odd collection of movie memorabilia and life-size figures, and it's on display for all to see. If you can get past it, you'll also get to see not-quite-new-releases at bargain prices — just $3, and $2 on Tuesdays. You can't beat that. Be sure to bring cash, because Pollack Tempe Cinemas doesn't take plastic and their ATM doesn't always work. But the A/C's cranked low, the seats are comfy, and you can't see Pollack's collection from the theater, just a nice, entertaining movie.
From the rooms named after famous former guests like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart to the Hollywood-style stars embedded in the exterior sidewalk, the Hotel San Carlos is proud of its past. But these days, the 83-year-old landmark in downtown Phoenix is probably best known for the various guests who may have checked out — but never really left. Yes, this hotel is a hotbed of haunted apparitions, including the ghost of a heartbroken young woman who jumped (or was pushed) from the roof while dressed in a full evening gown mere weeks after the grand opening. Then there's the basement, which features water wells dating back to 1874, when the site was home to Phoenix's first school house (and supposedly a sacred Native American watering hole before that). Which might explain why many guests report hearing the sounds of children playing in the basement, or even creepier, their screams echoing out of the well shafts.
The flicks that Dr. Zombie screens at his occasional Movie Lab of Terror aren't actually scary. It's tough to get terrified by old-school movies like The Brain That Wouldn't Die, The Evil Brain from Outer Space, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians when we live in an era of ultra-dark, violent and disturbing cinema. But modern horror is rarely as much fun as the B-movie stuff, and Dr. Zombie taps into the rich tradition of Elvira, Vampira, and Morgus the Magnificent as he showcases his titles with an over-the-top, campy glee. He boasts a lot about his plans for world domination, but his reality is far less sinister, tapping into a time when scary movies were more about suspending disbelief and having a real killer, ghoulish time.

Best Place to Find New(ish) Homes with Basements

Mesa's Grove District

Here in the land of endless suburban sprawl, you can find pretty much any style of home, from traditional adobe to super-sleek glass and steel. That said, there's one staple of suburban living that is darn near impossible to find in the Valley of the Sun: homes with basements.

They do exist, if you know where to look.

Mesa's Grove District is a hot spot for basement homes here in the Valley. Not only is the fertile, irrigated soil in these former citrus fields a little softer, but the large Mormon and Catholic populations mean (in the case of the former) generally larger families, who are also encouraged by church leaders to stockpile large quantities of food in case of emergencies. No wonder longtime Mesa realtor Charlie Randall says a home with a basement "sells twice as fast" in this 'hood.

Francis Lazaro is one of those fortunate few who don't have to endure the usual 9-to-5 grind to make his living. He spends most of his daytime hours catching some winks, in fact, probably because the filmmaker spends most evenings at local clubs recording footage of DJs, followed by all-night editing sessions crafting energetic videos. Check out the Vimeo page for his production company, Pheosia Films, and witness Lazaro's genius editing, which he envisions while at gigs and rushes home to start splicing. "I work fast and have all these ideas fresh in my head," he says. "When I'm filming, I'm already thinking about what's gonna be pimp. I gotta get back and get cracking." The method to his madness is paying off, big-time. Promoters have his number on speed dial. Nationally known DJs like Skrillex request his services when they come to town. He even says he's got a record label deal in the works. When we start seeing Lazaro's work on MTV, we can always say we knew him way back when.

Most people who want a glimpse into futurist Paolo Soleri's vision hoof it north an hour to his Arcosanti, when a good feel for the guy is available right here in town.

Soleri lived and worked in Paradise Valley from the 1950s on (not far from Taliesin West, where he studied). Today, his disciples are still hard at work, casting the bells that fuel his now-obviously futile passions.

Located on the grounds of Cosanti, the "Earth House" is billed as the "original underground house." We're not so sure about that (what about the cavemen?) — but we do know the partially submerged building is considered a fine example of underground house construction in the Valley. Built in the mid-'50s, it looks a lot like the Flintstones' house — but with lower A/C bills.

To see more photos of the Earth House, visit

When Robbie Pfeffer started Tempe Starving Artist a little less than two years ago, he had no idea his little 'zine would last beyond the first issue. But Pfeffer, who started TSA just to entertain himself and his friends, has watched it grow from a dinky, photocopied pamphlet to a thick booklet with color covers and advertisements from local businesses. Apparently, people were starved for some quirky, independent coverage of local music and art, and that's what TSA gives them. There are crisp reproductions of photographs, paintings, and drawings by local artists like Scott Bowen, Jamie Fontana, and Sentrock, as well as original poetry and fiction from Valley residents, and slews of interviews with bands, both local (Peachcake, Boys and Frogs) and national (Busdriver, No Age). Now, Pfeffer's expanding his indie empire by promoting shows at The Fixx, the Tempe coffee shop he manages. In fact, he took a summer hiatus from printing TSA to focus on live shows (though new issues were still available online). Now that the college kids are back in school, we can only imagine how much more TSA will grow.
The ladies behind PoolBoy Magazine, a.k.a. Phoenix's newest (only?) hipster porn rag, say they joined forces because they wanted to give women something fun, classy, and local to read in public places. After a year of blogging, raising awareness, and hunting for the right male candidates — male, mid 20s, early 30s, good-looking, but also normal, and, of course, well-endowed — they released their first edition. The glossy 'zine has interviews with local scenesters, girly health information, a few columns, and college-age guys who sheepishly pose nude and answer a few survey-type questions. The PoolBoy team sold more than a few copies online and through local indie shops for $8 and says plans for the second edition are in the works. In the meantime, the ladies encourage all their readers to check out the large doses of pleasure in their small-time package, er, publication.
If the diminishing interest in radio stations, the fallow state of the recording industry, and the death of CD emporiums both big (Tower Records, Sam Goody) and small (Eastside Records) aren't enough indication that the music biz has forever changed thanks to the web, take a gander at the ever-growing prominence of the audio blogosphere. This online taste-making brigade, particularly dance-music bloggers, also has the habit of plucking relative unknowns from obscurity and crowning them the next big thing. On the local level, one of the more prominent EDM anointers is the duo of Chad Birt and Andrew Hood, better known as The Get Downnn. Rabid fans of all things electronica, the 20-something hipster DJs regularly dole out embedded MP3s, streaming audio, and YouTube clips of unknown and outstanding dance music artists from around Phoenix and throughout the world. On any given day, Birt and Hood will pimp out choice tracks from French electro acts like Yelle and Justice, fierce-sounding dubstep from such Valley talents as Liquid Stranger and Sluggo, or killer cuts by hipster act At Dawn We Rage. Their mission is simple: "If you can dance to it, we'll cover it, man. We want to post your music. We want to jam with you." Word.
Don't get us wrong — local blogs like Electric Mustache and So Much Silence kill it, but in terms of pure bonkers passion, Dave Murrow, the brains behind Waved Rumor and garage-pop band Dfactor, blows everyone else away. He covers it all — punk, garage, classic rock — with a zealous glee, riffing on everything from Paul McCartney setlists to blatant Bob Pollard worship to Phoenix venue openings and closings. Murrow's blog isn't the prettiest-looking thing (though those American Apparel banner ads don't hurt), but Murrow's overwhelming enthusiasm for rock 'n' roll is contagious, and his earnestness is a truly inspiring thing.

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