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If you can take the heat 

Stay out of the theater

Forget climate control, Atlanta became one big outdoor cinema during June. I love movies under the stars -- pop your own corn, bring your own beverages, slather on the bug repellent. Heck, you can even go all Chastain Park-style and set up a table with wine, cheese and candlelight. Every Tuesday, some friends and I visit the drive-in with lawn chairs and coolers and enjoy the latest release. Last time it was Nacho Libre, the Jack Black as Mexican wrestler flick. I have to agree with the many critics who said the film didn't live up to its potential, but it got many drive-invaders giggling the whole way through. Just about anything is better at the drive-in. I still have fond memories of 2004's stinker, Troy. We made so many smart-ass comments we could barely hear the dialogue because of our own laughter.

click to enlarge TORI TORI TORI!: Meghan Coffee at Screen on the Green
  • TORI TORI TORI!: Meghan Coffee at Screen on the Green

Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre

Location: On Moreland Avenue, south of Little Five Points and East Atlanta Village.

Movies: First-run features.

Bring: Chairs (or sit in your car), radio (the audio is broadcast on FM, or AM for that tinny, retro drive-in sound) or you can use your car stereo. Don't worry, your battery will last two hours easily. If not, the theater has a jump system for just such emergencies!

Time: There are two movies on each of the six screens, beginning at dark. No rain checks.

Food: Popcorn, candy, ice cream, pretzels and nachos in addition to not-recommended burgers, hot dogs and corndogs.

People: Other than the Tuesday night invaders, most people sit in their cars, so it's not really a social event.

Parking: Duh -- it's a drive-in.

Cost: At $6 a head, it's rare to feel you didn't get your money's worth.

See www.starlightdrivein.com for more.

On Wednesday, I went to Fifth Street for a series put together to promote the new businesses in the area. Inside Man -- a Spike Lee Joint I had somehow missed -- is a bank-heist flick where you spend the entire film trying to figure out how the not-so-bad guys are going to get away with it. Denzel Washington delivers some fun zingers and Clive Owen plays a so-cool-he's-cold bank robber.

Flicks on Fifth

Location: On Fifth Street, between Spring and Williams streets.

Movies: Second-run features you just missed at the theater.

click to enlarge AT SCREEN ON THE GREEN: "Dude, can you see me now? I'm, like, waving my arm."
  • AT SCREEN ON THE GREEN: "Dude, can you see me now? I'm, like, waving my arm."

Bring: Chairs -- the pavement isn't conducive to blankets. There are a few patio tables reserved for restaurant guests if you want to enjoy dinner and a movie simultaneously.

Time: Wednesdays in July at 9 p.m., rain or shine, but get there by 8:30 for a decent spot. (There is no movie July 5 because of the holiday.)

Food: In addition to free popcorn (as long as supplies last), the street is lined with restaurants: Asian, barbecue (I wouldn't recommend the chopped pork sandwich at 5th Street Ribs N Blues, though the ribs looked good), burritos, pizza, hot dogs, gourmet chocolate, ice cream and the slightly more upscale Globe restaurant and bar.

People: Lots of young faces thanks to Georgia Tech across the bridge.

Parking: There are several streets with free spots within a block or three, but you can cough up $5 to any of the lots within a block. The North Avenue MARTA Station is also within walking distance.

Cost: Free.

See www.flickson5th.com for more.

Thursday it was Piedmont Park for the final Screen on the Green flick. The festival is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies so you get classic fare like Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. No, not 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp. Willie Wonka is the 1971 version with the unbeatable Gene Wilder in the lead role. If only Tim Burton had made a sequel rather than a remake.

The size of the crowds that show up for this series is astounding. You can't find parking within half a mile, and you have to get there at least an hour early to stake out prime real estate. You also have to be child-tolerant as the little buggers run amok, especially just outside the crowd where it's a challenge to avoid trampling on them as you look for your friends while dodging Frisbees and soccer balls.

But the park features a massive screen and has shown some fun flicks. In addition to the classic films, this year the series featured live music. Last week it was Meghan Coffee, a very Tori Amos kind of sound -- sometimes lilting vocals, piano, similar themes to Amos. There's no avoiding the comparison. It's not bad, it's just ... familiar. If that sounds good, check out the band online at www.meghancoffee.com.

click to enlarge DONNIE MCCORMICK: As worn and colorful as Northside Tavern itself
  • DONNIE MCCORMICK: As worn and colorful as Northside Tavern itself

As if that weren't enough entertainment at Piedmont Park, it also hosted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Saturday. Despite countless hours of NPR drilled into me at a job a few years back, I can't tell Mozart from Mendelssohn. Fortunately, the orchestra's site lists the program for each performance. It will play various parks around town in July, so fly your classic freak flag for free by visiting www.atlantasymphony.org.

Northside Tavern has a fresh coat of paint on the walls and floor, thanks to a couple of movies that have used the joint as a location for filming recently. But no amount of lipstick can hide the crow's feet and gray hairs this place has earned. The same could be said for Friday's headliner, Donnie McCormick & Friends. Donnie has been around the block more times than a Third Street hooker and lived to tell about it, though sometimes only barely. Such a weathered man has the life experiences, as well as music experience, to play some mean blues. When he plays Northside, old friends and family show up and make the rest of us feel like welcome guests at someone else's family reunion. As charming and talented as Donnie is, he gets by with a little help from his Friends. They laid down blues and boogie, noodling off into jammy jazz territory from time to time, and threw in some rap just to make sure they'd covered everything. My favorite moment may have been an uptempo cover of Gershwin's "Summertime." I think only Janis Joplin has done a better version. A fine show, though I was disappointed Donnie hadn't played his signature instrument, a chicken coop adorned with horns and cowbells and other junky bits, by the time I stumbled out around 2 a.m. Ah, well, there's always next time.

scene@creativeloafing.com

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