“Gone Girl” Film Review

Based upon Gillian Flynn’s best-novel of the same name, “Gone Girl” tells the story of Amy Elliot Dunne, whose disappearance puts her shifty husband, Nick, in the hot seat with both the police and the media. Following his 2011 adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, director David Fincher brings his usual perfectionist style to this seemingly melodramatic tale.

gonegirlAdding “Gone Girl” to a filmography that includes the likes of “Dragon Tattoo,” “Seven,” and “Zodiac,” it is safe to assume that Fincher is drawn to darker projects. And his visual style caters to the tone and atmosphere of these despairing affairs. Yet, “Gone Girl” is probably the funniest movie Fincher has made. Judging from the brief synopsis above, there should be nothing funny about “Gone Girl” at all. Yet the two-and-a-half hour film is filled with comedy—most of it stealthy and sneaky, but also a lot of it outright. This is because, at its best, “Gone Girl” is a satire of several institutions, namely the endless media cycle and marriage.

Headliner Ben Affleck and Rosemund Pike, who play Nick and Amy Dunne respectively, give two incredible performances. Affleck, who looks suspiciously like the infamous wife-killer Scott Peterson, brings the necessary amount of humanity to his role. It is undoubtedly one of the best performances of his career. But, it is Pike who steals the show as Amy. Without giving away too many spoilers, she is the reason to see “Gone Girl.” She gives an award-winner caliber performance.

Both fans of the novel and newcomers to the material will enjoy “Gone Girl.” In adapting her own novel for the screen, Flynn does a fine job of staying close to the great source material, but also making necessary changes to help the story flow better on screen. With “Gone Girl,” it seems award season has come early this year. The movie is brilliantly filmed, funny, engaging, and impressively acted. It is definitely one of the best pictures of the year.

If you loved the book . . . Successful Book to Movie Adaptations

If you loved the book. . .

Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher’s latest masterpiece is a gritty, gruesome thriller. Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestseller and screenplay, Fincher’s adaptation is a brilliant accompaniment to the book. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike bring Nick and Amy’s volatile relationship to perfect fruition in the film. Every pivotal scene is included in the adaptation and pays homage to the novel. Beware though, this movie is not for the faint of heart.
Gone Girl Trailer

The Help (2011)
The film takes the viewer into the social climate of Mississippi in the 1960s. It is a glance into a tumultuous era in America’s past. Viewers will laugh, cheer and cry during the movie. And yes, THE pie scene is included in the film.
The Help Trailer

Atonement (2007)
The film adaptation is an homage to the beauty of the European countryside juxtaposed with the violence and grit of World War II. Ian McEwan’s tale of fated love and wartime horror transformed into a wonderful film nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Atonement Trailer

A Time to Kill (1996)
The cast alone – Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey – is reason to view this 1993 adaptation of John Grisham’s book. It is a thrilling ride into the judicial system and the politics often associated with justice. Matthew McConaughey gives his all in his portrayal of a young, Mississippi lawyer who fights for the innocent against all odds.
A Time to Kill Trailer

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Every line and scene you loved in the book is included in the film. Ansel Elgort is a newcomer, but he is the perfect Gus. Grab some tissues, it follows the book perfectly – both for the best and the worst.
The Fault In Our Stars Trailer

Romeo & Juliet (2013)
If you are a fan of Shakespeare, this is the Romeo & Juliet film for you. The film follows the play’s language perfectly and was even shot in Verona. It’s just the way Shakespeare would have wanted it, or so we imagine.
Romeo & Juliet Trailer

Kids These Days: an album review

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By Maddie Davis

On Sept. 9, folk band Judah + The Lion released their latest album, Kids These Days. The trio’s uplifting harmonies and nostalgic lyrics leave listeners feeling energized, but also refreshed by the truth in their words. Kids These Days is the band’s first full-length album and they will be on tour during the fall of 2014.

The band’s unique sound stems from their various roots. Judah Akers, lead singer and guitarist, is from Nashville, TN. Brian Macdonald plays mandolin and hails from the Windy City, while Nate Zuercher, the band’s banjo player, was raised in Colorado. Kids These Days features eclectic rhythms as the band brings their different musical influences together.

The album kicks off with the upbeat track ‘Kickin’ da Leaves’, which begins with a three-part a capella moment followed by a banjo solo. This introduction to the album will make you want to kick off your shoes and dance around the living room. Other songs like ‘Twenty-Somethings’ and ‘Everything Changes’ are slower and give their insight on growing.

‘Rich Kids’, one of the most downloaded tracks on the album according to iTunes, offers wisdom beyond the band members’ years. The song suggests that being rich does not equate to having lots of money, but rather wealth from the simple joys in life.

Overall, the album has a beautiful balance of fast, slow, fun and serious songs. The album gives a glimpse into how Akers, Macdonald, and Zuercher experience the world. Ultimately, I believe this album can lyrically resonate with the 20-something generation, echoing the thoughts many of us have about living life to the fullest, trying to find our place, and loving those around us. Each song has depth and the instrumental breaks bring a captivating tone to the set. Kids These Days can be listened to on Spotify, purchased on iTunes, or found in local music stores.

Judah + The Lion will be at Workplay in Birmingham, Alabama on December 5th. The show starts at 8pm and the doors open at 6:30pm.

In an interview with Billboard, Macdonald commented on the fall tour saying, “This may or may not include a lot of dancing, a lot of crowd participation, rapping, and maybe even some flips if you’re lucky.”

Visit www.judahandthelion.com/ to get their full fall tour schedule.

Tickets can be purchased through the venue for $10 or on their website at www.workplay.com/purchase-ticket/

Patry Romero, from Spain, Adapts to U.S. Life

Patry Romero, from Spain, poses at school in Birmingham.
Patricia Romero made her first trip to the United States in 2010. She stayed for almost a year, and then returned in August 2013 and has been here since. Her hometown is Avila, Spain, which is about an hour car ride from the capital city of Madrid. She ended up in Birmingham because of a study abroad opportunity through her work. She now takes classes as well as teaches upper level classes at Samford University.

“Avila is a very small town, so you can walk everywhere, and here you cannot,” Romero said of the biggest differences between Birmingham and her native city. She also cited larger portion sizes for foods in the U.S., especially beverages and sides.

She said that people in the Birmingham area have helped her a lot, especially in their patience as she learned English. She has also found a community of other international visitors to Birmingham. She has friends from many different Latin American countries as well as parts of Asia with whom she has bonded.

Learning English has been difficult, but the U.S. accent was the hardest part for Romero. She took English for seven years in school, and she said it was frustrating to be able to understand a television show but unable to understand people talking to her. She said that she still prefers to speak Spanish when she can.

She said that in Spain, people believe “the typical things” about Americans.

“They eat hamburgers and hot dogs all the time and people are fat. Oh and of course you receive a gun when you open a bank account in Alabama,” she said for example. She said the people know about Alabama due to the song and movie “Sweet Home Alabama” and also “Forrest Gump.”

After completing her study abroad program, Romero will be returning to Spain. She will forever be grateful for the experience she gained during her stays in the States.

Fashion Forward: Advice from Birmingham stylist Megan LaRussa Chenoweth

(Image by Clarence Barbour)

By: Taylor Pigman

“I always knew I wanted to work in fashion. I was known throughout college and high school as the fashion girl,” Birmingham stylist Megan LaRussa Chenoweth said.

Owner of Southern Femme, Chenoweth is a stylist who works on a personal level with her clients. She styles and writes the fashion section of the Birmingham Magazine and has a recurring fashion segment on Fox 6 every month.

“I love meeting new people, I love helping women feel their best and I love fashion. It’s combining all these things I love,” Chenoweth said.

From a young age, Chenoweth loved fashion. Shopping trips to Atlanta with her mom, working in retail at Saks Fifth Avenue and a summer spent studying fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City only made Chenoweth’s love of fashion grow stronger.

However, it was a family wedding, in which Chenoweth was asked to style the women in her family, that led her to where she is now.

“I took all of them shopping and everybody looked fabulous and I thought, ‘This is really fun,’” Chenoweth said. “It just kind of fell into my lap and I thought, ‘OK, this is my passion.’”

Being a stylist, Chenoweth is around fashion all day long. Over the years, she has found designers whose work she loves and whose collections draw her in. Chenoweth counts Marc Jacobs, Lela Rose, Rebecca Taylor and Céline among some of her favorite designers.

“I’ve always loved that Marc Jacobs was always about being unique and different,” said Chenoweth.

For day-to-day pieces, she loves Lela Rose and Rebecca Taylor for their feminine, yet edgy looks.

However, being a stylist, Chenoweth has also seen many fashion trends come and go. As for the one trend she has never liked? Culottes.

“I hated them the first time when I was in college, they were the gaucho culottes that everybody wore and they were like sweatpants and they’re just unflattering on everybody,” Chenoweth said.

So ladies, when choosing new pieces for the fall, Chenoweth’s advice would be to avoid the culottes and go for a great pair of dark wash jeans or cords.

Be sure to check out Megan’s website at www.southernfemme.com. You can also see her work in the current issue of Birmingham Magazine.

Megan’s top pieces for every woman’s wardrobe:

· Dark Wash Jeans: Find a style or fit that you love. Jeans are so easy to dress up or down. “Every woman needs a great pair of pure indigo dark wash jeans that flatters her silhouette,” Chenoweth said.

· Blazer or Cardigan: Whether you prefer a blazer or cardigan, either piece can easily pull an outfit together. “Whatever your style may be, just make sure they’re tailored to you.”

· Silk Blouse: Chenoweth suggests C. Wonder and Equipment for fun and polished pieces. “It’s something you could wear out, dress it up with heels, tucked into a pencil skirt with a cardigan. It’s something you can wear a million ways,” Chenoweth said.

· Nude Pumps: Nude pumps help elongate your legs. “Go for a color that matches your skin tone to give the illusion of longer legs,” Chenoweth said.

· Chic Flats or Sandals: For spring and summer choose a polished sandal or a polished, cute ballet flat or loafer for fall and winter. “I see so many women wearing a clog or a flip flop and it just ruins the whole outfit; it’s not polished at all,” Chenoweth said.

Four Things You Shouldn’t Say To Homeless People

Birmingham’s streets are home to a number of homeless people. Each day, hundreds of people walk past this group of people. Sometimes, these people will take the time to stop and say something to a homeless person. However, often, what people say to the homeless is often insulting to them. Here are a couple things not to say to a homeless person.

Q: Why don’t you go to a shelter?
Birmingham emergency shelters are overflowing. There is not enough room in the shelters to house all of the homeless individuals. In Birmingham, there is only one women’s shelter that is open year-round 24/7. Most shelters close their doors by dusk. If you’re a homeless individual on the streets and you aren’t at a shelter by that time, the chance finding a shelter to take you in for the night is close to none.

Q: It’s your own fault that you’re homeless.
America’s “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” philosophy generally doesn’t work. A large percentage of the U.S. population lives paycheck-to-paycheck. If they miss work due to health or family reasons or lose their jobs altogether, they could find themselves homeless on the street in a matter of weeks.

Q: Here’s five dollars. Please don’t use it to buy drugs.
Yes, homeless people use drugs. Yes, they drink alcohol and smoke tobacco. At the same time, so do many other Americans. Homeless people find it insulting for you to single them out as the only users of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products. When given the choice between buying a meal and buying drugs or alcohol, most homeless people will choose a meal. This isn’t true for all homeless people, but it is true for most of them.

Q: Why don’t you just go get a job?
Have you looked at the job market lately? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is at 6.2 percent, and Alabama’s unemployment rate is at 7.0 percent. On top of this, many job applications require a permanent address and/or social security number. Homeless people don’t have a permanent address, and may not know their social security number.

October Means Think Pink

October means one thing: it’s time to think pink!

Why should you join in the October festivities aimed at fighting breast cancer?

According to breastcancer.org, one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and more than 2,000 men are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. For a disease that the world hears so much about and seems to work so actively to cure, the statistics are staggering and the disease far too common. It strikes a chord with many.

It is shocking to consider the number of women around the world who have faced this diagnosis. When October rolls around each year, it comes to mean more than simply wearing pink or putting a sticker on the back of the car.

October is a time to remember those who have been touched by the disease and to do everything our power to prevent this disease from taking any more lives.

How, then, can we make a difference? Awareness of the disease is the best place to start. Early detection is crucial and greatly increases chances of the cancer being treated successfully. Spread the word; encourage friends to create a plan for regular exams and early detection.

For more information about breast cancer, prevention and how to donate to the cause, visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month.

Alabama Adventures: High Ropes in the Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest

By Sydney Cromwell

When life is feeling stale and you need a break in your routine, the Magic City delivers. From 14,000 feet in the air to hundreds of feet underground, we found the best adventures in the Birmingham area. This is the first in a six-part series.

High Ropes

Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest
Red Mountain Park, 2011 Frankfurt Dr.
$50 per person (two hours)
(205) 913-7899

Hidden in the trees of Red Mountain Park is a series of ropes, cables and wooden planks that create both a mental and physical challenge. The Hugh Kaul Beanstalk Forest consists of 13 tree platforms, the highest sitting over 60 feet off the ground, with 20 obstacles spanning the space in between.
These challenges include a slack-line, rope bridges, a climbing wall and a variety of other things to crawl, climb, jump or balance upon. Meagan Odom, the adventure operations and service manager, said one of the most popular parts is the “surfboard,” a hanging plank that people can ride back and forth between two platforms.
Odom said the course was built in May 2013 to accommodate growing interest in the outdoors in Birmingham and “to encourage a bunch of shapes, sizes and ages to get up and challenge themselves in a safe way.” Since then, she has seen hundreds of children and adults take on the Beanstalk Forest.
“I like that everybody does it differently,” Odom said. “You’ll see a six-year-old kid and a 32-year-old man do the same event within the same two hours and it will not look like the same event.”
One of the other advantages of the course, Odom said, is that people can choose which challenges they want to try. Some want to experience every obstacle, and others have fun just trying two or three. Both of those approaches are encouraged.
For those who want multiple adventures in one day, the park also has a zipline that is visible from the Beanstalk Forest, a climbing wall under construction and miles of hiking trails. Odom said Red Mountain Park’s adventure area “does nothing but grow.”