BritBox British Streaming is Here! • Willow and Thatch

BritBox has launched! Lets look at the costume dramas & historical period films on the new British television streaming service for Anglophiles in the US.

Source: BritBox British Streaming is Here! • Willow and Thatch

Here is a great list of programs on the new BritBox, thanks to Willow & Thatch for checking out the service.

Of course, I immediately signed up and then devoured the show above about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.  I’ll be reviewing it shortly.

If you’re looking for more British TV, thanks to BBC and ITV for making it possible for us poor folks from across the pond. We now have more opportunities to binge watch and ruin our health.

At $6.99 a month, you can’t go wrong. Devises vary and new apps, plus more programs are on the way.  I had no difficulty streaming on my computer or my Chrome Notebook, but could not stream on my Google TV.  Hopefully, as more apps and devices are added, we can indulge on more electronics.

Here are the FAQs.

The Shack (Movie 2017) – Guest Review by Bonnie Anne Pinard

Shack Although I had read the book when it first came out, I recalled only snippets when going in to see the film version of the best selling faith based novel by William P. Young. I have always loved novels that flesh out bible stories, but my favorite genre is fantasy. I have read tons of fantasy novels, and many Christian allegories….my favorite being the Narnia series by CS Lewis. The Shack, among other things, is a fantasy.

There was much controversy in the religious community about the novel when it first came out. Some religious leaders endorsed the book while others labeled it as heresy. The movie is garnering the same reaction.

The biggest controversy about The Shack is its portrayal of the Holy Trinity: The Father is presented as an African American woman, Jesus is written as a 30 something middle eastern male, and the Holy Spirit is represented by a young Asian woman. The reason for God appearing as a female to Mac, the main character in the story, is far less obvious in the film version than it was in the book—but in a nutshell, God appears as a woman to Mac because he experienced severe child abuse at the hands of his father and his image of a father is that of a violent, sadistic, bully… (it should be noted that God also appears to Mac as a wizened father figure, portrayed by the wonderful actor, Graham Greene).

In reading the book, I found The Shack’s imagining of the Trinity as three different characters of three different races an interesting and profound concept but I did not take it as a doctrinal point, just a story-telling devise to give a visual sense of the mysterious nature of God.

I enjoyed the book because of its delving into Mac’s inner life, as the Trinity begins to peel back the layers of the man’s memory and emotional pain from the greatest loss a parent can experience. This concept again, was engaging to me because I am fascinated by the human spirit….flaws and all. Everything the Trinity does is to bring Mac to a place where he can be healed of his deepest pain, and where he can finally forgive and love God.

I found the film engaging on its own merits due to the technical magic of CGI (though the effects could have been better accomplished with a bigger budget). I also truly enjoyed the wonderful performance of Octavia Spencer as “Papa”. The pacing of the film is a bit too slow, and from scene to scene, the film does not always flow, often feeling disjointed…as if the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit together. In reading the book I recall feeling a bit let down that there was not more of an emphasis on Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, but in the film, Jesus’ sacrifice is presented in a manner that clearly communicates the salvation message.

My biggest complaint about the film, however, is the casting of Sam Worthington in the role of Mac, who never rises to the challenge of communicating with his body, face, and emotions… his character’s inner conflicts. He is oddly flat and wooden, his eyes failing to register the searing pain of man who has suffered the tragedy that is at the heart of the film. There is no arc between his character in the tragic moments and in the conclusion of the story; same lack of facial emoting, same blank eyes and lack of real, messy tears. There is only the sameness of an actor who is best suited for action roles.

Despite my critique of a film that is in many ways flawed, I was deeply moved by its clumsy portrayal of an unusual story. I found myself in tears through many scenes because the film asks profound questions and deeply ponders what faith in God is and WHO God is. The movie did not change my own personal beliefs, it simply caused me to look a little deeper into my own walk with God; my disappointment in him, my sometimes anger at him, my often coldness toward him…and my inexhaustible need and love for a God I frequently do not comprehend.

The Shack raises more questions than it answers, and it does so through the author’s vivid imagining of a journey to forgiveness.

“That is one of the functions of art: to present what the narrow and desperately practical perspectives of real life exclude.”
― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature


For more information about the author, visit her Facebook Page at SwanSongBonnie.

New on Netflix – A Favorite


Netflix has some new movies, one of which is “Midnight in Paris” (2011)  I love it!  I laughed and cried.

For you author folks or time-travel wannabees, this is a great watch.  It’s a five kernel feast, at least for me.  It one best screenplay at the Oscars and Golden Globes, plus other awards. 93% on the Tomato meter.

Read my former review HERE.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Gil: Would you read it?

Ernest Hemingway: Your novel?

Gil: Yeah, it’s about 400 pages long, and I’m just looking for an opinion.

Ernest Hemingway: My opinion is I hate it.

Gil: Well you haven’t even read it yet.

Ernest Hemingway: If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.



Paul: Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.


Gertrude Stein: The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

Secrets of Great British Castles – Season 2

castlesUPDATE: 2/27/17 – Binge watched and absolutely wonderful!  I had a chance to visit Leeds Castle in 2011, and this episode revealed everything I didn’t know about the location and history.  Love this entire series!  Hopefully, #3 will come next year.

Netflix has added new episodes to this great series with historian Dan Jones.  Season 2 takes you to:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Cardiff Castle
  • York Castle
  • Leeds Castle
  • Lancaster Castle
  • Arundel Castle

If you missed Season 1, check out my review.  Great opportunity to visit these formidable fortresses that were places of kings, queens, and intrigue through Irish, English, and Scottish history.

Victoria (ITV 2015 and PBS 2016)

victoria23 Kernels

While researching my own English ancestry, I found this quote from the local newspapers.  It indicates the deep love England held for Victoria at her death in 1901.

“The news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Victoria has brought much grief to the streets of Salford. Strong men could scarce restrain their grief. whilst wives and mothers broke down completely.” 

One hundred and sixteen years later, our fascination with Victoria continues. In fact, let’s face it, we are fascinated by the English kings and queens. To feed our need for more, a new production simply entitled Victoria arrived from across the pond to entice the former British colonies. First shown on ITV in the United Kingdom in 2015, it has finally made its way to PBS Masterpiece Theater.  Woe to us Americans, who must wait months on end to view British television.

For the past few weeks, I have tuned in to see this new version based on the Queen’s life. Unfortunately, I do not share the name “Victoria” since my birth certificate only says “Vicki.”  A part of me always mourned that my parents chose not to give me the full Victoria when baptized. Oh well…enough of that tidbit.

Victoria, the Queen, appears to have captured the imagination of many. Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, The Young Victoria, which I previously reviewed, I find this version has a different slant to its main characters. Those of us who tuned out world history in high school are now running to Google to put in search terms for Victoria, Albert, and Lord Melbourne so we can read the real stories behind the lavish settings and costumes of this production. Beyond our own research, multiple articles have appeared online about the program and storyline to feed the frenzy. Everything from her marriage to Prince Albert to speculation about her sex life has ended up in the news.  Check out the list below.lord-m

So has this production met our expectations and given to us a satisfying period drama banquet? Since I occasionally stalk the period drama fanatics groups on Facebook, I have surprisingly met mixed reviews from viewers. I would say the majority are enjoying it but there are a few who have yawned from boredom.

On a positive note, women are swooning over Lord M and others are complaining about Albert’s annoying hair that keeps falling into his eyes.  What I find interesting about the Lord Melbourne craze, is that Rufus Sewell has been around for years starring in many productions both in the U.S. and U.K. Put him in a period costume, and the women are losing it over a middle-aged man. The love that Victoria supposedly nurtures for him in this version is by all accounts fiction since she wrote that she considered him more like a father figure. Nevertheless, a little eye candy for the ladies on screen never hurt anything.

Albert arrived on the scene, adding the intrigue of one cousin loving another cousin. Frankly, I cannot wrap my head around love with first cousins. Ever since my own made a sexual pass at me when I was twenty, the thought has somewhat turned me off. Nevertheless, these marriages were commonplace. Regardless of their family relationship, it became the love affair of Victoria’s reign, having given birth to nine children until his death that left her devastated. Not to mention the speculation regarding affairs she held later in life with Mr. Brown. If you are unfamiliar with that story, watch Mrs. Brown, the movie from 1997.

young-victoriaIn comparison to the movie version The Young Victoria and this Victoria, I honestly prefer the shorter versions to get on with the story. To add to the length of this particular production, we have the downstairs staff and their lives and love affairs, along with the upstairs life of the Queen and her court.  Of course, this is season one, and many more seasons are apparently to follow.

The sets and costumes are well done, and the lighting with candles throughout make it feel authentic in the time period. Victoria’s gowns are lavish as well as those by others, and the men are dressed in their finery and golden stitches that make you wish your boyfriend or husband would throw out his blue jeans. PBS posted a video regarding the making of Victoria and the set, which was built in an airport hangar in Yorkshire. You can view it on YouTube.  Pretty impressive.

Jenna Coleman comes across as a very immature, child-like queen playing with dolls, who eventually grows into her role as the monarch with the help of Lord Melbourne.  Albert,  played by Tom Hughes, is far different in personality, appearing inept when it comes to seducing women until he takes notes at a brothel. Frankly, I’ve not witnessed any award-winning performances by anyone yet because the scenes and dialogue do not provide the opportunity. And yes, I have become somewhat bored here and there. Perhaps, as the story continues, the acting will mature as their characters do.

On the other hand, Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria gave a much stronger performance alongside a more confident and capable Albert, played by Rupert Friend. I found this Albert to be more likable. The two portrayals of these historical figures are vastly different in each of these productions.

Regardless of whether you’ve yawned through the series on ITV/PBS or enjoyed it immensely, it serves its purpose for another period drama. As long as we crave these shows about kings and queens from England (occasionally sprinkled with a French monarch), hopefully, ITV, BBC, and whoever else will continue to make the productions to feed our addictions.

2017 will be a terribly busy year with more upcoming seasons of The Crown, Victoria, and the new White Princess on Starz. Let’s not forget Poldark and Outlander to add to that time-travel hangover, as well as a few more period movies hitting the big screens.

As mentioned above, here are the articles.

Victoria: Fact vs. Fiction – Lord Melbourne

Prince Albert: Is ITV Victoria Accurate?

Sex-Loving, Feminist Victoria is Not Your Mother’s Monarch