Friday, May 29, 2015

Let's talk about: Braveheart

Last Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the release of the movie Braveheart
When Doug told me that I was so surprised. 1995 doesn't feel that long ago to me. 
We decided to watch it over the weekend to celebrate its anniversary. 

Braveheart was nominated for a lot of Oscars that year. 
It won quite a few of them. 
That year it won Best picture, Best director, Best Cinematography, Best Effects, and Best Makeup. 

I remember the first time I watched this film that I was blown away. 
As you watch the movie, it is obvious why it won those awards. 
The story, while maybe not 100% historically accurate, is great. The music and visual landscapes are outstanding.
This movie is meant to make you feel something. And it does that. It does it well.

Gibson plays William Wallace, a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against English King Edward "Longshanks". 
As a young boy, William Wallace, lost family to the cause of trying to free Scotland. 
When he loses someone very important as an adult, he begins the revolt. 
 He is eventually assisted by Robert the Bruce (an ancestor of my husband!). It is interesting to note that 'Braveheart' was actually the nickname of Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace.

The Screenwriter for the film, Randall Wallace (no relation), came up with the idea for the film while visiting Edinburgh in 1983 when he came across a statue of William Wallace outside Edinburgh Castle. He had never heard of "Scotland's greatest hero" and was intrigued by the stories he was told about him. 
There was very little historical evidence to work with concerning William Wallace's life and Randall Wallace even noted that "even Churchill's definitive work 'A History of the English Speaking Peoples' observed in only a single line that virtually no factual material survives about the Scottish leader."
Because of the lack of information, Randall Wallace relied mostly on a 15th-century poem by the Scottish writer Henry the Minstrel while writing his story. He explained claims of the movie’s historical inaccuracy by saying that the script is only his dramatic interpretation.

Mel Gibson was directing and did not want to play William Wallace. William was supposed to be in his twenties and Mel was nearing 40. But he was told that the movie would not be backed financially if he did not play him. 

I read that Mel Gibson actually brought in members of the Wallace clan as extras and they are standing around him in opening scenes of the battles. I think that is really cool. 

I think that if you go into the movie knowing a little bit about the real history you will see the things that have been changed but you can still have a really enjoyable movie experience. 
I think that they took what they knew and made it what it needed to be at the time to really let us experience the urgency the Scottish were feeling for their independence. 
It is a movie that will make you feel. It is a movie that will inspire you, whether William Wallace really gave that great speech or not. 

(Here is a video of my favorite part of the movie. Do not watch if you have never seen it and do not want to have any spoilers. If you haven't seen the movie and don't plan to, this clip at least is worth your time.)

Be forewarned if you watch the movie that it is rated R for brutal medieval warfare. 
It is quite violent and intense. 

Here is the original trailer: 

*Have you seen Braveheart?
*Did you realize it was twenty years old? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Let's talk about: Colin O'Donoghue

Colin O'Donoghue was born January 26, 1981 in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. 
He attended Dundalk Grammar school and then moved on to the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin. 
At age 16, he went to Paris, France to learn French. 
His early career was split between theatre and television in Ireland and the UK. 
He won the Irish Film and Television award for Best New Talent in 2003 for his role of Norman in Home For Christmas.

"I was always kind of serious. It's nice to be able to play a complete bad boy who's the polar opposite to who I am."

The first thing I saw him in was The Tudors but my favorite role so far has been his portrayal of Captain Hook in the television show Once Upon A Time. 

"People have grown up with Peter Pan, so they're familiar with Captain Hook and they have an opinion about what he should be like. I grew up watching the movie versions. But how do you try to play Captain Hook better than, or as well as, Dustin Hoffman? You can't. It's perfection."

I disagree. Dustin did an amazing job as Hook, but I think Colin brings something to the character we have never seen before. His role on the show challenges our idea of who Captain Hook is. 
And he does it so well that Hook is one of my favorite characters!
(And he rocks the man-liner)

 Colin was also a guitarist for the band The Enemies
They formed in 2003 by Colin and his close friend Ronan McQuillan. 
They released their self-titled debut EP in 2011. 
They were commissioned by General Motors to record tracks for their Chevy Route 66 online campaign and have also worked on music for Coca-Cola's 5BY20 project. 
In May 2013, however, Colin announced he was leaving the band due to the filming schedule for Once Upon A Time. 

 Colin and his wife, Helen, have been together since they were 18.
They have one son, Evan James, born in August of 2013. 

"Not to belittle what we do as actors, but my wife Helen is a teacher, and she makes a real difference to kids. So it's unusual to see people thinking of us as something special."

Helping others is also an important part of Colin's life. He is very active with the Irish Homeless Aid and the Gary Kelly's Cancer Center, among other charities.

 His Roman Catholic religion is very important to him and he often wears a crucifix his wife gave him when he is not on screen. 

*Have you seen Colin in anything?
*Do you love him as Hook?

Let's talk about: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon

As you can see from the below pictures there was a lot I wanted to remember about this book.

The book is written by the current Countess of Carnarvon ( Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the 8th Countess) about the life of Almina Carnarvon and what Highclere Castle was like during her time there.
Almina was the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild which made her a very wealthy heiress. She married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. 
He was a very interesting man. He was very interested in books, travel, and exploring. 
He is most famous for having discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, along with Howard Carter. 

I found so much of this book so interesting. 
In chapter 2, she details Almina's arrival to Highclere castle. 
She states, "Highclere Castle was the family home of the Earls of Carnarvon, but the Castle was also the servants' Castle, and the family their family."
It was impossible to read this without thinking of Downton Abbey. 
This passage made me think of Mr. Carson on Downton and his special familial relationship with Mary and the pride he takes in the home. 

When Almina arrived and became the 5th Countess of Carnarvon she was only nineteen years old. 
She was a teenager!
From the book we learn that she was high spirited and sure of herself but also possibly a little overwhelmed and afraid. 
It talks about how she had gone from being a special child lavished with love from her mother and money from her father to realizing that here at Highclere she was not the "center of the universe". 
In fact, it mentions that everything in the home, the paintings, the furniture, do not belong to her or even to her husband but to the house itself.
(This also reminded me of Downton and how the Earl of Grantham has to worry about making sure the house survives after he is gone.)

Almina was very extravagant. She spent a LOT of money. This is detailed in the book. But she was also generous with her assets which helped her to not feel like a spoiled, irresponsible person as you were reading about all the money she spent on dinner parties and furniture.
On page 64 it reads, "Lord and Lady Carnarvon upheld a tradition that Highclere should be a 'househould of kindess'. 
And I believe it was. 

Lord Carnarvon was a man full of wanderlust and a need for distraction and diversion. I can relate to that so I felt somewhat akin to him throughout the story which helped to pull me in.
It tells us that every year from 1902, after Christmas, they would set out for Egypt. with only some exceptions. 

All of this was very interesting to read about but my favorite  parts of the book were the chapters that dealt with the first World War. 
Almina had an idea. 
She talked about it with Lord Carnarvon who wasn't as excited about it as she was but eventually agreed to the possibility. 
This was to turn Highclere into a hospital. 
(Yes. Just like on Downton!)
The first patients arrived in the middle of September. 
It says that she wanted it to be a therapeutic space where the library and the cooking were as important as the services of the medical personnel. 
It is reported that the first patients said they felt as if they had arrived in Paradise. 

Lady Carnarvon greeted everyone at the front door, made sure they got settled in, and then would immediately send telegrams to their families to let them know where they were and that they were safe. 
It says later that she gained so much respect with how hands on she was and how much she was learning that when she went to the authorities about a patient saying he was not yet well enough, they believed her. 

There was one interesting man mentioned in these chapters. 
He was a tall, broad man that regardless of his care was lame for the rest of his life and had to use a stick to get around. His name was Bates. 
It makes you wonder if Julian Fellowes knew about this guy, right?

There are so many instances of Lady Carnarvon going above and beyond what must have been expected from her. At one time rather than just send a wreath to a family that 's son was killed, she showed up to the funeral. 

I learned things I didn't know about the first world war and the people involved as well. 
I won't give it all away because you really should read this book!

My next favorite part was the detailing of how Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter came to be the ones that found the tomb of King Tut in 1922. 
There are some very sad events that happen around this time in the family but it is still so interesting to know more about these explorers and what they went through to make this special discovery. One that is still the only Ancient Egyptian royal burial site ever found intact. 

In conclusion, it made me even more excited to visit Highclere Castle. 
Not to just see the set of Downton Abbey. 
But also the home of incredible people that have done incredible things in real life. 
A place steeped in history!

The current Lady Carnarvon did a great job!
She has written a few other books about Highclere's family and I can't wait to read them as well!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Announcement: The Great Harry Potter Summer Read Along

I have a little book club with my daughters. It is just the three of us. 
We call ourselves the Bookworm Club. 
They have been getting more and more interested in my Harry Potter obsession (they are ages 9 and 5) and have asked that we read the books together.
We are only a few chapters away from being done with our current book so we are planning on starting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosophers' stone) this weekend. 
We will be reading through all seven books and in between each book they can watch the movie if they want to. 
Then when we are done with all 7 books and 8 movies we are going to have a fun little party. 
I thought it would be fun to issue a challenge to any of you who might want to read along. 

If you do, let me know in the comments! 
I will check back on here after we finish each book to let you know what they think of it and you can share your progress as well. 
We will be going slower than we would if it was just me reading by myself but I am still hoping to get through all of them by the end of the summer or at least by mid-fall. 
I hope you will revisit Harry's world with us!

 And while speaking of the books, here are two sets of UK covers that I absolutely love!

I think they are amazing.  I really love these white ones.

*When was the last time you read through the Harry Potter series? 
*Are you going to read it this year?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Let's talk about: Finding Neverland

I just finished re-watching the movie Finding Neverland for the first time in years. 
I'm pretty sure I cried just as much as I did the first time I saw it.

 Finding Neverland tells the story of Scottish writer J. M. Barrie's friendship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her sons George, Jack, Peter, and Michael. They inspired his classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up. 

The movie starts out with the failure of Barrie's play Little Mary. 

We are introduced to his cold marriage and the fact that his wife and he are very different. 
I love a particular scene in the movie when he and his wife go into their respective bedrooms. 
While the entry into her room is normal and nothing special, his glows with colors and music. 
I think that gives us a good idea of his personality and how strained their life together is. 
We then see his meeting of Sylvia and her sons and watch as that friendship grows and he becomes somewhat of a second father to the boys.

I loved the scene where they meet. 
Little Michael is under his bench and when he tells Mr. Barrie (played so, so well by Johnny Depp) that he is standing on his sleeve. His voice and the way he speaks is darling. 

We are also informed quickly of the fact that Peter is the most serious of the bunch. 
Barrie has a hard time convincing him, at first, to use his imagination.

  Their imaginative adventures together inspire him as he writes the play about boys who do not want to grow up, naming the main character Peter. 

The boys mother, Sylvia, is played so wonderfully by Kate Winslet. 
And each of the boys are perfectly cast. They are great actors, adorable, and make as big of an impression as the adults in the movie. 

I read that during this scene with the spoons, when the boys are laughing so hard, it is actually because Johnny Depp put a "fart machine" under Julie Christie's chair. 
She plays Sylvia's mother. 

Without giving too much of the movie away to those of you who may not have seen it, this movie will give you a lot of feels. 
If you are anything like me, the end will leave you sobbing. 
Freddie Highmore (who plays Peter) is amazing. The emotion he brought to the movie in this scene is incredible. 

I highly recommend this movie to anyone. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Let's talk about: Emma Watson

Emma Watson was born April 15, 1990 in Paris, France but to English parents (both lawyers). 
When she was five her family moved back to England, settling in Oxfordshire. 
She attended the Dragon school, a renowned prep school in Oxford until 2001 when she went on to Headington school, a private all-girls school until 2006. 
She graduated from Brown University with an AB in English Literature on May 25, 2014. 

From the age of six, Emma already knew she wanted to be an actress. 
She trained at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts. There she learned acting, dancing, and singing. After a few years she had played lead in many of their productions. 

When casting began for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1999, she was discovered by the casting agents through her Oxford theatre teacher. 
She had eight auditions before David Heyman told her that she would be cast as Hermione. 
 Emma won the Young Artist Award for Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film for her performance in this movie. 
After the release of the film she continued to play the role of Hermione Granger in the following Harry Potter films.

She has gone on to be in a handful of movies and there is no doubt that she has a promising career ahead of her. 

Emma has promoted education for girls and this included visits to Bangladesh and Zambia. 
In July of 2014 she was appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. 
In September of 2014 she delivered a speech at the UN headquarters in New York City to help launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe
HeForShe calls on men to advocate for gender equality.
The HeForShe feminism campaign is unlike the others out there. It struck a chord with many people and immediately there was support from many well known men tweeting pictures holding signs that said HeForShe (including Tom Hiddleston).

However it also resulted in her receiving threats which she said left her "raging... if they were trying to put me off of doing this work, it did the opposite."

At 25 years old she was placed as number 26 on the Time 100 list of the world's most influential people. 

Emma has stated that she writes in her journal every night and has at least 30 journals and that she is a major bookworm. 

As for my favorite Emma performances, they all start with the words "Harry Potter". 
I have seen her in a few of her other films and while she is always good in her roles none of them have come close to her portrayal of Hermione Granger to me. 
She plays Hermione exactly the way I imagined when I was reading each book for the first time. 

Although, I have to say I am SO excited to see her play my very favorite princess, Belle, in the upcoming live action movie of Beauty and the Beast. I think she was the perfect choice for this role!

I am really excited to see where Emma will go as she gets older. I have a feeling she will be one of those celebrities that we will still be talking about in 20 years and beyond.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Let's talk about: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

As I have mentioned before, I have recently become kind of obsessed with watching YouTube videos. 
I especially like the "book-tubers" but I have found quite a few others that I like to watch the occasional video from as well. 

I found Zoe Sugg's YouTube channel quite by accident. 
I was watching packing videos and came across one that she did on her channel, Zoella.
I immediately liked her.
The way she talked reminded me of Hermione.

(Side note: She was actually an extra in Harry Potter in Potions class but you don't see her. She was also an extra in Cranford.)
She is cute and seems sweet. 
From there I watched a few more of her videos. They are mostly make-up, fashion, and doing tags with her friends, boyfriend, and brother who also all have you tube channels. 
I don't watch all of her videos because, to be honest, most of them don't apply to me but I think she is adorable and I can see why people like her so much. 
She has over 8 million subscribers on YouTube and has been called "the most famous woman in Britain that you have never heard of."

When I saw that she had published a book I decided I wanted to check it out. 
I put it on hold at the library and had to wait a few months before I got my turn with it. 
While waiting, I kept hearing about the controversy surrounding the book. 
Apparently it came out that she had a ghostwriter. 
Zoe has said that the characters and story are all hers but that she did have help with the book. 
Going on Goodreads I noticed there were a lot of one star reviews but I also noticed a disturbing pattern.
A lot of the people giving the one star reviews hadn't even read the book and were giving it because 1) they don't like that a lot of YouTubers are writing books and 2) they don't like the fact that she had help with the book.
First of all, I do not think any book should be given any amount of stars that affect the way people will perceive it unless you have at least tried to read it. 
I have rated books that I haven't finished but I am rating the parts of the book that I have read. 
If you haven't even read a chapter of it, you shouldn't be rating it. 
Having said that, I went into reading this book with really low expectations. 
And because of that I was pleasantly surprised. 

It is definitely not award winning writing.
But it was a fun, quick read. 
For the most part. 

It is basically about a girl that has really bad panic attacks and lacks self-confidence. 
She decides to start an anonymous blog under the name of Girl Online so that she has a safe place to talk about her feelings and be herself without the fear of other people getting to know the real her.
She gathers a huge following. 
She ends up going to New York City (from Brighton, England) over Christmas break to get away from some really horrible things that have happened and meets Noah and very quickly falls in "like very much". 
Noah has a secret too and this leads to the drama in the story. 

There were parts that were cringe-worthy and unrealistic in a book that is supposed to be believable. 
But I still think it is an okay book. 
I ended up giving it 3 stars even though some of the book would have been less for me. 
I understood while reading it that the demographic for this book is not a woman in her thirties but rather teenage girls. 
And I know that if I had read this book when I was fifteen I would have absolutely loved it. 
So I upped the stars based on that.

*Have you heard of Zoella?
*What do you think of rating a book you haven't read?

Let's talk about: Downton Abbey, Season One, Episodes five, six, and seven

 Spoiler Warning

 In episode five the house is full of drama. 
Rumors are going around London about Lady Mary and her relationship with the Turkish diplomat, Kemal, and his death at Downton. 
Thomas and O' Brien are up to no good as usual. First with spreading the news about Mary and then trying to frame Bates for something he didn't do before he can tell anyone about seeing Thomas taking a bottle of wine from the pantry. 
Mrs. Patmore is becoming increasingly grumpy and hard on Daisy as her eyesight is failing. 
It's also time for the Downton Village Flower show.

My thoughts while watching: 
Why is it so important to Isobel that the Dowager Countess not win this year. 
Is she trying to make sure it is fair or is there more to it? 

 I felt so bad for Mary when she told her mother that she was a lost cause. 
But I loved how she broke into giggles during the salt incident at dinner and Matthew started laughing with her.

I also felt bad for Daisy when she was getting blamed by Mrs. Patmore. 

So many feels when Anna confessed her love to Bates. 
I love that when she said she was no lady he said, "You are to me."

There is a part of me that feels bad for Edith at this point. 
But then she walks around all smug whenever anything goes wrong for Mary and it just sucks up all my empathy for her. She and Mary really need to work their stuff out.

I was glad that the Dowager Countess did end up giving the Grantham cup to Mr. Mosley even though she had won it again. It was kind of her. And he looked very happy.

That ending!
You know it's about to get real.

Episode Six

Lady Sybil is becoming more political and attending the rallies when she can. 
Carson gets a letter about Mary from someone he knows in London and shares it with Cora. 
The Dowager Countess also gets a letter concerning the gossip and finally finds out the truth about the matter from Cora. 
Thomas and O' Brien accuse Bates of stealing and convince Daisy to help them. 

My thoughts: 

I was so frustrated when Daisy said she would do anything for Thomas. I can't help talking to the TV. 
I was so happy when she finally came clean to Mr. Carson about the whole thing. 

It was so exciting when Mary finally openly admits that she loves Matthew. 
And they KISS! 
But the course of love never does run smoothly in these shows. 

I laughed when Mrs. Hughes said, "I respect Mr. Bates but I'm not sure that I love him."

And I was also really glad when Mary found a way to get William to go home to visit his mom without telling him why. That was really kind to make sure that happened. 

Episode Seven

The last episode of the season starts with the family returning to Downton Abbey from their London house. Except for Mary. She has stayed behind with her aunt for a few weeks. 
While there she is visited by Mr. Napier. 
Mrs. Patmore and Anna go to London for the eye surgery. 
The news of the murder of the Archduke lets us know that war is coming soon. 
Thomas starts the process to join the Army Medical Corps. 
Sybil continues to help Gwen find a secretarial post. 
Cora finds out that she is pregnant.
William's mother has died and he is now back at Downton. 

My thoughts: 

I was really glad that Mr. Napier visited Mary to tell her the truth. 
I understand Edith is not fond of Mary and that they have major issues. 
But I couldn't believe she would really do that to her sister and family. 
That girl has let her envy get the best of her.
And when confronted about the letter, she was really mean about it.

I love it when Lord Grantham does things that show how kind he really is- like sending Mrs. Patmore to London to help with her eyesight. 

It was so frustrating when Matthew and Mary fought under the tree. 
Did anyone else just want to yell, "Just tell him you love him!!"

I loved the scene when Mr. Carson was practicing using the telephone and the operator started talking to him. It was so funny.

It was such a happy moment when Cora told her husband that she was pregnant. 
She looked so happy. 
And then the unthinkable happened. 
O' Brien is despicable. 
I know she stopped for a minute, thinking twice about what she was doing, but it was too late. 
Her hatred and mean spirit have taken her somewhere she will never recover from no matter how much guilt she feels. 
When Lord Grantham and Mr. Bates are talking about it and Lord Grantham starts crying and tells Mr. Bates that it was a boy. So heartbreaking.

I know Thomas is a jerk. 
But even so I didn't expect his reaction to the baby dying. 
I was such a fan of William after Thomas made his horrible comments and William didn't take it sitting down.

The episode ended with the garden party. 
I thought it was really cute when Sybil, Tom, and Gwen did the little group hug when they found out about Gwen's job. 

And then Mary... I understand why you want to get back at Edith. But you didn't need to involve that poor man. Not nice. 

I was so glad when Thomas turned in his notice. I hoped we wouldn't see him again, but I knew that would be too good to be true.

I really wanted to shake Mary and Matthew and make them tell each other the truth so he wouldn't leave. 
But I loved the moment between Mr. Carson and Mary when he was the one to come comfort her. 

Of course the season ended with the announcement that the war had begun.
We know that the next season will bring much heartache and drama with that news. 

*What are your thoughts on these episodes?
*Did you wish you were the one to punch Thomas? 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Let's talk about: Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons are a British band from London, England. 
They formed in 2007. 
They are Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, drums), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboard and piano, synthesizer), Winston Marshall (vocals, electric guitar, and banjo), and Ted Dwane (vocals, bass guitar, and double bass). 

Their music falls somewhere between rock and folk. 
Doug and I first heard them a few years ago and we both instantly fell in love with their sound and most of all, their lyrics. 

 Their first album, Sigh No More, was released in 2009 followed by Babel in 2012. 
They have recently released another album, Wilder Mind, however it doesn't really have the same vibe to it so we haven't purchased that one. 
They also have two live albums that I have not heard. 
Sigh No More made it to number two on the UK Albums chart and into the Billboard 200 in the US. 
Both Babel and Wilder Mind debuted at number one in the UK and the US.

 They have won many music awards. 
Sigh No More got them the Brit Award for Best British Album in 2011. 
They also won the Grammy's Album of the Year. 
They won the Brit Award Best British Group in 2013.

One of the reasons I love them so much is that their lyrics are amazing. 
Almost every song has a message that really speaks to me. 
They have stated that much of their lyrical content has a strong literary influence. 
The first album even gets its title from William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. 
The song "Sigh No More" includes lines from the play as well. 
"Roll Away Your Stone" is inspired by Macbeth
"The Cave" includes references to The Odyssey
"Timshel" is inspired by John Steinbeck's East of Eden and "Dust Bowl Dance" is inspired by The Grapes of Wrath, also by Steinbeck. 

I find listening to most of their songs either relaxes me or lights a fire within me. 
Two things I really love to get from music. 
I also love that they are really talented with each of them singing and playing multiple instruments. 
As well as writing their own music. 

I really am not that into going to big concerts anymore.
 I would much rather go to a small venue where you sit and listen to a live band. 
But if they ever come near me again, I will be there!

These are my three favorite Mumford and Sons songs: 

Awake My Soul:

Hopeless Wanderer:


* Have you listened to Mumford and Sons before?
*Do you have a favorite Mumford and Sons song?