Tag Archive: Tom Cullen


Review by C.J. Bunce

One of the criticisms so far into the third trilogy of Star Wars movies (the third and finale episode, The Rise of Skywalker, is due out this December) is not making the most of the original cast.  This seems to go double with fan expectations for Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.  This is not some fault of fandom, it’s how Lucasfilm prepped its fans with great futures for Skywalker and his family, delivered via Timothy Zahn’s original sequel trilogy and then decades of brilliant stories via Dark Horse Comics.  There you’d find Luke Skywalker, grown into the role of Jedi Master, was everything you’d want from the hero we met in the movies.  Now fans can see that future in a History channel series streaming on Netflix, if they only bring along a little imagination.  That series is Knightfall.

The series follows a re-imagined history of the Knights Templar at the dawn of the 14th century.  If you ignore the historicity, good or bad, and see the film as a fantasy tale of knights in conflict and knights in training, you can see why the Jedi Knights were derived from these historic figures.  The Star Wars influence comes full circle as Mark Hamill himself joins the cast as a master knight named Talus in Season 2.  Here is that very same Luke Skywalker as you might have imagined him from Zahn and Dark Horse’s storytelling, war-weary and battle hardened, as he storms his way into the tale, leading and training knights, sometimes Mr. Miyagi style, sometimes with swords, sometimes with surprising methods.  Tilt your head a bit, cover one eye–do what you need to do–but some of Luke Skywalker’s best scenes as a Jedi Knight are in this series.  The very best is Talus’s final scene.  Mark Hamill, and Luke Skywalker, never were cooler than in his final conflict on the series.

Fantasy emphasis over history aside, for those students of the Middle Ages you’ll find a mix of truth and cinema twisted for story purposes, but overall this is that series about knights and swords, the Pope and the twisted King (they’re all twisted, always) and the beautiful Queen that you’re looking for.  The story follows hero Tom Cullen (The Five, Downton Abbey) as Landry, a wise but conflicted Knight Templar, whose band of trusted brothers botch protecting the Holy Grail, the same biblical cup so many medieval tales are based upon, but more of a McGuffin for this version of the tale.  Landry’s band of knights, Pádraic Delaney (The Tudors) as Gawain, and Simon Merrells (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Ashes to Ashes) as one of the best knights you’ve seen onscreen as Tancrede lead viewers from enough intrigue to keep them coming back for more.  Olivia Ross (War & Peace) is particularly engaging as Queen Joan, one of the only women characters in the series, and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) is great fun to watch as the regal yet conniving Pope Boniface VIII.  Of the bad guys, you’ll love to hate Ed Stoppard (Zen, The Frankenstein Chronicles) as King Philip (again, all kings are bad), and Julian Ovenden (Downton Abbey, Charmed) as his on-again, off-again confidante and henchman.  As Cullen’s Landry and the Queen of France fall in love, how both the knight order and the King handle the aftermath is the conflict that plays out over 18 episodes, with the backdrop of a coming battle between France and England beckoning.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s such a strange thing to see over and over.  Whether it’s Broadchurch, Marchlands, Lightfields, Thirteen, The Missing, or Requiem, the British television studios can’t stop making series based on the story of a missing child.  And it’s not just the Brits that can’t get over the genre.  Americans tend to do it with a supernatural bent, in shows like Twin Peaks, Stranger Things, or Riverdale.  But finally they may have got one right, compelling characters, a solid mystery with twists, turns, and surprises, and the missing factor of most series in the genre, a satisfying ending.  That’s Harlan Coben’s ten-part series now streaming on Netflix called The Five.

Smartly directed by Mark Tonderai, who has directed episodes of TV series including Doctor Who, Black Lightning, Gotham, Time After Time, and Twelve Monkeys, The Five takes the story of a five-year-old who disappeared on an outing with his older brother and his three friends, and turns it into something completely fresh and compelling.  Twenty years later in modern day England, the DNA of the missing boy is found at the crime scene of a murder of a local woman.  The news upends the lives of the missing boy’s brother, a lawyer and part time P.I. played by Tom Cullen (Orphan Black, Downton Abbey), his separated parents played by Geraldine James (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Maloney (Mr. Selfridge, Henry V), and his three friends: a cop who is the son of the detective on the original case played by O-T Fagbenle (Doctor Who, The Handmaid’s Tale), a doctor who has returned after years in the States played by Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones’s Baby), and a protector of street kids at a local shelter, played by Lee Ingleby (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).

Every player in this tale is a mess.  The cop can’t balance work and life and must care for a father with Alzheimer’s, the doctor is figuring her way through a failed marriage and early stages of addiction, the shelter manager cares a bit too much about protecting kids on the streets, and the brother of the missing boy runs the route where he lost his brother every day, unable to get past his loss.  As a police procedural, Fagbenle and detective Caine, played by Hannah Arterton (Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders), make for a solid policing duo, while Cullen and Ingleby are a great sleuthing team of private investigators.

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Liev Schreiber

The exploration of Mars has been the subject of many science fiction productions, especially science fiction thrillers.  One of the best of these was David Tennant’s Doctor Who episode “Waters of Mars” where the good Doctor demonstrates the pitfalls of changing history when he rescues astronauts on a doomed mission to Mars.  The original Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger only used the Mars exploration as a MacGuffin of sorts, but the overall movie resulted in a film classic and the use of Mars as backdrop gave us a new view of the planet as envisioned by  20th century Earthlings.  Other movies have used Mars as a backdrop—Gary Sinise’s Mission to Mars and Red Planet with Val Kilmer and Carrie Anne Moss both at least offered a good-looking landscape.  The more recent John Carter of Mars blended fantasy and sci-fi.  As with most John Carpenter movies, his Ghosts of Mars had a whole bunch of awesome, with a zombie/horror plot and great genre actors Jason Statham and Pam Grier.

The-Last-Days-on-Mars

The American/Irish made science fiction film Last Days on Mars, which premiered this year at Cannes, gets its UK release this weekend, with the U.S. release date yet unknown.   Directed by Ruairi Robinson and written by Clive Dawson, the trailer doesn’t give away a lot.  It could be another forgettable B-movie Mars flick, or it could be something better.

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