2 posts categorized "Series"

January 28, 2018


The-end-of-the-fucking-world-posterBased on Charles Forsman’s brilliant minicomics, “The End of the F***ing World” is an expertly crafted black comedy series similar in tone and delivery to “Twin Peaks,” but with a more approachable sense of humor.

If casting is nine-tenths of the battle, then co-directors Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak were destined for success from the start. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden are the exquisite young British actors who transform into a would-be serial killer and a the kind of girl you don’t take home to meet the parents.

Alex Lawther

James (Lawther) is a 17-year-old oddball who witnessed his mother’s suicide (by driving her car into a lake) when he was 10. He’s a depressed kid who asks his goofy single dad for a machete for his birthday, but settles for a hunting knife. James once put his hand in boiling hot oil so he could “feel something.” He has a recent history of killing gradually larger animals. James is working up to killing a person. His first girlfriend (Alyssa — Jessica Barden) could be an ideal victim.

With each episode clocking in around 20-minutes, this Netflix-produced series is a bingeable treat akin to eating just the right amount of snacks so you don’t feel guilty for having two or three.

Garden Party

On Alyssa’s prompting, the teenaged duo run away from their respective homes to go on a road trip adventure through the underbelly of England’s hollow social shell. After her mom’s boyfriend flirts with her, Alyssa looks down on a garden party that her parental figures are hosting at her oh-so-perfect suburban home and takes inventory. “Fuck this shit,” is her final analysis. Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” takes care of the musical counterpoint.

Jessica Barden

Teenaged angst, and lust, are put through a bloody blender before the first series’ eight episodes come to a satisfying stopping place. Thankfully, season 2 is already in the works.

Funny, frightening, naughty, and packed with chuckle inducing bits of scathing satire, “The End of the F****ing World” might just be better than “Twin Peaks” and “Fargo.”

Series (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!


Groupthink doesn't live here.

January 19, 2018


WormwoodErrol Morris’s six-part Netflix documentary series “Wormwood” wears out its welcome by the end of the fourth episode. It’s not that the subject matter isn’t as gripping as it is disturbing — you’ll come away being as fearful of C.I.A. spooks as you are of ISIS — but rather that there is so much repetition and filler that you can’t help being bored long before the long-telegraphed narrative hook comes along in the sixth episode. How many times do you need to see a guy falling out of a window to get the point?

Perhaps Morris was too in tune with his subject to exert his traditionally reliable editorial expertise. “Wormwood” could easily have worked as a two-hour movie, but it simply doesn’t hang together for four-hour’s worth of screentime. As such, “Wormwood” represents Morris’s weakest effort to date.


Nevertheless, the story is compelling. In 1953 Frank Olson, a U.S. Army scientist working on a chemical weapons program (dubbed Artichoke) geared for use in the Korean War, fell, jumped, was pushed or “dropped” from the 13th floor of the Statler Hotel (a.k.a. the Hotel Pennsylvania) in midtown Manhattan. Splat.

Since then, Frank Olson’s son Eric (who was nine-years-old at the time of his father’s suspicious death) has been preoccupied with getting to the bottom of the story behind his father’s bizarre demise, which the C.I.A. attributed to an LSD experiment gone wrong.

Eric Olson proves to be an ideal participant in Morris’s signature fever-pitched procedure for incendiary question-and-answer sessions. Both men speak in confrontational upper register clips that urgently demand no-nonsense answers.

Eric Olson

Morris notably eschews using his go-to Interrotron machine that allows interviewees to speak direct-to-camera (see "The Fog of War"), in favor of a more casual setting of talking across a table in an unadorned room. The only embellishment is a clock that hangs behind Eric Olson’s head, stopped at the exact moment that his father perished on the asphalt of 7th avenue. Another drawback to the series is its dark, drab visual style that has a droning effect. It nearly puts the viewer to sleep.

Morris uses the ever impenetrable Peter Sarsgaard to play the part of Frank Olson in reenactments of events leading up to the wee hours of November 28, 1953 when Olson’s life came to an end. Tim Blake Nelson, Bob Balaban, Molly Parker, and Christian Camargo function well in other supporting roles however unnecessary many of their scenes become by the time the final episode rolls around.


“Wormwood” is a lurid Cold War scenario that shows the U.S. Government at its worst, weaving skullduggery like so much wool at the hands of such real-life goons as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Indeed, this is nightmare-producing stuff. It comes as a relief when Morris intercuts footage from Laurence Olivier’s famous 1948 film version of “Hamlet” to give literary resonance to Eric Olson’s ongoing rabbit-hole existence as a man consumed with the meaning of his father’s death. It's enough to drive a man, or an audience, to drink.

Peter Sarsgaard

Not rated. 241 mins. (B-) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)

COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!


Groupthink doesn't live here.

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series