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I’ve been bitching about the Go-Go’s not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years. They should’ve been first-ballot inductees, but nope; Bon Jovi is in there instead.

Now that I’ve ranted, let me tell you about The Go-Go’s, a super-fine documentary from director Alison Ellwood that covers the band from its punk-rock days up until the present. Yes, the group only made four albums, but when you are talking about trailblazers, you have to put the Go-Go’s at the forefront of rock ’n’ roll history.

The first all-female band that played their own instruments to have a No. 1 album (the classic Beauty and the Beat) started in the Los Angeles punk-rock scene—and they were one sloppy band. Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin were part of the original group, with Charlotte Caffey (guitar/keyboards), bassist Kathy Valentine and drummer Gina Schock joining soon thereafter. After witnessing a shitty Sex Pistols show, the girls decided that they should tighten up their act—and the pristine pop sounds of “Our Lips Our Sealed” and “We Got the Beat” soon arrived.

Ellwood, with full participation from the band, culls together great archival audio and video, along with fun interviews, to tell their stories. Caffey’s drug addiction, Schock’s health scare, and Wiedlin pulling a Pete Townshend and temporarily leaving the band did a lot to stall the Go-Go’s momentum, but they have reformed many times over the years. They had a Broadway show before the pandemic, and there are plans for more touring and music—so they have not called it quits.

This film proves over and over again that it’s time the band gets its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if the institution wants to be regarded as anything close to relevant. They were the first; they were one of the best; and their music is timeless. Long live the Go-Go’s!

The Go-Go’s is currently airing on Showtime, and is available on demand and via its streaming service.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Director Ben Stiller gets serious with Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime series based upon the real 2015 escape of two dangerous convicts from prison in upstate New York.

Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano are perfect as Richard Matt and David Sweat, two nutballs who get prison employee Tilly Mitchell (a terrific Patricia Arquette) to help them break out, therefore initiating a mammoth manhunt—the results of which I won’t give away here.

Matt, Sweat and Mitchell formed a very unconventional love triangle that goes to some pretty strange places. (As of this writing, four of the seven episodes have aired.)

So far, the show is pretty damned good. Stiller can’t resist the temptation to be funny on occasion, but this show is proof he can put together a great drama, too. Del Toro and Dano are equally good, each getting a chance to explore their dark sides. (No surprise: Del Toro’s dark side is a little goofier.) The series garnered Golden Globe nominations for Best Limited Series and Best Performance By an Actress in a Limited Series for Arquette.

Thankfully, I’ve forgotten how this story actually turns out, so I will watch until the end and see who lives and who dies. As prison dramas go, this one is a keeper—and proof that Stiller has another whole side of his career that he can explore.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Holy hell, does Sacha Baron Cohen have balls.

His latest TV show, Who Is America?—in which he disguises himself in heavy makeup and tricks people (including well known politicians) into sitting for interviews—is jaw-droppingly funny.

In the first episode on Showtime, he disguises himself as a right-wing activist on a scooter, even though he has no handicap. (“This here scooter is to preserve my body’s finite energy!”) He tries to persuade a very patient and confused Bernie Sanders into believing the 99 percenters can be moved into the top 1 percent, so we will all be 1 percenters. Bernie was not amused.

Other Cohen victims include a Trump delegate who suffers from white privilege (Cohen disguises himself as a left-wing, sensitive ponytail guy) and an art-gallery owner. (Cohen disguises himself as an ex con who makes art with his own feces and ejaculate.) It’s amazing to see just how tolerant some people can be.

The capper is a sequence in which Cohen, disguised as an activist who looks an awful lot like Freddie Mercury, gets a bunch of politicians (including Trent Lott) to read a public-service announcement favoring guns in the hands of 4-year-old children.

It’s vintage Cohen. Upcoming episodes will feature a now publicly angry Sarah Palin, Roy Moore and Dick Cheney, who actually did a show promo for Cohen. Cohen’s movies took a sharp turn into shitsville, so it’s good to see him being a dangerous interviewer again.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Some 26 years ago, ABC did a very, very bad thing: The network cancelled Twin Peaks after just two seasons, without telling David Lynch the season finale would be a series finale. This resulted in the most unholy of cliffhangers.

That cliffhanger that would last 26 years.

Thanks to Showtime, Twin Peaks fans finally get some relief with the return of Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), the Black Lodge and Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz).

As of this writing, I’ve seen the first four hours of what will be 18, all directed and co-written by Lynch. The first two hours play like the latter-day Lynch films (Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway), and have more in common with the dark, horrific Peaks movie Fire Walk With Me than the comparatively bright original TV show.

Episodes 3 and 4 take on a funny, goofier tone at times, reminiscent of the odd humor that propelled the original series. Even with the laughs (chief among them a moment involving cell phones and a run of casino jackpots), the new Peaks is a dark and sinister place—a fascinatingly brilliant, dark and sinister place.

There’s no sense in me going too far into the plot. Those who remember the show know that it ended with Dale Cooper stuck in the Black Lodge, with his evil doppelganger released upon the Earth, possessed by Killer Bob. Well, this series provides the long-awaited answer regarding Dale Cooper’s fate. MacLachlan is afforded all kinds of opportunities to go crazy as an actor.

The Showtime show is as good as the ABC show was when Lynch was directing it. Lynch directed all the episodes we will see this year—and as a die-hard Peaks fan, I can’t believe I got to write those words just now. I’m in heaven.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing