The time has come for Turbocharge!

movie posterIt’s finally here, people: Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars is available on Amazon Prime! Regular followers of the podcast will know just how much my co-host Dave Curry and I have longed for this day! The journey goes back over a decade…

Dave remembers when this film was completed in 2008, and there were posts popping up on social media about some screenings in New York. For many Cars lovers, the thrust of the movie was perplexing and unclear. A website to promote the film was also launched, featuring some bizarre clips and puzzling images that could only serve to mystify fans even more. Dave’s curiosity was piqued and never quite subsided, even as chatter about the movie eventually cooled. In time, it seemed the reality of this little film was sinking into the depths of Fanorama folklore, with only odd blips of its existence evidenced on its equally fading website.

But like Gage coming back to life in Pet Sematary, awareness resurfaced when the writer of the film, David Juskow, brought up Turbocharge on his personal podcast in December of 2017.  Its revival spurred Dave into action, and he began a little Twitter campaign prodding Juskow to dust off the film and share it with us for review on our NiGHT THOUGHTS Podcast. His efforts were successful and Dave and I were allowed a private online screening. We were electrified by the movie, recognizing it as a hilarious and wonderful tribute to The Cars, and we strongly encouraged (begged?) Juskow to reconsider releasing it to the rest of the world. And so here we are!

**Before I get into my review/history of Turbocharge I am going to issue a DISCLAIMER: I know there’s been lots of recent discussion about who we would cast in a serious movie about The Cars. Let me state unequivocally that this movie is NOT a serious movie about The Cars! While much of the band’s true history is represented, this is a parody, an exaggeration, and at times a downright fabrication of events for comedic purposes. As Dave Curry said on our podcast, “In order to enjoy this film, you have to set aside what you know about Ric Ocasek, Benjamin Orr, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes, and David Robinson, and you have to accept them as these characters in this film.” If you can do that, you will love this movie!**

badassbenjamin

Created more as an act of rebellion, New York comedian, writer, and filmmaker David Juskow was fed up with the stereotypical ‘serious’ rock biopic. One night in 2005, after nearly gagging on the cheesy dialog and overbearing drama in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, he had had enough. It was the final push he needed to pursue his own project.

“I made Turbocharge out of spite, let’s just say that. It is completely spoofing the genre of any biopic that’s been made of a music band. That is exactly what it is,” Juskow told me with finality.

It’s no secret that The Cars were crazy-popular throughout the late 70s and on into the 80s, but intuitive fans recognize that they were never ones to really push themselves into the spotlight. No exhaustive merchandising, far-reaching world tours, or relentless appearances on the late night television circuit. As a whole, they were a low-key and private band, holding the media at arms’ length and creating an air of mystery about their deeper identity. Did they have a story to tell?

Juskow believed they did.

Exaggerated personalities, terrible wigs, and an unorthodox plot make this hilarious film the breath of fresh air the genre needs. Narrated by a snowman a la Rankin/Bass, the story revolves around The Cars’ reputation for being robotic and boring during live shows, and their supposed determination to correct that perception with the fans. Running alongside that thread is the assertion that bassist Ben Orr was secretly plotting to wrest the control of the group from co-founder and songwriter Ric Ocasek. In an unexpected twist, Phil Collins is delightfully in the middle of it all.

Sure, Juskow pokes fun at the band, but he’s not vicious. He respects all five members very much.  “Nothing about the movie is mean-spirited,” he assured me. “I can’t make a movie like that. It’s always got to have goodness in it.” And it’s not like he had to make a bunch of stuff up; Juskow would soon discover that The Cars’ own history easily leant itself to comedic treatment.

79423416_1228562430677576_83295135449743360_nOn the whole, David Juskow is a man of strong, immediate emotions paired with a very thin verbal filter, pretty standard on the streets of Brooklyn (“People either love me, or they really, really dislike me,” he laughs). Fortunately he grew up in the riotous era of late 1970s television and he generally sees the world through sitcom lenses. Juskow takes timeless gags and bits from those classic shows and weaves them into his standup act. His penchant for spotting the ridiculous moment, his ironic delivery, and his spot-on celebrity impressions soften his edges with his friends and fans. Those talents also lead him to create great comedy.

The idea for Turbocharge actually materialized in the mid-80s during Juskow’s college days. The Heartbeat City album took his ears by storm. He remembered, “I thought it was the greatest album I had ever heard in my life, and ‘You Might Think’ – the song itself – just completely spoke to me. I went backwards from there and started worshipping all of their stuff. The videos made no difference to me, it really was the music, and I just really got into that Heartbeat City album. Greg Hawkes’ influence in that stuff really worked for me and that’s why I really liked them. They just had such interesting melodies and electronic keyboards. And then I was just obsessed with everything they did.”

Lightning hit in the summer of 1985. Juskow’s voice escalated with emotion as he explained, “I remember exactly where I was during Live Aid. I was at this party in Rochester, New York, and I was waiting and waiting for The Cars to come on.  Everybody was outside but I’m just waiting for them to be on, and then they get cut off by Phil Collins! And I was like, ‘What?! How could you do that to my boys?!’

“Being a huge fan of The Cars at that time I was so angry that they got shafted that it turned to comedy in my mind. I was like, ‘Someday I’m going to depict that!’”

Two decades later, the time had come. The 20th anniversary of Live Aid unearthed Juskow’s earlier grudge over the Phil Collins fiasco, and that, coupled with his disgust over the Def Leppard movie, prompted him to approach his good friend, television industry veteran Memo Salazar. “I said to him, ‘Let’s just do this. It will be stupid, but it will be brilliant… in a way,’” he laughed.

Memo said he might do it if Juskow wrote the script, and so it was on. Juskow spent the next several months researching The Cars’ history, confirming things he already knew and then going deeper. And the further he dug, the funnier it became. The peculiarity of Ric and Ben’s early partnership, The Cars ‘trashing’ a hotel by leaving pictures askew, the perceived disaster of the Panorama album… it was the oddities in the band’s journey that propelled everything forward with the movie.

1984 by Brian Brainerd backstage at McNichols Arena
The Cars by Brian Brainard, 1984

Not only that, but the band members’ public personas were ripe for humorous distortion. David Robinson, the consummate ladies’ man – you just had to have that character brought out. And Ric’s exaggerated awe of anyone who does anything ultra-creative, Elliot’s stony seriousness that was masking his sharp wit, and the sweet-faced Greg, who surely must have been hiding a side of snark behind that smile.

“You couldn’t even make a serious biography about these guys. It would have to be hilarious. They are a true rock and roll band who are a bunch of nerds, and I knew I must tell this story in a nerdy way… and yet we all know they rock.”

Juskow does take an obvious amount of creative license, but many of his conjectural elements are a weighty mix of fact and thoughtful contemplation. He fleshes out underlying fan controversies… questions like why didn’t Ben sing more? Was Ben ambitious? Did Ric and Ben reconcile before Ben passed away? Juskow speculated about what might have been bubbling up in Ben. “It’s weird. He clearly has a better singing voice. He’s clearly more attractive. And in my mind I’m saying, ‘what’s going on behind the scenes? Why don’t I do a movie just saying how angry this guy is? He doesn’t have any songwriting talent so he gets screwed.’”

“Everybody takes liberties for drama purposes,” Juskow went on. “What would you have if you didn’t have a fun antagonist? C’mon, you need someone to get mad about Andy Warhol: ‘You hired this guy? Are you kidding me?’”

And there’s the difference: Juskow’s forays into embellishment are not designed to evoke emotion with the cookie-cutter ‘climb to fame’ struggles of the typical rockumentary… they’re just damn funny.

The cast is largely made up from Juskow’s comedy family and ‘friends of friends,’ including Kevin Kash, Rachel Feinstein, Jonathan Katz, Irene Bremis, H John Benjamin, John Samuel Jordan, David Engel, Tom Shillue, and Dave Attell. Juskow himself plays Ric Ocasek. Out of necessity, the lines were few and far between for his character. “There was no way I could direct and be in the movie; it was too complicated. It was way easier to just be silent and ‘tortured.’”

The soundtrack includes music from Eric Barao, The Cautions, Frank Stallone, and a couple of Cars-flavored tunes written by Juskow himself.

As I mentioned above, the film originally opened in 2008 with a few private screenings in the New York area, but Juskow didn’t pursue much more exposure than that. He felt it was a bit of a niche film and was afraid there wouldn’t be much of an audience out there, but we know there is! The playful humor and witty references will hit home with Cars fans and lovers of 80s culture alike. You can check it out on Amazon Prime by clicking here: Turbocharge! Watch it, and then find me on Facebook or comment below to tell me what you think!

To learn even more, visit the Turbocharge Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/turbochargethemovie/, and check out David Juskow’s comedy podcast on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/davejuskow

ONE

Casting Cars?

Casting Cars?

With the official release of the parody biopic Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars just around the corner, my longing for a true and deep telling of The Cars’ history, which is never far below the surface, springs forth. An actual, factual, full-length documentary would be my first choice (to reduce room for inaccuracies justified by creative license and sensationalistic fabrications), but barring that, it would be so great to have a serious movie made about The Cars.

And that, of course, begs the question: who would play our boys?

Not too long ago this article was posted on Facebook (thank you, Michelle B!) that gives one website’s suggestions on who should be cast to play the members of The Cars if a biopic was made.

Here are their choices:

  • Ric Ocasek: Nat Wolff
  • Benjamin Orr: Liam Hemsworth
  • Elliot Easton: Jonny Weston
  • Greg Hawkes: Tyler Posey
  • David Robinson: Daniel Radcliffe

Image result for nat wolffImage result for liam hemsworthJonny WestonImage result for tyler poseyDaniel Radcliffe Instagram Post • Aug 12, 2019 at 6:38 UTC - Daniel  Radcliffe... - Daniel Radcliffe Insta… in 2020 | Daniel radcliffe, Daniel  radcliffe photoshoot, Daniel

Uh, these guys don’t look like they can fill the bill to me. Reading that article, they’ve got a bunch of reasons behind their choices in terms of each actor’s musical experience, acting background, and the potential chemistry of the cast as a whole. I get that, but still, I was like, “Really???” There just has to be visual compatibility between the actor and the person they are portraying. And of course, I know that Hollywood can do amazing things with makeup and stylists and whatever other theater hacks they have (Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury? Brilliant!), so I’m not saying those choices are impossible, but they were pretty unsatisfying to me.

So now I’m going to give my candidates (surprised?), but obviously, nothing so deep for me. Mine are pretty much all based on looks and my own two cents, and limited by my lack of extensive knowledge of today’s young stars. One disclaimer: My biggest challenge is height, I think. My actor choices don’t measure up (or down, as the case may be) to create an accurate lineup, so I’ve had to override that consideration.

Alright, here we go. My top picks:

Ric Ocasek: My mind immediately went to the early 80s comedian Richard Belzer, who looks a lot like Ric, and is even the same age. Of course… his age is the problem; he certainly wouldn’t be able to pull off those early years.  In light of that, my present-day choice would be Scott Mechlowicz. He doesn’t quite have the same eclectic overall look as Ric, but his eyes, though they’d be under shades most of the time, are amazing, and I think that when revealed in the right scenes, they would be dramatic and able to communicate the beauty and mystery of Ric’s inner self.

Benjamin Orr: Did anyone else’s jaw drop when Ben Hardy showed up as Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody? He would have been the perfect Ben for OUR Ben! Of course, it wouldn’t be cool to have Hardy play another rock star, so I had to look elsewhere. Interestingly, I had recently stumbled across a great candidate in a clip from the show “The Carrie Diaries” that featured “Drive.” Austin Butler played the part of Sebastian Kydd, and his resemblance to Ben is striking. He’s got the right coloring, plus the sensuous mouth and beautiful blue eyes. We might have to pluck those eyebrows a little, though. Haha! Somewhat appropriately, this summer Butler was cast to play Elvis in a biographical Warner Brothers drama slated to begin filming next year. You’ll remember, I’m sure, that Benjamin has been referred to as ‘the Elvis of Cleveland.’

Elliot Easton:  Unlike Ben and Ric, no great options for Elliot jumped into my mind when I started considering my cast. I fished around for a bit with little success. I remembered Mark O’Brien from an episode of “City On A Hill” and thought he had potential. Not sure if his hair is thick enough, but he kind of has the right air about him; he would do. But then I discovered a better choice. I am really digging on Ellar Coltrane (without that thing in his face). He’s got great hair, the perfect mouth, those piercing eyes… and he just looks like our badass guitar player so much! He’d be perfect.

Greg Hawkes: With such a sweet disposition and an inherently boyish air about him, I really want someone who can capture the essence of Greg. The speed bump? It seems that every viable choice is six feet tall! I had to discard Thomas Brodie Sangster for that very reason. Just when I was thinking I’d have to stall out with Seth Green (who is clearly too old), I remembered Alex Lawther from one of my favorite movies, The Imitation Game. He’s cute and thin and quirky, and looks like he could handle the nerd factor (in a good way!). And at 5’8″, I think he’s as short as I’m gonna find!

David Robinson: The choices I like for David are all too old, I think. Zachary Levi, John Krasinski (if I can stop seeing him as Jim Halpert), and the claymation Santa (!!) all bear a believable resemblance, but probably wouldn’t cut it when it comes to portraying David banging it out in DMZ. Combing the younger crowd has me coming back to Dylan O’Brien again and again. Not sure what it is about him… His mouth isn’t quite the same, and we’d have to change that eye color, but he seems to have that same intelligent, amused look on his face that David always has. I think with a few alterations he could pull it off.

Clearly, my actor choices aren’t the only options. I’ll bet you have some favorites, too, that you consider ringers for our beloved band members. Comment below or find me on Facebook and tell me your top picks!