ADAPT THIS: “Rodd Racer” by Toby Cypress

ADAPT THIS: “Rodd Racer” by Toby Cypress (photo)

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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from the industry’s top comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: Rodd Racer by Toby Cypress

The Premise: In a dark, dirty city of the future, the “Thunder Alley Rally” is the biggest event of a generation. Rodd Racer must outrun the greatest racers in the world and a dangerous assassin in order to win the race and save his own life and the life of the woman he loves.

The Pitch: A good adaptation of Rodd Racer will combine the high-octane action of the “Fast and the Furious” movies with the steampunk-noir style of “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” flavored with a dash of the Eastern-cinema-meets-classic-Western fusion that Quentin Tarantino does so well.

At its heart, Rodd Racer is a throwback to classic 1950s and ’60s crime stories, with its hero perpetually covered in bandages and backed into a corner by his dealings with the more clear-cut bad guys. He simply wants to do right by the owman he loves and get out from under the bad guys’ thumb — but he’ll have to take an even bigger risk in order to win his freedom. Much like Donald Westlake’s popular thief, Parker, Rodd Racer finds himself having to stay one step ahead of the mob in order to pull off his redemption scheme.

At just around 60 pages, Cypress’ story will need some padding to reach standard feature-film length — a condition that should appeal to studios and production teams craving the freedom to shape a story in their own way. There’s quite a bit of implied background material that Cypress doesn’t touch on in the comic, so there’s ample room to expand the narrative and build a unique world around its cast.

Rather than offering a future filled with jet packs and hoverboards, the setting for Rodd Racer is more of a steampunk retro-future, with zeppelins filling the skies and races conducted in nitro-fueled, old-school stock cars. Cypress’ future-world is ruled by vintage visions of the future mixed with actual, modern-age technology (hence the earlier “Sky Captain” reference) — something that should be fairly easy to pull off without drowning the story in special effects. This isn’t “Speed Racer,” after all.

The story’s small cast of characters allows ample opportunity for actors to make the roles their own, and the brevity of the source material leaves more than enough room to expand the narrative and otherwise develop the story into a more well-rounded movie experience.

The tough-guy lead in Rodd Racer is the sort of role someone like Tom Hardy would be a great fit for, combining equal parts action, drama, and the ability to make a grease-stained undershirt and a bandaged nose seem like the coolest look in the world. There’s also room for a strong female lead in Rodd Racer’s nemesis, the assassin nicknamed Drag’On. Tack on Rodd’s garage-jockey girlfriend and the weasel-like mob boss putting the pressure on Rodd, and there are more than a few meaty casting opportunities in a Rodd Racer adaptation.

Of course, even after all of these other elements are settled, the real focus of a “Rodd Racer” movie should be the race itself. If the film’s director can capture anything close to the sort of tense, edge-of-your-seat race experience found in films like “Ronin” or the more flashy, unbelievable physics of the “Fast and the Furious” films or “The Transporter,” there’s great fun to be had in “Rodd Racer.”

The Closing Argument: Many of the car-racing films to hit theaters lately have gelled into a very similar, very tired cinematic experience. An adaptation of Rodd Racer puts a new spin on the genre, but doesn’t take it so far off-base that the audience can no longer connect with it (a la “Speed Racer”). Rodd Racer is a character-driven story at its most basic level, set against a fast-paced race in a stylized retro-urban landscape. It could be just the sort of fresh perspective on gritty racing stories that Hollywood needs.

Would “Rodd Racer” make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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