DID YOU READ

ADAPT THIS: “Underground” by Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

underground

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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: Underground by Jeff Parker (w) and Steve Lieber (a)

The Premise: When two rangers investigating a local cave get caught up in a violent dispute over the land, they’re forced to flee into the depths of the mountain to evade their pursuers. As they venture further into the cavern, the rangers must use all of the tools at their disposal to get out alive and avoid the criminals chasing them.

The Pitch: Imagine all the claustrophobic terror of “The Descent” without the creepy monsters, and you’ll understand the appeal of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s five-issue miniseries.

Originally published in 2010, Underground is a tense, frightening story about subterranean survival that also captures all the best aspects of a classic chase film, with its main characters on the run from thugs who outnumber, outgun, and outmuscle them — but can’t outwit them.

Both “The Descent” and “Buried” received heaps of praise for tapping into the scare factor of dark, confined spaces, and Underground succeeds in not only making that environment the centerpiece of the story, but also making the cave a character of sorts. Throughout the story, each twist and turn presents both the rangers and their pursuers with a new challenge, whether it’s submerged lakes, narrow passageways, deep caverns, or darkness-dwelling animals of one sort or another.

There have been one or two films set in caves over the years, but like “The Descent” most of them resort to blending the natural fears that accompany spelunking with some sort of supernatural or science-fiction element. Underground, on the other hand, has its human characters facing a very human threat — though the danger comes as much from the gun-wielding criminals pursuing them as it does from the inner workings of the mountain.

Given the right amount of imagination, a talented filmmaker could find some creative camera angles and set pieces to capture the scope of the cast’s predicament, giving audiences more than a few reasons to squirm as the film’s characters find themselves moving ever deeper into the darkness. This, combined with the relationship of the two rangers — who we know to be more than just professional colleagues — could likely make for some interesting juxtapositions of tight squeezes and two people deciding whether they’re getting too close for comfort.

Finally, while Parker and Lieber did a great of developing their principle characters in five issues, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the two rangers, as well as the criminals on their trail. Developing Underground into a feature-length film leaves ample room for a writer to shape the characters and give them more depth, which is always a nice way to flex creative muscles and put your stamp on a story.

The Closing Argument: In many ways, Underground combines the tense, dramatic narrative of an Alfred Hitchcock film with the natural terror of being trapped in a dark, uncertain place. The fact that the “place” is a massive cavern only opens the door to a long list of additional, environmental sources of fear, whether it’s bats, pits that appear to be bottomless, or watery tunnels that may or may not be your only escape route.

In the right hands, an “Underground” movie could be the scariest thing to hit the screen in a long time, and finally bridge the gap between celebrated scare-fests and critical darlings.


Do you think “Underground” would make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader as Blue Jean Committee

Sowing Their Oates

Watch Blue Jean Committee Talk About Their Old Pals Hall and Oates

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader made a smooth video for Hall & Oates.

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Kings of the “Yacht Rock” genre Daryl Hall and John Oates are kicking off a slew of tour dates this summer in an effort to raise the nation’s median concertgoer age by at least 30 years. And to announce their soon-to-be onslaught of blue-eyed soul jams, Hall & Oates have enlisted fellow “Mavens of Mellow” the Blue Jean Committee from IFC’s Documentary Now!. Reprising their laid back musical personas, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen reflected on the history between the two groups in a new video announcing the tour.

“What do you think of when you think of the Seventies? When you think of beautiful harmonies, you think of a duo who sing together to make hit songs. You think of the Blue Jean Committee and that’s who we are,” Armisen remarks. Hader continues, “Who you think of fifth, or maybe eighth, is Daryl Hall and John Oates. You know who used to open for us? Who we used to kick around? Daryl Hall and John Oates!” Strong words. Strong, smooth words.

Be sure to catch Hall & Oates on tour and check back for updates on Documentary Now! season two coming later this year.  For more Bill and Fred, check out the complete Documentary Now! archive, listen to music from the show, and watch full episodes right now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

ADAPT THIS: “Poseurs” by Deborah Vankin & Rick Mays

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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: Poseurs by Deborah Vankin (w) and Rick Mays (a)

The Premise: The lives of three high-school kids intersect in the Hollywood nightlife as cash-strapped Jenna lands a job as a professional party guest and becomes friends with Pouri, a wealthy “parachute kid” living it up far away from her parents, and Mac, a busboy obsessed with popular slang. What starts out as a life of clubs and lavish mansions eventually takes a dark turn, though, as the trio gets caught up in a kidnapping plot that takes them from L.A. night clubs to dangerous, underground hangouts of West Coast gangs.

The Pitch: The original pitch for this graphic novel from Los Angeles Times writer Deborah Vankin frames it as “‘Gossip Girl’ meets Bret Easton Ellis for the comic book crowd,” which is actually a pretty accurate comparison — though it offers a decidedly more PG-rated, young-adult take on youth culture than Ellis’ novels. And while “Gossip Girl” restricted itself to the teenage wealthy elite, Poseurs offers a more varied mix of backgrounds and social strata in L.A. culture, and takes readers inside (and behind) the glamour from each character’s perspective.

What sets Poseurs apart from the two elements in that pitch and makes it an even more attractive subject for adaptation, however, is the genuine sense of heart in the story that makes the characters feel more like real people instead of amalgams of night-life archetypes. With a film or television series based on Poseurs — and it could be a good fit in either format, really — there’s a real chance for character development and drama that spans social and economic classes, and a cool “party noir” tale that unfolds in a much broader environment than the typical young-adult story.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of roles in a “Poseurs” film or TV series that could be culled from young Hollywood — and the ethnic diversity of the story’s cast would certainly give the series a more authentic, melting-pot vibe than most projects aimed at teenage audiences these days.

There are also ample opportunities for adult actors in the project, too — and it’s easy to picture any number of prominent character actresses playing Jenna’s serial-dating mother or her boss at the company that pays her to attend parties, Raz. While the adult characters occupy supporting roles in the book, the story leaves a lot of room for capable actors to put their stamp on each character and make them their own.

In many ways, Poseurs fits the profile of every good young-adult film or TV series, with its cast of high-school characters that appeal to a wide range of demographics and a story that has them dealing with very real (and dangerous) adult issues that transcend the normal high-school drama. (But don’t worry — there’s still quite a bit of high-school drama slipped in there for good measure, too.)

Finally, like any good project aimed at young audiences, the teenage characters are often smarter than the adults when it comes to solving their problems, but it usually takes some help from their closest friends.

The Closing Argument: Any network looking for something that ratchets down the glitz of “Gossip Girls” but offers a rougher edge and tighter narrative than the typical fare on The CW would do well to check out Poseurs. Vankin’s narrative manages to find the balance between teen drama and compelling, adult themes in a clever story that crosses age and cultural demographics.

And while the “party noir” tale that introduces the cast leaves room to continue the narrative beyond the first book, there’s also a nice finale to Vankin’s story that would allow it to do fine as a standalone film.


Do you think “Poseurs” would make a good movie or television series? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Adapt This: “Absolution” by Christos Gage and Roberto Viacava

absolution

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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: Absolution by Christos Gage and Roberto Viacava

The Premise: In a world where superheroes are part of a sanctioned law-enforcement unit, John Dusk is a veteran good guy with amazing powers.

After years of putting down society’s most heinous criminals, Dusk encounters one too many repeat offenders and kills a murderer during an encounter. Instead of feeling remorse about it, he feels good — so good that he begins taking down more of the city’s most sadistic perps… permanently. As his new “hobby” finds its way into the headlines, he’s forced to keep his extracurricular activities a secret from his fellow policemen, his super-powered partners, and his detective girlfriend.

But how far is too far when it comes to ridding the world of evil?

The Pitch: Absolution writer Christos Gage has already made a name for himself scripting episodes of the hit crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” as well as celebrated runs on “G.I. Joe: Cobra,” “Stormwatch: Post-Human Division,” and “Avengers: The Initiative” — so it’s no surprise that his work lends itself well to the screen. A procedural fan who knows his way around real-world law enforcement and investigation, Gage has crafted an excellent story in Absolution that manages to balance both superhero elements and crime drama masterfully.

In many ways, Absolution is exactly what one might expect to see if super-powered characters were introduced to the world of “Law & Order.” John Dusk is what “S.V.U.” mainstay Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) could indeed become if he was given similar abilities and finally reached that ever-present breaking point that he often nears, but never crosses.

With the exception of a few characters, Absolution also manages to keep many of the powers wielded by the world’s superheroes and superhuman villains fairly manageable (from an effects perspective), though the most difficult one to bring to the screen could be Dusk’s ability. In the series, he’s able to manifest a field of blue energy that he can manipulate however he wants — forming a shield, a weapon, or a form of transportation if he so desires. Dusk’s power is similar to that of DC superhero Green Lantern, though it operates on a much smaller scale in the world Gage has created for Absolution.

And while Absolution is stocked with graphic, violent action sequences, it remains a drama at heart, and a study of the criminal justice system and the people who work within its structures. When I spoke to Gage about the book several years ago, he indicated that the concept for the series came from a conversation he had with a real-world police officer who worked in a department not unlike “S.V.U.” and dealt with the sort of terrible crimes perpetrated by the worst criminals society has to offer. Faced with one atrocity after another, some law-enforcement personnel lose their ability to separate themselves from their professional life — and Absolution explores one of the many potential outcomes of their traumatic day-to-day routines.

Absolution would probably work best as a movie or television miniseries, as the narrative has a well-defined set of acts that explore the story’s theme and offer some — if not many — conclusions about the consequences of John Dusk’s actions. To extend it beyond the narrative of the original comic would likely dilute the powerful message it conveys, though the right writer could certainly find new avenues to explore.

The Closing Argument: Much like Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers comic book series — which follows a branch of law enforcement charged with investigating superpower-related crimes — Absolution manages to have that rare hit potential for both procedural drama audiences and fans of science-fiction or other, more fantastic fare. Gage’s work in television clearly factored into the story’s structure and pacing, so it’s not difficult to look at the collected edition of Absolution as a storyboard for a potential film or television project.

In the end, it really comes down to one question: Do we want to see a superhero version of “Law & Order: SVU”? If the answer is yes, then look no further than Absolution.


Would “Absolution” make a good movie or television project? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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