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Mixing genres hard to pull off

Mixing genres hard to pull off

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Earlier this week it was announced that Mike White, the writer of films such as School of Rock and The Good Girl, will direct the upcoming theatrical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Based on a novel by Seth Graham-Smith, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes the basic plot and large chunks of the text from Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice and sprinkles in large portions of undead brain-eating carnage.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is just one of a new wave of genre-bending entertainment that has taken Hollywood by storm. This summer, Cowboys & Aliens will be released in theaters. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Brown, Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book and features the fateful first meeting between extraterrestrials and horse-riding cowpokes.

Other upcoming genre-bending projects include a Tim Burton-produced adaptation of Seth Graham-Smith's latest novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; Paul is Undead, a movie that would see The Beatles exposed as zombies; and The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild, which would see the famed author deal with monsters in the Yukon.

There's a real gamble in these films. Previous genre-bending movies such as The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension or television shows such as Firefly have not traditionally taken the box office by storm. Audiences, when faced with a movie that's hard to classify, have historically stayed far, far away. While zombies and aliens normally are a safe bet for a solid opening weekend in theaters, audiences could look at a zombie movie set in Victorian England and dismiss it as a spoof. I know I did when I first heard about the book the movie is based on.

If you give them a chance, though, genre-bending films can surprise you.

Earlier this year, I saw a film at Austin's Fantastic Fest Film Festival that is the very definition of a genre-bender. Bunraku stars Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd and Ron Perlman and combines the western and martial arts genre with a visual style influenced by the bunraku style of Japanese puppetry.

The film is a mess of ideas, visual innovation and larger-than-life performances, yet is highly enjoyable on a pure, visceral level.

Hartnett stars as a drifter in a post-apocalyptic future (is there really any other kind of future in Hollywood?) that strolls into a city controlled by a bearded dictator (Perlman) and his gang of killers. The drifter teams up with a pacifist samurai played by Gackt Camui and a pop-up-book-loving bartender played by Woody Harrelson.

The movie has been playing the festival circuit for the last year but has yet to secure a release date. Maybe, with the ever-increasing popularity of films that are not afraid to dip their toes into other genres, Bunraku can find a studio willing to take a chance on the film and give it the wide theatrical distribution it deserves.

In the meantime, try not to overdose on the hundreds of Pride and Prejudice and Zombie rip-offs currently clogging up your local bookstore -- all vying to be the next genre-bending idea to be optioned by Hollywood.

* Follow Robert Saucedo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robsaucedo2500. E-mail him at robertsaucedo2500@yahoo.com.

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