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Attack of the genres

by Patrick Day and Jevon Phillips, Los Angeles Times staff writers

Movie audiences are notorious for being picky at the box office. Despite having hardcore followings, many genres must morph to meet new demands to appeal to both broad and fiercely loyal demographics. Here are some of the recent trends.

Monsters in suits

The guy in the suit stomping on Tokyo is now CGI. We haven’t had many huge creature films lately on the Godzilla scale. The claymation and costumed monsters became...

Monsters in motion capture suits or CGI

Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” and “Eight-Legged Freaks” were part of the semi-revival. “Stephen King’s The Mist” rained down man-eating octopi and big bugs to go with the suspense, but “Cloverfield” may help light the fuse. (Sam Emerson / Paramount Pictures)
Fake musicals

The old conventional wisdom was that musicals -- on screen, at least -- were dead. Gone were the glory days captured in “That’s Entertainment.” Instead, we were living in the age of MTV and music videos and movies that were all about their catchy, poppy songs, with the only difference being that no one on-screen actually sang a lick. Instead, they danced. A lot. Like “Footloose” dancing. Or “Flashdance” dancing. Or “Save the Last Dance” dancing. But around the time that “Club MTV” went off the air for good fake musicals became...

Real musicals

Suddenly we’re awash in singing. John Travolta, star of that fake musical “Saturday Night Fever,” is doing it in “Hairspray.” Johnny Depp is doing it in “Sweeney Todd.” Will Meryl Streep do it in “Mamma Mia?” All signs point to yes. (Peter Mountain / Universal Pictures)
Kids adventure films

“The Goonies” was an all-time favorite for most over-25 adults. “The Sandlot” (shown here) and “The Never-Ending Story” were also films that stretched the imagination. Now, most read before they can watch it on screen, and the movies became ...

Supernatural kids’ books

“Harry Potter,” “Lemony Snicket,” “The Chronicles of Narnia.” and most recently “The Golden Compass.” In 2008, another “Potter” and another “Narnia” are joined by “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and an even younger-skewing book, “Horton Hears a Who.” (John Bramley / 20th Century Fox)
Gross-out comedies

Back in the late ‘90s, the Farrelly brothers made their reputations on a series of comedies renowned for their stomach-churning gags -- think sperm in the hair in “There’s Something About Mary.” That flick’s success opened the floodgates to all forms of bodily fluids in a series of yuk-fests such as “American Pie,” “Scary Movie” and “Freddy Got Fingered.” Eventually, audiences stopped laughing. They had moved onto other things, or so they thought. In actuality, gross-out comedies had secretly morphed into...

Shirtless Will Ferrell comedies

When he did it in “Old School,” moviegoers ate it up. There was the former “Saturday Night Live” star jogging through the streets of Westwood, naked as a jaybird, showing off a physique that will never be on the cover of Men’s Health. So successful was “Old School” that he did it again in “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights.” and he threatens to do it again in “Step Brothers” and “Semi-Pro.” Who would ever have guessed that those nipples would be milked so much? (Gemma La Mana / Columbia Pictures)
The buddy cop pic

Personified by the “Lethal Weapon” and “Beverly Hills Cop” movies of the ‘80s, only the “Rush Hour” and “Bad Boys” movies have crossed the line successfully since then. The buddy cop film became ...


Heroes. Super ones, in fact. It’s been coming on for years, and we’re deep in it now. We’ve had “Superman Returns,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Ghost Rider,” and “Batman Begins” recently. The trend continues this year with “Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” “Hellboy 2,” “Hancock” and more. (Andrew Cooper)
Dead teenagers

For awhile, it seemed you couldn’t go in the water, go in the basement, fall asleep or head off to camp without tripping over a dead teenager movie. You know, the ones where young and randy kids strip off their clothes, have sex and then promptly get mauled to death by some vaguely supernatural killer. But after awhile, the public grew tired of the Jasons, Freddys and Michael Myerses. But they didn’t tire of dead teenagers, so the genre became ...

Tortured teenagers

With the success of the “Saw” films and “Hostel,” we now don’t have to see hot, young people suddenly stabbed and killed. Instead, we can watch them be tortured to death in incredibly complex ways. Some may call this development deplorable, but others call it progress. (Rico Torres / Lionsgate)
Women in peril

A girl runs in the forest, or on a dark street/alley. She trips, turns ... no one’s there. Turns back ... and there’s the killer/boyfriend/monster. History is filled with these women in peril, most notably in horror films like “Friday the 13th” or “Halloween,” but also in mainstream cinema. But the women in peril became ...

Woman empowered

Ripley, Buffy and Charlie’s Angels ... the list keeps growing. Jodie Foster in “The Brave One” brought a female vigilante to the forefront recently, and Michael Myers’ sister blew his head off in Rob Zombie’s version of “Halloween.” Next up: Angelina Jolie’s assassin in “Wanted” and the return of Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) in “X-Files.” (Universal Pictures)