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Notes from the back row

Comic geeks love 2008

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First off, you can expect a string of crappy movies until after the Oscars, that goes without saying. Other than that though, 2008 is looking like it might be a decent year in the theatres, particularly for comic book fans.

Of course, comic book movies can really suck the big one ( The Punisher , Spider-Man 3, Ghost Rider) but thanks to CGI effects at least filmmakers now have the tools to bring a believable comic universe to the silver screen.

The biggest comic flick of 2008 will be The Dark Night , the next Batman movie from Christopher Nolan set to hit screens July 18. Following up on the successful Batman Begins , this one keeps a similar cast and stars Heath Ledger as a new-and-more-deranged Joker and Maggie Gyllenhal as the token chick (awesome because the token chick isn’t usually such a killer actress). Eschewing the campy comic style of the ’90s gong-show Batman flicks (Tim Burton’s excluded), Dark Night looks to be just that — dark, brooding and really awesome.

The Incredible Hulk gets rebooted this year as well. Ed Norton stars as Bruce Banner seeking a cure to his “condition”, Tim Roth is the bad guy and my old favourite Liv Tyler fills in the token hot chick role. Director Louis Leterrier ( Unleashed) is taking The Hulk in a more action-packed “Hulk Smash” direction rather than the psychological tone of Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film. This could be killer but the fact that they rushed the script (co-written by Norton) kind of worries me. Time will tell.

Iron Man , set to hit screens May 2, will be interesting too. Director Jon Favreau (the guy from Swingers) has cast Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire superhero Tony Stark while Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow round out the cast. The Iron Man comics were so-so, but this flick has two of the scriptwriters from Children of Men and the guy building the Iron Man suit also built the Terminator and Alien costumes so there is real potential here. Plus the trailer has Black Sabbath’s Iron Man in it so that is another good sign. Tough to say though, you usually only get one or, at most, two good comic book movies a year and Hellboy 2 (opening Aug. 11 and directed by Guillermo Del Toro of Pan’s Labrynth fame ) and Wolverine are also dropping in 2008, as well as the cheese-camp-cartoony Speed Racer movie starring Emile Hirsch ( Into the Wild) and directed by the Wachowski Brothers ( The Matrix.) Oh to be a 15-year-old comic geek again, it would be a heavenly year.

But being a 31-year-old movie geek should be pretty good too because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hits screens May 22. Starring actor-of-the-moment Shia LaBeouf ( Transformers, Disturbia,) this Speilberg-directed, guaranteed blockbuster also stars Harrison Ford and Karen Allen (the chick from the first one) and, according to the rumours, some little aliens that look a lot like the ones from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Regardless, it’s Indy so it’s gonna be good.

This is just a taste of what’s to come in 2008 but who knows what will happen if the Hollywood writer’s strike continues. We might have to look to our own fine nation for good flicks, or Japan. Go to youtube.com and check out the trailer for The Machine Girl a Noboru Iguchi film about a young girl who loses a brother, and an arm, to Yakuza bullies and outfits herself with various weapons and machines in a blood-soaked quest for revenge. Or find Battle Royale, which was a Japanese comic-turned-movie-turned awesome. 2008 is the year of the geek.

AT THE VILLAGE 8 Jan. 11-17:

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