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The “X-Men” franchise goes forward by looking backward.

The “X-Men” franchise goes forward by looking backward. (photo)

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The “X-Men” franchise is about to embark on “X-Men: First Class,” its fifth installment, an exceptional achievement for such high-cost films. At this point, the series bears little resemblance to its initial incarnation at this point.

Kevin Bacon’s the latest actors to be in “talks” to appear, and the director — barring future disasters — will be Matthew Vaughn, which makes “Kick-Ass” now seem like a long audition tape for the opportunity to do the very thing it poked fun of. “First Class” will give us yet another origin story — Professor X and Magneto, the schoolboy years — with an almost entirely new cast (depending on whether or not Hugh Jackman makes a cameo) and nothing but the brand-name to depend upon.

History will probably best remember the “X-Men” movies for starting Hollywood off on its course of entrusting incredibly expensive franchises to independent directors without proven money-managing track records. Bryan Singer was brought in to handle the “X-Men” movies after “The Usual Suspects” and “Apt Pupil.” He turned out to be far more qualified for staging big action set-pieces and running comic book characters through their allegorical paces than anyone might have suspected.

It’d be inaccurate to credit Singer’s success with allowing Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan to retool the “Spider-Man” and “Batman” franchises, but he did get there first — respect is due.

07122010_laststand.jpgFox screwed things up by bringing in Brett Ratner for “X3,” but it made tons of money, so no one cared. Subsequently, Gavin Hood (best known for sentimental South African movie “Tsotsi”) was brought in to make “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” for no apparent reason, taking the franchise back to its “indie” roots. Matthew Vaughn actually was was going to make “X3,” but the schedule didn’t work, so now the franchise is coming full circle.

Fox’s plan for the future of their most reliable super-heroes seems to involve going backward. “X3” may have actually been called “X-Men: The Last Stand,” but who would’ve thought they ever meant it? We only had three movies in the series before things flopping back into prequels, the first with Hugh Jackman, and this second the kind of “when they were young” movie you normally only do after everyone is too old to be plausibly cast again.

Marvel Comics took some stick this year for using “Iron Man 2” to set up a comic book universe of overlapping heroes, for which the movie had to conspicuously stop dead to let Samuel L. Jackson show up and get the next movies in motion. Fox is doing the same thing with “X-Men,” except it’s all within one franchise; they’re slowly constructing the most geekily, fully-realized birth-to-death comic book heroes, with whole movies devoted to back stories. Is it just that origin stories are the simplest to adapt to movies?

[Photos: “X-Men,” 20th Century Fox, 2000; “X-Men: The Last Stand,” 20th Century Fox, 2006]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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