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X-Men, Trash Nite and 'Jayhawkers' on DVD


Since Bryan Singer's "X-Men" debuted in 2000, Hollywood has given us three different Incredible Hulks, two Spider-Men, two more Supermen, and has started rebooting the Fantastic Four and Daredevil. The filmic legacy of the X-Men before now spanned six uneven movies and covers confusing timelines that date back to the 1800s.

With the release of the new "X-Men: Days of Future Past," that timeline now extends into the dark future of 2023, where giant robots called Sentinels oppress humankind and mutants alike. At times, Singer's new film — and his first return to the X-Men since the series-high "X2: X-Men United" in 2003 — feels like an alternate history lesson. He and screenwriter Simon Kinberg have the formidable task of bringing together plot threads and character motivations from films with differing tones.

I'm not going to lie. It is challenging to digest all the details of a time-travel story that flashes back and forth between alternate realities in 1973 and 50 years from then, but "X-Men: Days of Future Past" works mainly because it keeps its emotional reality rooted in the familiar struggles of its characters.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are back as frenemies Professor X and Magneto, played in 1973 (like they were in 2011's "X-Men: First Class") by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively. It's not clear, and certainly not advisable, from a plot standpoint exactly why Wolverine (series mainstay Hugh Jackman) must break Magneto out of prison in 1973, but certain lapses in logic must be accepted to buy into the general premise, which is essentially "getting the band back together" in a past that never was to change the future.

As always, the threat of mutants to the human population is at the core of the conflict, with the Professor and Magneto on opposite sides (in the past at least) and Wolverine struggling with his immortality. But Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique is the surprising center of the movie, since a crucial decision that she makes in 1973 sets the Sentinels on the path toward enslaving the planet.

Singer has a way of juggling an ensemble cast that includes almost 20 mutants that keeps "X-Men: Days of Future Past" on solid enough footing even when its multiple reality timeline bends and almost breaks. He narrows his focus on each character to a couple of defining traits and then illustrates those traits through action. One shining example of this is newcomer Evan Peters, who plays the lightning-fast and carefree Quicksilver. He steals the movie with one inventively funny slo-mo scene that's shot from his perspective and tells you everything you need to know about him.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" shows Singer exercising some much-needed control over the franchise he built 14 years ago and wrangling a lot of loose ends. It's a welcome return, and although the material itself is a little unwieldy, it successfully brings together characterizations from the '60s-set "X-Men: First Class" with the modern era ones. There's a certain amount of satisfaction just to be had in the fact that the new film isn't a re-imagining — or a reboot with another origin story — even if Singer and Kinberg do pull a J.J. Abrams "Star Trek"-style move and sidestep consistency problems by using an "alternate reality."

Trash Nite presents “Big Meanies”

The new “Godzilla,” which dominated at the box office this past week, is entirely a CGI creation. But if you thought that the classic Japanese monster movies featuring men running around in rubber suits demolishing miniature cities had the market cornered on cheesy kaiju, think again. As part of his continuing series Trash Nite, local filmmaker and mashup artist Adam Jeffers is hosting an encore presentation of his two-hour videotainment “Big Meanies” Tuesday at The Bottleneck.

Jeffers has taken out all the boring parts from three forgotten no-budget films featuring oversized monsters — "Ganjasaurus Rex" (1987), "Saurians" (1994), and "King Kung Fu" (1976) — and edited them together into one feature presentation that’s hilarious for all the wrong (right?) reasons. These condensed versions of the trashy films are all held together by a framing device that puts them between an '80s-style local TV broadcast, complete with kaiju-themed commercial breaks. “Big Meanies” starts at 8 p.m. and, like always, is completely free.

“Jayhawkers” DVD Release Party

Cast and crew members from Kevin Willmott’s local independent feature film “Jayhawkers” will gather at The Cider Gallery (810 Pennsylvania St.) on Friday, May 30, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to celebrate the movie’s release on DVD. As a piece of local history, “Jayhawkers” should be considered required viewing for all Lawrence residents, as it puts Phog Allen, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Kansas University basketball program in a unique perspective with the wider 1950s and '60s Civil Rights movement and changing face of college sports.

The movie, which co-stars Kip Niven, Jay Karnes, and former KU forward Justin Wesley, also works as a rousing piece of entertainment, and proves that locally produced work can hold its own with the best of Hollywood. The party, which is free and open to the public, is part of Lawrence’s Final Friday arts celebration, and the newly released “Jayhawkers” DVD will be available for purchase at the event.


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