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Movie Review: Man Of Steel

by Dan Fields

Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel reimagines the Superman story

© 2013 Warner Brothers

“Clark Kent… now there was a real gent.”

At one point in Man Of Steel, a young Clark Kent, wrestling with the overwhelming onset of his superpowers, laments to his mother that the world is too big for him. “Then make it small,” replies Ma Kent. This is not one of the film’s best scenes, but the lesson could have been useful. Director Zack Synder, as well as writers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (of the Dark Knight saga) know a lot about spectacle and scale and heroes and villains, but not one of them seems to understand “making it small” as a practical storytelling strategy.

Given the amount of money and creative freedom that these men probably had at their fingertips for a new Superman project, it would be hard for anyone to resist the temptation to pack the movie as full as possible of absolutely everything. Man Of Steel is simply too much, swaddling about seventy minutes of outstanding Superman material in eighty more of muddled narrative and extraneous action climaxes.

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Movie Review: Mud

by Dan Fields
First published April 25, 2013 by the California Literary Review

Today’s Tom Sawyer (Mean, Mean Pride)

With just three feature films to his name, writer and director Jeff Nichols has already set himself a high standard. Both of his previous works, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, are strong dramas with compelling characters, dark intrigue and impressive economy of style. With Mud, Nichols has progressed from making a good film to making a great film.

Mud concerns a community of Arkansas river folks, and among them a pair of teenage boys who find a dangerous secret hidden downstream. More broadly, it chronicles a young man’s tentative first steps toward understanding how the rest of his life will work. The story hearkens frequently to classics of American literature, most notably the river adventure stories of Mark Twain. Though Nichols, at least in the case of Mud, shows more hope for mankind’s fate than Twain typically did, his storytelling style bears traces of the romantic recklessness and moral uncertainty which the author often underscored as those things which make even the best of us all too human. Continue reading

Movie Review: Machine Gun Preacher

by Dan Fields
First published October 01, 2011 by the California Literary Review

I Once Was Lost… I’m Still Kinda Lost

What do you call a two-hour movie with forty-five minutes of wholesome, inspirational tearjerking and a buck-fifteen of dead weight? No, not The Blind Side. This year, you may call it Machine Gun Preacher. This presumably well-meaning film from Swiss humanitarian Marc Forster is a cleverly devised ambush on the conscience of the average moviegoer. That would probably be okay, if it were a better crafted film. However, we all know that the words “based on a true story” have become code for “we don’t have to craft it better; this is what really happened!
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