‘Man of Steel’ Falls Flat; Mick Jagger’s Angels: Film

“Man of Steel” is an hour of back story, an hour of explosions and crashing skyscrapers and then a half-hour-long fistfight. I counted two jokes.

Talent is crushed. It’s a drag to watch Michael Shannon -- who just showed his genius for over-the-top lunacy delivering the “Insane Delta Gamma Sorority Letter” on YouTube -- hollering his lines as Superman’s nemesis, the evil General Zod.

About Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, it’s hard to say much except that he goes to the gym. A lot. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, as the kindly hicks who adopt the alien baby, have the nicest moments, because they’re quiet.

The art direction nods to H.R. Giger’s designs for “Alien,” but the colors are leaden, and so is the pacing. The high-priced special effects give up the ghost to endless face-offs of military hardware. I forgot I was watching in 3-D.

Zack Snyder directed, under the clear sway of Mr. Serious, Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), who receives producing and story credits. (What story?)

When buildings collapse, with terrified crowds racing to escape the plummeting rubble, the reference to Sept. 11 is distressingly clear. The point is not.

The catastrophes aren’t witty or shivery or anything much, except loud. Hans Zimmer’s score outblasts the artillery.

“Man of Steel,” from Warner Bros., is playing across the U.S. Rating: * (Seligman)

Black Pantheon

Merry Clayton might be one of your favorite singers, but you probably don’t know it.

Her voice soaring through the Rolling Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter” (“rape, murder/it’s just a shot away”), Clayton is part of an elite and enduring sisterhood: the backup singers who give grace and grit to rock and roll.

The pantheon (mostly black women with church-honed skills) gets its overdue spotlight in Morgan Neville’s “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” a documentary nearly as glorious as the voices it celebrates.

Though they’ve shared stages with the Stones, Sting, Springsteen and too many others to count, these singers could go unnoticed in an elevator. And their voices just might be playing between floors.

Shimmying Ikettes

A testament to artistry and talent, “Twenty Feet” features a trove of vintage clips (those shimmying Ikettes!), on-the-spot performances and interviews with the subjects and their stars (including Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder).

With the exception of Darlene Love, stardom was elusive for the likes of Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, Gloria Jones, Jo Lawry and Lynn Maybry.

Bad luck and bad timing play their parts, along with industry sexism. “You’re too fat, you’re too old,” says a teary Vega, whose stunning voice has long accompanied Elton John.

And some singers just don’t have the requisite narcissism for stardom.

After winning a Grammy Award in 1991 for her single “How Can I Ease the Pain,” Fischer eventually resumed back-up duties for the Stones.

“I just want to sing,” she says.

“Twenty Feet From Stardom,” from Radius-TWC, is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **** (Evans)

What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include New York Weekend and Lance Esplund on art.

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