Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins reviews movies for NPR.org, as well as for reeldc.com, which covers the Washington, D.C., film scene with an emphasis on art, foreign and repertory cinema.

Jenkins spent most of his career in the industry once known as newspapers, working as an editor, writer, art director, graphic artist and circulation director, among other things, for various papers that are now dead or close to it.

He covers popular and semi-popular music for The Washington Post, Blurt, Time Out New York, and the newsmagazine show Metro Connection, which airs on member station WAMU-FM.

Jenkins is co-author, with Mark Andersen, of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital. At one time or another, he has written about music for Rolling Stone, Slate, and NPR's All Things Considered, among other outlets.

He has also written about architecture and urbanism for various publications, and is a writer and consulting editor for the Time Out travel guide to Washington. He lives in Washington.

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Movie Reviews
3:19 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

An 'Exodus' With Extra Eyeliner And Crocodiles

Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) and Moses (Christian Bale) in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Kerry Brown Twentieth Century Fox

The tale of Moses is not exactly fresh cinematic material, so anyone attempting an update would to be wise to have a theme. The subtitle of Exodus: Gods and Kings suggests that Ridley Scott intended just that. The director must have meant to contrast the decadent Egyptian pharaohs, who imagined themselves divine, with the humbler servant of the Hebrew G-d.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

In A Weekend Or A Year, Remoteness Is Captured On Film

Christine Powell in Antarctica: A Year On Ice.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 6:12 pm

Remote Area Medical and Antarctica: A Year on Ice are both studies of human life in extremis, and each documentary employs a strict chronological framework. The former observes a single weekend, while the latter — well, it's right there in the title, although the movie draws on a decade's worth of footage.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

A Concert Film Without Much Concert Film, 'Pulp' Sketches A Hometown

Pulp bandmates Jarvis Cocker, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, and Mark Webber.
Oscilloscope

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets is a concert documentary that includes little concert footage. But that doesn't mean it spends much time on the themes mentioned in its subtitle. Mostly, the movie is about singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker and his hometown, Sheffield, which he acknowledges has "never been a beautiful place."

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Music Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

The Slow-Talking 'Foxcatcher' Goes Long And Comes Up Short

Steve Carell plays John du Pont in Foxcatcher.
Scott Garfield Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 8:17 pm

The rich are different from you and me. They talk more slowly.

Speaking ... like ... this isn't the entire extent of Steve Carell's impersonation of John du Pont in Foxcatcher, which fictionalizes an odd case from the 1990s. The actor is also outfitted with a prosthetic nose that recalls the beak of his cartoon alter ego, Despicable Me's Gru.

"Most of my friends will call me 'Eagle,' or 'Golden Eagle,' " John claims, but he looks more a sedated canary.

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Movie Reviews
6:29 am
Sat November 8, 2014

In 'The Theory Of Everything,' Science Takes A Back Seat

Eddie Redmayne plays astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
Liam Daniel Focus Features

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 8:48 am

British science is having a cinematic moment, with The Theory of Everything now and The Imitation Game soon. Yet neither film has much science in it. These accounts of Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, respectively, are engaging and well-crafted but modeled all too faithfully on old-school romantic dramas.

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Movie Reviews
12:17 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

In 'Goodbye To Language,' Jean-Luc Godard Seeks New Ways To Make Pictures

Jean-Luc Godard's dog Roxy appears in his new film, Goodbye To Language.
Kino Lorber

Even the most ordinary movies can be seductive, as Jean-Luc Godard knows all too well. In the 1960s, he was besotted with American commercial cinema, even as he rejected the U.S. policies that led it to make war in Vietnam.

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Movie Reviews
2:03 am
Fri October 24, 2014

'Life Of Riley,' Alain Resnais' Final Film, Bids A Sunny Adieu

Hippolyte Girardot and Sabine Azéma play spouses in Life of Riley.
Kino Lorber

There are as many mysteries in Alain Resnais' final film, Life of Riley, as there are in the movies that made his reputation almost 60 years ago. But where Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad were shadowed by history, this sunny adieu is set in a series of make-believe gardens.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

'The Golden Era' Follows A Path From Northern China To Tokyo

Shaofeng Feng and Wei Tang in The Golden Era.
China Lion Film Distribution

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 9:55 am

Director Ann Hui's The Golden Era tells of a female novelist and poet who lived in, as the Chinese curse puts it, "interesting times": from 1911 to 1942. Simultaneously sweeping and intimate, the three-hour drama overcomes many of the usual difficulties of depicting writers on screen. But it can't finesse one major impediment for Western viewers: Few of them know anything of its heroine, Xiao Hong.

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Movie Reviews
10:04 am
Tue October 14, 2014

'Kill The Messenger' Incompletely Unravels A Complex Tale

Jeremy Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb.
Chuck Zlotnick Focus Features

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 12:11 pm

Which is the better story: a massive conspiracy to use CIA connections to import cocaine into the United States, or the efforts of one reporter to uncover that intrigue?

Gary Webb, the protagonist of Kill the Messenger, pursued the first topic, and rightly so — even if it did destroy him. Director Michael Cuesta went with the second, probably because it's more manageable.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

A Man, A Plane, A Rapture: 'Left Behind'

Nicolas Cage stars as airline pilot Ray Steele in Left Behind.
Courtesy of Stoney Lake Entertainment

The world is ending, billions will die, and hell is, literally, coming to Long Island. But the rebooted Left Behind doesn't want to alarm you.

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Movie Reviews
8:53 am
Fri September 19, 2014

A Tall And Silly Tale Signifies Nothing In 'Tusk'

In Kevin Smith's best movies — and his worst ones, for that matter — the characters talk a whole lot of nonsense. That's also true of Tusk, the writer-director's second foray into horror. This time, the villain actually follows through on his nutty chatter. But he still spends a lot more time talking than torturing.

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Movie Reviews
9:03 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Music Of Memphis And Glasgow Plays In Two New Films

Memphis and God Help the Girl are both musicals of a sort, and portraits of musical capitals of a sort. The first is set in the home of some of soul music's greatest stars, but is too wispy and diffident for the average Otis Redding or Al Green fan. The second plays at being a more mainstream effort, but will appeal mostly to people who are such fervent Belle & Sebastian enthusiasts that they actually think of Glasgow as being in the same league as Memphis.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

More Physical Than Plausible, 'Starred Up' Sharply Portrays Confinement

Within moments of arriving at an adult prison — "starred up" from a juvenile facility that couldn't handle him — Eric (Jack O'Connell) demonstrates how to use jail-issue toiletries to make a weapon. But it's not that toothbrush shiv that makes the 19-year-old deadly. It's his ferocious unpredictability, a quality mirrored by this edgy, naturalistic drama.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

When The Wedding Is Just The Beginning

Just about everything clicks in director Ira Sachs' quietly eloquent Love is Strange, except the title. The longtime romance of painter Ben (John Lithgow) and music teacher George (Alfred Molina) doesn't seem at all odd. The men's lives, however, do take a sudden turn away from the ordinary.

The story begins in a mysterious flurry of morning activity that's soon explained. After Ben and George's nearly four decades together, same-sex marriage has become legal in New York, and the men have decided to take what hardly seems a plunge.

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Movie Reviews
5:51 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

James Cameron Takes The 'Deepsea Challenge' At The Ocean's Bottom

Fillmmaker James Cameron wanted to travel the depths of the ocean since he was a child. He attempts to make his boyhood dreams a reality in National Geographic's Deepsea Challenge.
Mark Thiessen AP

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 6:40 pm

Building a submersible that can travel to the ocean's deepest point is a budget buster, even for the guy who made Titanic and Avatar. So it makes sense that the Deepsea Challenger, James Cameron's depth-taunting craft, would be designed for just a single passenger. Still, viewers of Deepsea Challenge may think of another reason the vessel's cabin was built for one: Cameron didn't want anyone else intruding on his close-up.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

A 'Child Of God,' Or Maybe Not

Scott Haze stars in Child Of God, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy directed by James Franco.
Well Go USA

Originally published on Fri August 1, 2014 8:15 am

A freewheeling yet writerly style and a fully committed lead performance distinguish Child of God, prolific actor-author-director James Franco's latest literary adaptation. Even when the movie works, however, it's hard to see past the lurid details of the Tennessee tale, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 1973 exercise in backwoods noir.

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Movie Reviews
5:04 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

'A Most Wanted Man': A Parable Grounded In The Real World

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in A Most Wanted Man, director Anton Corbijn's adaptation of John le Carré's 2008 novel, as German intelligence officer Günther Bachmann.
Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 5:46 pm

Fittingly, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performances is in a movie about role-playing. The masterly actor mutters and growls his way through A Most Wanted Man as a spy who's simultaneously fighting two losing wars: against the West's enemies as well as his own putative allies.

Further deepening the movie's ambiguity, the American actor plays a German in a story whose payoff is pungently anti-American.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

'I Origins': There's More Than One 'I' In 'Ridiculous'

In I Origins, Michael Pitt (left) plays a molecular biologist who becomes emotionally and philosophically entranced by free-spirited "Sofi" (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) and her speckled eyes.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Viewers of earnest sci-fi dramas like I Origins are required to suspend disbelief, but the scripters of such movies have responsibilities, too. They can't introduce ideas so ridiculous, or suddenly twist their premises so illogically, that audiences are fatally distracted.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

A 'Closed Curtain' Conceals A Director's Real Confinement

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi wrote, directed and produced Closed Curtain — a film based off his own personal experiences in hiding with his dog from the Iranian government.
Celluloid Dreams Variance Films

Banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi could hardly have found a more engaging surrogate than the four-legged co-star of Closed Curtain, the second movie Panahi has directed since he was officially forbidden from doing so. Making his entrance by hopping from the duffel bag that's hidden him, the dog called Boy embodies Iranian outcasts at their friskiest.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

The Devil's In The Derails: 'Deliver Us,' Indeed

Based on the accounts given by a former NYPD sergeant, Deliver Us From Evil follows Ralph Sarchie, a New York police officer played by Eric Bana, as he investigates unexplainable crimes.
Andrew Schwartz Screen Gems

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 7:23 pm

For decades, cop dramas have depicted the South Bronx as the devil's playground. Deliver Us From Evil takes that idea all too literally. But then this slow-witted occult thriller takes everything literally, from the Catholic rite of exorcism to Jim Morrison's shamanic posturing.

The movie is derived from a book of the same name by former NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie, who reportedly came to believe that some of the criminals he faced were literally possessed. Wisely, director and co-scripter Scott Derrickson made the on-screen Sarchie (stolidly intense Eric Bana) a skeptic.

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