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
5:02 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Family Matters, With A Dose Of Pharmaceuticals

Josiane Balasko and Michel Blanc
A BORREL Courtesy of Rialto

Josiane Balasko's Demi-Soeur suggests that modern pharmaceuticals can abet the storytelling in an old-fashioned sentimental farce: A dose of Ecstasy is all that's required to activate the relationship between Nenette (Balasko), a 60-year-old with the understanding of a first-grader, and her previously unknown half-brother Paul (Michel Blanc).

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Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

'Charlie Victor Romeo': In Crisis In The Cockpit

Sam Zuckerman, Noel Dinneen and Nora Woolley play various airplane pilots in Charlie Victor Romeo, a white-knuckle docudrama with dialogue taken from the voice recorders of six planes that crashed between 1985 and 1996.
Collective: Unconscious

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 5:24 pm

By the end of Charlie Victor Romeo, almost 800 people will be dead, with hundreds more injured. But this methodical film, adapted from a theater piece first performed in 1999, doesn't actually show any of that carnage. It focuses tightly β€” very tightly β€” on a few people who are trying to prevent disaster.

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Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Two Families, Decidedly Unalike In Dignity

Ryota Ninomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama) and his son Keita (Keita Ninomiya) wrestle with identity and belonging in Like Father, Like Son.
Sundance Selects

Tokyo filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda is known for deft work with kids, sometimes in scenarios with little or no adult presence. But the English-language title of his latest movie, Like Father, Like Son, is a little misleading. There's no reference to a child in the Japanese title, which means "And So He Becomes a Father."

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Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

In A Past-Plagued Laos, A Youth Chases A Future

Kia (Loungnam Kaosainam) and Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) bond when they encounter each other in a Laotian refugee village in The Rocket.
Tom Greenwood Kino Lorber

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 6:02 pm

To help his struggling family and escape his own status as an outcast, a plucky young boy enters a competition. Yes, The Rocket is a sports movie, with an outcome that's easily foreseen. The cultural specifics of this Laos-set tale, however, are far less predictable.

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Monkey See
1:20 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

A Hong Kong Film Titan, With A Reach Well Beyond His Roots

Run Run Shaw, pictured with his wife and daughter in London, was knighted in 1978 for his philanthropic endeavors.
Central Press Getty Images

The Hong Kong entertainment magnate and philanthropist Run Run Shaw, who died today at 106 or 107, isn't that well known in the West. But his fans, from Quentin Tarantino to the Wu-Tang Clan, sure are.

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Movie Reviews
11:19 am
Mon January 6, 2014

From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer'

Geoffrey Rush plays an obsessive art auctioneer in The Best Offer, a mystery-cum-romance from the director of Cinema Paradiso.
Stefano Schirato IFC Films

A stylish if ultimately silly attempt to marry erotic puzzler and art-world critique, The Best Offer benefits from assured performances and an agreeably nutty Ennio Morricone score. The movie plays as if director Giuseppe Tornatore (best known for Cinema Paradiso) is doing all he can with a dubious script. But he's the one who wrote it.

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Movie Reviews
3:21 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

A Wall Street Predator With An Appetite For Excess

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a profoundly corrupt stock-market manipulator in The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the real-life story of convicted fraudster Jordan Belfort.
Mary Cybulski Paramount Pictures

Several times during The Wolf of Wall Street, the wolf himself turns to the camera and offers to explain some stockbroker term or strategy. But then he stops himself and says it doesn't really matter.

It sure doesn't β€” not in this exuberant but profitless bad-behavior romp. It's based on the career of former penny-stock magnate Jordan Belfort, but might as well be about Keith Richards in the '70s or Robert Downey Jr. in the '90s.

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Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale

Living in poverty and expelled from school, Arbor (Conner Chapman) turns to collecting scrap metal with a cart and horse in The Selfish Giant.
Agatha A. Nitecka Sundance Selects

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 7:08 pm

In Oscar Wilde's fairy tale The Selfish Giant, the title character brings eternal winter to his garden by banishing children from it. Writer-director Clio Barnard's film of the same name was inspired by Wilde's fable, yet is much different.

The original story was for kids; the movie is about kids, but its grim depictions of violence against innocents may be too harrowing even for some adults. Yet the movie is engrossing, and sure to linger long after its poignant culmination.

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Movie Reviews
2:03 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors

After the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, the nearby town of Futaba was entirely evacuated. Nuclear Nation follows nine months in the lives of the displaced.
First Run Features

"Atomic energy makes our town and society prosperous," reads a sign photographed by filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi for Nuclear Nation. By the time he shows this small-town civic motto, the irony is unmistakable: Japan's nuclear-power industry may have enriched society, but it has left this particular city desolate.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice

When his younger brother disappears after getting entangled with a rough customer, Russell (Christian Bale) grabs a gun and heads out to hunt for him.
Kerry Hayes Relativity Media

Both literally and thematically dark, Out of the Furnace simmers with manliness like a slow-cooking pot of venison chili. This is the sort of movie where character is revealed by what the protagonist decides to hunt and possibly kill.

A noble buck in the Pennsylvania woods? Maybe not. A murderous, meth-dealing bare-knuckle-boxing promoter? Bang!

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

A 'Long Walk' With Mandela, But It Shorts His Story

Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela in a biographical film based on the former South African president's memoir.
Keith Bernstein The Weinstein Company

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 7:10 pm

Some movies try to underscore their authenticity by flashing dates, names and locations on the screen. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom offers some dates and locations, but not much in the way of names. The result is a history of national transformation in which only two people really seem to matter.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

A Gospel Story, Reframed (Again) In 'Black Nativity'

Jacob Latimore (from left), Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker power through the season in Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity, a Christmas movie musical based on Langston Hughes' gospel oratorio.
Phil Bray Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 8:55 pm

Like Eve's Bayou, her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected: Black Nativity is a musical, after all, as well as a credible attempt at an African-American holiday perennial.

The original Black Nativity is a gospel-music oratorio, conceived by poet Langston Hughes and first performed in 1961. It pairs the Christian Nativity story with traditional spirituals and African drumming.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

A Foray Into The Blood-Soaked 'Cultura' Of Mexico's Cartels

In Narco Cultura, director and photojournalist Shaul Schwarz interrogates the collision of pop culture and Mexico's drug cartels β€” as personified by bands like Los Bukanas de Culiacan (above), who perform narcocorridos, or songs glorifying the drug trade.
Shaul Schwarz Cinedigm

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 3:03 pm

Following police through Mexico's Ciudad JuΓ‘rez β€” reputedly the world's homicide capital β€” the Israeli filmmaker Shaul Schwarz finds mutilated corpses and gutters running with blood. But the resulting documentary, Narco Cultura, is not nearly so vivid as its most gruesome footage.

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Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Alexander Sokurov, Seeking New Shadows In A Dark Classic

The man who makes the deal with the devil, played by Johannes Zeiler, is back onscreen in a new interpretation of the Faust story from director Alexander Sokurov.
Leisure Time Features

Siberia-born director Alexander Sokurov is best known in the West for 2002's Russian Ark, a cinematic waltz through the Hermitage Museum that also functions as a primer on Russian history. The filmmaker is an idiosyncratic historian, though, as he demonstrates yet again with a version of Faust that completes his "tetralogy of power."

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

The End Of The World, As She Knows It

Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is just a typical teen struggling with boys, family and growing up β€” and also what might be the apocalypse.
Nicola Dove Magnolia Pictures

Because it serves up Armageddon with a side order of teen romance, How I Live Now is not always credible. But as a portrait of a surly 16-year-old whose internal crisis is overtaken by an external one, the movie is persuasive.

For that, credit goes partly to director Kevin Macdonald, but mostly to his star, Saoirse Ronan. Playing a neurotic urbanite who learns to survive in a war-ravaged landscape, the actress is, appropriately enough, a force of nature.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

'Tai Chi' Master: Keanu Reeves Takes The Director's Chair

Making his directorial debut with Man of Tai Chi, Keanu Reeves also appears as the film's rich, ruthless villain.
RADiUS-TWC

Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, is basically the anti-Kill Bill. Both movies are quilted together from their auteurs' favorite Asian action flicks, but where Tarantino's was overheated, Reeves' is elegantly iced. It's martial-arts mayhem with a touch of zen.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

'The Square': Egypt In Crisis, And Its People In Focus

The documentary follows the political turmoil in Egypt since 2011 but focuses on the story of just a handful of young revolutionaries, among them Ahmed Hassan.
Noujaim Films

Several times during The Square, Jehane Noujaim's account of Egypt's unfinished revolution, the camera gazes down on Tahrir Square, teeming with multitudes. Yet ultimately, one of the principal appeals of the D.C.-born Egyptian-American filmmaker's documentary is its intimacy.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

WikiLeaks Gets A Hollywood Gloss In 'Fifth Estate'

Benedict Cumberbatch (left), sporting the white-blond mop of the real Julian Assange, and Daniel Bruhl, who plays Daniel Domscheit-Berg, take on the story of WikiLeaks in The Fifth Estate.
Frank Connor DreamWorks II

The saga of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is too large a data dump for a two-hour drama. Yet director Bill Condon seeks to complicate as well as simplify in The Fifth Estate, an entertaining if inevitably unreliable current events romp.

The opening credits present a pocket history of textual communication, from cuneiform to the Internet. Condon, who took a similarly breathless approach with Kinsey, is announcing that his subject is nothing less than how the Web transformed communication.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

For Richer And For Poorer, But What Of That Vanishing Middle?

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, takes a look at growing income disparity in Inequality for All.
Radius/TWC

The U.S. financial sector's 2007-2008 swoon hurt a lot of people, but it's been a bonanza for documentary filmmakers with an interest in economics. The last five years have seen dozens of movies about the dismal science, most of them pegged to the Great Recession.

The latest is Inequality for All, a showcase for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. (He served under Bill Clinton, who borrowed much of his fellow Rhodes scholar's rhetoric, if fewer of his prescriptions.)

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

From Lebanon To Israel, With An Olive Tree In Tow

Zaytoun follows Yoni (Stephen Dorff), an Israeli fighter pilot, and Fahed (Abdallah El Akal), a young Palestinian boy, as they travel together and form an unlikely bond.
Eitan Riklis Strand Releasing

Originally published on Sun September 22, 2013 8:27 am

Israeli director Eran Riklis often depicts characters separated by borders. In The Syrian Bride, a Druze woman leaves Israel to marry, knowing she can never return to visit her family; in Lemon Tree, a privileged Israeli woman and a disadvantaged Palestinian regard one another warily from opposite sides of the fence between free and occupied territory.

Zaytoun is different: This time, the director allows his characters to cross the frontier. That makes for a story that's sweeter, but also less convincing.

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