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.

Pages

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.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

From A Saudi Director, A Familiar Story Made Fresh Again

All Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) wants is her own bicycle — but as Haifaa Al Mansour's film illustrates, that's a tricky proposition for a young girl living in Saudi Arabia.
Tobias Kownatzki Razor Film/Sony Pictures Classics

Wadjda is the sort of lovable young hustler we've seen in scores of films — a 10-year-old who wants something and will lie, threaten and cajole to get it.

But Wadjda's familiar premise is transformed by its unexpected location: The movie's protagonist lives in Saudi Arabia, and what she wants, even if she doesn't exactly realize it, is freedom.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:09 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Qwerty Can Be Flirty, If We're In '50s France

Ses Doigts, Sont Adroits: Deborah Francois proves adept with the titular typewriter in Populaire.
Jair Sfez The Weinstein Co.

Devotees of '50s Hollywood comedies could have a great time at Populaire, an intentionally lightweight ode to romance and, uh, typing. But the way to enjoy this French souffle is to concentrate on the scrupulously retro music, costumes and set design, not on the musty fairy-tale script.

Read more
Movie Reviews
6:14 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Dark Wings Over Tokyo, With A Dash Of Feline Mystery To Finish

More than 20,000 crows, by recent estimates, live alongside the 13 million human inhabitants of Tokyo; Tokyo Waka tells their story — and meditates on the meaning of their persistence in one of the world's greatest cities.
Stylo Films

Western movies usually film Tokyo through a lens clouded by preconceived notions. California documentarians John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson sidestep that pitfall by downplaying human views. Their Tokyo Waka: A City Poem looks at the Japanese megalopolis from the vantage point of its abundant crows.

Read more
Movie Reviews
6:37 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Good Vs. Evil, Once More With (So Much) Feeling

Jace helps Clary as she sets about uncovering the truth about her unsuspected heritage as one of the chosen few who defend humans from things supernatural, and also he is pretty and blond and dreamy and distracting.
Rafy Sony/Screen Gems

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 1:22 pm

It's time for mom and Clary to have the talk.

No, not that talk. Jocelyn (Lena Headey) needs to tell teenage Clary (Lily Collins) about angels and demons, vampires and werewolves, magic chalices and sacred blood — not to mention hidden sanctuaries, interdimensional portals, the identity of her father and the existence of an unknown brother. Plus something nutty about J.S. Bach.

No wonder she's been putting it off.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Lives And History, Through The Eyes Of Big And Small

Forest Whitaker turns in a reserved performance as Cecil Gaines, butler to eight U.S. presidents, including Robin Williams' Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a Lee Daniels drama based on the true story of a White House veteran.
Anne Marie Fox The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:59 pm

In their approaches to history, Joshua Michael Stern's Jobs and Lee Daniels' The Butler could hardly be less similar. The former is an example of Victorian-style great-man biography, updated for the iThings era. The latter observes monumental events, mostly involving the civil rights movement, from an Everyman's perspective.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

'Deep Throat's' Lovelace, And The Linda She Used To Be

Amanda Seyfried plays girl-next-door porn star Linda Lovelace, who'd become a sensation in 1972's Deep Throat but later denounce her manager-husband (Peter Sarsgaard) as abusive and manipulative.
Dale Robinette Radius TWC

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 11:25 am

Cinema routinely peddles images of beautiful people in romantic situations, not to mention gauzily idealized visions of passion and intimacy. So it's a little counterintuitive when filmmakers depict sex as perilous — even when that's exactly what they've signed up to do.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:53 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Washington, Wahlberg Are Bad Boys, And Whatcha Gonna Do?

Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) are two hypermacho hoods who've teamed up to rob a bank — but wait, are they really the bad guys they say they are?
Patti Perret Universal

Hypermacho but tongue-in-cheek, the first 20 minutes of 2 Guns are enormous fun. Tough guys Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) bicker and flirt — with a pretty diner waitress, and with each other — while casing a small-town Texas bank.

Then they set the diner on fire, don masks, and knock over the bank for $43 million, all while taking care to save any cops from getting hurt and even kissing an available baby. The heist, it would seem, has gone according to plan. Yet something's a little off.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Beyond Earth's Gravity, A Space Opera Goes Flat

Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo) is chief scientist on a doomed mission to one of Jupiter's moons in Europa Report, a found-footage whatdunnit with sci-fi-thriller ambitions.
Magnolia

In space, not many people can hear you scream. In fact, traveling in a manned spacecraft is probably a bit like working on a soundproof movie set — which is plainly where Europa Report was shot.

Tricked up with split screens and digital-video glitchery, this low-budget sci-fi saga emphasizes the claustrophobia and monotony of a long journey beyond Earth's gravity. But it also borrows gambits from horror movies, withholding information and eliminating characters one by one.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:18 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Crime And Punishment, Mainland China Style

When it is discovered that Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) has been manufacturing meth, he's sentenced to death and put in the custody of Capt. Zhang. His only shot at redemption? Helping Zhang shut down his cartel.
Variance

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 6:13 pm

Hong Kong action-crime maestro Johnnie To makes films about good and evil, but he's not in the habit of neatly distinguishing the two. So he might seem at a disadvantage in mainland China, where the censors don't tolerate moral ambiguity. With the canny Drug War, however, the director proves himself entirely up to the challenge.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Adam Sandler, Insisting Again That He's A Really Great Guy

Improbably or not, Salma Hayek (left) and Adam Sandler (far right) are a couple again in Grown Ups 2. Billed as a comedy, the film also features Kevin James, Alexys Nicole Sanchez, Chris Rock, Maria Bello and David Spade, who in this scene are all pretending to laugh at something that in all likelihood involves poo.
Tracy Bennett Sony Pictures

Two decades ago, when stupid Hollywood comedies were relatively smart, they lampooned their own sequelitis with titles like Hot Shots! Part Deux. The genre has become less knowing since then, so the follow-up to 2010's Grown Ups is named simply Grown Ups 2.

Grown Ups Minus 2 would be more apt.

Like its predecessor, this is a vehicle for Adam Sandler, his pals and whatever they think they can get away with. That means some creepy sexual insinuations, if not so many as the first time.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

In Swinging-'60s London, A Frisky 'Look Of Love'

The high life catches up with pop-culture impresario Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan, right) and his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) when nudie-mag editor Tony Power (Chris Addison) introduces them to drugs.
IFC

Originally published on Tue July 2, 2013 5:33 pm

The fourth collaboration between actor Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom is much like their first: Both The Look of Love and 2002's 24 Hour Party People are antic, self-conscious film bios about impresarios on the fringes of showbiz — soft porn and punk rock, respectively. But somehow the new movie, though it doesn't skimp on the nudity, the cocaine or the Britpop, is the blander of the two.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:00 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

In Vienna, A Gallery Of Hours That Add Up To Art

Bobby Sommer is Johann, an "invisible" Vienna museum guard who becomes profoundly connected to a frequent visitor after she starts to take notice of him.
Cinema Guild

During his 20-year career, Jem Cohen has shown his films in museum auditoriums more often than in commercial theaters. So it's fitting that Museum Hours, the arty documentarian's latest feature-length effort, is so indebted to Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum. Cohen likes to happen upon stories and images, and the 19th-century Austrian culture palace is brimming with both.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

In Tel Aviv, An 'Attack' With Consequences For The Heart

Ali Suliman, noted for his role in the Oscar-nominated film Paradise Now, plays Amin Jaafari, an Arab-Israeli surgeon whose world is rocked in the wake of a Tel Aviv bombing.
Cohen Media Group

Originally published on Sun June 23, 2013 9:28 am

As The Attack begins, the prosperous, successful Dr. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) is missing just one thing: his wife's presence as he becomes the first Arab-Israeli to win a prestigious national medical prize.

Even as the Tel Aviv physician accepts the award, however, his life is unraveling. And by the time director and co-writer Ziad Doueiri's drama is done with him, Amin has lost it all — including his illusion of having a homeland.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:04 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

'More Than Honey' Sees A World Without Bees

In More Than Honey, Attica Boa's striking close-up photography helps visualize a story whose urgency needs no amplification: With global honeybee populations threatened, the world's food supply could be seriously endangered.
Kino Lorber

An amiably shaggy combination of science lesson, whimsical musing and alarm bell, More Than Honey isn't as urgent as its eco-catastrophic subject — the possible destruction of the world's critically important honeybee populations — might seem to require. But the documentary's most memorable vignette is suitably unnerving: a visit to northern China, where the threatened disappearance of bees has already come to pass, leaving workers to pollinate fruit trees ... by hand.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Resnais' Lively, Metatheatrical Look At Death

Sabine Azema (left) and Pierre Arditi are two of the veteran actors drawn into a convoluted retelling — and reimagining — of the Orpheus and Eurydice story in Alain Resnais' You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.
Kino Lorber

As a relatively young man, French director Alain Resnais made films about loss, remembrance and the ghosts of a recent history that included the Holocaust, Hiroshima and the brutal Franco-Algerian war. He was 89 when he directed his latest film, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, which also considers the presence of the past. But the director's concern with real-life horrors has been replaced here by an outlook that's both playful and explicitly theatrical.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Teenage 'Kings Of Summer' Rule A Predictable Sitcom World

The Kings Of Summer stars (from left) Gabriel Basso as Patrick, Moises Arias as Biaggio and Nick Robinson as Joe. The three teenagers escape from their constrictive parents to build a house of their own in the woods.
Courtesy Toy's House Productions

Like the recent Mud, The Kings of Summer is a tale of feral adolescent pals in search of freedom and adventure. The movies even share essentially the same awkwardly contrived climax. But of the two films, The Kings of Summer is more of a comedy, with a depiction of the eternal war between teen and parent that's downright farcical.

Read more
Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Will, Jaden Smith In Space, Without Fun

Will Smith (left) and Jaden Smith star in After Earth, an unfortunately humorless film.
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

A disastrous father-son endeavor about a calamitous father-son expedition, After Earth doesn't play to the strengths of any of its major participants.

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:48 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

'We Steal Secrets': A Sidelong Look At WikiLeaks

Source material: As a virtual prisoner these days, he doesn't supply much in the way of fresh information — but WikiLeaks overlord Julian Assange is very much at the center of Alex Gibney's documentary We Steal Secrets.
Jo Straube Universal Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 7:52 pm

Current-events buffs probably think they know the tale of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney may have thought the same when he began researching his film We Steal Secrets. But this engrossing documentary soon diverges from the expected.

Even the movie's title, or rather the source of it, is a surprise. Not to spoil the fun, but it's neither Assange nor one of his allies who nonchalantly acknowledges that "we steal secrets."

Read more
Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

'Bidder 70,' Still Raising His Hand To Be Heard

Supporters of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher picket outside his criminal trial. The economics student ran into trouble with the federal government when he bid on — and won — mineral rights he had no intention of exploiting.
First Run Features

In its final months, the George W. Bush administration hastily organized a mineral-rights auction for federal land in Utah, much of it near national parks. Environmentalist and economics student Tim DeChristopher attended the sale and — impulsively, he says — bid on and won 22,000 acres he had no intention of exploiting.

The feds came down on him like a ton of oil derricks. DeChristopher was threatened with as many as 10 years in prison, and ultimately spent 21 months behind bars.

Read more

Pages