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
6:03 pm
Fri July 24, 2015

'A Gay Girl' Who Was Not What She Seemed

A scene from A Gay Girl in Damascus.
IFC Films

Originally published on Fri July 24, 2015 11:53 pm

Imagine discovering a blog written by an attractive, vivacious woman who lives in a city torn by civil war. Imagine corresponding with that woman, falling in love with her, and receiving erotic messages and nude photos from her. Then imagine hearing that this online lover has been kidnapped, probably by her repressive country's secret police.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 16, 2015

A Widely Praised Documentary Gets An Even Better Second Chapter

A scene from Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary The Look of Silence.
Drafthouse Films and Participant Media

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 3:23 pm

Almost three years ago, Joshua Oppenheimer unveiled The Act of Killing, a startling documentary about the 1965-66 mass killings in Indonesia. Its audacious ploy was to encourage unrepentant murderers to re-enact their deeds in the form of scenes from action flicks, a tactic that was extremely well-received by Western critics.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

Coming Back As A Better Slab Of Beef Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and daughter Anna (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) with Young Damian/Edward (Ryan Reynolds) in Self/less.
Alan Markfield Gramercy Pictures

Originally published on Thu July 9, 2015 5:23 pm

The rich are different from you and me. They can buy fresh bodies when the old ones wear out.

Well, at least they can in Self/less, a movie that raises provocative questions about identity and then doesn't think about them at all. In this sci-fi fantasy, rebottling your soul in a new vessel begets not contemplation but chase scenes. Lots of chase scenes.

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Movie Reviews
2:19 pm
Fri July 3, 2015

Investigating The Drug Trade In 'Cartel Land'

Jose Manuel Mireles Valverde, spokesman for the Autodefensas, a militia organized against the Knights Templar mob.
The Orchard

Originally published on Fri July 3, 2015 3:37 pm

Observing the consequences of the Mexican drug trade on both sides of the U.S. border, Cartel Land toggles between Arizona and the state of Michoacan, about 1,000 miles to the south. Only the latter of the twinned storylines really pays off, but that one is riveting.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

The House Music Of Paris Takes Center Stage In 'Eden'

Felix De Givry in Eden.
Broad Green Pictures

A subtle portrait of an EDM Adam, Eden is neither a star-is-born fable nor a soul-is-lost parable. In 1992, teenage Paul (Felix de Givry) gives his life to Paris' house-music scene. Two decades later, he reluctantly takes it back.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

A Poet Can Indeed Be Trouble In 'Set Fire To The Stars'

Elijah Wood in Set Fire To The Stars.
Strand Releasing

"How much trouble can one poet be?" That's literature professor John Malcolm Brinnin's rhetorical response to his buttoned-way-down colleagues' fears about a writer's proposed visit to New York in 1950. Today, the query can't be heard as anything other than an inside joke. For the poet is Dylan Thomas, who was trouble for most of his 39 years.

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Movie Reviews
3:01 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

A Simplified Brian Wilson In 'Love And Mercy'

Paul Dano plays a young Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy.
Francois Duhamel Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 10:37 am

Wouldn't it be nice if Beach Boy Brian Wilson's troubled life were as easily understood as Love & Mercy makes it appear? Where the Pet Sounds auteur is known for multi-part harmonies, director Bill Pohlad's biopic is a series of simple duets.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

'Gemma Bovery': Retelling A Classic With A Light Touch

Hervé (Niels Schneider) and Gemma (Gemma Arterton) in Gemma Bovery.
Jerome Prebois Music Box Films

French director Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is a comic reworking of Madame Bovary, but that's merely the first of the movie's several layers. The bilingual film is adapted not from Flaubert's classic but from British cartoonist Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, set in contemporary times and with the Boverys as a London couple that just relocated to Normandy.

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Movie Reviews
3:33 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

In 'The Seeds Of Time,' One Man's Quest To Save Our Food Supply

Seeds of Time
Hungry, INC. Kino Lorber

Cary Fowler is an easygoing, soft-spoken Tennessee native who travels the world with an urgent message: The human race may starve to death. If that threat becomes likely, however, people can turn to the biological archive that director Sandy McLeod's documentary calls The Seeds of Time.

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Movie Reviews
3:01 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Why 'Forbidden Films' Remain Officially Locked Away

A scene from the 1941 Nazi propaganda film Homecoming by Gustav Ucicky. As seen in Felix Moeller's Forbidden Films.
Zeitgeist Films

At the beginning of Forbidden Films, documentarian Felix Moeller's camera warily contemplates a fortified bunker. The contents are, a curator warns, "literally explosive" — Nazi propaganda films on highly flammable nitrocelluloid stock.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

'The D Train' Rumbles On With Another Hunk/Schlub Comedy

Henry Zebrowski (Craig), James Marsden (Oliver Lawless), and Jack Black (Dan Landsman) in Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel's The D Train.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle IFC

"Inappropriate," today's foremost throat-clearing adjective, is the appropriate response to The D Train. This squirm-till-you-snicker comedy is about two immature males confronted with sexual possibilities they can't handle. One of the guys is 14; the other is his father.

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Movie Reviews
3:43 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

In 'Marie's Story,' A Tale Of Teaching And Faith

Ariana Rivoire and Isabelle Carré in Marie's Story.
Film Movement

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 2:47 pm

Marie Heurtin was born blind and deaf just five years after Helen Keller, and she experienced a similar liberation through the discovery of sign language. The French girl's tale is the harsher one, since Keller didn't lose sight and sound until she was 19 months old and was able to communicate in a limited way with another girl before the breakthrough dramatized in The Miracle Worker.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

'24 Days' Retells A Brutal Crime With Little Explanation

Zabou Breitman plays Ruth Halimi in 24 Days.
Menemsha Films

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 10:58 am

24 Days recounts the grisly fate of Ilan Halimi, the young Jewish Parisian who in 2006 was kidnapped, held for ransom and tortured beyond what his body could endure. But it's not Ilan who addresses the camera at the beginning of the film. It's his mother, Ruth Halimi (Zabou Breitman).

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

'Monkey Kingdom' Is Best When It's All Monkeys All The Time

Monkeys on Castle Rock from Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom.
Jeff Wilson Disney

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 2:44 pm

As much fun as a tree full of toque macaques, Monkey Kingdom is arguably the most entertaining of Disneynature's eight features. But purists will recoil as soon as The Monkees theme enters, and there are times when the story told by narrator Tina Fey probably doesn't reflect the extraordinary images directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill captured.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Listening To The Ho-Hum Of The Machine

Sonoya Mizuno and Alicia Vikander in Ex-Machina.
A24 Films

Originally published on Thu April 9, 2015 3:41 pm

The latest British movie to play the imitation game, Ex Machina, is the directorial debut of novelist-screenwriter Alex Garland. This time, the stakes are higher than the Nazi conquest of Europe. The talky sci-fi puzzler turns on nothing less than the potential displacement of humans by artificially intelligent cyborgs.

Then again, maybe the film is just another riff on the battle of the sexes.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

In 'The Voices,' The Dog And The Cat Talk, But The Film Says Little

Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) in The Voices.
Lionsgate

A serial-killer spoof set in a parody of small-town U.S.A., The Voices wants desperately to be bizarre. But it manages just to be a little odd, and that's mostly because its vision of American gothic was crafted on a German soundstage by a Franco-Iranian director.

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Movie Reviews
8:16 am
Fri January 2, 2015

Murder, Cows And Bad Funerals In The Absurd Comedy Of 'Li'l Quinquin'

Quinquin.
Kino Lorber

Although set in Bruno Dumont's home region of northern France, L'il Quinquin finds the writer-director in unexpected territory. The film is a arguably Dumont's first comedy, and was made as a four-part TV miniseries.

Yet with its relaxed pacing, inconclusive plot and elegant widescreen cinematography, the movie doesn't feel much like TV. And its humor is less a matter of overt gags than bemused attitude, which shows that the Dumont of Humanite and Hors Satan has barely relocated at all.

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Movie Reviews
4:42 pm
Sat December 13, 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

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 1:19 pm

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
11:25 am
Fri December 5, 2014

A 'Wild' Trek Made A Bit Too Neatly

Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed in Wild.
Anne Marie Fox Fox Searchlight Pictures

With a backstory that includes heroin use and zipless you-know-whats, Wild is a daring foray for its star and producer, the usually prim Reese Witherspoon. As an excursion into the untamed stream of human consciousness, however, the movie is less bold.

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Music Reviews
3:03 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 6:17 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
4:29 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 6:48 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
10:17 am
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
12:03 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
3:03 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 7:55 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
8:04 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 10:11 am

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
3:03 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
6:53 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
7:03 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
3:03 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
3:03 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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