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
3:03 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
3:03 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

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

Filmmaker Jafar Panahi wrote, directed and produced Closed Curtain β€” 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
3:03 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 5:23 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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Movie Reviews
3:10 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

'Begin Again,' A Music Fantasy Both Sticky And Sweet

After hearing Greta singing in a New York City bar, Dan, a record label executive played by Mark Ruffalo in Begin Again, helps her record her first big album.
Andrew Schwartz The Weinstein Company

You can be the scrappy newcomer only, well, once. That's a problem for Once writer-director John Carney, who has refashioned his low-budget 2006 hit as the slicker, cornier Begin Again. The new film excels as a pop-music fairy tale, but its real-world notes are seriously off-key.

The movie originally traveled the film-fest circuit under an unfortunate title, Can A Song Save Your Life? As in Carney's earlier effort, the life to be saved is that of a struggling man, and the rescuer is a young woman. This time, though, the intimacy is entirely musical.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

You're A Little Flat, 'Boys'

Tommy Devito (Vincent Piazza), Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) make up the scrappy Four Seasons quartet in Jersey Boys.
Keith Bernstein 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.and RatPac Entertainment

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 9:40 am

For the final credits of Jersey Boys, director Clint Eastwood sends the whole cast into a backlot street to dance to the Four Seasons' most recent chart-topper, 1976's "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)." Hmmm, the confused viewer might wonder, perhaps this is supposed to be a musical....

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Movies
3:03 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

In 'Manuscripts,' A Barred Filmmaker Considers Dissident Art

One of the uncredited members of the cast of Manuscripts Don't Burn.
Kino Lorber

Iranian writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof is known for such lovely yet elusive allegories as White Meadows, but his response to being barred from filmmaking has not been to recede further into symbolism. His Manuscripts Don't Burn, smuggled out of Iran last year, is direct and unflinching.

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Movie Reviews
3:08 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

All Eyes Turn To One 'Beauty' In Interwoven Tales Of Families And Politics

Isabelle Huppert in Dormant Beauty.
Emerging Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 11:45 am

Four stories and at least that many themes interlace in Dormant Beauty, veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio's latest bid to combine the personal and the political. The central issue is euthanasia, which became a national argument in 2009, when the father of Eluana Englaro asked to end her life after 17 years in a vegetative state.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Punk Is Alive And Living In Three Swedish Girls

Mira Grosin, Liv Lemoyne and Mira Barkhammar in WE ARE THE BEST!
Sofia Sabel Magnolia Pictures

Somewhere in liberal-minded but boring Sweden, two teenage girls begin a rebellion. If the premise of Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best! sounds familiar, that's because it's roughly identical to that of the writer-director's charming 1998 debut, Show Me Love.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Dizzy From Time Travel, Overstuffed With Mutants

You're looking pensive, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). And maybe full of ... holes?
Alan Markfield Twentieth Century Fox

As the seventh X-Men movie begins, New York City is in ruins, its residents nearly annihilated. Yet X-Men: Days of Future Past's true plight is overpopulation. The film is so stuffed with characters that including twin versions of Professor X and Magneto scarcely boosts the confusion.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

In 'Horses Of God,' A Sprawling Slum Breeds A Violent Act

Said El Alami and Achraf Afir in Horses Of God.
Kino Lorber

Anyone seeking to establish an incubator for suicide bombers could hardly improve on Sidi Moumen, a slum on the fringe of Casablanca. As depicted in Horses of God, the neighborhood is a place of crushing poverty, rampant hostility and exceptionally limited options.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

'Neighbors' Just Wants To Be The Gross Joke Next Door

Zac Efron in Neighbors.
Universal Pictures

Makers of R-rated comedies face an essential dilemma: finding brand new ways to gross out their snickering adolescent viewers. But as Neighbors demonstrates, there's another challenge that's just as tricky: piloting the raunchy scenario to a payoff that upholds the very middle-class values the movie gleefully profanes.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Travel And Discovery, For 'Ida' And The Filmmaker Who Watches Her

Ida/Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) in Ida.
Music Box Films

Everyone is on a voyage of self-discovery in Ida β€” the two central characters certainly, but also Poland-born, Britain-based director Pawel Pawlikowski, making his first film in the homeland he left at 14.

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Movies
3:08 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Tracing One Life, Lost In The Desert

Gael Garcia Bernal narrates and travels in the documentary Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Kino Lorber

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 4:41 pm

Who Is Dayani Cristal? attempts to humanize the many who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border by focusing on just one: a corpse found in the lethal Arizona desert with the words "Dayani Cristal" tattooed on his chest. The documentary follows the models of several genres of fictional films: the forensic procedural, the road movie, the man-who-wasn't-there mystery.

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Movies
2:02 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

The Rush Of A River; The Rise Of A Gondola

Glen Canyon Dam, on the Arizona/Utah border, is seen in a scene from DamNation.
Ben Knight Damnation Collection

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 5:21 pm

Although they take very different approaches to the eco-documentary, DamNation and Manakamana are both immersive experiences. In the former, one of the directors is the narrator and an onscreen character. In the latter, the directors stay off-camera (or behind the camera) as they turn a simple journey into a slowly unraveling ethnographic mystery.

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Movie Reviews
11:29 am
Sat March 29, 2014

'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One

Jack Farmer (Luke Moran), a kind-hearted member of the Military Police stationed at Abu Ghraib, finds himself questioning the jail's culture.
Courtesy of

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 12:08 pm

Essentially a one-man show, writer-director-star Luke Moran's Boys of Abu Ghraib observes a soldier's deployment at the prison during its most notorious post-Saddam year, 2003. As such, the movie works pretty well. But spotlighting a single GI sidesteps the group dynamic of what happened at the U.S.-run jail, where poorly supervised guards incited each other to behave in ways that were, at the least, unprofessional.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

It's Faction Against Faction In A Grim Future Chicago

Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) train hard as part of the warrior faction Dauntless in Divergent, based on the novel by Veronica Roth.
Jaap Buitendijk Summit Entertainment

The latest teen-girl fiction series to become a movie franchise, Divergent delivers adolescent viewers some bad news and some good news. The bad is that the dystopian future will be just like high school, with kids divided into rigid cliques. The good is that adulthood will be just like high school, so teens face no major surprises.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Foreign Policy, With A Pugnacious French Twist

Arthur (Raphael Personnaz) is a new hire at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where Alexandre Taillard de Worms (Thierry Lhermitte) is the eccentric foreign minister.
Courtesy of Sundance Selects

A frisky tour of the Gallic equivalent of the U.S. State Department, The French Minister boasts robust pacing, screwball-comedy banter and an exuberant central performance. For most American viewers, though, the movie could use footnotes to go with its subtitles.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields

The big men at the center of Big Men are public, private and everything in between.
Jonathan Furmanski Abramorama

There are three categories of schemers in Big Men, Rachel Boynton's illuminating documentary about the oil business in West Africa: businessmen, politicians and bandits. Sometimes, though, it's hard to tell the types apart.

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Book Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

'300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour

The goth-glam Artemisia (Eva Green) is one of the more memorable characters in 300: Rise of an Empire β€” and not just because she's commander of the Persian navy.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:21 am

Talk about meeting cute: The first time they're alone together, the protagonists of 300: Rise of an Empire rip each other's clothes off. But then Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia (Eva Green) can't decide if they want to make love or war.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick

Teenage civilian Katya (Mariya Smolnikova) shares a ruined apartment with a gang of Soviet soldiers during the battle of Stalingrad in Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad.
Sony Pictures

If you're only going to see one film about the Battle of Stalingrad β€” and there are many β€” Stalingrad would be the wrong choice. Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk's treatment of the World War II turning point is shallow and contrived, if sometimes impressively staged. The movie wins points, however, for sheer wackiness.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Zola's Scandalous Raquin Clan, Sordid 'Secret' And All

Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) and Laurent (Oscar Issac) have a scandalous affair β€” and some real chemistry. But the unevenness of In Secret, adapted from Emile Zola's novel Therese Raquin, moves their plotline away from center.
Phil Bray Roadside Attractions

Emile Zola was one of the founders of naturalism, and his first major work, 1867's Therese Raquin, is full of precise physical description. The novel's plot is utter melodrama, though, and that's the aspect emphasized by In Secret, the latest in a century-long string of film and TV adaptations.

With its small cast of characters and limited number of locations, the book does lend itself to dramatization. In fact, writer-director Charlie Stratton's retelling of Zola's shocker was derived in part from the stage version by Neal Bell.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present

Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and James Picard (Benicio Del Toro) develop a bond as doctor and patient in an intriguing film from French director Arnaud Desplechin.
Nicole Rivelli IFC Films

"It's strange living in a place where people are so sick," observes the title character in Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. James Picard (Benicio Del Toro) is talking about the Topeka clinic to which he's traveled, from his home in Montana, for treatment. But his comment also applies to the world outside the institution's walls.

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Movie Reviews
3:02 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
3:02 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 3:24 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
3:02 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
4:02 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

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
11:20 am
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
9:19 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
1:21 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
3:01 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 5:08 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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