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
1:00 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.

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Movie Reviews
4:52 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 5:52 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."

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Movie Reviews
3:03 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.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

'Augustine' And Her Diagnosis Get Another Look

Augustine (the French singer-actress billed as Soko) was a 19th-century Paris housemaid diagnosed with the then-fashionable condition known as "hysteria" — a catchall used to label many ailments women suffered in that age.
Jean Claude Lother Music Box Films

Onstage, in front of an audience, the young woman seemingly goes into a trance, overcome by a power that shakes and contorts her. The commotion appears profoundly sexual; she grabs at her crotch as she writhes. When the woman reaches some kind of release, the spell is broken, and she becomes calm. She leaves the stage to enthusiastic applause.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

'In The Air,' A Sense Of Stakes For A '70s Youth

Christine (Lola Creton) and Gilles (Clement Metayer) are the sometime couple at the center of Olivier Assayas' smart, clear-eyed examination of a still-painful period in France's recent past.
Carol Bethuel MK/Sundance Selects

In the opening minutes of Something in the Air, the protagonist carves an "A" (for anarchy) into his school desk, and participates in a street demonstration that ends in a punishing flurry of police billy clubs. "The revolution's near," apparently — to quote the 1969 Thunderclap Newman hit that provides the film's title.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

'Arthur Newman': A Bored Man's Bland Ambition

Mike (Emily Blunt) and Wallace (Colin Firth) try on new clothes — and new identities — in the unconvincing comedy Arthur Newman.
Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Being a movie actor is glamorous servitude. On the silver screen, the actor's presence is necessarily bigger than life — yet it's often yoked to parts that are much smaller.

The dreary Arthur Newman inspires such musings not just because it's about role-playing, but also because its two principals are so clearly acting — if for no other reason than they're famous Brits playing ordinary Yanks. This is a movie that wants viewers to believe that Colin Firth, best known to filmgoers as King George VI, is a nobody from nowheresville.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

In 'Paradise,' Pursuing Something Less Than Love

Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) travels to a beach resort in Kenya for vacation, where she dabbles in sex tourism with a series of local men.
Strand Relesasing

The opening sequence of Paradise: Love doesn't really have anything to do with what follows, but it does establish director Ulrich Seidl's unflinching eye. At a pavilion somewhere in Austria, a group of cognitively challenged children, many apparently with Down syndrome, ride bumper cars under the supervision of Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel). There's no hint of sentimentality, no attempt at reassurance.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

Building A Home For A Client Who Can't Live In It

Artist Jackie Sumell set out to build a dream home for bank robber Herman Wallace, whose additional conviction for killing a prison guard is the subject of a long-running dispute.
First Run Features

The off-screen protagonist of Herman's House, Herman Wallace, already has a dwelling for his body: a 6-foot-by-8-foot cell at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, aka Angola. But the documentary's on-screen protagonist, Jackie Sumell, wants him also to have a place for his soul: a dream house for a man who desperately needs dreams.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

A Hazy Ode 'To The Wonder' Of Hidden Worlds

Jane (Rachel McAdams) rekindles an old affair with the taciturn Neil (Ben Affleck), an environmental investigator whose work takes him to a remote Oklahoma town in the enigmatic new film To the Wonder.
Mary Cybulski Magnolia Pictures

Pretty but inert, To the Wonder is a vaporous mystery wrapped in a gauzy enigma — a cinematic riddle that'll appeal principally to those eager for another piece, however tiny, of the puzzle that is Terrence Malick.

To the Wonder continues in the lyrical-to-a-fault mode of the writer-director's The Tree of Life; in fact, this film includes some footage originally shot for that one. But it excludes Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper, Jessica Chastain and Michael Sheen, who all reportedly played roles that vanished from the final cut.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

Robert Redford Keeps Revolutionary'Company'

Jim (Robert Redford) must flee with his daughter, Isabel (Jackie Evancho), to the scene of a past crime in order to avoid a probing amateur reporter.
Doane Gregory Sony Pictures Classics

Crisp in execution and classic in ambiance, The Company You Keep is star Robert Redford's most persuasive directorial work since 1994's Quiz Show. It's a pleasure to watch, even if the payoff is rather less substantial than the backstory.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

'The Place Beyond The Pines': It's A Far Piece

Angsty stunt performer Luke (Ryan Gosling) quits the circus and becomes a busybody father after a former girlfriend reveals she's had his child.
Focus Features

There are moments, as Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine informed us, when the barely controlled rage that is masculinity can be tempered by feelings for woman and child. But eventually the male Id will erupt, and everything will go to hell.

That happens more than once in Cianfrance's new The Place Beyond the Pines, a would-be epic that shifts from character to character and story to story to show how fury passes from fathers to sons. But too much of this seething drama is devoted not to characterization but to posturing.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

'Retaliation': Harsh Payback For Poor G.I. Joe

Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) are live-action G.I. Joes in the big-screen franchise's latest thoroughly disposable installment.
Jaimie Trueblood Paramount Pictures

What's the difference between an action figure and an action star? Very little in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which features no performances of note, even from such combat-tested thespians as Bruce Willis, Jonathan Pryce and Dwayne Johnson.

The sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the latest Joe is a near-surrealistic mashup of serious themes and juvenile humor, realistic locations and cheesy CGI. Adapted to 3-D after it was shot, the movie is also one of the most aggressive examples ever of the chucking-stuff-at-the-viewer aesthetic.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

'No Place On Earth': Underground, A Story Of Survival

Sam and Saul Stermer, members of a family who hid in an underground Ukrainian cave in the early days of World War II, return to the hideout in No Place on Earth.
Magnolia Pictures

Christopher Nicola, the avid spelunker who introduces No Place on Earth, has an appetite for the dramatic.

"Every cave I enter has a secret," he intones, as the documentary cuts between Nicola's New York City home and his progress through tight underground passages.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

A 'Devil' In The Details Of A Brotherly Rivalry

Brothers Rash and Mo (James Floyd and Fady Elsayed) live in the rough working-class London neighborhood of Hackney — but which sibling is the titular designee in My Brother the Devil gets harder and harder to determine as the film goes on.
108 Media

Shot entirely in Hackney — a mostly ungentrified London borough — My Brother the Devil has a strong odor of authenticity. The main characters are of Egyptian origin, but their friends include people rooted in West Africa and the Caribbean. All are linked by poverty, alienation and a gangsta worldview popularized by American movies and hip-hop.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

'Burt Wonderstone': Vegas, When The Magic Stops

Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) and Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) are Vegas magicians whose gimmicky, vintage-style act is no match for their modern audiences.
Ben Glass Warner Bros. Pictures

There are some funny bits and characters around the edges of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but its core is empty of humor. In fact, this purported satire of Las Vegas magicians is a three-void circus: the script, the central character and the main performance.

The committee-written screenplay begins with the premise that, 20 years after the illusion-busting Penn and Teller set up in Vegas, there could still be a market for a pair of old-school tricksters who call themselves Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Friendship Fades To Bleak 'Beyond The Hills'

As Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) settles into life as a Romanian Orthodox nun, her childhood friend Alina (Cristina Flutur) returns to try to draw her out of a life of deep religious piety.
Sundance Selects

The opening shot of Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills may look somewhat familiar. As in the Romanian writer-director's previous film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a young woman strides purposefully while a handheld camera follows mere inches behind. She's on a mission to help a close friend, her resolve demonstrated by the way she marches against two lines of travelers who've just disembarked from a train.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

'Dead Man Down': A Gang-War Drama That's Practically D.O.A.

Victor and Beatrice (Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace) are two central cogs in the multiethnic New York City revenge war that rages throughout Dead Man Down.
John Baer FilmDistrict

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 10:17 am

Dead Man Down is the first American film from Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it's not very American. This twisty existential thriller is set in a New York City that's as sun-deprived as Stockholm in January — and one in which nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.

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Movies
3:03 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Soviet Ghosts Resurface In Soggy 'Phantom'

Grizzled Soviet submarine captain Demi (Ed Harris) fights crew subversion and personal pain in a losing Cold War struggle against American opponents.
RCR Distribution

Explosions rattle the crew. The air is turning fetid. And the captain has ordered a descent toward "crush depth." Yet everything is on course in Phantom, the newest model of the old submarine-from-hell picture.

But the predictability of writer-director Todd Robinson's film is, well, predictable. There are only so many things that can happen in the close quarters of an imperiled sub. What Robinson purports to do is show those familiar undersea events from a different vantage point. All the characters in Phantom serve in the Soviet navy of the 1960s.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Kiarostami Eyes Tokyo 'Like Someone In Love'

Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young call girl and university student in modern Tokyo who hesitantly befriends an elderly male client.
IFC Films

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love opens far from Tehran, in a noisy Tokyo bar.

"When did I lie to you?" asks an unseen woman, ensnarled in a difficult cellphone exchange. The viewer is already trying to decipher this person, without even glimpsing her.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

A Sorcerer, A White Snake, And Lots Of CGI Magic

The demon snake sisters (Charlene Choi and Eva Huang) disguise themselves as beautiful women in The Sorcerer and the White Snake.
Magnet Releasing

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 6:14 pm

In the opening sequence of The Sorcerer and the White Snake, two monks step through a giant gate and find themselves in a new world — one made entirely of computer-generated images. Only Fahai (Jet Li) and his disciple Neng Ren (Zhang Wen) are human.

"Don't believe everything you see," the older man warns.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Warning: 'Side Effects' May Include Eye-Rolling

In Steven Soderbergh's medical thriller Side Effects, Emily (Rooney Mara) goes through an emotional crisis — and then a psychopharmacological one — after her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released from prison.
Eric Liebowitz Open Road Films

It's the drug's fault, man. That's the defense offered by the perpetrator brought to trial in Side Effects, a stylish, vaguely Hitchcockian dud. But what excuse does this fatally silly movie have?

The film, reportedly the final big-screen effort for prolific director Steven Soderbergh, begins in a New York apartment where something bad has happened. Blood on the floor, smeared and tracked by footprints, suggests murder, suicide or extreme clumsiness.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

'Bullet To The Head': No-Brainer Bubblegum

Sung Kang plays a D.C. cop at large in New Orleans, where he finds himself in an uneasy alliance with hit man Sylvester Stallone in the blues-rock driven crime drama Bullet to the Head.
Frank Masi Warner Bros. Pictures

Adapted from a French graphic novel and outfitted with an ethnically diverse cast, Bullet to the Head is an artifact of a newly internationalized Hollywood. But that doesn't mean it feels especially new.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

A Poignant Voyage On 'The Pirogue'

More than 30 men set out to sea in the titular boat of The Pirogue. With that many actors and only an hour of time, not every character gets fleshed out — but the director's eye for singular faces helps.
ArtMattan Productions

The journey from Senegal and poverty to Europe and supposed prosperity takes seven days by fishing boat. The Pirogue spends only about an hour on open water, but that's enough to convey the risks that make the trip foolish, and the desperation that makes it inevitable.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Broken City,' Broken Movie: An Undernourished Noir

In a corrupt New York, private detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) tries to straighten out the city as he straightens out his own life.
Barry Wetcher Twentieth Century Fox

As an investigation into American municipal corruption, Broken City is, well, damaged. But as an opportunity for hard-boiled types to trade threats, blows and caustic banter, this modern-day noir works reasonably well.

The story begins in a New York housing project, where scruffy undercover cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) has just dispatched a felon. The victim had it coming, it seems, but that doesn't mean the shooting is strictly legit.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

'Hors Satan': A Singularly Devilish Vision

In Bruno Dumont's Hors Satan, the unnamed Guy (David Dewaele) turns to nature for solace and spiritual comfort.
New Yorker Films

Bruno Dumont just wasn't made for these cinematic times. Rather than cajole and flatter his viewers, the French filmmaker intentionally alienates and mystifies them. Like his five previous movies, the new Hors Satan is stark, strange and uncompromisingly personal. It's also vivid and unforgettable.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Old-Fashioned Crime, Newfangled Camp In 'Baytown'

As leader of the murderous Oodie brothers, Brick (Clayne Crawford) takes care to target only the worst criminals in the Deep South.
Phase 4 Films

During The Baytown Outlaws prologue — a bloody massacre scene that doubles as a credit sequence — director Barry Battles interrupts the carnage with comic-book-style panels. It's a gambit he uses again later, and an appropriate one. This Deep South odyssey is a pulp fantasy and knows it.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Checking In Again With The '7 Up' Kids

Peter Davies, age 56, and his Good Intentions bandmates Gabi (left) and Francesco Roskel appear in the latest installment of the Up documentary series, inspired by the Jesuit saying, "Give me the child until he is 7 and I will show you the man."
Harriet Gill First Run Features

The participants in 56 Up, the eighth installment in a series that began in 1964, want to talk mostly about two things: family and the documentary itself.

The project, which checks in periodically with 14 kids who were once deemed representative British 7-year-olds, is "a complete fraud," says John, and based on assumptions that "were outmoded even in 1964."

And yet here they are again: the working class and the posh, the aimless and the motivated, the emigrants and the stay-at-homes, most of them now grandparents.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Sparks Of '60s Spirit, And Then A Slow 'Fade'

Wells (Will Brill, from left), Joe (Brahm Vaccarella), Douglas (John Magaro) and Eugene (Jack Huston) try to make it big as a rock band in the 1960s.
Barry Wetcher Paramount Pictures

Basically, Not Fade Away is the saga of a 1960s teenager who plans to become a rock star, but slowly realizes he won't. The movie is set mostly in the New York suburbs. So why does it open in South London, where two lads — you may know them as Mick and Keith — bond over imported blues LPs?

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Movies
3:03 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

A Queens Chronicle That's A Little Too Lifelike

Without a supportive family, a rebellious teenager (Zoe Kravitz) must take care of herself in a troubled neighborhood.
MPI Media

The O'Haras don't talk much about what's wrong, but the members of this biracial Queens family — the central characters of Yelling to the Sky -- are bedeviled by alcoholism (dad), mental illness (mom) and adolescent defiance (the two daughters). Indeed actress-turned-director Victoria Mahoney barely explains her characters' circumstances, which makes the movie obliquely intriguing. But whenever the story comes into focus, it's revealed as fairly conventional.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Deadfall': Sibling Mischief In The Michigan Woods

Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) run for the Canadian border after a casino heist gone wrong.
Jonathan Wenk Magnolia Pictures

Everyone gets roughed up pretty bad in Deadfall, a pop-Freudian thriller set in Michigan's north woods. But nobody comes off worse than the out-of-towners: Australian star Eric Bana and Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky.

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