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 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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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Playing For Keeps,' But Without Much Panache

In Gabriele Muccino's romantic comedy, a former pro soccer player (Gerard Butler) starts coaching his son's soccer team — and reconnects with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel).
Film District

As Hollywood movies increasingly strive for immaculate blankness, they have come to resemble Rorschach ink blots. For example, Playing for Keeps, a new movie about a divorced couple who just might reunite: Is it a heartwarming romantic drama? Or a cynical sex and sports comedy? There is no wrong answer, dear ticket buyer.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

From A Rom-Com Director, A Subtle Kung Fu Flick

Donnie Yen stars as Liu Jinxi, a quiet mountain-village family man who turns out to have a complicated past, in Dragon.
Radius/The Weinstein Co.

The latest movie from versatile Hong Kong director Peter Ho-Sun Chan has been given not one but two generic titles: In China, it's Wu Xia, which means "martial hero" and is the overall term for kung fu films; in this country, it's called Dragon, which has similar connotations.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 22, 2012

Rape, Race And The Press, Entangled In 'Central Park'

Yusef Salaam, wrongly accused of rape, is escorted by police. He and four other teens were eventually found guilty of a crime they didn't commit.
Getty Images

A change of pace for PBS long-form documentarian Ken Burns, The Central Park Five revisits New York City's recent past to tell the story of a pack of ruthless predators.

Two packs, actually: Gotham's prosecutors and police officers, and its reporters and columnists. Both groups went feral in 1989 against five innocent Harlem teenagers accused and then convicted in a rape and assault.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

A Remake That Will Leave Fans Seeing 'Red'

From left: Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) and his friend Robert (Josh Hutcherson) join Matt's Marine brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth) on a mission to stop North Korean invaders.
Ron Phillips Open Road Films

Released during Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, the original Red Dawn was denounced as right-wing propaganda. But while director and co-writer John Milius' fantasy of Colorado high-school students who battle Soviet and Cuban invaders was anti-communist, it was principally pro-gun and pro-youth. In spirit, it was closer to Frank Capra than to Leni Riefenstahl.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

'Buffalo Girls' Fight For Survival In Rural Thailand

Buffalo Girls follows two 8-year-old professional Muay Thai fighters. Pet Chor Chanachai not only fights to support her family, but does so while suffering from a heart defect.
108 Media

It's no secret that, in many parts of the world, children don't experience what affluent Westerners would term "childhood." Still, even the most hardened documentary buffs may be dumbfounded by Buffalo Girls, a look at two 8-year-old Thai girls who support their respective families.

They do so by hitting each other in the head.

Stam and Pet compete in Muay Thai, a form of boxing in which kicking as well as punching is allowed. As depicted in fictional action movies, Muay Thai is both graceful and brutal. Practiced by 8-year-olds, it's neither.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Ending The 'Silence' Around Priests' Sex Abuse

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God documents the claims made by four deaf men who accused a Catholic priest of sexual abuse — and in chronicling the response of the church, details the role the current pope played in such scandals earlier in his career.
TIFF

By the time Father Lawrence Murphy died in 1998, it's alleged, he had sexually abused more than 200 children. Many of them must have seemed ideal victims: Students at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee between 1950 and 1974, they possessed limited ability to communicate with others. Commonly in that period, the boarding school's pupils had hearing parents who didn't know American Sign Language.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

'Dangerous Liaisons' Gets A Far-East Makeover

Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) sets out to seduce a young widow, Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), at the behest of his former flame.
Well Go USA

Relocating Dangerous Liaisons, the 18th-century French erotic intrigue, to 1930s Shanghai is a bold move. And yet it's not especially surprising. In Chinese movies, that city in that decade frequently serves as shorthand for decadence. And what could be more decadent than two debauched ex-lovers cold-heartedly planning to destroy the innocence of not one but two virtuous women?

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

'Chasing Ice,' And Capturing Climate Change On Film

Environmental photographer James Balog captures a multiyear record of the world's glaciers in Chasing Ice.
Adam LeWinter Extreme Ice Survey

Two decades ago, James Balog was one of the people who couldn't wrap his head around the prospect of global warming. The threat seemed too abstract, and the science too linked to the sort of computer-model analysis he disdained.

But the geographer-turned-photographer (principally for National Geographic) doesn't think that way any more. Neither will most of the viewers of Chasing Ice, the documentary that observes Balog's efforts to chronicle the planet's shrinking glaciers.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Eyeliner, Lipstick And Finding Your 'Place'

Aging musician Cheyenne (Sean Penn) and his wife, Jane (Frances McDormand), live a relatively normal life out of the spotlight.
The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 5:46 pm

A near-agoraphobic musician is an odd protagonist for a road movie, but then "odd" is the operative term for This Must Be the Place, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's first English-language film. This mashup of genres and themes doesn't entirely succeed, but it is warm, funny and ably crafted.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

An 'Orchestra' Lacking Harmony

The real Palestine Symphony Orchestra, subject of Aronson's documentary.
Pro-Or

Originally published on Sun October 28, 2012 7:51 am

Near the end of the 19th century, an 8-year-old Polish Jewish violin prodigy moved to the capital of European classical music: Berlin. Bronislaw Huberman was more than accepted. He was hailed throughout the continent and endorsed by one of his favorite composers, Johannes Brahms. Yet Huberman is now best known for leading an exodus from Europe, a story told by Josh Aronson's documentary Orchestra of Exiles.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Masculinity Crisis In The Caucasus Mountains

An engaged couple (Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) backpacks through the Caucasus Mountains with their guide (Bidzina Gujabidze), but their bond is soon tested by fate.
IFC Films

The backpacking protagonists of The Loneliest Planet are experienced world travelers, but also wide-eyed kids. Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) have recently arrived in the foothills of Georgia's Caucasus Mountains, where they frolic with local children. Even what we see of the couple's lovemaking is mostly horseplay.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Nothing 'Zero' About This Kung Fu Hero

Sammo Hung, the film's fight choreographer, has worked with kung fu artists like Jackie Chan and John Woo.
Okazaki Hirotake Variance Films

With its frisky camerawork, eclectic scenario and playful stylization, the Chinese period action romp Tai Chi Zero is an impressive package. That there's not much inside the glittery wrapping is just a minor drawback.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Tyler Perry Takes A Shot At Thriller Territory

Cross, Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) and Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) race against the clock to find the sociopathic assassin.
Sidney Baldwin Summit Entertainment

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 10:17 am

A vigilante with the heart of a social worker, the protagonist of Alex Cross wants to nurture and uplift — but also to make the sort of moves that delight a multiplex crowd.

He is, in short, Tyler Perry's alter ego.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

A 'Big Picture' Intently Focused On The Details

Paul (Romain Duris), an aspiring photographer, assumes another man's identity to escape his job, marriage and dull life.
MPI Media Group

The original French title of The Big Picture — an adaptation of a novel by American expatriate writer Douglas Kennedy — means "the man who wanted to live his life." That's pointedly ironic, since this existential thriller is about a person who seeks personal freedom by becoming somebody else.

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