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 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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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

'Sister': Children Living On The Fringe Of Society

Lea Seydoux plays the titular role of a young woman largely living off the generosity of her younger, petty-thieving brother.
Adopt Films

The Swiss canton of Vallais isn't exactly South Central, but it does have a crime problem: His name is Simon, and he seems to have found the perfect racket. Sister's 12-year-old protagonist (Kacey Mottet Klein) steals skis, gear and clothing at an upscale mountain resort that's just a short tram ride above his bleak flatland apartment.

Not only is the ski lodge convenient, but it's frequented by people who are too rich to sweat the loss of their stuff. ("They'll just buy a new one," Simon explains to one of the townies who buy his purloined goods.)

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

When It Comes To Drugs, A 'House' Deeply Divided

Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In takes a measured, multiperspective look at U.S. drug policies, which approach drug use as a criminal matter rather than a medical one.
Samuel Cullman Charlotte Street Films

Drug abuse is primarily a medical problem, not a crime against
society. American anti-drug policy is a means of social control that's
rooted in racial and ethnic prejudice. The country's incarceration
industry has become a self-sustaining force, predicated on economics
rather than justice.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

'Vulgaria': Raunch Comedy With An Asian Accent

Guangxi gangster Brother Tyrannosaurus (Ronald Cheng, left) agrees to back a film for producer To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To) — with a few conditions.
China Lion Entertainment

Some men, it's said, think about only one thing. Hong Kong movie producer To Wai-Cheung, for example, is absolutely obsessive about film. Yet when he discusses it, he always seems to be talking about something else that's often on men's minds.

To (Chapman To) is the protagonist of Vulgaria, a Hong Kong movie-biz satire and sex comedy. Directed by Pang Ho-Cheung, the film boasts the spontaneity of a French New Wave romp, while including raunchy gags worthy of The Hangover and Clerks II.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Eastwood, Adams Keep Up With The 'Curve'

Mickey (Amy Adams), a successful lawyer, reluctantly hits the road to assist her father (Clint Eastwood), an Atlanta Braves baseball scout whose eyesight has begun to fail.
Keith Bernstein Warner Bros. Pictures

Predictable but appealing, Trouble with the Curve is the latest of Clint Eastwood's odes to old-fashioned attitudes and virtues. That the star neither wrote nor directed the movie in no way prevents it from being another political address from a man who considers terseness one of a hero's greatest qualities.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

The Pangs And 'Perks' Of High School, Revisited

Sam (Emma Watson), Charlie (Logan Lerman) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) help each other through the lowest parts of high school in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
John Bramley Summit Entertainment

Writer-director Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own 1999 novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, might just as aptly be titled The Pains of Being a Wallflower. This fable of early-'90s high school recounts (if it usually doesn't show) abundant trauma — including suicide, child sexual abuse, psychotic blackouts and a gay boy who's bashed by his own father.

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Movie Reviews
3:55 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

'Liberal Arts': A Lesson In Arrested Development

Emotionally stunted Jesse (Josh Radnor) forms a relationship with Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a much younger woman, in Liberal Arts.
IFC Films

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 6:08 am

In his first big-screen sitcom, HappyThankYouMorePlease, writer-director-star Josh Radnor emulated Woody Allen. Radnor's second feature, Liberal Arts, is less Allenesque, except for one crucial, and vexing, aspect: It's about an older man's infatuation with a younger woman.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

'For Ellen,' With Something Distantly Like Love

Joby (Paul Dano) is increasingly detached from the rest of humanity as he travels to sign divorce papers with his soon-to-be-ex-wife.
Carolyn Drake Tribeca Film

The centerpiece of For Ellen is the long-postponed meeting between a rock-band singer, Joby Taylor, and the 6-year-old daughter whose name is in the title. But writer-director So Yong Kim's wintry character study is primarily a solo act, punctuated by the occasional duet.

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Movie Reviews
2:04 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

An 'Ambassador' Of Sorts, But Hardly Diplomatic

Mads Brugger, in character as diplomat Mads Cortzen, conferences with various members of the Central African Republic's government.
Drafthouse Films

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 2:42 pm

"If the Congo was the heart of darkness, this is the spleen."

That's how Danish guerrilla filmmaker Mads Brugger introduces the Central African Republic, the focus of his hidden-camera documentary The Ambassador.

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Movie Reviews
4:01 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

In A French Confection, A Hollywood Aftertaste

Friends Antoine (Laurent Lafitte), Eric (Gilles Lellouche) and Marie (Marion Cotillard) are among the troubled group that makes an annual retreat to a home in Cap Ferret.
MPI Media Group

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 6:32 pm

It's summer in France, time for stressed urbanites to head to the beach and forget their problems. For the circle of friends featured in Little White Lies, however, this year's problems are a little more memorable than most.

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Movies
3:03 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

A Song-And-Dance Show About Dark Realities

Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni — mother and daughter in real life — portray two generations of romantics in Christophe Honore's second musical.
IFC Entertainment

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 10:53 am

With Love Songs, his 2007 musical, French writer-director Christophe Honore updated such 1960s bonbons as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg for our age of expanded erotic frankness and possibility. Beloved, Honore's second musical, goes even farther, layering death, AIDS and Sept. 11 among the merry melodies.

This stylish film is enormous fun, whirling and warbling across four decades of amour. But it stumbles a few times in its last half-hour and ultimately seems a little too frisky for the graver issues it addresses.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

In Tehran, A Vivid Parable About The Ends Of Things

Irane (Golshifteh Farahani) is the one who got away from violinist Nasser Ali (Mathieu Amalric) — and her loss consumes the musician in Chicken with Plums, a new film from Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.
Patricia Khan Sony Pictures Classics

A parable of art and love, and a political allegory to boot, Chicken with Plums centers on an Iranian musician who wills himself to die. Yet the story that then unfolds, mostly in flashback, could hardly be more vital and engaging.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

'Bourne': New Character, New Star, Same Results

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) in an action sequence from The Bourne Legacy. The franchise, now four installments in, marches on with a new lead character and actor.
Mary Cybulski Universal Studios

As the title of the fourth movie in a perhaps never-ending series, The Bourne Legacy is almost too perfect. Variations on what happened to Jason Bourne in the first three entries can befall new characters indefinitely. If this prospect sounds a little tiresome — well, that's what quick cuts and superhuman stunts are for.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

In A Decrepit Future, An Identity Crisis Multiplies

Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) visits Rekall, a company that implants memories in its customers, in an attempt to explain a series of recurring dreams. Farrell plays the role originally portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990 film of the same name.
Michael Gibson Columbia Pictures

Set in a high-tech yet shabby future, the remake of Total Recall is a fully realized piece of production design. But its script, credited to six authors, is more like a preliminary sketch.

Directed by Underworld franchise veteran Len Wiseman, the movie retains some elements of Paul Verhoeven's friskier (and more graphically violent) 1990 original. Yet it also makes lots of changes, notably by downplaying the brain-bending aspects of the scenario in favor of thought-free action. (Also, it never leaves a devastated Earth for Mars.)

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Movie Reviews
3:08 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

'Ai Weiwei': A Defiant Artist Pushes Back In China

Ai Weiwei is one of the biggest stars of the international art world, but Alison Klayman's documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry focuses more on the significance of his politics than of his artwork.
Ted Alcorn IFC Films

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 4:44 pm

Cage-rattling Chinese artist Ai Weiwei lives in a Beijing complex with his wife and some 40 cats and dogs. Only one of the animals — a cat — has figured out how to open the door to the outside. This ready-made metaphor arrives early in Alison Klayman's documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and is never mentioned again. But it underlies the tale of one of the few contemporary Chinese who publicly defies the government.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

'Hara-Kiri': A Samurai's Bluff Hides A Revenge Plot

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is set in an era in which some underemployed warriors would bluff their willingness to commit ritual suicide, hoping for money or employment from wealthy families who didn't want to deal with the mess. Hanshiro's (Ebizo Ichikawa) own bluff in the film, however, goes deeper.
Tribeca Film

Japanese cinematic extremist Takashi Miike is known for movies that go too far — often because they can't figure out where else to go. So it was revealing when last year's 13 Assassins, a remake of a 1963 samurai adventure, demonstrated a traditionalist streak in Miike's tastes. But that movie is a crystal-meth freakout compared with the director's latest effort, the stately Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Science And The Paranormal, At Odds To The Finish

In Red Lights, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) is a psychic who comes out of retirement and poses a threat to two academics, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who are wary of all claims to the supernatural.
Millennium Entertainment

Of all the hustlers who present cheap tricks as "magic," few are more shameless than filmmakers. Under the cover of "It's only a movie," directors and screenwriters exhort the gullible to believe in ghosts, telekinesis, extraterrestrials and such.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

A Humble Servant, Watching As The Throne Totters

Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen, left) is the close, possibly intimate, friend of Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) — and the two are the bane of the approaching revolutionaries in Farewell, My Queen.
Carole Bethuel Cohen Media Group

In 1995's A Single Girl, probably his best known film in the U.S., Benoit Jacquot tracks a young chambermaid through one workday as she ponders a big decision. The French writer-director's smart and ultimately wrenching Farewell, My Queen takes a similar course — only this time the protagonist toils for Queen Marie Antoinette, and the story opens on July 14, 1789.

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Movie Reviews
3:01 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Father And Son, On The Lam In The Outback

Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell as Kev and Chook in Last Ride. Chook's love of animals and lesser propensity for the outdoors clash with the life lessons Kev tries to teach him in the Australian wilderness.
Rhys Graham Music Box Films

Kev, the man at the center of Last Ride, has a very particular skill set: He can lift wallets, steal cars and survive in the Australian bush, sleeping under the stars and dining on fresh wild rabbit. Taking care of his 10-year-old son, however, comes less naturally to him.

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Movie Reviews
3:01 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

California Peaceniks In A Drug War Full Of 'Savages'

In Savages, two drug dealers — Chon (Taylor Kitsch, left), a former Navy SEAL, and Ben (Aaron Johnson), a pacifist — are forced to take up arms when they anger the head of a Mexican cartel.
Francois Duhamel Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 9:54 am

Both factions in Oliver Stone's new movie refer to each other, not without reason, as "savages." But this drug-war thriller is not nearly so feral as such previous Stone rampages as U-Turn and Natural Born Killers. Occasionally, it even seems righteous.

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Movie Reviews
3:26 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

'Gypsy': Something's Rotten, This Time In Slovakia

Adam (Jan Mizigar, left) sits with his glue-sniffing brother, Marian (Martin Hangurbadzo). Adam tries to avoid a path of crime in Gypsy, but family regularly draws him into one.
In Film

Dad just died violently. Mom married the man who might be his killer. And now the dead man's ghost is appearing to his son.

That plot comes from Hamlet, of course, but Slovak director Martin Sulik's Gypsy is not otherwise Shakespearean. There are no soliloquies and little dialogue. The prince is 15 and inarticulate, and his Ophelia is entirely sane. She's about to be exiled from her community for the same reasons that nearly everyone else in this tale is victimized: poverty and prejudice.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Two Couples Bunk Up For 'A Burning Hot Summer'

in Philippe Garrel's A Burning Hot Summer, Angele (Monica Bellucci) and Frederic (Louis Garrel) make up the more tempestuous of two couples living together in Rome.
IFC Films

Lovely people, beautiful places, a suicide attempt and echoes of a French New Wave classic — these ingredients seem to promise lots of passion in A Burning Hot Summer. But this existential-romantic roundelay barely simmers, and certainly doesn't scorch.

Veteran director Philippe Garrel's latest film opens with apparently parallel events: a woman reclines naked, alone in a room, as a man guns his car, heading straight for a tree.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

The Visible Costs Of The Military's 'Invisible War'

Kori Cioca is the linking thread among many stories in The Invisible War. Kirby Dick's documentary reveals a shocking culture of sexual assault in the U.S. military.
Cinedigm/Docurama Films

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 9:55 am

In documentaries, showing is almost always more effective than telling. But The Invisible War, an expose of sexual assault in the U.S. military, is compelling despite being all talk. Footage of the many crimes recounted in the film is, of course, nonexistent — and would be nearly unwatchable if available.

So director Kirby Dick addresses the subject directly, without gimmicks or gambits. Stylistically, The Invisible War is conventional and plainspoken, from its opening clips of vintage recruitment ads for women to its closing updates on the central characters.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Under His Parents' Shadow, Both On And Off Screen

In Americano, Martin (Mathieu Demy) goes on the road to Tijuana in search of Lola (Salma Hayek), who is supposed to inherit Martin's estranged mother's apartment.
MPI Media Group

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 3:34 pm

In his debut feature, Americano, writer-director Mathieu Demy casts himself as Martin, a brooding French real estate agent who travels to Los Angeles after his long-estranged mother dies. He plans to sell her apartment quickly — until he finds a letter in which she promises to leave the place to a friend, Lola. Martin can't locate the woman, but hears she may be in Tijuana.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

'Bel Ami': Period Drama Skips The Small Talk

The once-penniless Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) maneuvers his way to the top of Paris society by wooing and bedding the city's best-connected women — among them the influential Madame de Marelle (Christina Ricci.)
Magnolia Pictures

Words, words, words: Novels, especially 19th-century ones, are full of the damned things, which can be an inconvenience for filmmakers doing adaptations.

Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, theater veterans making their cinematic debut with Bel Ami, try to downplay language, which seems a promising idea. But the strategy fails for several reasons, the foremost of which is their leading man.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu June 7, 2012

In 'Patagonia,' Pristine Rivers And A Plan For Dams

The Baker River is one of two waterways that would be dammed in a proposed hydroelectric project in the fabled Patagonia region of Chile. This section of the river would become a reservoir under the plan.
Brian Lilla First Run Features

The way the Andes divide Patagonia, Argentina gets most of the land and Chile most of the water. As shown in Patagonia Rising, a new documentary, the landscape on Chile's side of the border is similar to coastal British Columbia or the Alaska panhandle: chilly, forested, mountainous and very wet.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

'Pink Ribbons,' Tied Up With More Than Hope

Participants at the 2010 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, San Francisco, as seen in Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Ravida Din First Run Features

Provocative yet far from definitive, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a critique of "breast-cancer culture." It could even be called a blitz on pink-ribbon charities and their corporate partners — though to use that term would be to emulate the war and sports metaphors the documentary rejects.

As one woman observes, describing the treatment of cancer as a "fight" or a "battle" suggests that the disease is always beatable if patients make a heroic effort. The implication is that people who die "weren't trying very hard."

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

An Unlikely Friendship, Made For The Movies

Paralyzed after a paragliding accident, wealthy daredevil Philippe (Francois Cluzet) hires Driss (Omar Sy), a cocky ex-con, despite the concerns of his aides, including Yvonne (Anne Le Ny).
Weinstein Co.

During The Intouchables' opening sequence, a black driver takes a white passenger on a wild ride through contemporary Paris at speeds that attract the police. When pulled over, the motorist claims he's hurrying to the hospital, and his charge — who turns out to be quadriplegic — pretends to be having a seizure. After the cops depart, the two men share a laugh and a cigarette; then they roar off, blasting 1970s funk.

Driving Miss Daisy this ain't.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

'Oslo, August 31st': A Long Day In A Gray Hour

A once-promising writer turned heroin addict, Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) is released from his rehabilitation center for a day for a job interview in Oslo. Even as he goes out into the world, his melancholy mood continues to plague him.
Strand Releasing

Joachim Trier's first film, Reprise, was a giddy, hyperstylized account of the delights and despairs of Norway's young literary set. His follow-up, Oslo, August 31st, features some of the same themes and one of the previous movie's stars. But the writer-director's mood has downshifted dramatically.

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