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
3:01 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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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

'Polisse': In Paris, A Thin Bleu Line

The documentary-style drama Polisse centers on members of Paris' Child Protection Unit.
IFC Films

As humane as it is disturbing, Polisse rifles the files of Paris' Child Protection Unit in search of successes, failures and all the shades of ambiguity in between. If the movie's jumpy edits and raw emotions jangle the nerves, that's intentional: This documentary-mimicking drama is designed to evoke the experience of working a beat that can never become routine.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

When Mystery Writer Meets Pinup Girl (Who's Dead)

A Paris-based mystery writer (Jean-Paul Rouve) journeys to a cold and remote area of France hoping for an inheritance — and finds instead a story idea in the mysterious death of a local Marilyn Monroe lookalike (Sophie Quinton).
First Run Features

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 3:47 pm

Playing a Marilyn Monroe avatar in Nobody Else But You, Sophie Quinton endows her impersonation with less vitality than Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn. But that's appropriate: Quinton's character is already dead when this smart if outlandish movie opens.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

In Lebanon, Women Fight To Keep A Fragile Peace

Filmmaker Nadine Labaki plays the lead role of Amale, a widow who organizes women in a Lebanese village to help tamp down flaring sectarian tensions, in her film Where Do We Go Now?
Rudy Bou Chebel Sony Pictures Classics

Women's hard-won pragmatism contends with men's impulsive belligerence in Where Do We Go Now?, the second feature directed by Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki. It's the sort of well-meaning fable that's ultimately more admirable than persuasive.

Filmed in three small Lebanese villages, the movie never locates itself in a particular country. But, as in last year's similarly cautious Incendies, the place must be Lebanon; there are few places in the Middle East where Christians and Muslims mingle the way they do in this story.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

For Americans' Water, It's 'Last Call At The Oasis'

In building its case for the need to address flaws in current water management practices, the documentary Last Call at the Oasis shows the negative effects of such systems on communities, including this dry lake in Australia.
Participant Media

Eco-aware filmgoers won't learn much from Last Call at the Oasis, which follows the paths of such well-known water activists as Erin Brockovich. But writer-director Jessica Yu's documentary may be slick enough to reach people who aren't already familiar with such substances as "new water," atrazine and hexavalent chromium.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

'Elles': In Paris, Ladies Living Dangereusely

Anne (Juliette Binoche), a Parisian journalist writing for the women's magazine Elle, interviews two university students moonlighting as prostitutes. She develops a sisterlike rapport with Charlotte (Anais Demoustier), a young woman from the Paris suburbs.
Kino Lorber

In Elles, a Paris journalist has an eye-opening experience when she interviews two university students who moonlight as prostitutes. So do the movie's viewers, presented with beaucoup de nudite. No genitalia are on display, but there are a few kinky moments that justify the NC-17 rating.

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Movie Reviews
10:56 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Demanding 'Payback' That May Never Come

A migrant Florida tomato grower and member of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers drinks from a jug of water. As part of a larger discussion of societal thinking about debt, Payback looks at the sometimes harsh treatment by companies of migrant workers.
Zeitgeist Films

"Crime doesn't pay" is one of the hopeful cliches Margaret Atwood invokes in her essay collection Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth.

Of course it does, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal shows in Payback, a documentary that riffs on Atwood's themes. But crime doesn't always pay, and perhaps it will pay less well in the future. At least that's the suggestion made by the on-screen commentators who expand on Atwood's original theme.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

'Glory' Days: Intimate Experiences, But At A Price?

A man eyes some of the women working at the upscale Fish Tank brothel in Bangkok. The documentary Whores' Glory chronicles the experiences of sex workers in relatively clean establishments — and some living in de facto slavery.
Vinai Dithajohn Lotus Films

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 8:30 am

The world's oldest profession is one of cinema's oldest subjects, sometimes employed for pathos or political metaphor, but often glamorized. Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger's Whores' Glory is no Pretty Woman. But neither does it qualify as an expose.

The movie, which shifts from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico, aspires to a cinema-verite style. Yet it's unusually well-lighted and -composed for on-the-fly footage, and includes scenes that appear to be staged.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

'Chimpanzee': Oh, The Humanity!

Nicknamed "Oscar" by Chimpanzee's filmmakers, the young chimp at the center of the film is adopted by an older male chimp — a rare occurrence — after his mother is killed.
Disneynature

It's a classic scenario in sentimental fiction: An adorable orphan humanizes a crusty old codger. "Humanize" might not seem the obvious verb for what happens in Chimpanzee, Disneynature's latest kiddie documentary. But it's dead on; this escape to the planet of the apes is anthropomorphic to a fault.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

'Surviving Progress': Taking Overdevelopment To Task

The documentary Surviving Progress illustrates its arguments on the sustainability of human behavior in the context of environmental degradation with striking images of life in cities like Sao Paulo.
First Run Features

Originally published on Fri April 6, 2012 11:37 am

Not every human advance is a snare, according to Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress. But some new techniques can lead to something the Canadian author calls a "progress trap" — a development that's ultimately more harmful than helpful.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

'We Have A Pope': Whoops, Maybe We Don't

Reluctant Papa: Michel Piccoli (center) plays Melville, a cardinal surprisingly elected pope by his peers. At a critical moment before he must address his new flock, Melville insists he can't take the job.
Philippe Antonello IFC Film

"God sees abilities in me I don't have," laments the protagonist of Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti's new movie. Such self-doubt is hardly novel, but Melville (Michel Piccoli) has a special stake in God's opinion of him — he's just been elected pope.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

'Womb': A Lost Love Reborn, But Not Quite Recovered

Never Let Me Go: After Rebecca (Eva Green) reconnects with Tommy (Matt Smith), a crush from her childhood — only to lose him soon after in an accident — she decides to give birth to his clone and raise him as her son.
Olive Films

Some people are just meant to be together — even after they're dead. That's the premise of writer-director Benedek Fliegauf's Womb, a movie whose slender narrative is little more than that premise, yet whose themes prove bigger than the story.

Love between the living and the undead is all the rage in Hollywood movies, but Womb is no Twilight. Shot in Germany by a Hungarian with an English-speaking cast, the movie is more akin to 2004's Birth.

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