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
11:25 am
Fri December 5, 2014

A 'Wild' Trek Made A Bit Too Neatly

Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed in Wild.
Anne Marie Fox Fox Searchlight Pictures

With a backstory that includes heroin use and zipless you-know-whats, Wild is a daring foray for its star and producer, the usually prim Reese Witherspoon. As an excursion into the untamed stream of human consciousness, however, the movie is less bold.

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Music Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

The Slow-Talking 'Foxcatcher' Goes Long And Comes Up Short

Steve Carell plays John du Pont in Foxcatcher.
Scott Garfield Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 6:17 pm

The rich are different from you and me. They talk more slowly.

Speaking ... like ... this isn't the entire extent of Steve Carell's impersonation of John du Pont in Foxcatcher, which fictionalizes an odd case from the 1990s. The actor is also outfitted with a prosthetic nose that recalls the beak of his cartoon alter ego, Despicable Me's Gru.

"Most of my friends will call me 'Eagle,' or 'Golden Eagle,' " John claims, but he looks more a sedated canary.

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Movie Reviews
4:29 am
Sat November 8, 2014

In 'The Theory Of Everything,' Science Takes A Back Seat

Eddie Redmayne plays astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
Liam Daniel Focus Features

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 6:48 am

British science is having a cinematic moment, with The Theory of Everything now and The Imitation Game soon. Yet neither film has much science in it. These accounts of Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, respectively, are engaging and well-crafted but modeled all too faithfully on old-school romantic dramas.

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Movie Reviews
10:17 am
Thu October 30, 2014

In 'Goodbye To Language,' Jean-Luc Godard Seeks New Ways To Make Pictures

Jean-Luc Godard's dog Roxy appears in his new film, Goodbye To Language.
Kino Lorber

Even the most ordinary movies can be seductive, as Jean-Luc Godard knows all too well. In the 1960s, he was besotted with American commercial cinema, even as he rejected the U.S. policies that led it to make war in Vietnam.

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Movie Reviews
12:03 am
Fri October 24, 2014

'Life Of Riley,' Alain Resnais' Final Film, Bids A Sunny Adieu

Hippolyte Girardot and Sabine Azéma play spouses in Life of Riley.
Kino Lorber

There are as many mysteries in Alain Resnais' final film, Life of Riley, as there are in the movies that made his reputation almost 60 years ago. But where Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad were shadowed by history, this sunny adieu is set in a series of make-believe gardens.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

'The Golden Era' Follows A Path From Northern China To Tokyo

Shaofeng Feng and Wei Tang in The Golden Era.
China Lion Film Distribution

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 7:55 am

Director Ann Hui's The Golden Era tells of a female novelist and poet who lived in, as the Chinese curse puts it, "interesting times": from 1911 to 1942. Simultaneously sweeping and intimate, the three-hour drama overcomes many of the usual difficulties of depicting writers on screen. But it can't finesse one major impediment for Western viewers: Few of them know anything of its heroine, Xiao Hong.

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Movie Reviews
8:04 am
Tue October 14, 2014

'Kill The Messenger' Incompletely Unravels A Complex Tale

Jeremy Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb.
Chuck Zlotnick Focus Features

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 10:11 am

Which is the better story: a massive conspiracy to use CIA connections to import cocaine into the United States, or the efforts of one reporter to uncover that intrigue?

Gary Webb, the protagonist of Kill the Messenger, pursued the first topic, and rightly so — even if it did destroy him. Director Michael Cuesta went with the second, probably because it's more manageable.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

A Man, A Plane, A Rapture: 'Left Behind'

Nicolas Cage stars as airline pilot Ray Steele in Left Behind.
Courtesy of Stoney Lake Entertainment

The world is ending, billions will die, and hell is, literally, coming to Long Island. But the rebooted Left Behind doesn't want to alarm you.

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Movie Reviews
6:53 am
Fri September 19, 2014

A Tall And Silly Tale Signifies Nothing In 'Tusk'

In Kevin Smith's best movies — and his worst ones, for that matter — the characters talk a whole lot of nonsense. That's also true of Tusk, the writer-director's second foray into horror. This time, the villain actually follows through on his nutty chatter. But he still spends a lot more time talking than torturing.

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Movie Reviews
7:03 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Music Of Memphis And Glasgow Plays In Two New Films

Memphis and God Help the Girl are both musicals of a sort, and portraits of musical capitals of a sort. The first is set in the home of some of soul music's greatest stars, but is too wispy and diffident for the average Otis Redding or Al Green fan. The second plays at being a more mainstream effort, but will appeal mostly to people who are such fervent Belle & Sebastian enthusiasts that they actually think of Glasgow as being in the same league as Memphis.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

More Physical Than Plausible, 'Starred Up' Sharply Portrays Confinement

Within moments of arriving at an adult prison — "starred up" from a juvenile facility that couldn't handle him — Eric (Jack O'Connell) demonstrates how to use jail-issue toiletries to make a weapon. But it's not that toothbrush shiv that makes the 19-year-old deadly. It's his ferocious unpredictability, a quality mirrored by this edgy, naturalistic drama.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

When The Wedding Is Just The Beginning

Just about everything clicks in director Ira Sachs' quietly eloquent Love is Strange, except the title. The longtime romance of painter Ben (John Lithgow) and music teacher George (Alfred Molina) doesn't seem at all odd. The men's lives, however, do take a sudden turn away from the ordinary.

The story begins in a mysterious flurry of morning activity that's soon explained. After Ben and George's nearly four decades together, same-sex marriage has become legal in New York, and the men have decided to take what hardly seems a plunge.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

'The Giver' Strikes Old And Ominous Notes About The Dark Side Of Serenity

Jeff Bridges (left) produces and stars as the title character in The Giver, alongside Australian actor Brenton Thwaites, who plays Jonas, his young apprentice. The Giver is the first film rendition of the popular 1993 young adult novel by Lois Lowry.
Courtesy of The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 11:16 am

It might seem hard to describe The Giver without revealing some of those plot points that touchy suspense fans call "spoilers." But this brisk, deftly art-directed parable is basically unspoilable. Even viewers who know nothing of its source, Lois Lowry's 1993 novel, will be able to anticipate every development.

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Movie Reviews
3:44 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

James Cameron Takes The 'Deepsea Challenge' At The Ocean's Bottom

Fillmmaker James Cameron wanted to travel the depths of the ocean since he was a child. He attempts to make his boyhood dreams a reality in National Geographic's Deepsea Challenge.
Mark Thiessen AP

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 4:40 pm

Building a submersible that can travel to the ocean's deepest point is a budget buster, even for the guy who made Titanic and Avatar. So it makes sense that the Deepsea Challenger, James Cameron's depth-taunting craft, would be designed for just a single passenger. Still, viewers of Deepsea Challenge may think of another reason the vessel's cabin was built for one: Cameron didn't want anyone else intruding on his close-up.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

A 'Child Of God,' Or Maybe Not

Scott Haze stars in Child Of God, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy directed by James Franco.
Well Go USA

Originally published on Fri August 1, 2014 6:15 am

A freewheeling yet writerly style and a fully committed lead performance distinguish Child of God, prolific actor-author-director James Franco's latest literary adaptation. Even when the movie works, however, it's hard to see past the lurid details of the Tennessee tale, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's 1973 exercise in backwoods noir.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

'A Most Wanted Man': A Parable Grounded In The Real World

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in A Most Wanted Man, director Anton Corbijn's adaptation of John le Carré's 2008 novel, as German intelligence officer Günther Bachmann.
Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 3:46 pm

Fittingly, one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performances is in a movie about role-playing. The masterly actor mutters and growls his way through A Most Wanted Man as a spy who's simultaneously fighting two losing wars: against the West's enemies as well as his own putative allies.

Further deepening the movie's ambiguity, the American actor plays a German in a story whose payoff is pungently anti-American.

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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 — 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 — 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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