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.

Observing the consequences of the Mexican drug trade on both sides of the U.S. border, Cartel Land toggles between Arizona and the state of Michoacan, about 1,000 miles to the south. Only the latter of the twinned storylines really pays off, but that one is riveting.

A subtle portrait of an EDM Adam, Eden is neither a star-is-born fable nor a soul-is-lost parable. In 1992, teenage Paul (Felix de Givry) gives his life to Paris' house-music scene. Two decades later, he reluctantly takes it back.

"How much trouble can one poet be?" That's literature professor John Malcolm Brinnin's rhetorical response to his buttoned-way-down colleagues' fears about a writer's proposed visit to New York in 1950. Today, the query can't be heard as anything other than an inside joke. For the poet is Dylan Thomas, who was trouble for most of his 39 years.

Wouldn't it be nice if Beach Boy Brian Wilson's troubled life were as easily understood as Love & Mercy makes it appear? Where the Pet Sounds auteur is known for multi-part harmonies, director Bill Pohlad's biopic is a series of simple duets.

French director Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is a comic reworking of Madame Bovary, but that's merely the first of the movie's several layers. The bilingual film is adapted not from Flaubert's classic but from British cartoonist Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, set in contemporary times and with the Boverys as a London couple that just relocated to Normandy.

Cary Fowler is an easygoing, soft-spoken Tennessee native who travels the world with an urgent message: The human race may starve to death. If that threat becomes likely, however, people can turn to the biological archive that director Sandy McLeod's documentary calls The Seeds of Time.

At the beginning of Forbidden Films, documentarian Felix Moeller's camera warily contemplates a fortified bunker. The contents are, a curator warns, "literally explosive" — Nazi propaganda films on highly flammable nitrocelluloid stock.

"Inappropriate," today's foremost throat-clearing adjective, is the appropriate response to The D Train. This squirm-till-you-snicker comedy is about two immature males confronted with sexual possibilities they can't handle. One of the guys is 14; the other is his father.

Marie Heurtin was born blind and deaf just five years after Helen Keller, and she experienced a similar liberation through the discovery of sign language. The French girl's tale is the harsher one, since Keller didn't lose sight and sound until she was 19 months old and was able to communicate in a limited way with another girl before the breakthrough dramatized in The Miracle Worker.

24 Days recounts the grisly fate of Ilan Halimi, the young Jewish Parisian who in 2006 was kidnapped, held for ransom and tortured beyond what his body could endure. But it's not Ilan who addresses the camera at the beginning of the film. It's his mother, Ruth Halimi (Zabou Breitman).

As much fun as a tree full of toque macaques, Monkey Kingdom is arguably the most entertaining of Disneynature's eight features. But purists will recoil as soon as The Monkees theme enters, and there are times when the story told by narrator Tina Fey probably doesn't reflect the extraordinary images directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill captured.

The latest British movie to play the imitation game, Ex Machina, is the directorial debut of novelist-screenwriter Alex Garland. This time, the stakes are higher than the Nazi conquest of Europe. The talky sci-fi puzzler turns on nothing less than the potential displacement of humans by artificially intelligent cyborgs.

Then again, maybe the film is just another riff on the battle of the sexes.

A serial-killer spoof set in a parody of small-town U.S.A., The Voices wants desperately to be bizarre. But it manages just to be a little odd, and that's mostly because its vision of American gothic was crafted on a German soundstage by a Franco-Iranian director.

Although set in Bruno Dumont's home region of northern France, L'il Quinquin finds the writer-director in unexpected territory. The film is a arguably Dumont's first comedy, and was made as a four-part TV miniseries.

Yet with its relaxed pacing, inconclusive plot and elegant widescreen cinematography, the movie doesn't feel much like TV. And its humor is less a matter of overt gags than bemused attitude, which shows that the Dumont of Humanite and Hors Satan has barely relocated at all.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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