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 September 12, 2013

From A Saudi Director, A Familiar Story Made Fresh Again

All Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) wants is her own bicycle — but as Haifaa Al Mansour's film illustrates, that's a tricky proposition for a young girl living in Saudi Arabia.
Tobias Kownatzki Razor Film/Sony Pictures Classics

Wadjda is the sort of lovable young hustler we've seen in scores of films — a 10-year-old who wants something and will lie, threaten and cajole to get it.

But Wadjda's familiar premise is transformed by its unexpected location: The movie's protagonist lives in Saudi Arabia, and what she wants, even if she doesn't exactly realize it, is freedom.

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Movie Reviews
3:09 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Qwerty Can Be Flirty, If We're In '50s France

Ses Doigts, Sont Adroits: Deborah Francois proves adept with the titular typewriter in Populaire.
Jair Sfez The Weinstein Co.

Devotees of '50s Hollywood comedies could have a great time at Populaire, an intentionally lightweight ode to romance and, uh, typing. But the way to enjoy this French souffle is to concentrate on the scrupulously retro music, costumes and set design, not on the musty fairy-tale script.

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Movie Reviews
4:14 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Dark Wings Over Tokyo, With A Dash Of Feline Mystery To Finish

More than 20,000 crows, by recent estimates, live alongside the 13 million human inhabitants of Tokyo; Tokyo Waka tells their story — and meditates on the meaning of their persistence in one of the world's greatest cities.
Stylo Films

Western movies usually film Tokyo through a lens clouded by preconceived notions. California documentarians John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson sidestep that pitfall by downplaying human views. Their Tokyo Waka: A City Poem looks at the Japanese megalopolis from the vantage point of its abundant crows.

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Movie Reviews
4:30 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Good Vs. Evil, Once More With (So Much) Feeling

Jace helps Clary as she sets about uncovering the truth about her unsuspected heritage as one of the chosen few who defend humans from things supernatural, and also he is pretty and blond and dreamy and distracting.
Rafy Sony/Screen Gems

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 11:22 am

It's time for mom and Clary to have the talk.

No, not that talk. Jocelyn (Lena Headey) needs to tell teenage Clary (Lily Collins) about angels and demons, vampires and werewolves, magic chalices and sacred blood — not to mention hidden sanctuaries, interdimensional portals, the identity of her father and the existence of an unknown brother. Plus something nutty about J.S. Bach.

No wonder she's been putting it off.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Lives And History, Through The Eyes Of Big And Small

Forest Whitaker turns in a reserved performance as Cecil Gaines, butler to eight U.S. presidents, including Robin Williams' Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a Lee Daniels drama based on the true story of a White House veteran.
Anne Marie Fox The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 4:59 pm

In their approaches to history, Joshua Michael Stern's Jobs and Lee Daniels' The Butler could hardly be less similar. The former is an example of Victorian-style great-man biography, updated for the iThings era. The latter observes monumental events, mostly involving the civil rights movement, from an Everyman's perspective.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

'Deep Throat's' Lovelace, And The Linda She Used To Be

Amanda Seyfried plays girl-next-door porn star Linda Lovelace, who'd become a sensation in 1972's Deep Throat but later denounce her manager-husband (Peter Sarsgaard) as abusive and manipulative.
Dale Robinette Radius TWC

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 9:25 am

Cinema routinely peddles images of beautiful people in romantic situations, not to mention gauzily idealized visions of passion and intimacy. So it's a little counterintuitive when filmmakers depict sex as perilous — even when that's exactly what they've signed up to do.

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Movie Reviews
3:53 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Washington, Wahlberg Are Bad Boys, And Whatcha Gonna Do?

Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) are two hypermacho hoods who've teamed up to rob a bank — but wait, are they really the bad guys they say they are?
Patti Perret Universal

Hypermacho but tongue-in-cheek, the first 20 minutes of 2 Guns are enormous fun. Tough guys Bobby and Stig (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) bicker and flirt — with a pretty diner waitress, and with each other — while casing a small-town Texas bank.

Then they set the diner on fire, don masks, and knock over the bank for $43 million, all while taking care to save any cops from getting hurt and even kissing an available baby. The heist, it would seem, has gone according to plan. Yet something's a little off.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Beyond Earth's Gravity, A Space Opera Goes Flat

Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo) is chief scientist on a doomed mission to one of Jupiter's moons in Europa Report, a found-footage whatdunnit with sci-fi-thriller ambitions.
Magnolia

In space, not many people can hear you scream. In fact, traveling in a manned spacecraft is probably a bit like working on a soundproof movie set — which is plainly where Europa Report was shot.

Tricked up with split screens and digital-video glitchery, this low-budget sci-fi saga emphasizes the claustrophobia and monotony of a long journey beyond Earth's gravity. But it also borrows gambits from horror movies, withholding information and eliminating characters one by one.

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Movie Reviews
3:18 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

Crime And Punishment, Mainland China Style

When it is discovered that Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) has been manufacturing meth, he's sentenced to death and put in the custody of Capt. Zhang. His only shot at redemption? Helping Zhang shut down his cartel.
Variance

Originally published on Thu July 25, 2013 4:13 pm

Hong Kong action-crime maestro Johnnie To makes films about good and evil, but he's not in the habit of neatly distinguishing the two. So he might seem at a disadvantage in mainland China, where the censors don't tolerate moral ambiguity. With the canny Drug War, however, the director proves himself entirely up to the challenge.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Adam Sandler, Insisting Again That He's A Really Great Guy

Improbably or not, Salma Hayek (left) and Adam Sandler (far right) are a couple again in Grown Ups 2. Billed as a comedy, the film also features Kevin James, Alexys Nicole Sanchez, Chris Rock, Maria Bello and David Spade, who in this scene are all pretending to laugh at something that in all likelihood involves poo.
Tracy Bennett Sony Pictures

Two decades ago, when stupid Hollywood comedies were relatively smart, they lampooned their own sequelitis with titles like Hot Shots! Part Deux. The genre has become less knowing since then, so the follow-up to 2010's Grown Ups is named simply Grown Ups 2.

Grown Ups Minus 2 would be more apt.

Like its predecessor, this is a vehicle for Adam Sandler, his pals and whatever they think they can get away with. That means some creepy sexual insinuations, if not so many as the first time.

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Movie Reviews
3:33 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

In Swinging '60s London, A Frisky 'Look Of Love'

The high life catches up with pop-culture impresario Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan, right) and his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) when nudie-mag editor Tony Power (Chris Addison) introduces them to drugs.
IFC

The fourth collaboration between actor Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom is much like their first: Both The Look of Love and 2002's 24 Hour Party People are antic, self-conscious film bios about impresarios on the fringes of showbiz — soft porn and punk rock, respectively. But somehow the new movie, though it doesn't skimp on the nudity, the cocaine or the Britpop, is the blander of the two.

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Movie Reviews
3:00 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

In Vienna, A Gallery Of Hours That Add Up To Art

Bobby Sommer is Johann, an "invisible" Vienna museum guard who becomes profoundly connected to a frequent visitor after she starts to take notice of him.
Cinema Guild

During his 20-year career, Jem Cohen has shown his films in museum auditoriums more often than in commercial theaters. So it's fitting that Museum Hours, the arty documentarian's latest feature-length effort, is so indebted to Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum. Cohen likes to happen upon stories and images, and the 19th-century Austrian culture palace is brimming with both.

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Movie Reviews
3:04 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

'More Than Honey' Sees A World Without Bees

In More Than Honey, Attica Boa's striking close-up photography helps visualize a story whose urgency needs no amplification: With global honeybee populations threatened, the world's food supply could be seriously endangered.
Kino Lorber

An amiably shaggy combination of science lesson, whimsical musing and alarm bell, More Than Honey isn't as urgent as its eco-catastrophic subject — the possible destruction of the world's critically important honeybee populations — might seem to require. But the documentary's most memorable vignette is suitably unnerving: a visit to northern China, where the threatened disappearance of bees has already come to pass, leaving workers to pollinate fruit trees ... by hand.

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Movie Reviews
3:01 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Resnais' Lively, Metatheatrical Look At Death

Sabine Azema (left) and Pierre Arditi are two of the veteran actors drawn into a convoluted retelling — and reimagining — of the Orpheus and Eurydice story in Alain Resnais' You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.
Kino Lorber

As a relatively young man, French director Alain Resnais made films about loss, remembrance and the ghosts of a recent history that included the Holocaust, Hiroshima and the brutal Franco-Algerian war. He was 89 when he directed his latest film, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, which also considers the presence of the past. But the director's concern with real-life horrors has been replaced here by an outlook that's both playful and explicitly theatrical.

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Movie Reviews
3:02 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Teenage 'Kings Of Summer' Rule A Predictable Sitcom World

The Kings Of Summer stars (from left) Gabriel Basso as Patrick, Moises Arias as Biaggio and Nick Robinson as Joe. The three teenagers escape from their constrictive parents to build a house of their own in the woods.
Courtesy Toy's House Productions

Like the recent Mud, The Kings of Summer is a tale of feral adolescent pals in search of freedom and adventure. The movies even share essentially the same awkwardly contrived climax. But of the two films, The Kings of Summer is more of a comedy, with a depiction of the eternal war between teen and parent that's downright farcical.

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Movie Reviews
1:00 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Will, Jaden Smith In Space, Without Fun

Will Smith (left) and Jaden Smith star in After Earth, an unfortunately humorless film.
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

A disastrous father-son endeavor about a calamitous father-son expedition, After Earth doesn't play to the strengths of any of its major participants.

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Movie Reviews
3:48 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

'We Steal Secrets': A Sidelong Look At WikiLeaks

Source material: As a virtual prisoner these days, he doesn't supply much in the way of fresh information — but WikiLeaks overlord Julian Assange is very much at the center of Alex Gibney's documentary We Steal Secrets.
Jo Straube Universal Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 5:52 pm

Current-events buffs probably think they know the tale of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney may have thought the same when he began researching his film We Steal Secrets. But this engrossing documentary soon diverges from the expected.

Even the movie's title, or rather the source of it, is a surprise. Not to spoil the fun, but it's neither Assange nor one of his allies who nonchalantly acknowledges that "we steal secrets."

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

'Bidder 70,' Still Raising His Hand To Be Heard

Supporters of environmental activist Tim DeChristopher picket outside his criminal trial. The economics student ran into trouble with the federal government when he bid on — and won — mineral rights he had no intention of exploiting.
First Run Features

In its final months, the George W. Bush administration hastily organized a mineral-rights auction for federal land in Utah, much of it near national parks. Environmentalist and economics student Tim DeChristopher attended the sale and — impulsively, he says — bid on and won 22,000 acres he had no intention of exploiting.

The feds came down on him like a ton of oil derricks. DeChristopher was threatened with as many as 10 years in prison, and ultimately spent 21 months behind bars.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

'Augustine' And Her Diagnosis Get Another Look

Augustine (the French singer-actress billed as Soko) was a 19th-century Paris housemaid diagnosed with the then-fashionable condition known as "hysteria" — a catchall used to label many ailments women suffered in that age.
Jean Claude Lother Music Box Films

Onstage, in front of an audience, the young woman seemingly goes into a trance, overcome by a power that shakes and contorts her. The commotion appears profoundly sexual; she grabs at her crotch as she writhes. When the woman reaches some kind of release, the spell is broken, and she becomes calm. She leaves the stage to enthusiastic applause.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

'In The Air,' A Sense Of Stakes For A '70s Youth

Christine (Lola Creton) and Gilles (Clement Metayer) are the sometime couple at the center of Olivier Assayas' smart, clear-eyed examination of a still-painful period in France's recent past.
Carol Bethuel MK/Sundance Selects

In the opening minutes of Something in the Air, the protagonist carves an "A" (for anarchy) into his school desk, and participates in a street demonstration that ends in a punishing flurry of police billy clubs. "The revolution's near," apparently — to quote the 1969 Thunderclap Newman hit that provides the film's title.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

Building A Home For A Client Who Can't Live In It

Artist Jackie Sumell set out to build a dream home for bank robber Herman Wallace, whose additional conviction for killing a prison guard is the subject of a long-running dispute.
First Run Features

The off-screen protagonist of Herman's House, Herman Wallace, already has a dwelling for his body: a 6-foot-by-8-foot cell at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, aka Angola. But the documentary's on-screen protagonist, Jackie Sumell, wants him also to have a place for his soul: a dream house for a man who desperately needs dreams.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

A Hazy Ode 'To The Wonder' Of Hidden Worlds

Jane (Rachel McAdams) rekindles an old affair with the taciturn Neil (Ben Affleck), an environmental investigator whose work takes him to a remote Oklahoma town in the enigmatic new film To the Wonder.
Mary Cybulski Magnolia Pictures

Pretty but inert, To the Wonder is a vaporous mystery wrapped in a gauzy enigma — a cinematic riddle that'll appeal principally to those eager for another piece, however tiny, of the puzzle that is Terrence Malick.

To the Wonder continues in the lyrical-to-a-fault mode of the writer-director's The Tree of Life; in fact, this film includes some footage originally shot for that one. But it excludes Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper, Jessica Chastain and Michael Sheen, who all reportedly played roles that vanished from the final cut.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

Robert Redford Keeps Revolutionary'Company'

Jim (Robert Redford) must flee with his daughter, Isabel (Jackie Evancho), to the scene of a past crime in order to avoid a probing amateur reporter.
Doane Gregory Sony Pictures Classics

Crisp in execution and classic in ambiance, The Company You Keep is star Robert Redford's most persuasive directorial work since 1994's Quiz Show. It's a pleasure to watch, even if the payoff is rather less substantial than the backstory.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

'The Place Beyond The Pines': It's A Far Piece

Angsty stunt performer Luke (Ryan Gosling) quits the circus and becomes a busybody father after a former girlfriend reveals she's had his child.
Focus Features

There are moments, as Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine informed us, when the barely controlled rage that is masculinity can be tempered by feelings for woman and child. But eventually the male Id will erupt, and everything will go to hell.

That happens more than once in Cianfrance's new The Place Beyond the Pines, a would-be epic that shifts from character to character and story to story to show how fury passes from fathers to sons. But too much of this seething drama is devoted not to characterization but to posturing.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

'Retaliation': Harsh Payback For Poor G.I. Joe

Duke (Channing Tatum) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) are live-action G.I. Joes in the big-screen franchise's latest thoroughly disposable installment.
Jaimie Trueblood Paramount Pictures

What's the difference between an action figure and an action star? Very little in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which features no performances of note, even from such combat-tested thespians as Bruce Willis, Jonathan Pryce and Dwayne Johnson.

The sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the latest Joe is a near-surrealistic mashup of serious themes and juvenile humor, realistic locations and cheesy CGI. Adapted to 3-D after it was shot, the movie is also one of the most aggressive examples ever of the chucking-stuff-at-the-viewer aesthetic.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

'No Place On Earth': Underground, A Story Of Survival

Sam and Saul Stermer, members of a family who hid in an underground Ukrainian cave in the early days of World War II, return to the hideout in No Place on Earth.
Magnolia Pictures

Christopher Nicola, the avid spelunker who introduces No Place on Earth, has an appetite for the dramatic.

"Every cave I enter has a secret," he intones, as the documentary cuts between Nicola's New York City home and his progress through tight underground passages.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

A 'Devil' In The Details Of A Brotherly Rivalry

Brothers Rash and Mo (James Floyd and Fady Elsayed) live in the rough working-class London neighborhood of Hackney — but which sibling is the titular designee in My Brother the Devil gets harder and harder to determine as the film goes on.
108 Media

Shot entirely in Hackney — a mostly ungentrified London borough — My Brother the Devil has a strong odor of authenticity. The main characters are of Egyptian origin, but their friends include people rooted in West Africa and the Caribbean. All are linked by poverty, alienation and a gangsta worldview popularized by American movies and hip-hop.

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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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