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 November 22, 2012

Rape, Race And The Press, Entangled In 'Central Park'

Yusef Salaam, wrongly accused of rape, is escorted by police. He and four other teens were eventually found guilty of a crime they didn't commit.
Getty Images

A change of pace for PBS long-form documentarian Ken Burns, The Central Park Five revisits New York City's recent past to tell the story of a pack of ruthless predators.

Two packs, actually: Gotham's prosecutors and police officers, and its reporters and columnists. Both groups went feral in 1989 against five innocent Harlem teenagers accused and then convicted in a rape and assault.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

A Remake That Will Leave Fans Seeing 'Red'

From left: Matt Eckert (Josh Peck) and his friend Robert (Josh Hutcherson) join Matt's Marine brother Jed (Chris Hemsworth) on a mission to stop North Korean invaders.
Ron Phillips Open Road Films

Released during Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, the original Red Dawn was denounced as right-wing propaganda. But while director and co-writer John Milius' fantasy of Colorado high-school students who battle Soviet and Cuban invaders was anti-communist, it was principally pro-gun and pro-youth. In spirit, it was closer to Frank Capra than to Leni Riefenstahl.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

'Buffalo Girls' Fight For Survival In Rural Thailand

Buffalo Girls follows two 8-year-old professional Muay Thai fighters. Pet Chor Chanachai not only fights to support her family, but does so while suffering from a heart defect.
108 Media

It's no secret that, in many parts of the world, children don't experience what affluent Westerners would term "childhood." Still, even the most hardened documentary buffs may be dumbfounded by Buffalo Girls, a look at two 8-year-old Thai girls who support their respective families.

They do so by hitting each other in the head.

Stam and Pet compete in Muay Thai, a form of boxing in which kicking as well as punching is allowed. As depicted in fictional action movies, Muay Thai is both graceful and brutal. Practiced by 8-year-olds, it's neither.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Ending The 'Silence' Around Priests' Sex Abuse

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God documents the claims made by four deaf men who accused a Catholic priest of sexual abuse — and in chronicling the response of the church, details the role the current pope played in such scandals earlier in his career.
TIFF

By the time Father Lawrence Murphy died in 1998, it's alleged, he had sexually abused more than 200 children. Many of them must have seemed ideal victims: Students at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee between 1950 and 1974, they possessed limited ability to communicate with others. Commonly in that period, the boarding school's pupils had hearing parents who didn't know American Sign Language.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

'Dangerous Liaisons' Gets A Far-East Makeover

Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) sets out to seduce a young widow, Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi), at the behest of his former flame.
Well Go USA

Relocating Dangerous Liaisons, the 18th-century French erotic intrigue, to 1930s Shanghai is a bold move. And yet it's not especially surprising. In Chinese movies, that city in that decade frequently serves as shorthand for decadence. And what could be more decadent than two debauched ex-lovers cold-heartedly planning to destroy the innocence of not one but two virtuous women?

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

'Chasing Ice,' And Capturing Climate Change On Film

Environmental photographer James Balog captures a multiyear record of the world's glaciers in Chasing Ice.
Adam LeWinter Extreme Ice Survey

Two decades ago, James Balog was one of the people who couldn't wrap his head around the prospect of global warming. The threat seemed too abstract, and the science too linked to the sort of computer-model analysis he disdained.

But the geographer-turned-photographer (principally for National Geographic) doesn't think that way any more. Neither will most of the viewers of Chasing Ice, the documentary that observes Balog's efforts to chronicle the planet's shrinking glaciers.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Eyeliner, Lipstick And Finding Your 'Place'

Aging musician Cheyenne (Sean Penn) and his wife, Jane (Frances McDormand), live a relatively normal life out of the spotlight.
The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 5:46 pm

A near-agoraphobic musician is an odd protagonist for a road movie, but then "odd" is the operative term for This Must Be the Place, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's first English-language film. This mashup of genres and themes doesn't entirely succeed, but it is warm, funny and ably crafted.

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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 18, 2012

Nothing 'Zero' About This Kung Fu Hero

Sammo Hung, the film's fight choreographer, has worked with kung fu artists like Jackie Chan and John Woo.
Okazaki Hirotake Variance Films

With its frisky camerawork, eclectic scenario and playful stylization, the Chinese period action romp Tai Chi Zero is an impressive package. That there's not much inside the glittery wrapping is just a minor drawback.

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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

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
3:03 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
3:55 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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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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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 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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