Mark Jenkins http://wuis.org en 'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One http://wuis.org/post/boys-abu-ghraib-focuses-too-tightly-army-one Essentially a one-man show, writer-director-star Luke Moran's <em>Boys of Abu Ghraib</em> observes a soldier's deployment at the prison during its most notorious post-Saddam year, 2003. As such, the movie works pretty well. But spotlighting a single GI sidesteps the group dynamic of what happened at the U.S.-run jail, where poorly supervised guards incited each other to behave in ways that were, at the least, unprofessional.<br /> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 17:29:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 21903 at http://wuis.org 'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One It's Faction Against Faction In A Grim Future Chicago http://wuis.org/post/its-faction-against-faction-grim-future-chicago The latest teen-girl fiction series to become a movie franchise, <em>Divergent </em>delivers adolescent viewers some bad news and some good news. The bad is that the dystopian future will be just like high school, with kids divided into rigid cliques. The good is that adulthood will be just like high school, so teens face no major surprises.<p>In the first of three movies adapted from Veronica Roth's trilogy, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) lives in a trashed, walled-in Chicago where everyone belongs to one of five castes: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless or Erudite. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 21295 at http://wuis.org It's Faction Against Faction In A Grim Future Chicago Foreign Policy, With A Pugnacious French Twist http://wuis.org/post/foreign-policy-pugnacious-french-twist A frisky tour of the Gallic equivalent of the U.S. State Department, <em>The French Minister</em> boasts robust pacing, screwball-comedy banter and an exuberant central performance. For most American viewers, though, the movie could use footnotes to go with its subtitles.<p>Derived from a graphic novel, the movie observes the travails of Arthur Vlaminck (Raphael Personnaz), a recent graduate of the country's top public-administration college. Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 21298 at http://wuis.org Foreign Policy, With A Pugnacious French Twist 'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields http://wuis.org/post/big-men-doing-big-business-africas-oil-fields There are three categories of schemers in <em>Big Men</em>, Rachel Boynton's illuminating documentary about the oil business in West Africa: businessmen, politicians and bandits. Sometimes, though, it's hard to tell the types apart.<p>Filmed over about five years, the movie follows the seesawing fortunes of Kosmos Energy, a small Dallas oil company. Small, that is, by the standards of ExxonMobil, the massive firm that briefly enters the story as a potential partner. Thu, 13 Mar 2014 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 20820 at http://wuis.org 'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields '300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour http://wuis.org/post/300-empire-rises-dripping-gore-and-glamour Talk about meeting cute: The first time they're alone together, the protagonists of <em>300: Rise of an Empire</em> rip each other's clothes off. But then Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) and Artemisia (Eva Green) can't decide if they want to make love or war.<p>The other characters in this movie, a superstylized battle epic that doubles as an S&M comedy, suffer no such confusion. They're all primed to mangle, skewer and dismember each other, generally at angles that send red-black CGI blood spurting directly at 3-D-specs-wearing viewers. Thu, 06 Mar 2014 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 20326 at http://wuis.org '300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick http://wuis.org/post/stalingrad-where-fog-war-plenty-thick If you're only going to see one film about the Battle of Stalingrad — and there are many — <em>Stalingrad </em>would be the wrong choice. Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk's treatment of the World War II turning point is shallow and contrived, if sometimes impressively staged. The movie wins points, however, for sheer wackiness.<p>This is first film about Stalingrad, for example, to open with voiceover in Japanese. The completely unnecessary framing story is set in the Tohoku region just after it was pummeled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Thu, 27 Feb 2014 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 19862 at http://wuis.org In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick Zola's Scandalous Raquin Clan, Sordid 'Secret' And All http://wuis.org/post/zolas-scandalous-raquin-clan-sordid-secret-and-all Emile Zola was one of the founders of naturalism, and his first major work, 1867's <em>Therese Raquin</em>, is full of precise physical description. The novel's plot is utter melodrama, though, and that's the aspect emphasized by <em>In Secret</em>, the latest in a century-long string of film and TV adaptations.<p>With its small cast of characters and limited number of locations, the book does lend itself to dramatization. Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 19392 at http://wuis.org Zola's Scandalous Raquin Clan, Sordid 'Secret' And All Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present http://wuis.org/post/two-exiles-digging-through-past-clues-their-present <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBtHKRy1Ns</p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 18935 at http://wuis.org Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present Family Matters, With A Dose Of Pharmaceuticals http://wuis.org/post/family-matters-dose-pharmaceuticals Josiane Balasko's <em>Demi-Soeur</em> suggests that modern pharmaceuticals can abet the storytelling in an old-fashioned sentimental farce: A dose of Ecstasy is all that's required to activate the relationship between Nenette (Balasko), a 60-year-old with the understanding of a first-grader, and her previously unknown half-brother Paul (Michel Blanc).<p>But if the "love drug" can heal characters like Paul, a crabby provincial pharmacist, it's not as curative for a limping screenplay like the one co-written by Balasko and Franck le Joseph. Thu, 06 Feb 2014 22:02:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 18453 at http://wuis.org Family Matters, With A Dose Of Pharmaceuticals 'Charlie Victor Romeo': In Crisis In The Cockpit http://wuis.org/post/charlie-victor-romeo-crisis-cockpit <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMCP8IYEfuQ</p> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 22:02:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 17990 at http://wuis.org 'Charlie Victor Romeo': In Crisis In The Cockpit Two Families, Decidedly Unalike In Dignity http://wuis.org/post/two-families-decidedly-unalike-dignity Tokyo filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda is known for deft work with kids, sometimes in scenarios with little or no adult presence. But the English-language title of his latest movie, <em>Like Father, Like Son</em>, is a little misleading. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 22:02:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 17111 at http://wuis.org Two Families, Decidedly Unalike In Dignity In A Past-Plagued Laos, A Youth Chases A Future http://wuis.org/post/past-plagued-laos-youth-chases-future <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSXomfO5r20</p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 22:02:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 16626 at http://wuis.org In A Past-Plagued Laos, A Youth Chases A Future A Hong Kong Film Titan, With A Reach Well Beyond His Roots http://wuis.org/post/hong-kong-film-titan-reach-well-beyond-his-roots <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tqs2hKv2ARE</p> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 18:20:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 16449 at http://wuis.org A Hong Kong Film Titan, With A Reach Well Beyond His Roots From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer' http://wuis.org/post/cinema-paradiso-director-offbeat-offer A stylish if ultimately silly attempt to marry erotic puzzler and art-world critique, <em>The Best Offer</em> benefits from assured performances and an agreeably nutty Ennio Morricone score. The movie plays as if director Giuseppe Tornatore (best known for <em>Cinema Paradiso</em>) is doing all he can with a dubious script. But he's the one who wrote it.<p>Save for brief moments in London and Prague, the story is set in an unidentified Italian city where everyone speaks English. Mon, 06 Jan 2014 16:19:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 16372 at http://wuis.org From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer' A Wall Street Predator With An Appetite For Excess http://wuis.org/post/wall-street-predator-appetite-excess Several times during <em>The Wolf of Wall Street</em>, the wolf himself turns to the camera and offers to explain some stockbroker term or strategy. But then he stops himself and says it doesn't really matter.<br /> Tue, 24 Dec 2013 20:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 15654 at http://wuis.org A Wall Street Predator With An Appetite For Excess 'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale http://wuis.org/post/selfish-giant-spins-grim-modern-fairy-tale In Oscar Wilde's fairy tale <em>The Selfish Giant</em>, the title character brings eternal winter to his garden by banishing children from it. Writer-director Clio Barnard's film of the same name was inspired by Wilde's fable, yet is much different.<p>The original story was for kids; the movie is about kids, but its grim depictions of violence against innocents may be too harrowing even for some adults. Yet the movie is engrossing, and sure to linger long after its poignant culmination.<p>Barnard, a Yorkshire native, sets the tale in Bradford, one of that British county's scruffiest cities. Thu, 19 Dec 2013 22:01:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 15364 at http://wuis.org 'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors http://wuis.org/post/after-meltdown-nine-months-drift-fukushima-survivors "Atomic energy makes our town and society prosperous," reads a sign photographed by filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi for <em>Nuclear Nation</em>. By the time he shows this small-town civic motto, the irony is unmistakable: Japan's nuclear-power industry may have enriched society, but it has left this particular city desolate.<br /> Wed, 11 Dec 2013 19:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 14804 at http://wuis.org After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice http://wuis.org/post/furnace-fueled-manly-malice Both literally and thematically dark, <em>Out of the Furnace</em> simmers with manliness like a slow-cooking pot of venison chili. This is the sort of movie where character is revealed by what the protagonist decides to hunt and possibly kill.<p>A noble buck in the Pennsylvania woods? Maybe not. A murderous, meth-dealing bare-knuckle-boxing promoter? Bang!<p>Our hero is Russell (Christian Bale), a small-town dark knight. Thu, 05 Dec 2013 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 14399 at http://wuis.org A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice A 'Long Walk' With Mandela, But It Shorts His Story http://wuis.org/post/long-walk-mandela-it-shorts-his-story Some movies try to underscore their authenticity by flashing dates, names and locations on the screen. <em>Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom</em> offers some dates and locations, but not much in the way of names. The result is a history of national transformation in which only two people really seem to matter.<p>One of them, of course, is Nelson Mandela, whose memoir is a major source for William Nicholson's script. As embodied by Idris Elba, Mandela is a powerful physical presence. The movie shows its protagonist walking, running and doing pushups to freedom. Thu, 28 Nov 2013 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 13974 at http://wuis.org A 'Long Walk' With Mandela, But It Shorts His Story A Gospel Story, Reframed (Again) In 'Black Nativity' http://wuis.org/post/gospel-story-reframed-again-black-nativity Like <em>Eve's Bayou</em>, her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' <em>Black Nativity</em> presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected: <em>Black Nativity</em> is a musical, after all, as well as a credible attempt at an African-American holiday perennial.<p>The original <em>Black Nativity</em> is a gospel-music oratorio, conceived by poet Langston Hughes and first performed in 1961. Thu, 28 Nov 2013 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 13976 at http://wuis.org A Gospel Story, Reframed (Again) In 'Black Nativity' A Foray Into The Blood-Soaked 'Cultura' Of Mexico's Cartels http://wuis.org/post/foray-blood-soaked-cultura-mexicos-cartels Following police through Mexico's Ciudad Juárez — reputedly the world's homicide capital — the Israeli filmmaker Shaul Schwarz finds mutilated corpses and gutters running with blood. But the resulting documentary, <em>Narco Cultura</em>, is not nearly so vivid as its most gruesome footage.<p>One reason for this is Schwarz's attempt at ironic juxtaposition: His principal characters are Richi Soto, a Juarez crime-scene investigator; and Edgar Quintero, an LA singer-songwriter. Thu, 21 Nov 2013 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 13517 at http://wuis.org A Foray Into The Blood-Soaked 'Cultura' Of Mexico's Cartels Alexander Sokurov, Seeking New Shadows In A Dark Classic http://wuis.org/post/alexander-sokurov-seeking-new-shadows-dark-classic Siberia-born director Alexander Sokurov is best known in the West for 2002's <em>Russian Ark</em>, a cinematic waltz through the Hermitage Museum that also functions as a primer on Russian history. The filmmaker is an idiosyncratic historian, though, as he demonstrates yet again with a version of <em>Faust</em> that completes his "tetralogy of power."<p>Said series previously offered eccentric characterizations of three mid-20th-century dictators: Hitler, Stalin and Hirohito. Faust, of course, is a fictional character. Thu, 14 Nov 2013 22:02:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 13062 at http://wuis.org Alexander Sokurov, Seeking New Shadows In A Dark Classic The End Of The World, As She Knows It http://wuis.org/post/end-world-she-knows-it Because it serves up Armageddon with a side order of teen romance, <em>How I Live Now</em> is not always credible. But as a portrait of a surly 16-year-old whose internal crisis is overtaken by an external one, the movie is persuasive.<p>For that, credit goes partly to director Kevin Macdonald, but mostly to his star, Saoirse Ronan. Playing a neurotic urbanite who learns to survive in a war-ravaged landscape, the actress is, appropriately enough, a force of nature.<p>The opening sequence, set in an unidentified British airport, announces that the movie shares its lead character's perspective. Thu, 07 Nov 2013 22:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 12580 at http://wuis.org The End Of The World, As She Knows It 'Tai Chi' Master: Keanu Reeves Takes The Director's Chair http://wuis.org/post/tai-chi-master-keanu-reeves-takes-directors-chair Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, <em>Man of Tai Chi, </em>is basically the anti-<em>Kill Bill.</em> Both movies are quilted together from their auteurs' favorite Asian action flicks, but where Tarantino's was overheated, Reeves' is elegantly iced. It's martial-arts mayhem with a touch of zen.<p>Reeves has clearly seen many Hong Kong films, and with the help of two veterans, Hollywood cinematographer Elliot Davis and HK editor Derek Hui, he's replicated one. Thu, 31 Oct 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 12104 at http://wuis.org 'Tai Chi' Master: Keanu Reeves Takes The Director's Chair 'The Square': Egypt In Crisis, And Its People In Focus http://wuis.org/post/square-egypt-crisis-and-its-people-focus Several times during <em>The Square,</em> Jehane Noujaim's account of Egypt's unfinished revolution, the camera gazes down on Tahrir Square, teeming with multitudes. Yet ultimately, one of the principal appeals of the D.C.-born Egyptian-American filmmaker's documentary is its intimacy.<p>While capturing the giddiness of national transition from the winter of 2011 to the summer of 2013, Noujaim focuses on just three people: Ahmed Hassan and Khalid Abdalla, both secular and liberal, and Magdy Ashour, a bushy-bearded Muslim Brotherhood member. Thu, 24 Oct 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 11660 at http://wuis.org 'The Square': Egypt In Crisis, And Its People In Focus WikiLeaks Gets A Hollywood Gloss In 'Fifth Estate' http://wuis.org/post/wikileaks-gets-hollywood-gloss-fifth-estate The saga of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is too large a data dump for a two-hour drama. Yet director Bill Condon seeks to complicate as well as simplify in <em>The Fifth Estate,</em> an entertaining if inevitably unreliable current events romp.<p>The opening credits present a pocket history of textual communication, from cuneiform to the Internet. Thu, 17 Oct 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 11156 at http://wuis.org WikiLeaks Gets A Hollywood Gloss In 'Fifth Estate' Punk History, Embroidered Here And There http://wuis.org/post/punk-history-embroidered-here-and-there Loose, lively and agreeably unsolemn, the alt-culture biopic <em>CBGB </em>is an account of that<em> </em>Manhattan punk-rock crucible whose audience will likely be even smaller than the crowd that actually went to the club in the 1970s.<p>That's because to really enjoy Randall Miller's film, viewers not only probably need to have experienced the club in its formative years; they'll also need not to be too terribly invested in their own versions of what happened there. Thu, 10 Oct 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 10689 at http://wuis.org Punk History, Embroidered Here And There Music Doc Packs 'Muscle' (Plus A Whole Lotta Soul) http://wuis.org/post/music-doc-packs-muscle-plus-whole-lotta-soul Most fans of '60s soul know of Muscle Shoals, the tiny Alabama town that produced huge hits. But only the genre's most studious followers will be able to watch <em>Muscle Shoals</em> without being regularly astonished: Even if it sometimes gets lost in its byways, Greg "Freddy" Camalier's documentary tells an extraordinary story.<p>There's a mystical aspect to the movie, which opens with arty nature shots and the voice of U2's Bono, bombastically extolling the magic of this backwoods arts colony. Thu, 26 Sep 2013 22:42:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 9752 at http://wuis.org Music Doc Packs 'Muscle' (Plus A Whole Lotta Soul) For Richer And For Poorer, But What Of That Vanishing Middle? http://wuis.org/post/richer-and-poorer-what-vanishing-middle The U.S. financial sector's 2007-2008 swoon hurt a lot of people, but it's been a bonanza for documentary filmmakers with an interest in economics. The last five years have seen dozens of movies about the dismal science, most of them pegged to the Great Recession.<p>The latest is <em>Inequality for All</em>, a showcase for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Thu, 26 Sep 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 9730 at http://wuis.org For Richer And For Poorer, But What Of That Vanishing Middle? From Lebanon To Israel, With An Olive Tree In Tow http://wuis.org/post/lebanon-israel-olive-tree-tow Israeli director Eran Riklis often depicts characters separated by borders. In <em>The Syrian Bride</em>, a Druze woman leaves Israel to marry, knowing she can never return to visit her family; in <em>Lemon Tree</em>, a privileged Israeli woman and a disadvantaged Palestinian regard one another warily from opposite sides of the fence between free and occupied territory.<p><em>Zaytoun</em> is different: This time, the director allows his characters to cross the frontier. Thu, 19 Sep 2013 21:03:00 +0000 Mark Jenkins 9259 at http://wuis.org From Lebanon To Israel, With An Olive Tree In Tow