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
4:03 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Married Without Children, But With Overgrown Adolescents

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play married couple Cornelia and Josh in the Noah Baumbach film While We're Young.
Jon Pack A24

Noah Baumbach's best movie since 2005's The Squid and the Whale, While We're Young navigates into more mainstream territory while losing none of the writer-director's rueful wit. Oddly enough, the comedy's major weakness is that it's over-plotted, hardly an issue with such Baumbach flawed-character studies as Frances Ha and Greenberg.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

'Kumiko' Follows A Quest For A Film's Snowy Treasure

Rinko Kikuchi in Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter.
Sean Porter Amplify

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 7:36 pm

Withdrawn and inarticulate, the heroine of Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter lives primarily inside her own imagination. And during at least two crucial scenes, this deadpan comedy seems to crawl in there with her.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Two Sisters And One Tax Inspector Make Up '3 Hearts'

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni in 3 Hearts.
Thierry Valletoux Cohen Media Group

The man at the center of 3 Hearts has a unreliable ticker. That may seem a brazen contrivance, but the movie is a melodrama that relishes such narrative ploys. Shot with handheld camera, director and co-writer Benoit Jacquot's movie looks like a naturalistic drama. But the script says otherwise.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

'Unfinished Business' You're Better Off Not Even Starting

In the midst of a European business trip, Dan Truckman (Vince Vaughn) Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and Mike Pancake (David Franco) somehow end up in a pasture.
Jessica Miglio Twentieth Century Fox

It's unclear what commerce is left undone in Unfinished Business, a fumbling mix of sentimental family fable and gross-out sex comedy. Maybe the movie was originally titled Unfunny Business, but someone decided that would be bad for, well, business.

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Movie Reviews
4:01 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

A Disorienting But Electrifying Look At The Troubles

British soldier Gary Hook (Jack O'Connell) is accidentally abandoned by his unit after a riot in Belfast.
Dean Rogers Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 5:11 pm

Grim, terse and jumpy, '71 effectively evokes the chaos of early-1970s Belfast. A little too effectively, perhaps, since some sequences are as bewildering as the four-way civil war the movie re-creates. American viewers may wish the film came with both subtitles and a study guide.

'71 can be recommended, though, to viewers who don't mind a little bewilderment in the cause of an authentically visceral experience. After all, Northern Ireland residents who lived through The Troubles were probably also confused much of the time.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

'Queen And Country' Follows A Familiar Protagonist Through A New War

Tamsin Egerton in Queen and Country.
Sophie Mutevelian BBC Worldwide North America

In John Boorman's first semi-autobiographical film, 1987's Hope and Glory, war came to the school-age protagonist's London. In Queen and Country, set roughly a decade later, the director's alter ego goes to war — except that he doesn't. As the Korean conflict rages, 19-year-old Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) is drafted, trained and sent into service as a typing instructor.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

'Gett' Follows A Years-Long Quest For Separation

Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) in Gett.
Music Box Films

Seen mostly in a cell-like white room, the characters in Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem circle each other fruitlessly, seeking a resolution that's probably unachievable. Both the scenario and its severity suggest a play by Sartre or Beckett. But these actors are trapped not in an existential void but a rabbinical one.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

In 'The Voices,' The Dog And The Cat Talk, But The Film Says Little

Fiona (Gemma Arterton) and Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) in The Voices.
Lionsgate

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.

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Movie Reviews
4:04 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

'Timbuktu': Stories From A City Held, Then Freed

Toulou Kiki, Ibrahim Ahmed, Layla Walet Mohamed in Timbuktu.
Cohen Media Group

In one of Timbuktu's first vignettes, jihadists open fire on traditional sculptures, shredding wooden bodies with bullets. It's foreshadowing, of course: Human flesh will later face the same guns. But the moment is also a fine example of Abderrahmane Sissako's lyrical style. The Malian-Mauritanian director has made a film of unforgettable anger, yet tempered his outrage with humor, compassion and visual poetry.

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Movie Reviews
4:18 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

A Lead Performance Keeps 'Still Alice' Grounded

Julianne Moore plays Alice Howland, a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Linda Kallerus Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 1:08 pm

A circumstance that might well qualify as a fate worse than death is to continue living after one side of the human equation — body + mind — has been canceled. For a jaunty account of an active brain in a withering physique, see The Theory of Everything; for a more anguished view of the opposite situation, there's Still Alice.

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Movie Reviews
9:16 am
Fri January 2, 2015

Murder, Cows And Bad Funerals In The Absurd Comedy Of 'Li'l Quinquin'

Quinquin.
Kino Lorber

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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

A Watery 'Goodbye To All That'

Paul Schneider and Heather Graham in Goodbye To All That.
Corey Walter IFC Films

Otto Wall, the protagonist of Goodbye to All That, is well-meaning, clumsy and a little dull. The movie embodies his character perfectly.

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Movie Reviews
2:19 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

An 'Exodus' With Extra Eyeliner And Crocodiles

Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) and Moses (Christian Bale) in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Kerry Brown Twentieth Century Fox

The tale of Moses is not exactly fresh cinematic material, so anyone attempting an update would to be wise to have a theme. The subtitle of Exodus: Gods and Kings suggests that Ridley Scott intended just that. The director must have meant to contrast the decadent Egyptian pharaohs, who imagined themselves divine, with the humbler servant of the Hebrew G-d.

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Movie Reviews
12:25 pm
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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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

In A Weekend Or A Year, Remoteness Is Captured On Film

Christine Powell in Antarctica: A Year On Ice.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 5:12 pm

Remote Area Medical and Antarctica: A Year on Ice are both studies of human life in extremis, and each documentary employs a strict chronological framework. The former observes a single weekend, while the latter — well, it's right there in the title, although the movie draws on a decade's worth of footage.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

A Concert Film Without Much Concert Film, 'Pulp' Sketches A Hometown

Pulp bandmates Jarvis Cocker, Nick Banks, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackey, and Mark Webber.
Oscilloscope

Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets is a concert documentary that includes little concert footage. But that doesn't mean it spends much time on the themes mentioned in its subtitle. Mostly, the movie is about singer-songwriter Jarvis Cocker and his hometown, Sheffield, which he acknowledges has "never been a beautiful place."

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Music Reviews
4:03 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 7:17 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
5:29 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 7:48 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
11:17 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
1:03 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
4:03 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 8:55 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
9:04 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 11:11 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
4:03 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
7:53 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
8:03 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
4:03 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
4:03 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
4:03 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 12:16 pm

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
4:10 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 5:40 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
4:03 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 7:15 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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