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
1:03 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors

After the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, the nearby town of Futaba was entirely evacuated. Nuclear Nation follows nine months in the lives of the displaced.
First Run Features

"Atomic energy makes our town and society prosperous," reads a sign photographed by filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi for Nuclear Nation. 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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice

When his younger brother disappears after getting entangled with a rough customer, Russell (Christian Bale) grabs a gun and heads out to hunt for him.
Kerry Hayes Relativity Media

Both literally and thematically dark, Out of the Furnace 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.

A noble buck in the Pennsylvania woods? Maybe not. A murderous, meth-dealing bare-knuckle-boxing promoter? Bang!

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

A 'Long Walk' With Mandela, But It Shorts His Story

Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela in a biographical film based on the former South African president's memoir.
Keith Bernstein The Weinstein Company

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 6:10 pm

Some movies try to underscore their authenticity by flashing dates, names and locations on the screen. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

A Gospel Story, Reframed (Again) In 'Black Nativity'

Jacob Latimore (from left), Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker power through the season in Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity, a Christmas movie musical based on Langston Hughes' gospel oratorio.
Phil Bray Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri November 29, 2013 7:55 pm

Like Eve's Bayou, her best-known movie, Kasi Lemmons' Black Nativity presents a child's view of a troubled family. The latter film is sweeter and slenderer, but that's only to be expected: Black Nativity is a musical, after all, as well as a credible attempt at an African-American holiday perennial.

The original Black Nativity is a gospel-music oratorio, conceived by poet Langston Hughes and first performed in 1961. It pairs the Christian Nativity story with traditional spirituals and African drumming.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

A Foray Into The Blood-Soaked 'Cultura' Of Mexico's Cartels

In Narco Cultura, director and photojournalist Shaul Schwarz interrogates the collision of pop culture and Mexico's drug cartels β€” as personified by bands like Los Bukanas de Culiacan (above), who perform narcocorridos, or songs glorifying the drug trade.
Shaul Schwarz Cinedigm

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 2:03 pm

Following police through Mexico's Ciudad JuΓ‘rez β€” reputedly the world's homicide capital β€” the Israeli filmmaker Shaul Schwarz finds mutilated corpses and gutters running with blood. But the resulting documentary, Narco Cultura, is not nearly so vivid as its most gruesome footage.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Alexander Sokurov, Seeking New Shadows In A Dark Classic

The man who makes the deal with the devil, played by Johannes Zeiler, is back onscreen in a new interpretation of the Faust story from director Alexander Sokurov.
Leisure Time Features

Siberia-born director Alexander Sokurov is best known in the West for 2002's Russian Ark, 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 Faust that completes his "tetralogy of power."

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

The End Of The World, As She Knows It

Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is just a typical teen struggling with boys, family and growing up β€” and also what might be the apocalypse.
Nicola Dove Magnolia Pictures

Because it serves up Armageddon with a side order of teen romance, How I Live Now 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.

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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

'Tai Chi' Master: Keanu Reeves Takes The Director's Chair

Making his directorial debut with Man of Tai Chi, Keanu Reeves also appears as the film's rich, ruthless villain.
RADiUS-TWC

Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, is basically the anti-Kill Bill. 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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

'The Square': Egypt In Crisis, And Its People In Focus

The documentary follows the political turmoil in Egypt since 2011 but focuses on the story of just a handful of young revolutionaries, among them Ahmed Hassan.
Noujaim Films

Several times during The Square, 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.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

WikiLeaks Gets A Hollywood Gloss In 'Fifth Estate'

Benedict Cumberbatch (left), sporting the white-blond mop of the real Julian Assange, and Daniel Bruhl, who plays Daniel Domscheit-Berg, take on the story of WikiLeaks in The Fifth Estate.
Frank Connor DreamWorks II

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 The Fifth Estate, an entertaining if inevitably unreliable current events romp.

The opening credits present a pocket history of textual communication, from cuneiform to the Internet. Condon, who took a similarly breathless approach with Kinsey, is announcing that his subject is nothing less than how the Web transformed communication.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Punk History, Embroidered Here And There

Malin Akerman, who plays Blondie singer Debbie Harry, is just one of many actors and musicians lip-syncing to the tracks of '70s punk legends in the loose but lively CBGB.
Beau Giann XLrator Media

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 2:54 pm

Loose, lively and agreeably unsolemn, the alt-culture biopic CBGB is an account of that Manhattan punk-rock crucible whose audience will likely be even smaller than the crowd that actually went to the club in the 1970s.

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. This is not a film for purists or quibblers.

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Movie Reviews
5:42 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Music Doc Packs 'Muscle' (Plus A Whole Lotta Soul)

Roger Hawkins, a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as the Swampers), is just one among the many musicians captured in this documentary about the famous town.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 9:32 am

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 Muscle Shoals without being regularly astonished: Even if it sometimes gets lost in its byways, Greg "Freddy" Camalier's documentary tells an extraordinary story.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

For Richer And For Poorer, But What Of That Vanishing Middle?

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, takes a look at growing income disparity in Inequality for All.
Radius/TWC

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.

The latest is Inequality for All, a showcase for former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. (He served under Bill Clinton, who borrowed much of his fellow Rhodes scholar's rhetoric, if fewer of his prescriptions.)

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

From Lebanon To Israel, With An Olive Tree In Tow

Zaytoun follows Yoni (Stephen Dorff), an Israeli fighter pilot, and Fahed (Abdallah El Akal), a young Palestinian boy, as they travel together and form an unlikely bond.
Eitan Riklis Strand Releasing

Originally published on Sun September 22, 2013 7:27 am

Israeli director Eran Riklis often depicts characters separated by borders. In The Syrian Bride, a Druze woman leaves Israel to marry, knowing she can never return to visit her family; in Lemon Tree, a privileged Israeli woman and a disadvantaged Palestinian regard one another warily from opposite sides of the fence between free and occupied territory.

Zaytoun is different: This time, the director allows his characters to cross the frontier. That makes for a story that's sweeter, but also less convincing.

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