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.

Somewhere in liberal-minded but boring Sweden, two teenage girls begin a rebellion. If the premise of Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best! sounds familiar, that's because it's roughly identical to that of the writer-director's charming 1998 debut, Show Me Love.

As the seventh X-Men movie begins, New York City is in ruins, its residents nearly annihilated. Yet X-Men: Days of Future Past's true plight is overpopulation. The film is so stuffed with characters that including twin versions of Professor X and Magneto scarcely boosts the confusion.

Anyone seeking to establish an incubator for suicide bombers could hardly improve on Sidi Moumen, a slum on the fringe of Casablanca. As depicted in Horses of God, the neighborhood is a place of crushing poverty, rampant hostility and exceptionally limited options.

Makers of R-rated comedies face an essential dilemma: finding brand new ways to gross out their snickering adolescent viewers. But as Neighbors demonstrates, there's another challenge that's just as tricky: piloting the raunchy scenario to a payoff that upholds the very middle-class values the movie gleefully profanes.

Everyone is on a voyage of self-discovery in Ida — the two central characters certainly, but also Poland-born, Britain-based director Pawel Pawlikowski, making his first film in the homeland he left at 14.

Who Is Dayani Cristal? attempts to humanize the many who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border by focusing on just one: a corpse found in the lethal Arizona desert with the words "Dayani Cristal" tattooed on his chest. The documentary follows the models of several genres of fictional films: the forensic procedural, the road movie, the man-who-wasn't-there mystery.

Although they take very different approaches to the eco-documentary, DamNation and Manakamana are both immersive experiences. In the former, one of the directors is the narrator and an onscreen character. In the latter, the directors stay off-camera (or behind the camera) as they turn a simple journey into a slowly unraveling ethnographic mystery.

Essentially a one-man show, writer-director-star Luke Moran's Boys of Abu Ghraib 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.

A frisky tour of the Gallic equivalent of the U.S. State Department, The French Minister 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.

The latest teen-girl fiction series to become a movie franchise, Divergent 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.

There are three categories of schemers in Big Men, 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.

Talk about meeting cute: The first time they're alone together, the protagonists of 300: Rise of an Empire 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.

If you're only going to see one film about the Battle of Stalingrad — and there are many — Stalingrad 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.

Emile Zola was one of the founders of naturalism, and his first major work, 1867's Therese Raquin, is full of precise physical description. The novel's plot is utter melodrama, though, and that's the aspect emphasized by In Secret, the latest in a century-long string of film and TV adaptations.

With its small cast of characters and limited number of locations, the book does lend itself to dramatization. In fact, writer-director Charlie Stratton's retelling of Zola's shocker was derived in part from the stage version by Neal Bell.

"It's strange living in a place where people are so sick," observes the title character in Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. James Picard (Benicio Del Toro) is talking about the Topeka clinic to which he's traveled, from his home in Montana, for treatment. But his comment also applies to the world outside the institution's walls.

Josiane Balasko's Demi-Soeur 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).

By the end of Charlie Victor Romeo, almost 800 people will be dead, with hundreds more injured. But this methodical film, adapted from a theater piece first performed in 1999, doesn't actually show any of that carnage. It focuses tightly — very tightly — on a few people who are trying to prevent disaster.

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, Like Father, Like Son, is a little misleading. There's no reference to a child in the Japanese title, which means "And So He Becomes a Father."

To help his struggling family and escape his own status as an outcast, a plucky young boy enters a competition. Yes, The Rocket is a sports movie, with an outcome that's easily foreseen. The cultural specifics of this Laos-set tale, however, are far less predictable.

The Hong Kong entertainment magnate and philanthropist Run Run Shaw, who died today at 106 or 107, isn't that well known in the West. But his fans, from Quentin Tarantino to the Wu-Tang Clan, sure are.

A stylish if ultimately silly attempt to marry erotic puzzler and art-world critique, The Best Offer benefits from assured performances and an agreeably nutty Ennio Morricone score. The movie plays as if director Giuseppe Tornatore (best known for Cinema Paradiso) is doing all he can with a dubious script. But he's the one who wrote it.

Several times during The Wolf of Wall Street, 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.

It sure doesn't — not in this exuberant but profitless bad-behavior romp. It's based on the career of former penny-stock magnate Jordan Belfort, but might as well be about Keith Richards in the '70s or Robert Downey Jr. in the '90s.

In Oscar Wilde's fairy tale The Selfish Giant, 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.

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.

"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.

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!

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.

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.

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, Narco Cultura, is not nearly so vivid as its most gruesome footage.

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."

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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