Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins reviews movies for, as well as for, 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.

There are some funny bits and characters around the edges of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but its core is empty of humor. In fact, this purported satire of Las Vegas magicians is a three-void circus: the script, the central character and the main performance.

The committee-written screenplay begins with the premise that, 20 years after the illusion-busting Penn and Teller set up in Vegas, there could still be a market for a pair of old-school tricksters who call themselves Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton.

The opening shot of Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills may look somewhat familiar. As in the Romanian writer-director's previous film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a young woman strides purposefully while a handheld camera follows mere inches behind. She's on a mission to help a close friend, her resolve demonstrated by the way she marches against two lines of travelers who've just disembarked from a train.

Dead Man Down is the first American film from Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it's not very American. This twisty existential thriller is set in a New York City that's as sun-deprived as Stockholm in January — and one in which nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.

Explosions rattle the crew. The air is turning fetid. And the captain has ordered a descent toward "crush depth." Yet everything is on course in Phantom, the newest model of the old submarine-from-hell picture.

But the predictability of writer-director Todd Robinson's film is, well, predictable. There are only so many things that can happen in the close quarters of an imperiled sub. What Robinson purports to do is show those familiar undersea events from a different vantage point. All the characters in Phantom serve in the Soviet navy of the 1960s.

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love opens far from Tehran, in a noisy Tokyo bar.

"When did I lie to you?" asks an unseen woman, ensnarled in a difficult cellphone exchange. The viewer is already trying to decipher this person, without even glimpsing her.

In the opening sequence of The Sorcerer and the White Snake, two monks step through a giant gate and find themselves in a new world — one made entirely of computer-generated images. Only Fahai (Jet Li) and his disciple Neng Ren (Zhang Wen) are human.

"Don't believe everything you see," the older man warns.

It's the drug's fault, man. That's the defense offered by the perpetrator brought to trial in Side Effects, a stylish, vaguely Hitchcockian dud. But what excuse does this fatally silly movie have?

The film, reportedly the final big-screen effort for prolific director Steven Soderbergh, begins in a New York apartment where something bad has happened. Blood on the floor, smeared and tracked by footprints, suggests murder, suicide or extreme clumsiness.

Adapted from a French graphic novel and outfitted with an ethnically diverse cast, Bullet to the Head is an artifact of a newly internationalized Hollywood. But that doesn't mean it feels especially new.

The journey from Senegal and poverty to Europe and supposed prosperity takes seven days by fishing boat. The Pirogue spends only about an hour on open water, but that's enough to convey the risks that make the trip foolish, and the desperation that makes it inevitable.

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?

Near the end of the 19th century, an 8-year-old Polish Jewish violin prodigy moved to the capital of European classical music: Berlin. Bronislaw Huberman was more than accepted. He was hailed throughout the continent and endorsed by one of his favorite composers, Johannes Brahms. Yet Huberman is now best known for leading an exodus from Europe, a story told by Josh Aronson's documentary Orchestra of Exiles.

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.