Mark Jenkins http://kplu.org en Tracing One Life, Lost In The Desert http://kplu.org/post/tracing-one-life-lost-desert <em>Who Is Dayani Cristal?</em> 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.<p>The results are poignant, yet show the difficulties of applying fiction templates to true stories. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 21:41:09 +0000 Mark Jenkins 16265 at http://kplu.org Tracing One Life, Lost In The Desert The Rush Of A River; The Rise Of A Gondola http://kplu.org/post/rush-river-rise-gondola Although they take very different approaches to the eco-documentary, <em>DamNation</em> and <em>Manakamana</em> 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.<p><em>DamNation</em> opens with a recording of FDR, who acclaims the then-new Hoover Dam and denounces those of "narrow vision" who reject major public-works projects. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 23:53:29 +0000 Mark Jenkins 16130 at http://kplu.org The Rush Of A River; The Rise Of A Gondola 'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One http://kplu.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 /> Sun, 30 Mar 2014 00:41:07 +0000 Mark Jenkins 15459 at http://kplu.org 'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One 'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields http://kplu.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. Fri, 14 Mar 2014 03:13:16 +0000 Mark Jenkins 14840 at http://kplu.org 'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields '300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour http://kplu.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. Fri, 07 Mar 2014 01:25:14 +0000 Mark Jenkins 14504 at http://kplu.org '300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick http://kplu.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. Fri, 28 Feb 2014 00:58:55 +0000 Mark Jenkins 14234 at http://kplu.org In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present http://kplu.org/post/two-exiles-digging-through-past-clues-their-present <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBtHKRy1Ns</p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 22:51:09 +0000 Mark Jenkins 13634 at http://kplu.org Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer' http://kplu.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 16:50:12 +0000 Mark Jenkins 12288 at http://kplu.org From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer' 'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale http://kplu.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 23:46:52 +0000 Mark Jenkins 11908 at http://kplu.org 'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors http://kplu.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 19:08:07 +0000 Mark Jenkins 11603 at http://kplu.org After Meltdown, Nine Months Of Drift For Fukushima Survivors A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice http://kplu.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 22:11:05 +0000 Mark Jenkins 11452 at http://kplu.org A 'Furnace' Fueled By Manly Malice When Mystery Writer Meets Pinup Girl (Who's Dead) http://kplu.org/post/when-mystery-writer-meets-pinup-girl-whos-dead Playing a Marilyn Monroe avatar in <em>Nobody Else But You</em>, Sophie Quinton endows her impersonation with less vitality than Michelle Williams in <em>My Week With Marilyn</em>. But that's appropriate: Quinton's character is already dead when this smart if outlandish movie opens.<p>The story begins with the disembodied voice of Candice Lecoeur (Quinton), a bottle-blonde, Marilyn-obsessed bombshell. She was the reigning sex goddess of Jura, a remote area of France that's almost Switzerland. Then Lecoeur's body is found in the snow, clutching a bottle of pills. Fri, 11 May 2012 02:30:37 +0000 Mark Jenkins 4997 at http://kplu.org When Mystery Writer Meets Pinup Girl (Who's Dead) 'Surviving Progress': Taking overdevelopment to task http://kplu.org/post/surviving-progress-taking-overdevelopment-task Not every human advance is a snare, according to Ronald Wright, author of <em>A Short History of Progress</em>. But some new techniques can lead to something the Canadian author calls a "progress trap" — a development that's ultimately more harmful than helpful.<p>Wright's book, based on a 2004 lecture series, is the foundation for <em>Surviving Progress,</em> a provocative if scattershot documentary from directors Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, who wander off topic more than once as they introduce myriad other voices. Thu, 05 Apr 2012 21:38:22 +0000 Mark Jenkins 4669 at http://kplu.org 'Surviving Progress': Taking overdevelopment to task In Astro-Dad's Footsteps: A Son's 'Mission' To Space http://kplu.org/post/astro-dads-footsteps-sons-mission-space Reaching for the heavens looks pretty easy in <em>Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott's Road to the Stars</em>. The title character didn't meet the eyesight requirements to train as a NASA astronaut. So he just paid $30 million to the Russian space program, and hopped a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.<p>Not everyone has $30 million, of course, and the story of how Garriott got the cash seems potentially interesting. Fri, 13 Jan 2012 20:15:35 +0000 Mark Jenkins 3720 at http://kplu.org In Astro-Dad's Footsteps: A Son's 'Mission' To Space