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
2:06 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

More Physical Than Plausible, 'Starred Up' Sharply Portrays Confinement

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 2:03 pm

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
3:10 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 3:40 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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Movies
2:41 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Tracing One Life, Lost In The Desert

Gael Garcia Bernal narrates and travels in the documentary Who Is Dayani Cristal?
Kino Lorber

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 3:41 pm

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.

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Movies
4:53 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

The Rush Of A River; The Rise Of A Gondola

Glen Canyon Dam, on the Arizona/Utah border, is seen in a scene from DamNation.
Ben Knight Damnation Collection

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 4:21 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
5:41 pm
Sat March 29, 2014

'Boys Of Abu Ghraib' Focuses Too Tightly On An Army Of One

Jack Farmer (Luke Moran), a kind-hearted member of the Military Police stationed at Abu Ghraib, finds himself questioning the jail's culture.
Courtesy of

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 11:08 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
8:13 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

'Big Men,' Doing Big Business In Africa's Oil Fields

The big men at the center of Big Men are public, private and everything in between.
Jonathan Furmanski Abramorama

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 2:03 pm

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.

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Book Reviews
5:25 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

'300': An Empire Rises, Dripping In Gore And Glamour

The goth-glam Artemisia (Eva Green) is one of the more memorable characters in 300: Rise of an Empire — and not just because she's commander of the Persian navy.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 6:21 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
4:58 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

In 'Stalingrad,' Where The Fog Of War Is Plenty Thick

Teenage civilian Katya (Mariya Smolnikova) shares a ruined apartment with a gang of Soviet soldiers during the battle of Stalingrad in Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad.
Sony Pictures

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 2:03 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
2:51 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Two Exiles, Digging Through The Past For Clues To Their Present

Georges Devereux (Mathieu Amalric) and James Picard (Benicio Del Toro) develop a bond as doctor and patient in an intriguing film from French director Arnaud Desplechin.
Nicole Rivelli IFC Films

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 2:03 pm

"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.

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Movie Reviews
8:50 am
Mon January 6, 2014

From 'Cinema Paradiso' Director, An Offbeat 'Offer'

Geoffrey Rush plays an obsessive art auctioneer in The Best Offer, a mystery-cum-romance from the director of Cinema Paradiso.
Stefano Schirato IFC Films

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 8:19 am

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.

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Movie Reviews
3:46 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

'The Selfish Giant' Spins A Grim Modern Fairy Tale

Living in poverty and expelled from school, Arbor (Conner Chapman) turns to collecting scrap metal with a cart and horse in The Selfish Giant.
Agatha A. Nitecka Sundance Selects

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:08 pm

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.

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Movie Reviews
11:08 am
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

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:03 am

"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
2:11 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

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 2:03 pm

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
7:30 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

When Mystery Writer Meets Pinup Girl (Who's Dead)

A Paris-based mystery writer (Jean-Paul Rouve) journeys to a cold and remote area of France hoping for an inheritance — and finds instead a story idea in the mysterious death of a local Marilyn Monroe lookalike (Sophie Quinton).
First Run Features

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 2:47 pm

Playing a Marilyn Monroe avatar in Nobody Else But You, Sophie Quinton endows her impersonation with less vitality than Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn. But that's appropriate: Quinton's character is already dead when this smart if outlandish movie opens.

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Movie Reviews
2:38 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

'Surviving Progress': Taking overdevelopment to task

The documentary Surviving Progress illustrates its arguments on the sustainability of human behavior in the context of environmental degradation with striking images of life in cities like Sao Paulo.
First Run Features

Originally published on Fri April 6, 2012 10:37 am

Not every human advance is a snare, according to Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress. But some new techniques can lead to something the Canadian author calls a "progress trap" — a development that's ultimately more harmful than helpful.

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