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.

The two best American movies of the year so far, Spotlight and The Big Short, are both docudramas, yet are entirely different in tone. Where the former is sober and pitch-perfect, the latter is garish, overreaching, and farcical. All of which is justified by the real-life burlesque act that's its subject: Wall Street's 2008 implosion.

Paolo Sorrentino is only 45, but the Italian writer-director is looking forward to looking back. His last four movies are journeys into the past, featuring actors and characters older than himself.

In the best of them, 2013's The Great Beauty, the protagonist is a weary veteran journalist whose apartment overlooks the Coliseum. In Rome, nostalgia has a long timeline.

The world of Victor Frankenstein — red brick and gray skies, clanking gears and straining pulleys, exploding dials and jury-rigged gizmos — is utterly steampunk. But the latest resurrection of Mary Shelley's horror classic has a tech-era vibe that adds to its modest appeal.

In revisiting the saga of real-life swinging-London gangsters the Kray twins, Legend has two advantages over 1990's The Krays: Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy. The actor plays both the seething Ronnie and the cooler Reggie, and endows each with more palpable menace than did Gary and Martin Kemp, the prettier boys who starred in the 25-year-old precursor.

For most of the 1950s, Hollywood had the ideal screenwriter. He worked fast and cheap and even won Oscars. Also, he didn't mouth off in public, or try to take all the credit.

In fact, Dalton Trumbo didn't take any credit, at least under his name. That's because he was blacklisted for being a former communist — he was a party member from 1943 to 1948 — after spending 11 months in federal prison for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Roughly half of Gaspar Noe's Love consists of raw, unsimulated sex acts — presented in 3D, no less. Add a dollop of young-adult romantic upheaval and the result is the Franco-Argentinian filmmaker's blandest feature to date.

Of course, that's by comparison to his previous movies, which depict rape, murder, psychedelic drug experiences, and slaughterhouse horrors. Aside from one jealous scuffle in a crowded art gallery, there's no violence in Love, which would be a conventional melodrama if not for the abundant sex and flamboyant style.

When it comes to music, Afghanistan is famous for the Taliban's ban on it during their rule. And when it comes to Afghan women and music, well, they tend to face the same constraints as in every other arena. Yet women have competed on Afghan Star, the local counterpart of American Idol, since the program premiered in 2005. One of them, Setara Hussainzada, inspired Rock the Kasbah, a comedy set on the front lines of tribal strife and pop-music combat.

Your country may be wrong, Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies sadly admits. But it maintains that a solid American family man can always be trusted. In the Cold War, as at home, father knows best.

Eccentric Canadian cinephile Guy Maddin simulates battered 1920s films so brilliantly that it's easy to miss what else he does. His The Forbidden Room, co-directed by protege Evan Johnson, plays like an anarchic collage of late-silent-era melodramas, action flicks, and horror movies, just unearthed after going unseen for nearly a century.

But the film is more than just spot-on parody.

The world's most prolific banned filmmaker, Jafar Panahi has made three features since 2010, when the Iranian government officially prohibited him from working. The latest, Taxi, is the friskiest and most expansive. Its relative sweep, though, must be understood in terms of Iranian art cinema, which has always emphasized the things it can't show.

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