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 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.

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.

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?

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.

In documentaries, showing is almost always more effective than telling. But The Invisible War, an expose of sexual assault in the U.S. military, is compelling despite being all talk. Footage of the many crimes recounted in the film is, of course, nonexistent — and would be nearly unwatchable if available.

So director Kirby Dick addresses the subject directly, without gimmicks or gambits. Stylistically, The Invisible War is conventional and plainspoken, from its opening clips of vintage recruitment ads for women to its closing updates on the central characters.

Lovely people, beautiful places, a suicide attempt and echoes of a French New Wave classic — these ingredients seem to promise lots of passion in A Burning Hot Summer. But this existential-romantic roundelay barely simmers, and certainly doesn't scorch.

Veteran director Philippe Garrel's latest film opens with apparently parallel events: a woman reclines naked, alone in a room, as a man guns his car, heading straight for a tree.

In his debut feature, Americano, writer-director Mathieu Demy casts himself as Martin, a brooding French real estate agent who travels to Los Angeles after his long-estranged mother dies. He plans to sell her apartment quickly — until he finds a letter in which she promises to leave the place to a friend, Lola. Martin can't locate the woman, but hears she may be in Tijuana.

Words, words, words: Novels, especially 19th-century ones, are full of the damned things, which can be an inconvenience for filmmakers doing adaptations.

Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, theater veterans making their cinematic debut with Bel Ami, try to downplay language, which seems a promising idea. But the strategy fails for several reasons, the foremost of which is their leading man.

The way the Andes divide Patagonia, Argentina gets most of the land and Chile most of the water. As shown in Patagonia Rising, a new documentary, the landscape on Chile's side of the border is similar to coastal British Columbia or the Alaska panhandle: chilly, forested, mountainous and very wet.

Provocative yet far from definitive, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a critique of "breast-cancer culture." It could even be called a blitz on pink-ribbon charities and their corporate partners — though to use that term would be to emulate the war and sports metaphors the documentary rejects.

As one woman observes, describing the treatment of cancer as a "fight" or a "battle" suggests that the disease is always beatable if patients make a heroic effort. The implication is that people who die "weren't trying very hard."