Bob Mondello

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career, "hired to write for every small paper in Washington, D.C., just as it was about to fold," saw that jink broken in 1984, when he came to NPR.

For more than three decades, Mondello has reviewed movies and covered the arts for NPR News, seeing at least 250 films and 100 plays annually, then sharing critiques and commentaries about the most intriguing on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine All Things Considered. In 2005, he conceived and co-produced NPR's eight-part series "American Stages," exploring the history, reach, and accomplishments of the regional theater movement.

Mondello has also written about the arts for such diverse publications as USA Today, The Washington Post, and Preservation Magazine, as well as for commercial and public television stations. And he has been a lead theater critic for Washington City Paper, D.C.'s leading alternative weekly, since 1987.

Before becoming a professional critic, Mondello spent more than a decade in entertainment advertising, working in public relations for a chain of movie theaters, where he learned the ins and outs of the film industry, and for an independent repertory theater, where he reveled in film history.

Asked what NPR pieces he's proudest of, he points to commentaries on silent films – a bit of a trick on radio – and cultural features he's produced from Argentina, where he and his husband have a second home. An avid traveler, Mondello even spends his vacations watching movies and plays in other countries. "I see as many movies in a year," he says. "As most people see in a lifetime."

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Movies
3:25 pm
Fri July 3, 2015

On Its 40th Anniversary, Remembering The Terror Of 'Jaws'

Originally published on Fri July 3, 2015 4:31 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Rachel Martin, and I have a confession to make. It's the Fourth of July weekend, and there was a really big movie made in 1975, 40 years ago, pegged to this weekend - "Jaws."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JAWS")

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Movie Reviews
3:28 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

'Magic Mike XXL' And 'Terminator Genisys' Bring The Testosterone

Originally published on Wed July 1, 2015 4:22 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dinosaurs have been rampaging through movie theaters for weeks. And now, just in time for Independence Day, they are joined by robots and male strippers. Critic Bob Mondello says let the block busting go on.

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Movie Reviews
12:34 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

'The Tribe' Says A Lot About Violence, Sex And Love — Without A Single Word

Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy clearly intends the boarding school for the deaf as a stand-in for all the things that have gone wrong with Ukrainian society.
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 6:21 pm

The notion that action speaks louder than words gets quite a workout in a new movie called The Tribe. It's the often-violent story of a teenager who tries to join the in-crowd at his new school. But on the film festival circuit, what has caused a lot of talk ... is that the film has no talk. Not a single syllable of dialogue.

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Movie Reviews
2:43 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Laughs Leaven Tears In 'Me And Earl And The Dying Girl'

Greg (Thomas Mann) is jokey, mostly as a substitute for actual social interaction.
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 6:55 pm

A movie about high school students dealing with mortality — haven't we been dipping into that well a lot lately? So the surprise was the laughs when Me and Earl and The Dying Girl became the surprise smash at this year's Sundance Film Festival, taking both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Here was a film that managed to be at once earnest and flip, capturing teen angst without wallowing in teen drama.

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Movie Reviews
1:16 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

'Charlie's Country': A Worn Landscape That's Both Sad And Majestic

Actor David Gulpilil gives a genuinely wrenching performance in Charlie's Country
Courtesy of Monument Releasing

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 4:55 pm

The crevices in Charlie's careworn face look as deep as any in the Australian outback when we first spy him in Charlie's Country. He's sitting in a government-provided tin-roofed shack on territory where his aboriginal ancestors once roamed free. Where he once roamed free, in fact.

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Movies
3:18 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

This Year, Women (And Girls) Rule The Big Screen

More than half of the top 10 box-office hits this year have centered on female characters, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello. But only a few — like Pitch Perfect 2 — were written or directed by women.
Richard Cartwright Universal Pictures

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 6:35 am

With Spy topping Hollywood's box-office charts this weekend, Melissa McCarthy becomes the latest woman to head a major box-office hit in 2015. And while that merely puts her in good company this year, it's hardly been common in the past.

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Movie Reviews
11:55 am
Fri June 5, 2015

In 'Spy,' Melissa McCarthy Receives Top-Billing. Finally.

Melissa McCarthy gets a star-vehicle movie of her own in Spy.
Larry Horricks/ Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 4:47 pm

The first time Melissa McCarthy worked with director Paul Feig, she had a bit part in his comedy Bridesmaids. The second time they worked together, in the police-comedy The Heat, McCarthy got equal billing with co-star Sandra Bullock. Now, in Spy, a globe-trotting action comedy that proves to be an ideal star-vehicle, McCarthy's finally billed above the title.

Long time coming. Worth the wait.

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Movie Reviews
1:04 pm
Fri May 29, 2015

'Heaven Knows What' Adds New Wrinkles To The Street Junkie Narrative

Heaven Knows What stars Arielle Holmes and is based on her experience as a homeless heroin addict in New York City.
Courtesy of Radius-TWC

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 4:20 pm

The title Mad Love in New York City makes Arielle Holmes' memoir sound like a fun summer read. It's actually a story of homelessness and heroin addiction that has inspired a movie, Heaven Knows What, with a backstory precisely as fraught as what happens on screen.

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Movies
4:45 pm
Mon May 25, 2015

Hollywood Promises Summer Of Blockbusters, And Could Deliver

Originally published on Mon May 25, 2015 4:52 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Theater
3:34 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

'My Fair Lady' Couldn't Actually Dance All Night, So These Songs Had To Go

Julie Andrews starred as flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway premiere of My Fair Lady.
AP

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 5:17 pm

When a Broadway musical feels as effortlessly right as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's did to audiences in 1956, it's easy to imagine that it simply sprang to life that way. Not My Fair Lady. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, is filled to bursting with some of the best-known songs in Broadway history — "The Rain In Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "On the Street Where You Live" — but it turns out the show originally had other tunes that almost nobody knows.

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Movie Reviews
1:40 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

A Film Critic Gets Meta (As Does Ours) In 'The Film Critic (El Crítico)'

The romance between Victor (Rafael Spregelburd) and Sophia (Dolores Fonzi) is a checklist of cliches that the titular character would hate.
Courtesy of Music Box Films

Originally published on Fri May 15, 2015 12:21 pm

A film critic doesn't often have to review movies about film critics — probably a good thing — but sometimes, as with Hernán Guerschuny's postmodern rom-com The Film Critic (El crítico), there's nothing to be done. That's also a good thing, as it turns out.

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Movie Reviews
11:37 am
Fri May 1, 2015

'Far From The Madding Crowd': Counterprogramming Writ Victorian

Far From the Madding Crowd features feisty heroines, sturdy heroes, and three — yes, three --€” men vying for the heroine's affection.
Alex Bailey/Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 11:59 pm

Genre flicks on steroids — that's the general rule for this time of year, whether we're talking superheroes, supercharged cars, or romance — and in that context, the lush, overstuffed costume epic, Far From the Madding Crowd is a perfect fit.

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Movie Reviews
3:12 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

A Tart Take On Bitter Realities In 'Tangerines'

Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) is a pacifist. But NPR film critic Bob Mondello says Tangerines is an "object lesson in the resilience of ancient animosities."
Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 8:05 pm

It's 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the Oscar-nominated Tangerines, and in a bleak, northwest corner of the Republic of Georgia called Abkhazia, the world has more or less come apart. Warring factions — Chechen separatists, Georgian troops — patrol rural roads in jeeps outfitted with bazookas and machine guns. The locals have mostly fled for more urban areas.

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Movie Reviews
2:13 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Ties That Bind Meet Lies That Blind In 'About Elly'

About Elly is "perched right on the fault line between modern thinking and Islamic tradition," says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Dreamlab Films

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 4:23 pm

Most Americans don't have a clear picture of what everyday life is like in Iran for the obvious reason that Iran has been isolated from the West for more than three decades. Still, windows open occasionally. A few years ago, Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language film, A Separation, offered Western eyes a glimpse of a middle-class Iranian marriage under stress.

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Movie Reviews
2:37 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Photography, Misery And Beauty In 'The Salt Of The Earth'

"I could hear the gold whispering in the souls of these men," says Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado of a gold mine in Serra Pelada.
Sebastiao Salgado Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 6:07 pm

Having recently celebrated the accomplishments of musicians and dancers in his transcendent documentaries The Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, it perhaps makes sense that Wim Wenders would now turn his camera on a man who wields a camera.

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Arts & Life
2:54 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

What's Familiar Becomes Unnerving In 'It Follows'

It Follows "inverts the abstinence metaphor behind most teen horror flicks," says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Radius-TWC

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 6:00 pm

David Robert Mitchell's debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, was a gentle, evocative story of teens and summer crushes set in Detroit. Unthreatening, sweet in the way of Freaks and Geeks, and the coming-of-age stories of John Hughes, it embraced the confusion of adolescence with warmth and affection.

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Movies
2:26 pm
Fri March 6, 2015

'Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' Stays True To Its Name

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 5:04 pm

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench reunite in Jaipur, India, for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which came to theaters Friday. Despite a stellar cast, the sequel to the surprise 2012 hit comedy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is second best.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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Movie Reviews
2:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Tense 'Eastern Boys': Cruising, and Bruising

Eastern Boys begins as a home invasion story but evolves to something more complex, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of First Run Features

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 6:13 pm

Seen from street level, the young Eastern European men cruising a Paris train station at the outset of Eastern Boys would doubtless look like individuals. But filmmaker Robin Campillo has positioned the camera overhead, and from his bird's eye perch it's clear they're working in tandem — looking out for each other, stealing, soliciting.

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Movies
2:27 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

The Good, The Bad And The Hot: Movies To Warm Winter's Bite

Sidney Poitier smolders — and swelters — in In the Heat of the Night.
Mirisch/United Artists/Kobal Collection

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 1:18 pm

Plenty of movies sound as if they'll warm you up — Heat, The Towering Inferno, Hot Fuzz, Blazing Saddles, The Long Hot Summer, Paris When It Sizzles, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, In the Heat of the Night — the list goes on and on.

But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, it's tough to take a film's temperature from its title. Yes, In the Heat of the Night does swelter, both from being set in Mississippi and from having Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger spend most of its length hot under the collar. But most of the rest of those films won't warm you up much.

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Movie Reviews
2:16 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Argentine Oscar Nominee 'Wild Tales' Lives Up To Its Title

Wild Tales is crammed with gallows humor, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 6:13 pm

Argentina has been in the news lately for the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of a special prosecutor. So perhaps it makes sense that the country's Oscar nominee for best foreign language film is called Relatos salvajes, Spanish for Wild Tales. The film is an anthology — a collection of six separate and unrelated stories — every one of which lives up to that title.

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Movie Reviews
11:57 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Love From A To Z — And Back Again — In 'The Last Five Years'

The finite romance in The Last Five Years is "haunting, bittersweet" says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of RADiUS

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 4:29 pm

Movie musicals used to be box-office poison, but lately they've found ways to sing to a wider crowd. The onscreen Les Miz did away with lip-synching, Annie went multi-cultural, Into the Woods belted out revisionist fairy-tales — and combined, those three movies have taken in almost three-quarters of a billion dollars.

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Movies
2:01 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

It'd Be No 'Folly' To Remake This Musical Classic

Bob Mondello brought in his own personal copy of the original Follies cast album — intern Patrick Fort added the starburst.
Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 6:47 am

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Movies
3:14 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

'Birdman,' 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Lead Oscar Nominations

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 4:33 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Movie Reviews
1:36 pm
Fri January 2, 2015

'Leviathan' And 'Two Days' Look For Oscar Gold

Marion Cotillard is Sandra, who must convince her factory co-workers to vote against giving themselves a bonus in order to preserve her job, in Two Days, One Night.
Les Films du Fleuve

Originally published on Fri January 2, 2015 4:23 pm

The week between Christmas and New Year's is always a boom time for Hollywood — generally the biggest box office week of the year. It is also a time of Oscar hopefuls, a group that included two foreign-language films in 2014: Two Days, One Night from Belgium, and Russia's Leviathan, both of which tackle social issues through the lens of family.

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Movie Reviews
1:24 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Favorite Films Of 2014: Why Stop At 10?

Richard Linklater's daringly experimental Boyhood is Bob Mondello's favorite film of 2014.
IFC Productions

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 4:48 pm

Hollywood would just as soon forget 2014 when it comes to box-office numbers. Despite the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the arrival of the final Hobbit sequel, movie grosses are off about half a billion dollars from last year.

What about quality? This year's films were quirkier than usual — but still, my cup runneth over.

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Movie Reviews
2:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

'Selma' Manages To Be Both Passion-Inspiring And Measured

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 3:23 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Movie Reviews
2:43 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

'Mr. Turner' Is A Snuffling, Growling Work Of Art

Timothy Spall finds beauty in the unlikeliest places as painter J.M.W. Turner.
Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 4:58 pm

If you picture landscape painting as a delicate, ethereal, pristine process involving an easel on a hillside and a sunset, Mr. Turner will be an eye-opener.

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Code Switch
2:17 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

An Updated 'Annie' And The Tradition Of Nontraditional Casting

Quvenzhane Wallis (second from right) stars in an updated version of Annie, produced by Jay Z.
Barry Wetcher Sony Pictures Entertainment

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:07 pm

That lovable moppet with the red dress, the curly hair, the big dog, and the even bigger voice is back.

This time, though, Little Orphan Annie is back with a difference: Quvenzhane Wallis is playing an African-American orphan in an ethnically diverse, up-to-date world. And that got us thinking about other instances where producers have breathed fresh life into familiar shows by making them dance to a new beat.

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50 Great Teachers
11:03 am
Fri December 5, 2014

What The Movies Taught Us About Teaching

Denzel Washington in The Great Debaters.
The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 12:09 pm

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Movies
2:07 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Philae Comet Landing Reminiscent Of 'Armageddon,' 'Deep Impact'

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 6:46 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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