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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."

When Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's dueling Michael Caine impressions went viral during the first season of their food-tasting TV series, The Trip, it was more or less inevitable that the show's 6.5 hours of eating scallops and celeb impersonations would be edited down into movie form.

Taylor Sheridan's tense, terse police procedural/Western, Wind River, begins with an icy, moonlit, Wyoming landscape. There's no one for miles, except a gasping, Native American teenage girl running in the snow, terrified and barefoot.

She falls. Screams. Gets up. Runs some more.

A close-up of ice melting in brilliant sunshine is the first thing you see in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. It's gorgeous — snow crystals glistening, moisture dripping from them into a pool of water so pure and clear it makes you thirsty.

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The dark, feminist tale, Lady Macbeth doesn't deal with royalty or take place in medieval Scotland. It has no witches, nor much rinsing of blood from hands. It's not even based on Shakespeare. But its leading lady, a teen bride when we meet her, still lives up to that title.

Just a few days after director David Lowery finished shooting Disney's live-action Pete's Dragon, he started a project that could hardly have been more different — the micro-budget, quietly revelatory, poetic, meditative, and aptly titled A Ghost Story.

Lowery shot in secret and very quickly. His setting, an entirely unremarkable suburban rambler that was slated for demolition, which allowed him to destroy it when necessary, and his chief storytelling device a childlike representation of a ghost — a figure draped in a white bedsheet.

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Maudie is the largely true story of a Canadian painter whose work was so exuberant, you'd never guess at the difficult life she lived. In her 30s when we meet her, Maud is tiny, bent of frame, fingers crippled by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

As played by a plucky Sally Hawkins, she has been treated all her life as if she were a child. Which is precisely what her brother does, when he tells her she's going to have to stay with their Aunt Ida, now that he's sold their house out from under her.

"I'd look after it," she tells him.

Fifty years ago, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage. Just two weeks earlier, shooting had been completed on a movie about that very subject — Stanley Kramer's soon-to-be-classic, Oscar-winning, box-office smash Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier.

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It's a beach in Florida this time — I know you care because we're all here for the plot, right? — and head lifeguard Mitch Buchannon is now The Rock not The Hoff.

"Our team is the elite of the elite," Dwayne Johnson's Mitch tells his Baywatch recruits, "the heart and soul of this very beach."

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"Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2" opens in theaters this weekend. The film is on track for a $150 million opening, so reviews are probably irrelevant. But NPR's Bob Mondello has one anyway.

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Imagine city planning as a contact sport and you have the gist of Matt Tyrnauer's documentary, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. The film chronicles the struggle between two mid-20th century worldviews: that of Robert Moses, who preached a cure for what ailed American cities that amounted to "bulldoze and replace," and the less destructive prescriptions of writer/activist Jane Jacobs, who challenged the whole notion of urban renewal in her game-changing book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

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For the first two months of this year, the teen romance Your Name. (the period is part of the title) was the biggest box-office hit of 2017. Never heard of it? Well, it was bigger than Fifty Shades Darker; bigger than Lego Batman.

A little seminar in documentary technique is being offered by two docs about women this week. The filmmakers for All This Panic take a fly-on-the-wall approach with their teenage subjects — no narration, no explainers. The directors of God Knows Where I Am tease out their story as if it were a mystery novel.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has adopted the F-rating, a classification system designed to champion women in film.

The new rating was created three years ago by Holly Tarquini, executive director of the Bath Film Festival, to "support women in film and change the stories we see on screen." The Bath festival created a website for the rating, which says:

"The F-Rating is a classification for any film which

  1. is directed by a woman
  2. is written by a woman

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The new movie Life, which opens March 24, is about astronauts who discover an alien life form and live to regret it. You could say exactly the same thing about Alien: Covenant, which was originally scheduled to open the following Friday — until someone realized that was a recipe for box-office disaster. Alien: Covenant will now open in early May, and that close call, crazy as it is, isn't uncommon in Hollywood.

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As the shorter half of the sketch-comedy duo Key & Peele, Jordan Peele was ever on the lookout for distinctive ways to tackle ethnic stereotyping, so it makes sense that he'd leaven his film directing debut with more than just a dash of social satire.

Get Out, billed in its opening credits as "from the mind of Jordan Peele," is a horror-flick with a decidedly Peelean take on genre and on race — one that subverts familiar horror tropes while encouraging audiences to simultaneously react to them, and step back to look at them more closely.

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