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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Movie Reviews
11:11 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Coal Miners And Gay Activists Partner In 'Pride'

Faye Marsay, George MacKay, Joseph Gilgun and Paddy Considine play a group of London activists who march in support of Welsh miners.
Nicola Dove Courtesy of CBS Films

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 3:51 pm

Coal miners and gay activists — two groups that, in 1980s England at least, you might have figured would steer clear of each other — partner surprisingly effectively in the real-life story that's affectionately fictionalized in Pride.

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Movies
7:26 am
Mon September 1, 2014

After A Ho-Hum Summer, Hollywood Ramps Up For Fall

Michael Keaton stars as a washed-up film star trying to make a stage comeback in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's Birdman.
Alison Rosa

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 7:01 am

Note: There are 26 films in the on-air version of this story — but here are three favorites.

Hollywood hauled out Apes, Transformers, and X-Men and still had a humdrum summer at the box office. For the first time in years, no summer blockbuster has managed to crack the $300 million barrier at the North American box office. In fact, until Guardians of the Galaxy came along, the film industry was looking at its lowest attendance figures in more than a decade.

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Movies
2:06 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Director Richard Attenborough Brought Intimacy To Big Ideas

Richard Attenborough's career in movies spanned decades.
Lois Bernstein AP

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 5:53 pm

When Steven Spielberg was looking for someone who could make dinosaurs seem plausible in Jurassic Park, he asked fellow filmmaker Richard Attenborough to do something he hadn't done in almost 14 years: act. Plenty of performers could look at green screens and convey a sense of wonder. What Attenborough could do while playing the owner of Jurassic Park, figured Spielberg, was flesh out the bigger picture — the why. And when he did, it sounded almost as if he was stating the filmmaking credo he'd lived by all his life.

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Movie Reviews
3:14 pm
Sat August 23, 2014

'Love Is Strange' — And Funny, Hard And Heart-Breaking

Originally published on Sat August 23, 2014 4:26 pm

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

Movie Reviews
1:21 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Coogan And Brydon's New 'Trip' Is, Well, A Real Trip

British comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan return for another round of dining, arguing and celebrity impressions — this time in Italy.
IFC Films

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 6:02 pm

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Remembrances
2:30 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

The Countless Lives Of Lauren Bacall

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 7:14 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Remembrances
3:53 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

A Farewell To Robin Williams, Whose Antics Never Hid The Tenderness Beneath

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 7:45 pm

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

Transcript

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: He talked faster than the rest of us, he thought faster than the rest of us and now he has lived faster than the rest of. But, oh, the lives while he was with us.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Movie Reviews
1:41 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

The Shaggy Story Of A Real-Life 'Dog'

In 1972, John Wojtowicz robbed a bank to pay for his lover Ernie's sex-reassignment surgery. The robbery and his subsequent imprisonment inspired the movie Dog Day Afternoon.
Seed & Spark

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 7:24 am

A Brooklyn bank, a sweltering crowd, swelling cheers as Al Pacino's charismatic bank robber baits the police with chants of "Attica. Attica. Attica. Attica."

That scene, along with the rest of Sidney Lumet's 1975 classic Dog Day Afternoon, was based on a true story. Now, an odd — and oddly compelling — documentary called The Dog brings us the story behind that true story, and if you're anything like me, it'll leave you alternately amused and slack-jawed in astonishment.

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Book Reviews
5:08 am
Fri August 8, 2014

'Joss Whedon': Biography Of A 'Shiny' Geek King

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 2:04 pm

Published in Britain as Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe and in the U.S. less cheekily as Joss Whedon: The Biography, Amy Pascale's portrait of pop culture's man of just about any recent hour may not make her title subject any new converts, but it is hero-worshipping enough to make devoted Whedonites feel they're being inducted into the Scooby Gang.

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Movie Reviews
12:55 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

No Forgiveness, But A Kind Of Cinematic Grace In 'Calvary'

Brendan Gleeson, as tough-minded Father James, faces a death threat from an angry parishioner in the darkly comic new Calvary.
Reprisal Films

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 2:07 pm

Ireland's barrel-chested force of nature Brendan Gleeson plays a priest who has a date with murder in Calvary, John Michael McDonagh's comic but darkly existential detective story.

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Men In America
2:00 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Who's The Man? Hollywood Heroes Defined Masculinity For Millions

John Wayne — seen here in 1956's The Searchers — was an icon of traditional Hollywood manliness.
AP/Warner Bros.

Originally published on Fri August 1, 2014 5:55 am

Tony Curtis used to say that he'd learned how to kiss a girl by watching Cary Grant at the movies. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he wasn't just sitting behind Grant at the theater — while also noting that he's hardly alone in taking instruction from films.

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Movies
9:58 am
Thu July 24, 2014

How To Name Your Sequel II: Not Just Roman Numerals Anymore

If you want to move beyond just numbers for your sequel titles, critic Bob Mondello says there are a few informal rules you need to follow.

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 5:53 am

Remember when movie companies just put Roman numerals at the end of titles when they made sequels? Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV. Well, not anymore.

This summer, we've had X-Men: Days of Future Past, with no mention that it's either the sixth or seventh X-Men movie, depending on how you're counting. Also 22 Jump Street, the across-the-street follow-up to 21 Jump Street. And Begin Again (which ought to be a sequel, but isn't).

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Book Your Trip
2:18 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

By Trolley, Train, Show Boat Or Surrey, These Musicals Will Move You

Barbra Streisand does a lot of singing on transit — over the course of Funny Girl, Funny Lady, Yentl and Hello Dolly (above) she sings aboard a train, a plane, a taxi a tugboat, and an ocean liner.
20th Century Fox/Chenault/The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 8:06 am

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Movie Reviews
12:54 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Oh, 'Boyhood!' Linklater's Cinematic Stunt Pays Off

Ellar Coltrane — pictured here with screen family Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater — grows from boy to man on-screen in Richard Linklater's new Boyhood.
IFC Productions

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 9:50 am

Filmmaker Richard Linklater breezed through plenty of genres in his career, establishing that he's comfortable making loose comedies like Slacker, animated sci-fi thrillers like A Scanner Darkly, and even messing with longer-form studies in time with his Before trilogy, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise and Before Midnight.

Still, it's safe to say that he's never done anything even remotely like Boyhood, his latest film, because neither has anyone else.

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Movie Reviews
3:14 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Sci-Fi Kid Flick 'Earth To Echo' Broadens The 'E.T.' Formula

In Earth to Echo, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Ella Wahlestedt, Reese Hartwig and Teo Halm play a group of kids whose neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project, forcing their families to move.
Patrick Wymore Relativity Media

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 5:20 pm

Movie theaters were swarming with Transformers this past weekend, and that'll also be true over the July 4 weekend. So this may not seem to be the best moment to bring out a sci-fi flick made on a budget that wouldn't cover catering for Optimus Prime. But "small" has its virtues sometimes, and the kid flick Earth to Echo is one of those times.

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Movie Reviews
2:08 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

A Leap Too Far? 'Venus' And 'Jersey Boys' Bounce From Stage To Screen

Mathieu Amalric as a Roman Polanski look-alike and Emmanuelle Seigner — the director's real-life wife — play psychosexual mind games in Venus in Fur.
Mars Distribution

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 6:07 pm

An intellectual play about sadomasochism, a musical about a '60s pop group, and a pair of famously cinematic directors. There's always going to be a bit of a leap when a play moves from stage to screen — but Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur and Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys leap a little further than usual.

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Movie Reviews
12:18 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

It's A Summer Sequel Spectacular With 'Dragon' And 'Jump Street'

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum age out of high school in a Jump Street sequel that doesn't mess with its successful formula.
Sony Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 4:23 pm

In a summer of sequels — 16 in all — this weekend is the sequelliest, offering blockbuster deja-vu (How To Train Your Dragon 2 AND 22 Jump Street) as well as a few object lessons in how to train your audience. One film goes all meta with its concept, the other goes back to basics, and for a change, both approaches work.

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Movie Reviews
12:48 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Mike Myers Steps Behind The Camera With 'Supermensch'

In Supermensch, talent agent Shep Gordon recalls arriving in Los Angeles in 1968, dropping acid and getting slugged by a woman who later identified herself as Janis Joplin.
Dogwoof Films

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 5:55 pm

When you've played Austin Powers, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat and the title dweeb in Wayne's World, what do you do for an encore? If you're comedian Mike Myers, the next logical step, evidently, is to direct a documentary about your agent. And damned if it doesn't turn out to be a decent career move — as smart, and sometimes even as funny, as anything Myers has done recently.

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Movie Reviews
2:36 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

James McAvoy As A Creep? In 'Filth,' The Anti-Typecasting Works

Filth is based on a novel by Irvine Welsh — who also wrote the profane, drug-fueled epic Trainspotting. James McAvoy plays Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson — a bigoted junkie cop — with enough foul-mouthed sleaze to be thoroughly off-putting.
Neil Davidson Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Sat May 31, 2014 4:34 am

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) swaggers down the street at the start of Filth swiping balloons from children, ogling their mothers, flipping off foreigners and smirking as he ticks down a list of what makes Scotland a place where he feels he can be cock-of-the-walk.

"This nation brought the world television, the steam engine, golf, whiskey, penicillin and, of course, the deep-fried Mars bar," he snorts. "We're such a uniquely successful race."

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Movie Reviews
3:17 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Multiplexes Heat Up For Summer Blockbuster Season

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 3:43 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The long Memorial Day weekend usually marks the start of Hollywood blockbuster season. But it's been well underway with "Godzilla" and "X-Men" already in theaters. That said, there are another 87 would-be hits scheduled before Labor Day. We asked critic Bob Mondello for a selective preview.

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Movie Reviews
2:43 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Seeing The New 'X-Men'? Take Along A Teenager To Explain

Professor Xavier and Magneto scheme to send Wolverine back to the Nixon-era past to avert a devastating war in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 4:36 pm

The final "X" in the 20th Century Fox logo glows for an extra second as X-Men: Days of Future Past gets started, but what follows is darker than dark — a bleak, dire future in which all of Manhattan is a mutant prison camp.

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Movie Reviews
12:42 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Son Of? Bride Of? Cousin Of? How Many Godzillas Are There, Already?

Godzilla goes after San Francisco in this newest update to the classic monster movie.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 6:18 pm

The world has already seen 28 Godzilla movies — 29, if you count Roland Emmerich's 1998 Hollywood remake (which most of us don't). So why is another one opening this week?

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Movie Reviews
10:39 am
Fri May 9, 2014

'Double': Double Toil And Trouble For Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg's performance as mystery doppelgangers will have you seeing Double.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 6:45 pm

In The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg invented Facebook. In Now You See Me, he mastered magic tricks. In Rio, his animated macaw learned to fly, and his Lex Luthor will soon be nemesis-ing the caped crusader in Batman Vs. Superman. But it's safe to say that none of those pictures asked half as much of Eisenberg as Richard Ayoade's The Double, which requires him, pretty literally, to meet himself coming and going.

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Movie Reviews
2:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

In 'Belle,' A Complex Life Tangled In Class And Commerce

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a British admiral.
David Appleby/Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 9:17 am

Here's a unique specialty for a movie studio: slavery films. Last year, Fox Searchlight brought us an Oscar winner about a free black man hauled into 12 years of slavery. Now, in Amma Asante's Belle, the company is releasing what's essentially the reverse of that story — a similarly torn-from-life (though significantly less wrenching) tale of a slave girl who had the great good fortune to be raised as a British aristocrat.

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Movies
2:17 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Bob Hoskins: A Specialist In Tough Guys With Soft Hearts

Hoskins in one of his most memorable roles, detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Buena Vista Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 5:00 pm

British actor Bob Hoskins died last night of pneumonia at 71. He'll certainly be remembered for starring with cartoon characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit — but that was just one of many films in which he played tough guys with soft hearts.

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Movie Reviews
1:05 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Feminine, Foreign, And Struggling To Come Of Age

Alex Brendemuehl plays a mysterious doctor, obsessed with perfection and purity, who befriends an Argentine family in The German Doctor.
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 4:18 pm

Sex and violence mean one thing in Hollywood, quite another overseas. At any rate, it'll seem that way to anyone watching this week's most alarming foreign-language films: Francois Ozon's coming-of-age saga Jeune et Jolie, and the Argentine thriller The German Doctor.

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Movie Reviews
6:07 am
Sun April 20, 2014

'Fading Gigolo' Full Of Loneliness And Longing

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 11:34 am

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

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Movie Reviews
1:09 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Loneliness And Longing — And Woody Allen — In 'Fading Gigolo'

John Turturro plays a gigolo — and Woody Allen is his pimp — in the new Fading Gigolo.
Millennium Entertainment

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 5:13 pm

With his long face and hangdog appearance, actor John Turturro is no one's idea of a matinee idol — not even his own — so he raised a lot of eyebrows when he cast himself as the title character in Fading Gigolo. Even more when he cast Woody Allen as his pimp. So it may come as a relief when things don't go as wrong with what turns out to be a surprisingly sweet little dramedy as they might have.

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Movie Reviews
2:06 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Big Names, High Production Values ... And These Are Indie Flicks?

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play some really hip vampires in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
Sandro Kopp Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 6:13 pm

A small budget doesn't mean a film can't have big-name stars or high production values. Witness the rural Southern drama Joe, which brings Nicolas Cage back to indie films, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which turns the city of Detroit into an otherworldly landscape. Their low-budget aesthetic also allows these films to turn Hollywood conventions inside out.

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Remembrances
2:45 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney, All-American Boy For More Than 90 Years, Dies

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 5:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Mickey Rooney, who lived a long life on stage and screen, died last night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93. For a while, the star seem to have it all, but he ended up playing the comeback kid as our film critic Bob Mondello remembers.

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