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 a quarter-century, 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 partner 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
4:54 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Franchises Age, But Their Stars Stay Forever Young

Jeremy Renner stars in The Bourne Legacy, the latest in a franchise previously fronted by Matt Damon. But when an actor departs a Hollywood cash cow, it can be less a death knell than a chance for rejuvenation.
Mary Cybulski Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 6:06 pm

The Bourne Legacy, which opens in theaters this week, is the fourth thriller in the series, and the first without either Jason Bourne or the star playing him, Matt Damon. They're suddenly not necessary, even though the series is named for Bourne? Why am I not surprised?

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Movies
12:48 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Looking For The Megabucks? Think Megapixels

Ice Age: Continental Drift, which comes out July 13, is the fourth film in the animated franchise. Since Toy Story marked the beginning of the era of entirely computer-animated films, they've been a studio's safest bet for big earnings at the box office and beyond.
Blue Sky Studios & 20th Century Fox

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 10:30 pm

Imagine you're a movie producer, and you've got a couple of hundred million dollars to gamble on a single massive blockbuster. Which genre do you suppose will be your safest bet — superhero? Action-adventure? Sci-fi? All of those have had huge successes, but they've also all had hugely expensive failures.

There's one genre, though, that's hardly a gamble at all. It's been almost foolproof since it first came into being in 1995: computer animation.

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Movie Reviews
12:07 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

A Lanky Teenager On The Path To (Super) Power

Andrew Garfield stars in The Amazing Spider-Man, in which the nerdy, web-slinging superhero gets an overhauled origin story.
Jaimie Trueblood Sony Pictures

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 7:06 pm

I know you're skeptical. Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man was last slinging webs just five years ago. Broadway's Spider-Man started singing about webs less than two years ago. Now here comes another Spider-dude: This Andrew Garfield guy. So he'd better be really something, right? Well, as it happens, he is.

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Movie Reviews
9:37 am
Fri June 29, 2012

A Boy And His Bear, At Large In A Man's World

Ted (voiced by writer-director Seth MacFarlane) and Johnny (Mark Wahlberg) share a laugh in Ted. The talking teddy bear got his powers when 8-year-old Johnny wished upon a falling star for Ted to speak.
Universal Pictures/Tippett Studio

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 10:26 pm

Seth MacFarlane is known mostly for creating, writing and directing the animated TV show Family Guy. In the show, he also voices Peter and Stewie Griffin, and their dog, Brian.

With his new movie, Ted, he has moved to the big screen for the first time, again creating, writing and directing. And though it's a live-action picture, he has again voiced one of the characters — the titular teddy bear, whom I tried to resist but couldn't.

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Movie Reviews
5:05 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Time In 'To Rome With Love': It Doesn't Make Sense

Antonio the newlywed (Alessandro Tiberi, left), Uncle Paolo (Roberto Della Casa) and Anna the prostitute (Penelope Cruz) in one of To Rome With Love's four independent stories. This one features Anna attempting to teach Antonio something about love.
Philippe Antonello Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu June 21, 2012 6:19 pm

For four decades, Woody Allen's been churning out movies at a rate of almost exactly one film per year, a phenomenon that I'd describe as being "like clockwork" if my whole sense of time hadn't been scrambled by his latest comedy, To Rome With Love.

Pleasantly scrambled, but still.

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American Dreams: Then And Now
3:54 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Hollywood Dreams Of Wealth, Youth And Beauty

Paulette Goddard in the Tramp's (Charlie Chaplin) dream of a middle-class life in Modern Times.
Chaplin/United Artists/The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 6:59 pm

Tinseltown didn't invent the American dream, but it sure put it out there for the world to see — a dream lit by the perpetual sunshine of Southern California, steeped in the values of the immigrant filmmakers who moved there in the early 1900s and got enormously rich.

It was their own outsider experience these Italian, Irish, German and often Jewish moviemakers were putting on screen, each optimistic, escapist fantasy a virtual American dream checklist:

  • Hard work carries the day in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
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Monkey See
4:13 pm
Tue June 5, 2012

Home Video Picks: 'The Sting'

The cover of The Sting.

Originally published on Tue June 5, 2012 7:53 pm

Time now for a home-viewing recommendation from movie critic Bob Mondello. He's says he's excited about the Blu-ray release of The Sting...and that's no con.

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Movies
2:00 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

A Selective Preview Of Summer Movies

Pixar's Brave follows the independent and courageous Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald).
Pixar

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 3:01 pm

Forget the calendar. With The Avengers, Battleship, and Men In Black already battling aliens at the multiplex, Hollywood's summer has arguably been under way for weeks.

No doubt, the tent-pole blockbusters — Ridley Scott's Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Bourne Legacy, and the rest — will offer plenty of entertainment value, but there are a couple of hardy, resourceful little girls you might want to attend to, too.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (June 27)

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Movie Reviews
3:23 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Coming Soon — To A Theater Nowhere Near You

A scene from Battleship, which opens this weekend in the U.S. Thanks to earlier releases abroad, the film has already grossed $215 million worldwide.
ILM/Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 6:34 pm

The movie Battleship, based on the popular board game, opens today in the U.S. In most respects, it's a typical popcorn picture — the kind of effects-laden action movie that audiences often turn into a summer blockbuster.

And while it may not be any good, it is undeniably ours — American from the water up: a Universal Studios picture about an alien invasion, crammed with special effects from Industrial Light and Magic and set largely on American warships.

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Monkey See
4:16 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Home Video Picks: 'Being John Malkovich'

John Cusack and Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.
Criterion Collection

Originally published on Tue May 15, 2012 5:46 pm

Time now for a home viewing recommendation from our film critic Bob Mondello. This time Bob urges taking the plunge from the seven-and-a-half-th floor into the Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release of Being John Malkovich.

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Movie Reviews
3:18 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

'The Avengers': Superheroic Popcorn Fun At Its Best

promo
Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:43 am

That crashing sound you'll hear emanating from cineplexes this weekend will be the sound of comic-book superheroes smashing box-office records.

Actually, the smashing started last weekend, when Marvel's The Avengers opened in 39 territories around the world, scooping up a cool $178 million in three days. And with legions of fans having already bought advance tickets in the U.S., it's a pretty sure bet the box-office bonanza will continue as the film opens in more than 4,000 North American theaters.

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Monkey See
2:22 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

DVD Picks: 'Pillow Talk'

Pillow Talk stars Doris Day (above) and Rock Hudson as a pair of strangers who butt heads and fall in love on a shared telephone line.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:44 am

Time for another home-viewing recommendation from film critic Bob Mondello. This week, Bob's listening in on Rock Hudson and Doris Day as they make a bit of Pillow Talk.

What happens when the Girl Next Door meets Mr. Beefcake? It's instant chemistry, albeit of the explosive sort — think Mentos and Diet Coke.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

'Think Like A Man,' And We'll See What Happens

Mya (Meagan Good), while dating Zeke (Romany Malco), follows the do's and don't's of dating advice from comedian Steve Harvey's real-world self-help book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.
Alan Markfield Sony Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 6:06 pm

Oy, the things daters have to worry about these days. Not just how to dress, act and turn "no" into "go," but how not to become a chirp-chirp girl.

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Movie Reviews
11:16 pm
Thu April 12, 2012

An Inspiring Teacher, Exactly When He's Needed

Mohamed Fellag, an Algerian comedian and humor writer, plays the title character in the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar, who steps in to teach a class of middle school students at exactly the right time.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 5:55 pm

At the start of a bright, sunny day that seems otherwise like any other day, a popular teacher is found dead in her classroom. It was suicide.

The school is traumatized, especially that teacher's students. By the next day, the principal is at her wits' end trying to find someone willing to take the class. So when Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) offers to teach, it comes at just the right moment.

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Theater
4:35 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Encore! Encore! Applauding The Literal Showstopper

Actress Pearl Bailey during curtain call for the 1967 Broadway production of Hello, Dolly!
John Dominis Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 11, 2012 2:26 pm

Earlier this month, tenor Juan Diego Florez made headlines when he sang the aria "Una furtiva lagrima" in the Donizetti opera L'elisir D'Amore at the Metropolitan Opera — not once, but twice.

The audience responded so enthusiastically that after well over a minute of applause and shouts of "Encore!" he sang the whole thing again — all five minutes of it.

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Movie Reviews
4:42 pm
Fri April 6, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be (The Pope) Is The Question

IFC Films

Originally published on Fri April 6, 2012 7:01 pm

When the College of Cardinals gathers in the Vatican to choose a new church leader — formally the Bishop of Rome — it announces its selection with the Latin phrase "Habemus papam" ("We have a pope").

But suppose that, when a cardinal steps out onto a balcony in St. Peter's Square to utter those fateful words, the gentle soul in white sitting behind him, out of sight of the crowd, develops stage fright.

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Monkey See
5:42 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

DVD Picks: 70 Years of 'Casablanca'

Warner Home Video

Time now for a home viewing recommendation from NPR's movie critic, Bob Mondello. He's found himself swept up this week by the 70th Anniversary edition boxed set of Casablanca.

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Movies
3:44 pm
Sat March 24, 2012

From Page To Screen: Hollywood Targets YA Fiction

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, adapted from Suzanne Collins' bestselling novel trilogy.
Lionsgate

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 11:32 pm

Sixteen-year-old Katniss is an accomplished archer in Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games, so it should be no surprise that in her film incarnation, she's hit the box office bulls-eye. This dystopian wonder (for those who've been living in a cave of late, The Hunger Games is a thriller about a totalitarian society that forces teens to participate in a televised fight to the death) appears poised to join the Harry Potter and Twilight movies in the top echelon of teen-oriented page-to-screen blockbusters.

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Movie Reviews
5:30 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

'Hunger Games': Mortal Combat As Appointment TV

Are You Not Entertained? TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) takes the celebrity interview to new lows when chatting up the young combatants in the to-the-death Hunger Games — including Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).
Lionsgate

Hungry for a good dystopia? Well, as you may be gathering from reports of the millions of tickets sold before prints were even shipped to theaters, author Suzanne Collins has a feast for you in the first movie installment of her young-adult trilogy The Hunger Games.

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Movie Reviews
4:48 pm
Sat March 17, 2012

Betting On Two Pairs Of Filmmaking Brothers

Two pairs of filmmaking brothers are both releasing movies this weekend. In Jeff, Who Lives at Home, by the Duplass brothers Jay and Mark, Pat (Ed Helms) and Jeff (Jason Segel) encounter each other in a day fraught with fateful events. Also opening is The Kid with a Bike, a Belgian slice-of-life drama from the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc..
Paramount Vantage

Originally published on Sat March 17, 2012 6:42 pm

Call it an accident of the calendar: two pairs of filmmaking brothers both opening movies on the same weekend, both films about the awkwardness of growing up. Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a post-mumblecore slacker comedy from the Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay. The Kid with a Bike is a Belgian slice-of-life drama from the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc.

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Movie Reviews
3:21 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

'Being Flynn': Taking In A Prodigal Father

After almost two decades of estrangement, fractious writer Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro, right) gets in contact with his adult son Nick (Paul Dano) when he's forced to leave his apartment.
Focus Features

Robert De Niro's last outing with director Paul Weitz was less than auspicious: The comedy Little Fockers received terrible reviews. Being Flynn, their second collaboration, is a more serious affair about the estranged relationship between a fractious father and his son.

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Arts & Life
3:52 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Our Media, Ourselves: Are We Headed For A Matrix?

Design Within Reach? The cool sterility of 2001: A Space Odyssey is just one example of how pop culture expresses an anxiety that's seemingly about technology, but may be as old as time.
MGM

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 10:31 am

When Hollywood imagines the future, from Logan's Run to Avatar, it tends to picture living spaces as sterile and characterless, without any cultural clues to the person who lives there. No record library, no DVDs, no Hemingway on bookshelves ... often no bookshelves.

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Movie Reviews
4:30 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

'Chico And Rita' And All That Jazz

Havana Heat: The title characters meet cute and swing hard in Chico and Rita, an animated love story with an infectious Latin groove.
GKIDS

In the 11 years since the Oscars introduced an award for Best Animated Feature, the category has been dominated by children's movies, often with computer-animated pandas, penguins and ogres at their center. This year's a little different. Two of the animated films are subtitled, and one is definitely aimed at adults: the Spanish film Chico and Rita, an animated love story steeped in jazz.

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Movies
3:42 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Movie Titles That Might Have Been

'Tonight' Show: Playing an alcoholic, unpopular superhero, Will Smith rouses himself from a park bench pass-out to stare down a curious kid in 2008's Hancock — a movie almost titled Tonight, He Comes.
Relativity Media The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 6:19 pm

Shrek, Hitch, Gattaca: What's in a name? Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — but for Hollywood the question is more like, "Would that rose, by any other name, sell as many tickets?"

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Movie Reviews
12:01 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Carol Channing, Still Delightfully 'Larger Than Life'

Carol Channing — who turns 91 on Jan. 31 — appears in the 2010 Gypsy of the Year celebration, an annual salute to Broadway's hardest-working chorus performers.
Peter James Zielinski Entertainment One

Whenever the late New York Times caricaturist Al Hirschfeld sketched Carol Channing — whether picturing her as an indomitable Dolly Levi, swathed in feathers and sequins, or as carbon-crazed Lorelei Lee, eyes sparkling like the diamonds that were that splendid creature's best friends — he always made her appear a creature composed entirely of lipstick, mascara and hairspray.

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