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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3:42pm

Fri April 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

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

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

IFC Films

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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4:42pm

Wed March 28, 2012
Monkey See

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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2:44pm

Sat March 24, 2012
Movies

From Page To Screen: Hollywood Targets YA Fiction

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 10:32 pm

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

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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4:30pm

Thu March 22, 2012
Movie Reviews

'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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3:48pm

Sat March 17, 2012
Movie Reviews

Betting On Two Pairs Of Filmmaking Brothers

Originally published on Sat March 17, 2012 5:42 pm

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

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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2:21pm

Fri March 2, 2012
Movie Reviews

'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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2:52pm

Mon February 20, 2012
Arts & Life

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

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 9:31 am

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

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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3:30pm

Thu February 9, 2012
Movie Reviews

'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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2:42pm

Fri January 27, 2012
Movies

Movie Titles That Might Have Been

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 5:19 pm

'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

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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11:01pm

Thu January 19, 2012
Movie Reviews

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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2:19pm

Fri December 30, 2011
Movies

Bob Mondello Picks The Year's Top 10 (Plus 10)

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 11:25 am

'Pina': German filmmaker Wim Wenders' 3-D dance documentary is a homage to influential German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009.
Donata Wenders Neue Road Movies

Wizards, transformers and vampires did their best, but they couldn't transform 2011 into a magical year for Hollywood: Despite all the 3-D and IMAX screenings and the premium prices that come with them, industry box office sagged by half a billion dollars compared with last year. But quality? That's another story.

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1:54pm

Thu December 29, 2011
Movie Reviews

'A Separation': In Tehran, Houses And Hearts Divided

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 9:58 am

The Great Divides: Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) are at odds first about whether to leave Iran for life abroad — and then about more urgent issues yet.
Habib Madjidi Sony Pictures Classics

The opening moments of A Separation lay out the story you'd expect to see in a film about a wife who is leaving her husband: Simin (Leila Hatami) and her bank-clerk spouse, Nader (Peyman Moadi), are explaining heatedly to a judge why they want a separation. Or actually, why they don't want it.

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10:52am

Wed December 21, 2011
Movie Reviews

Stirring Adventures, At Home (In A Zoo) And Abroad

Matt Damon gets up close and personal with one of his new four-legged family members in We Bought A Zoo.
Neal Preston Twentieth Century Fox

After being force-fed a steady diet of Oscar hopefuls for almost a month, I may just be ready for empty-calorie time at the cineplex. But I have to confess a sense of relief this week, as I watched entertainments that didn't seem to want to do anything other than show an audience a good time.

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3:30pm

Sun December 18, 2011

2:27pm

Tue December 6, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 6:36 pm

Acorn Media

Time now for a home-viewing recommendation from our film critic, Bob Mondello. With a new movie version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opening this week, Bob's suggesting the TV original.

At some point in my youth, I must have known the nursery rhyme "Tinker, tailor/ soldier, sailor/ rich man, poor man/beggar man, thief," but since 1979, the instant someone says "Tinker Tailor," the next two words that occur to me are "Alec Guinness."

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