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."

Pages

Movie Reviews
4:04 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 5:58 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.

Read more
Code Switch
3:28 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 8:07 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.

Read more
50 Great Teachers
12:03 pm
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 1:09 pm

Read more
Movies
3:07 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 7:46 am

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Read more
Movies
3:23 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

The Holiday Films Are Coming, From 'Moses' To 'Annie'

Rameses (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Nefertari (Golshifteh Farahani) try to save their stricken child, a victim of one of the plagues, in Exodus: Gods And Kings.
Kerry Brown Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 6:57 pm

Every year, Hollywood tries to go out with a bang — the question this year is, which bang will be biggest? For sheer moviemaking grandeur, you'd think it would be hard to top the subduing of the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. But Peter Jackson's only got Gandalf and armies. In Exodus: Gods And Kings, Ridley Scott's got Moses, 400,000 slaves, and an effects budget Pharaoh would envy, not to mention the parting of the Red Sea.

Shall we call that a draw?

Read more
Remembrances
8:14 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Renowned Theater And Film Director Mike Nichols Dies

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 11:43 am

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

Movie Reviews
2:04 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Satirists Go Serious in 'Foxcatcher' And 'Rosewater' — And It Works

Steve Carell ditches any pretense of comedy in Foxcatcher.
Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 5:34 pm

What do you get when you mix big-deal comedians with real-life calamities? Sounds like a joke, but Steve Carell and Jon Stewart are answering that question this week in their movies Foxcatcher and Rosewater. And it turns out, seriousness suits them.

Read more
Movies
4:21 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Tripping Into A Black Hole In This Week's Movies

A black hole might be the key to humankind's future in Interstellar.
Courtesy of Paramount

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 5:33 pm

I've learned a lot about physics this week at movie screenings, and let me start by saying that I've no idea how much of it is accurate. All I can swear to is that it comes vetted by (or at least associated with) some very high-powered theoretical physicists.

Read more
Movie Reviews
2:37 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

'Viva La Libertà' Offers Harmless Electoral Fun

A jaded politician plays hooky in Viva La Libertà, so his campaign replaces him with his identical twin brother. You know where this is going, right?
Courtesy of Distrib Films US

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 7:11 pm

Whether you viewed this week's midterm elections as exhilarating or bruising, you're probably ready to move on at this point, which makes the timing problematic for Roberto Andò's lightweight election comedy, Viva La Libertà (Long Live Freedom).

Read more
Movies
3:42 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Remembering All-Night Fright Fests And Halloween Horrorthons

Terrifying terrorramas so scary you'll need a nurse on standby! Bob Mondello says the 1993 film Matinee brought back memories of his days writing Halloween horror ad copy for a movie theater chain.
Courtesy of Universal/The Kobal CollectionTION

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 8:42 am

Halloween's rolled around again and yeah, yeah, it's a dark and stormy night. The road's washed out, phone's gone dead, the mystic's reading her Ouija board, and zombies are popping through doorways left open by a demented kewpie doll.

Been there. Seen that. Got the T-shirt.

Read more
Movie Reviews
3:33 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Alienating Leading Men: The Force Behind 'Listen Up Philip' And 'Majeure'

A 'controlled avalanche' gets out of control in Force Majeure.
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 7:59 pm

Back in 1940, in a review of the then-new Rodgers & Hart musical Pal Joey, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson famously asked whether a show with a "cad" for a hero could ever really work for audiences.

"How can you draw sweet water," he wondered, "from a foul well?"

Goes without saying that times have changed, what with antiheroes now common on the big screen, and cable TV celebrating everything from mobster Sopranos to sexist Mad Men, to drug dealers for whom everything always breaks Bad.

Read more
Movies
10:24 am
Fri October 17, 2014

'Birdman' Tracks A Comeback In (Seemingly) One Long Take

In Birdman, Michael Keaton (a real-life former Batman) plays a former movie superhero who's trying to get a grasp on his career.
Atsushi Nishijima/ Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 5:26 pm

Birdman's opening shot has a meteor flaring across a twilit sky — a dying star falling to earth being an apt first image for a movie about a film superhero who has flamed out.

Read more
Movie Reviews
3:29 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Who's Worth Your Trust In Fincher's Moody, Atmospheric 'Gone Girl'?

Ben Affleck plays Nick, a self-styled "corn-fed, salt-of-the-earth Missouri boy." But is he a reliable narrator?
Merrick Morton/ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 5:17 pm

David Fincher's marital thriller, Gone Girl, is based on a 2-year-old novel that spent more than 71 weeks on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list, and sold more than 6 million copies before it even came out in paperback. So a lot of suspense fans already know its twists and turns.

Read more
Movie Reviews
12:11 pm
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 4:51 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.

Read more
Movies
8:26 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 Inarritu's Birdman.
Alison Rosa

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 1:59 pm

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.

Read more

Pages