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
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Movies
3:06 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 6:53 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
4:14 pm
Sat August 23, 2014

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

Originally published on Sat August 23, 2014 5:26 pm

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

Movie Reviews
2:21 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 7:02 pm

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Remembrances
3:30 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

The Countless Lives Of Lauren Bacall

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 8:14 pm

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Remembrances
4:41 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 8:45 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
2:41 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 8:24 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
6:08 am
Fri August 8, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 3:04 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
1:55 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 3:07 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
3:08 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 6:55 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
11:38 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 6:53 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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