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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4:35pm

Tue April 10, 2012
Theater

Encore! Encore! Applauding The Literal Showstopper

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

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

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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4:42pm

Fri April 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

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

Originally published on Fri April 6, 2012 7:01 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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5:42pm

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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3:44pm

Sat March 24, 2012
Movies

From Page To Screen: Hollywood Targets YA Fiction

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 11:32 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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5:30pm

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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4:48pm

Sat March 17, 2012
Movie Reviews

Betting On Two Pairs Of Filmmaking Brothers

Originally published on Sat March 17, 2012 6:42 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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3:21pm

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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3:52pm

Mon February 20, 2012
Arts & Life

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

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 10:31 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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4:30pm

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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3:42pm

Fri January 27, 2012
Movies

Movie Titles That Might Have Been

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 6:19 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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12:01am

Fri January 20, 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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3:19pm

Fri December 30, 2011
Movies

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

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 12:25 pm

'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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2:54pm

Thu December 29, 2011
Movie Reviews

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

Originally published on Fri December 30, 2011 10:58 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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11:52am

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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4:30pm

Sun December 18, 2011

3:27pm

Tue December 6, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 7:36 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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4:35pm

Wed November 16, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'West Side Story'

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 6:02 pm

'Tonight' Music: Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood played Tony and Maria in the 1961 film of West Side Story.
Fox Home Entertainment

Time now for a home video recommendation from movie critic Bob Mondello. This week he's looking back a half-century, to a ground-breaking musical that won ten Oscars, West Side Story.

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4:46pm

Wed October 26, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection'

Universal Studios

Time for our home video feature, where NPR movie critic Bob Mondello suggests something for those who like to pop their own popcorn and pop in a video. For this Halloween week, Bob suggests sending a shiver up your spine with some classics from: Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection.

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1:04pm

Fri October 21, 2011
Movie Reviews

High Anxieties Make For A Mad, Mad Movie World

Originally published on Fri October 21, 2011 9:42 pm

Here Bums The Bride: Lars von Trier's Melancholia centers on a newlywed (Kirsten Dunst) whose chronic depression leaves her singularly well-equipped to confront the end of the world.

Magnolia Pictures

In the space of a few weeks, Hollywood will give us four serious dramas about mentally unstable characters. It's a minitrend at best, and most likely coincidental. But it got me thinking about how filmmakers use narrative form to shake up audiences and put them in the same frame of mind as the characters they're watching.

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4:11pm

Fri October 14, 2011
Arts & Life

Remakes Rethink: Is Hollywood Really Out Of Ideas?

Holding out for ... what again? A remake of 1984's Footloose (with Kevin Bacon) has some fans crying foul — but if Aretha Franklin can earn respect with an Otis Redding song, why can't Hollywood take a second look at something?

The Kobal Collection Picture Desk

It's been a big year for Hollywood remakes — more than a dozen, not counting sequels. There were new versions of Conan the Barbarian and Arthur this summer. Fresh incarnations of Footloose and The Thing open today. And soon we'll see Hollywood's take on the Swedish hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Cue the standard complaint: Hollywood has run out of ideas.

Hold on, though. Let's think this through.

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4:50pm

Fri October 7, 2011
Movies

Movie Review: 'The Ides of March'

A political thriller, The Ides of March, opens Friday. That's one week before the ides of October — and a few months before the first presidential primaries.

4:12pm

Tue October 4, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'The Honeymooners'

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 6:52 pm

MPI Home Video

Time for our movie critic Bob Mondello to suggest something for home-viewing. Today, he's exploring a 15-disk collection of classic TV comedy that nobody's seen for a while: The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes.

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3:41pm

Tue September 27, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Ben-Hur'

Warner Home Video

Time for our movie critic Bob Mondello's suggestions for home-viewing. Today he's recommending a wide-screen 1950s epic that was specifically designed to draw people away from their TV sets: Ben-Hur.

Everything about Ben-Hur was big. Reeeeally big. The sound was stereophonic (which was new back then), the screen wider than all outdoors, and that chariot race — flat-out enormous.

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3:00pm

Fri September 23, 2011
Movies

Movie Reviews: Three Bio-Pics

NPR's Bob Mondello reviews a true-life triple feature: Machine Gun Preacher, Moneyball and Toast, three unlikely stories based on real people.

3:27pm

Tue September 20, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Prime Suspect'

In the beginning, there were lapels: Helen Mirren's DI Jane Tennison, circa 1991.
Acorn Media

Time again for film critic Bob Mondello's recommendation for your home-viewing queue. This week, to prepare for the start of NBC's new TV series Prime Suspect, he suggests you look back at the original PBS series, starring Helen Mirren.

The year was 1991, and a new British police procedural had what then counted as a gimmick: Its star — smart, forceful, and assertive — was a woman, which was a big deal.

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3:16pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Monkey See

'Citizen Kane' At 70: Film School In A Box For The Serious Cinephile

Orson Welles takes the lead role in his film Citizen Kane, which has been released in a special 70th Anniversary Edition.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

It's time again for our movie critic Bob Mondello's latest home-viewing recommendation. This week, Bob takes a look at a 70th anniversary Blu-Ray release of what many call the greatest film of all time: Citizen Kane.

Tragic, demanding, controversial, larger-than-life, and a mystery even to those who knew him. That's newspaperman Charles Foster Kane, and those terms could also be applied to theater genius Orson Welles, who produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in Citizen Kane when he was all of 25.

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11:43am

Fri September 9, 2011
Movie Reviews

Battles For Survival, Small-Scale And Huge

Tommy (Tom Hardy, left) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) are battling brothers in Warrior — a domestic drama that feels surprisingly epic.
Chuck Zlotnick Lionsgate

Contagion is about a flu epidemic that causes millions of deaths, Warrior about sibling rivalry in a working-class family. The former is a disaster epic writ surprisingly small, the latter a domestic drama writ larger than you'd think. Both prove effective, both have intriguing structures; it's a good week for movie nuts.

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11:16am

Mon September 5, 2011
Monkey See

Bob Mondello's Fall Movie Preview: Thrills, Silence, And Harold And Kumar

Tin(pot) soldiers: John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, and Kal Penn in A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Darren Michaels Warner Bros. Pictures

Deep breath ... summer blockbusters now officially a thing of the past, and I'm looking forward to quieter movies coming up.

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5:00pm

Thu July 28, 2011
Movie Reviews

A Frantic, Nonstop Chase At 'Point Blank' Range

En Pointe: Nurse-trainee Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is on the run for much of Point Blank, which finds him outmaneuvering (and eventually succumbing to) bad guys as a consequence of saving a mysterious man's life.
Magnolia Pictures

Mid-summer is a time when movie audiences crave action. And that's no truer of the multiplex than it is at the art house, where Point Blank, a new thriller from France (no relation to the Lee Marvin/John Boorman crime picture from 1967) opens — quite literally — with a bang. It's the crash of a man who, clutching his bleeding stomach, smashes through a door into the wall of a metal staircase. And it's followed by another crash seconds later, when two men with guns smash through the door after him.

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4:00pm

Tue July 19, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Boyz N The Hood'

Ice Cube's first-ever acting role was as troublemaker Doughboy in Boyz N The Hood. Bob Mondello says the film portrayed a side of L.A. that mainstream Hollywood was too afraid to show.
Sony Pictures

Time now for movie critic Bob Mondello to suggest something for viewing at home, rather than the multiplex. This week, the 20th anniversary release of a film that jump-started a lot of careers: Boyz N The Hood.

South Central L.A. On the map, so close to Hollywood. But in 1991, it might as well have been on the moon as far as movie studios were concerned.

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