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."



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.

Read more


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.

Read more


Fri September 23, 2011

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.


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


Thu July 14, 2011

Can Wizards And Vampires Collect Unemployment?

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, left) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) will soon discover that finding Horcruxes isn't half as demanding or soul-sucking as finding a job.
Warner Brothers

With employment numbers stuck in a rut and high school grads among those least likely to land jobs, along comes fresh competition. Do you have any idea how many wizards, werewolves and vampires are going to be out of work soon?

In a few months, Craigslist is going to have all kinds of eye-catching resumes:

SCHOOL ATHLETE (captain of Quidditch team) seeks entry-level position. No degree, but considerable leadership experience. Contact Harry James Potter.


Read more


Fri July 8, 2011
The End Of The Space Shuttle Era

From The Movies, Lessons On Privatizing Outer Space

Hollywood history is littered with cautionary tales about corporate takeovers of outer space, but in 2001: A Space Odyssey, things looked oddly familiar: Interstellar travelers flew Pan Am and stayed in Hilton hotels.

During the space race in the 1960s, only governments had deep enough pockets to send humans into orbit. Now, with many of the world's governments in hock up to their eyeballs and NASA's space shuttle going into retirement, commercial ventures are poised to pick up where the shuttle leaves off.

Read more


Tue June 21, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Cedar Rapids'

Fox Searchlight

Time now for our home-viewing segment — movie critic Bob Mondello's recommendations for film buffs who like to pop their own popcorn and pop in a DVD. This week, he's touting Cedar Rapids, a comedy that was just in theaters a few weeks ago.

Read more


Thu June 16, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Page One': The 'Times,' A-Changing On All Fronts

Paper Tigers? Employees of The New York Times occupy a prominent perch in the journalism world — but in the year chronicled in Andrew Rossi's Page One, they and the Gray Lady both face how precarious the heights can be.
Magnolia Pictures

We've all heard the litany: Newsprint is expensive, circulation is down, ad revenues are declining, and bloggers can do everything faster and cheaper. Dead-tree journalism, in short, is on its last legs. Except somehow it staggers on, inspiring the likes of young New York Times reporter Tim Arango to do what generations of reporters have done before him: grab a notebook and fly into a war zone. (In this case, Iraq.)

Read more


Tue June 14, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'

It's time for movie critic Bob Mondello's latest home-viewing recommendation, for those who want to pop in a video and pop their own popcorn. This week, Bob's suggesting a new Blu-Ray collector's edition of The Bridge on the River Kwai.

British prisoners of war marching into a Japanese labor camp, whistling "The Colonel Bogey March" as a way of thumbing their noses at their captors, then building one magnificent railroad bridge — the best that British military engineering (and director David Lean's production crew) could manage.

Read more


Thu June 9, 2011
Movie Reviews

Two Guys On A Road Trip, Racking Up Comic Mileage

Coogan and Brydon turn out to have a knack for dueling celebrity impersonations — and, in particular, to know their way around a solid Michael Caine impersonation.
Phil Fisk IFC Films

How's this for meta? British funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are friends in real life. In their new movie, they play friends — named Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. And because the movie is called The Trip, they go on a trip. Happily, they turn out to be amusing company — albeit more for us than for each other.

Read more


Tue May 31, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection'

Warner Home Video

It's time for our home video feature. Bob Mondello spent much of his Memorial Day weekend holed up with a new 10-dvd set: Stanley Kubrick: the Essential Collection.

Read more


Mon May 30, 2011

Movie Industry Plans To Release Lots Of Sequels

The industry has faced a tough year so far. So it's using the formula of sequels and 3-D movies in hopes of getting back on track — including more pirates, more kung-fun fighting pandas and more hungover wedding guests. Critic Bob Mondello has a preview of the other retreads and the hidden treasures coming your way this summer.


Thu May 19, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Tides' Formula: Swash, Buckle, Repeat As Necessary

Princess of 'Tides': Penelope Cruz (right, wearing less eyeliner) joins Johnny Depp for a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure.
Peter Mountain Buena Vista Pictures

It must be exhausting, looking for an escape route every time you enter a room. I'd never caught Captain Jack Sparrow doing that before Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but there's a new director at the helm this time — Rob Marshall, who made the musical Chicago — and I guess he wants you to be aware of his action choreography.

Read more


Sun May 15, 2011
Monkey See

Forget Bridezillas And Frenemies, 'Bridesmaids' Is The Real Deal

Kristen Wiig (left) breaks the tired mold of summer wedding comedies with Bridesmaids, where her character grapples with a rival (Rose Bryne) without the genre's typically inconceivable levels of earnestness.
Suzanne Hanover Universal Pictures

I blame it on My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That winsome little bridal blockbuster hit its stride in May of '02 and played straight through to Labor Day, establishing that 15-year-old boys weren't the only audience who'd go to summer films. Since then, wedding comedies have been a reliable -– and reliably annoying — hot-weather staple, almost always playing predominantly to women, with men attending dutifully as dates, much as they do at weddings themselves.

Read more


Wed May 11, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Hesher': A Metalhead Mary Poppins, Tattoos And All

He did in fact start the fire: Hesher doesn't give him much of a springboard, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt still draws an intriguing portrait of a sociopathic headbanger who bonds with a grieving middle-schooler.
Merrick Morton Wrekin Hill

When parents talk about someone who'd be a bad influence for their children, they're basically talking about Hesher.

This twentysomething vagrant, played as a anarchic, overgrown wild-child by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, wears his hair long and greasy. He's got a middle-finger tattoo in the small of his back, and he exhibits a pronounced fondness for drugs, pornography and blowing things up.

Read more


Thu May 5, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Thor': A Fratty Hero, With Plenty Of Norsepower

It's origin-story time again at the multiplex: Godlike superhero falls from sky and gets adopted by earthlings, who discover in short order that he is in fact a godling.

The earthlings in question are astrophysicist Natalie Portman and her assistant Kat Dennings, who are accompanied by a mentor played by Stellan Skarsgard. (Because they needed someone who might credibly be up on his Norse mythology?) While those three take their charge to the hospital, the film heads for a flashback in Asgard, whence he fell.

Read more


Thu April 28, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'The Ernie Kovacs Collection'

It's time for our home-video feature: Bob Mondello's viewing tips for those who prefer to skip the crowds at the cineplex. This week, he's championing a boxed that spotlights a TV pioneer: 'The Ernie Kovacs Collection.'

In 1951, almost no one had a TV yet, but anyone who did would've been surprised by what Ernie Kovacs was doing on it. Giving instructions, for instance, on how to tune a TV.

Read more


Thu April 21, 2011
Movie Reviews

'Incendies': Within A Family, Secret Fires Burn

Near the beginning of Incendies, a notary reads a mother's will to her two grown children, twins Simon and Jeanne.

In that will, the late Nawal Marwan specifies that she is to be buried without a coffin or headstone, naked and face down, because those who don't keep their promises don't deserve to face the world.

Then the notary hands the twins two envelopes, which the will insists must be delivered to their father and their brother. Once that's done, their mother's promise will have been kept, and they can place a headstone on her grave.

Read more


Fri April 15, 2011

Control Flicks: Movies That Mess With Your Mind

Four times in eight months, I've been caught up in science-fiction worlds that seem remarkably like the world I actually live in — urban, brightly lit, not filled with aliens, zombies or futuristic gadgets. Just a lot of people with control issues.

Read more


Thu April 14, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Tracy & Hepburn'

It's time now for critic Bob Mondello's suggestions for your home-video queue. This week, he's talking-up a decades-long love affair that is fully documented in a new boxed set: Tracy & Hepburn, The Definitive Collection.

Read more


Fri April 8, 2011
Monkey See

A History Of Hollywood's 'Lovable Drunk': Arthur Doesn't Booze Here Anymore

The notion of a "loveable drunk" was always problematic, at least to people who've come into contact with actual drunks. But the way Dudley Moore played the original Arthur, the character seemed aware that he was a mess from the very first scene.

Read more


Wed April 6, 2011
Monkey See

DVD Picks: 'Anything Goes'

Each week, Bob Mondello offers suggestions for your video queue. Today, he's high on Cole Porter's Anything Goes — not the movie, or the stage musical, but a "live" TV curiosity from 1954.

Read more


Mon March 28, 2011
Monkey See

Nuclear Radiation: Filmmakers Try To Make The Invisible Visceral

Last summer, as the Gulf oil spill was finally being brought under control, I found myself thinking about Hollywood disaster movies — and how they differ from real-world disasters. In the last few weeks, as tragic events have played out in Japan, I realized I'd left something out: the menace that can't be seen.

Read more


Thu March 24, 2011
Movie Reviews

Deneuve's 'Potiche': A Trophy Wife, But With Heft

Catherine Deneuve radiates enough intelligence on-screen to be no one's idea of a mere trophy wife, but she makes a brave stab at playing one in Francois Ozon's brightly hued boulevard comedy Potiche.

Read more