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
4:44 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Tense 'Eastern Boys': Cruising, and Bruising

Eastern Boys begins as a home invasion story but evolves to something more complex, says NPR film critic Bob Mondello.
Courtesy of First Run Features

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 8:13 pm

Seen from street level, the young Eastern European men cruising a Paris train station at the outset of Eastern Boys would doubtless look like individuals. But filmmaker Robin Campillo has positioned the camera overhead, and from his bird's eye perch it's clear they're working in tandem — looking out for each other, stealing, soliciting.

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Movies
4:33 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

The Good, The Bad And The Hot: Movies To Warm Winter's Bite

Sidney Poitier smolders — and swelters — in In the Heat of the Night.
Mirisch/United Artists/Kobal Collection

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 3:18 pm

Plenty of movies sound as if they'll warm you up — Heat, The Towering Inferno, Hot Fuzz, Blazing Saddles, The Long Hot Summer, Paris When It Sizzles, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, In the Heat of the Night — the list goes on and on.

But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, it's tough to take a film's temperature from its title. Yes, In the Heat of the Night does swelter, both from being set in Mississippi and from having Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger spend most of its length hot under the collar. But most of the rest of those films won't warm you up much.

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Movies
4:10 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

It'd Be No 'Folly' To Remake This Musical Classic

Bob Mondello brought in his own personal copy of the original Follies cast album — intern Patrick Fort added the starburst.
Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 8:47 am

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Movie Reviews
4:42 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

'Selma' Manages To Be Both Passion-Inspiring And Measured

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 5:23 pm

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

Code Switch
4:28 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 9:07 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.

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50 Great Teachers
1:03 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 2:09 pm

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Movies
4:07 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 8:46 am

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Movies
4:23 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 7:57 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?

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Remembrances
9:47 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Renowned Theater And Film Director Mike Nichols Dies

Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 12:43 pm

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

Remembrances
5:53 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 9:45 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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Men In America
4:08 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 7:55 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
12:28 pm
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 7:53 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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Movie Reviews
5:14 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Sci-Fi Kid Flick 'Earth To Echo' Broadens The 'E.T.' Formula

In Earth to Echo, Brian "Astro" Bradley, Ella Wahlestedt, Reese Hartwig and Teo Halm play a group of kids whose neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project, forcing their families to move.
Patrick Wymore Relativity Media

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 7:20 pm

Movie theaters were swarming with Transformers this past weekend, and that'll also be true over the July 4 weekend. So this may not seem to be the best moment to bring out a sci-fi flick made on a budget that wouldn't cover catering for Optimus Prime. But "small" has its virtues sometimes, and the kid flick Earth to Echo is one of those times.

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Movie Reviews
5:17 pm
Mon May 26, 2014

Multiplexes Heat Up For Summer Blockbuster Season

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 5:43 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The long Memorial Day weekend usually marks the start of Hollywood blockbuster season. But it's been well underway with "Godzilla" and "X-Men" already in theaters. That said, there are another 87 would-be hits scheduled before Labor Day. We asked critic Bob Mondello for a selective preview.

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Movie Reviews
4:43 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Seeing The New 'X-Men'? Take Along A Teenager To Explain

Professor Xavier and Magneto scheme to send Wolverine back to the Nixon-era past to avert a devastating war in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 6:36 pm

The final "X" in the 20th Century Fox logo glows for an extra second as X-Men: Days of Future Past gets started, but what follows is darker than dark — a bleak, dire future in which all of Manhattan is a mutant prison camp.

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Movie Reviews
2:42 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Son Of? Bride Of? Cousin Of? How Many Godzillas Are There, Already?

Godzilla goes after San Francisco in this newest update to the classic monster movie.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 pm

The world has already seen 28 Godzilla movies — 29, if you count Roland Emmerich's 1998 Hollywood remake (which most of us don't). So why is another one opening this week?

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Movie Reviews
4:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

In 'Belle,' A Complex Life Tangled In Class And Commerce

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a British admiral.
David Appleby/Fox Searchlight

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 11:17 am

Here's a unique specialty for a movie studio: slavery films. Last year, Fox Searchlight brought us an Oscar winner about a free black man hauled into 12 years of slavery. Now, in Amma Asante's Belle, the company is releasing what's essentially the reverse of that story — a similarly torn-from-life (though significantly less wrenching) tale of a slave girl who had the great good fortune to be raised as a British aristocrat.

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Remembrances
4:03 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney, All-American Boy For More Than 90 Years, Dies

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 7:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Mickey Rooney, who lived a long life on stage and screen, died last night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93. For a while, the star seem to have it all, but he ended up playing the comeback kid as our film critic Bob Mondello remembers.

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Movie Reviews
6:01 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Send Out The Doves: 'Noah' Lands On Solid Ground

Ila (Emma Watson) and her husband, Shem, are two passengers aboard the ark built by Noah to escape God's flood in Noah, Darren Aronofsky's imagining of the biblical tale.
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Fri March 28, 2014 6:42 pm

The story of Noah's Ark is getting blockbuster treatment in Hollywood's new biblical epic Noah. Darren Aronofsky's film about the Old Testament shipbuilder has been sparking controversy — but there's no denying that the Great Flood, digitized, is a pretty great flood.

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Movie Reviews
4:09 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Filmmaker Wes Anderson makes movies that are eccentric, pointedly artificial and, to his fans, very funny. From his early comedies "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tannenbaums," to last year's Oscar-nominated "Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson's movies have looked and sounded different from everyone else's in Hollywood. And critic Bob Mondello says that streak continues with his spoof of extravagant 1930s melodramas. It's called "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

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Remembrances
4:29 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Alain Resnais, Director And Master Of Disorientation, Dies At 91

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 7:19 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

The French filmmaker who shook up European cinema and offered inspiration to directors as varied as Woody Allen and David Lynch died on Saturday. Alain Resnais caused a sensation with his films "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Last Year at Marienbad" in the 1950s and '60s. Critic Bob Mondello offers an appreciation.

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Movies
4:27 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

On Philip Seymour Hoffman, And His Many Appearances

Philip Seymour Hoffman at a screening of The Master, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, during the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 8:16 pm

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Movies
5:18 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

A Century Ago Today, Chaplin Made His Film Debut — In A Dud

Silent-film icon Charlie Chaplin, in character as the Little Tramp, takes aim with his walking stick circa 1925.
Edward Gooch Getty Images

Originally published on Sun February 2, 2014 6:42 pm

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Monkey See
4:13 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Screen Time: Bob Mondello's Favorite Films Of 2013

Lea Seydoux plays Emma in the film Blue Is the Warmest Color, directed by Abdellatif Kechiche.
AP

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 6:56 pm

Conventional wisdom has it that television is where the creative action is these days, and yes, there are some terrific shows on cable.

But there are things it's hard to do on the small screen, and the year's most cinematic film delighted in reminding audiences why they like seeing movies in theaters.

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Monkey See
12:18 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

5 By O'Toole: What To Watch Beyond 'Lawrence Of Arabia'

Lawrence of Arabia made Peter O'Toole an instant star, but his career was a long and varied one. Bob Mondello has recommendations for other movies well worth seeing him in.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 1:16 pm

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Remembrances
2:59 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole, Exuberant From 'Lawrence' To His Last Role

Peter O'Toole, the charismatic actor who achieved instant stardom as Lawrence of Arabia and was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, died Saturday. He was 81.
AP

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 10:35 am

Blond, blue-eyed and wearing blazing white robes in Lawrence Of Arabia, Peter O'Toole was handsome enough — many said beautiful enough — to carry off the scene in which director David Lean simultaneously made stars of both his title character and his leading man.

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Monkey See
11:30 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Among The Holiday Glut, 3 Movies About The Creative Life

Tom Hanks plays the man himself, Walt Disney, alongside Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, in Saving Mr. Banks.
Francois Duhamel Walt Disney Pictures

It's movie-binge time — that month-long surge of Oscar hopefuls and would-be blockbusters Hollywood always winds up the year with. On All Things Considered, I talked about some of the big tent-pole pictures: Anchorman 2, The Wolf of Wall Street, the second Hobbit installment and so on.

But here, let's winnow the list down a bit to three films you might want to keep an eye out for if you're intrigued by the artistic process — how artists think and work.

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Movie Reviews
6:59 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Chasing Money, And Meaning, In 'Nebraska'

After receiving a dubious letter, the aging Woody (Bruce Dern) heads off on a quest to collect $1 million, dragging his son David (Will Forte) along with him.
Paramount Pictures

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 8:32 pm

Woody Grant has white hair, a cranky disposition and a stubbornness that just won't quit. When we meet him, he's being stopped by a highway patrolman as he's walking down the shoulder of a Montana interstate. His son David picks him up at the police station, and it turns out Woody was on an 850-mile stroll to Nebraska, to collect the million dollars promised to him in a letter.

David points out gently that the letter is an ad for magazine subscriptions, but he's no sooner got the older man back to his house then he gets a call from his mom: Woody has hit the road again.

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Movie Reviews
4:38 pm
Sat November 2, 2013

This 'Time,' Supernatural Love Story Falls Flat

Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that he has the ability to travel back and forth through time, a power Tim uses in his pursuit of love.
Murray Close Universal Pictures

Originally published on Sat November 2, 2013 5:49 pm

There's a phrase in French — "L'esprit de l'escalier," meaning "staircase wit" — for that moment when you've lost an argument and are walking away, and waaay too late, think of the perfect comeback. If you could just rewind your life a few minutes, you'd win the argument.

That's pretty much the setup in the new British comedy About Time.

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Movie Reviews
4:25 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Matthew McConaughey, Fiercely Committed To This 'Club'

In Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey takes on the role of Ron Woodroof, a Texas man who, diagnosed with AIDS in the 1980s, begins to smuggle experimental drugs in from Mexico.
Anne Marie Fox Focus Features

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 6:49 pm

Texas good ol' boy Ron Woodroof was a player — drugs, alcohol, women, gambling. As Dallas Buyers Club starts, he's at a rodeo, snorting cocaine, with a fistful of bets, when he gets it on with two prostitutes. Not a "healthy" lifestyle — one that's left him gaunt, weak, coughing.

With the advantage of hindsight, what's ailing him seems obvious now. Back in 1986, it didn't, until doctors did a blood test and told him he had 30 days to live.

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