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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3:04pm

Fri November 14, 2014
Movie Reviews

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

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

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

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.

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5:21pm

Fri November 7, 2014
Movies

Tripping Into A Black Hole In This Week's Movies

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 6:33 pm

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

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.

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3:37pm

Fri November 7, 2014
Movie Reviews

'Viva La Libertà' Offers Harmless Electoral Fun

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 8:11 pm

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

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).

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4:42pm

Thu October 30, 2014
Movies

Remembering All-Night Fright Fests And Halloween Horrorthons

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 9:42 am

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

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.

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4:33pm

Fri October 24, 2014
Movie Reviews

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

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 8:59 pm

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

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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11:24am

Fri October 17, 2014
Movies

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

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 6:26 pm

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

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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4:29pm

Fri October 3, 2014
Movie Reviews

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

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 6:17 pm

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

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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1:11pm

Fri September 26, 2014
Movie Reviews

Coal Miners And Gay Activists Partner In 'Pride'

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 5:51 pm

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

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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9:26am

Mon September 1, 2014
Movies

After A Ho-Hum Summer, Hollywood Ramps Up For Fall

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

Michael Keaton stars as a washed-up film star trying to make a stage comeback in Alejandro Inarritu's Birdman.
Alison Rosa

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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4:06pm

Mon August 25, 2014
Movies

Director Richard Attenborough Brought Intimacy To Big Ideas

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 7:53 pm

Richard Attenborough's career in movies spanned decades.
Lois Bernstein AP

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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