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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5:03pm

Thu September 6, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Keep The Lights On': Nuanced Take On Doomed Love

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 6:18 pm

Erik (Thure Lindhardt) and Paul (Zachary Booth) meet through a phone hookup service, but end up moving in together and pursuing a passionate, long-term relationship.
Music Box Films

Hot-weather Hollywood blockbusters have now cooled off, so the cineplex will be a quieter place for the next few months. But there can be intensity even in intimate films, as evidenced by the relationship drama Keep the Lights On.

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4:53pm

Mon September 3, 2012
Monkey See

Fall Movie Preview: Bob Mondello Looks Ahead

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 12:46 pm

Ben Affleck directed and stars in Argo.
Claire Folger Warner Brothers Pictures

6:12pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Movie Reviews

'Rush' Job: A Wily Courier Navigates New York's Maze

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:47 pm

Bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds himself carrying a package that leads to a perilous chase.
Sarah Shatz Sony Pictures

A character we've yet to meet flies through the air in slow motion, above a busy New York street, arms and legs splayed. He's wearing a bike helmet, which is a good thing — because as The Who's "Baba O'Riley" pulses in the background and numbers come up on the screen telling us it's 6:33 p.m., he lands with a thud on the pavement.

For a second or two, he lies there staring — at a car careering toward him, a woman mouthing his name, a bike that lies crumpled at his side. You might want to take those moments to catch your breath. You won't be offered many other chances.

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4:42pm

Thu August 23, 2012
Theater

In The Theater Of Politics, Staging Is Everything

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 6:16 pm

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, arrives to announce his choice of running mate aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 11.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

During the next two weeks, the major political parties will assemble their faithful in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., to officially nominate their presidential tickets. These conventions were once places of high political drama. But over the decades, as the primary system has determined the candidates well in advance, conventions have become political theater. With that in mind, there's much to be said on staging in politics — not substance, but style.

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3:36pm

Sat August 11, 2012
Movies

Misadventures In Reporting: My Brush With Bieber

Originally published on Sat August 11, 2012 3:59 pm

Justin Bieber was raised in Stratford, Ontario. When he returned to the town and played at his old busking spot outside the Avon Theatre, NPR's Bob Mondello was sitting six blocks away, oblivious.
Brendon Thorne Getty Images

So there I was, brandishing a microphone on the streets of Stratford, Ontario, and feeling, I have to confess, like a total fraud.

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5:17pm

Thu August 9, 2012
Movies

In Times Of Drought, Movies Show Tenacity Of Life

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 11:02 am

Henry Hall prays to the heavens in 1934's Our Daily Bread. King Vidor's film about a farmers collective living through a drought was made during one of the country's most catastrophic dry spells.
United Artists/Photofest

The nationwide drought that has withered crops in more than 30 states shows no sign of letting up. But as Katharine Hepburn established in her film, The Rainmaker, that doesn't mean hope has to dry up.

"I dreamed we had a rain, a great big rain," she tells her brothers, only to be told that "a drought's a drought, and a dream's a dream."

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4:09pm

Tue August 7, 2012
Destination Art

Stratford's Big Stars, From The Bard To The Bieb

Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 6:00 pm

The Festival Theater in Stratford, Ontario, is the main venue for the town's annual Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The town lies on the Avon River — just like Shakespeare's British birthplace — and had schools named after Romeo and Juliet before the festival started in 1953.
Richard Bain Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Most theaters let audiences know the show is about to start by blinking the lights. Stratford's Festival Theater in Stratford, Ontario, is a bit more festive. Four burgundy-uniformed buglers and a drummer quicken the pace of hundreds of theatergoers who've been ambling up the hill from the banks of the Avon River. When curtain time arrives, a cannon will boom.

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4:40pm

Fri August 3, 2012
Movies

Franchises Age, But Their Stars Stay Forever Young

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 6:06 pm

Jeremy Renner stars in The Bourne Legacy, the latest in a franchise previously fronted by Matt Damon. But when an actor departs a Hollywood cash cow, it can be less a death knell than a chance for rejuvenation.
Mary Cybulski Universal Pictures

The Bourne Legacy, which opens in theaters this week, is the fourth thriller in the series, and the first without either Jason Bourne or the star playing him, Matt Damon. They're suddenly not necessary, even though the series is named for Bourne? Why am I not surprised?

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5:07pm

Thu July 19, 2012
Movie Reviews

In Troubled Times, A 'Dark Knight' Returns

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:38 pm

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. The final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which began with Batman Begins in 2005, deals explicitly with our contemporary political times.
Ron Phillips Warner Bros. Pictures

Before a hero can rise, he must suffer a fall, and fall the Dark Knight quite spectacularly did the last time around, taking the rap for crimes he didn't commit, marking himself as a vigilante pariah and even letting Heath Ledger steal the reviews. No way that's happening in this last installment. A comic-book tale that has gotten darker than anyone thought possible is now careening toward a burst of light — possibly a nuclear blast — at the end of the tunnel.

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12:48pm

Fri July 13, 2012
Movies

Looking For The Megabucks? Think Megapixels

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 10:30 pm

Ice Age: Continental Drift, which comes out July 13, is the fourth film in the animated franchise. Since Toy Story marked the beginning of the era of entirely computer-animated films, they've been a studio's safest bet for big earnings at the box office and beyond.
Blue Sky Studios & 20th Century Fox

Imagine you're a movie producer, and you've got a couple of hundred million dollars to gamble on a single massive blockbuster. Which genre do you suppose will be your safest bet — superhero? Action-adventure? Sci-fi? All of those have had huge successes, but they've also all had hugely expensive failures.

There's one genre, though, that's hardly a gamble at all. It's been almost foolproof since it first came into being in 1995: computer animation.

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