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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5:03pm

Thu March 14, 2013
Movie Reviews

'Ginger & Rosa': Life And Times In Cold War London

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 8:19 pm

Rosa (Alice Englert) and her sometime best friend Ginger (Elle Fanning) are nearly torn apart by the political and social changes of the 1960s.
Nicola Dove A24

Two young actresses with substantial Hollywood pedigrees have the title roles in the new film Ginger & Rosa. Ginger is played by Dakota Fanning's sister, Elle, who at 14 already has more than 30 movie credits. Rosa is played by Alice Englert, daughter of Oscar-winning writer-director Jane Campion and star of last month's Beautiful Creatures. Both actresses get a chance to stretch in Ginger & Rosa.

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5:00pm

Thu March 7, 2013
Movie Reviews

From 'Oz,' A Less Than Magical Prequel

Originally published on Fri March 8, 2013 6:03 pm

Theodora (Mila Kunis) is the first person the young conjuror Oscar (James Franco) meets when he lands in the mystical, magical Land of Oz.
Walt Disney Pictures

Oz the Great and Powerful tells the story of how the Wizard came to Oz, answering a question I suspect no one was asking, but with considerable digital wizardry.

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3:32pm

Fri March 1, 2013
Movies

Fairy Tales For Grown-Ups? More Are On The Way

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 8:01 pm

Rachel Weisz plays the witch Evanora in director Sam Raimi's upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful. The film is one of nine upcoming Oz adaptations and tackles more frightening and adult themes than those that came before it.
Walt Disney Pictures

Adaptations of fairy tales are everywhere you look. The TV show Once Upon a Time and the police procedural Grimm are in their second seasons. Hansel and his sister Gretel are at the cineplex hunting witches with machine guns. Jack, of beanstalk fame, starts slaying giants today. And those aren't the only bedtime stories that have been redesigned to keep 20-somethings up at night.

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12:54pm

Fri February 22, 2013
Oscars 2013: The 85th Annual Academy Awards

Despite Dark Themes, A Big Oscar Bounce

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 6:47 pm

Despite its dark themes (slavery and the Civil War are hardly feel-good topics), Lincoln, like other Oscar nominees, has done very well at the box office. Disney has spent about $10 million campaigning for the best-picture prize, hoping for a payoff down the line.
DreamWorks

How much is a best-picture Oscar worth? Not the statuette — winners are required to sell that back to the Academy for a buck if they want to get rid of it. No, what's the Oscar worth at the box office?

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5:12pm

Wed February 20, 2013
Monkey See

Home Video Review: 'On The Waterfront'

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 6:11 pm

As dockworker Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, a young Marlon Brando firmly established himself as a leading Hollywood icon.
Criterion Collection

Time again for a home-viewing recommendation from NPR movie critic Bob Mondello. Today, Bob suggests a tale of moral crisis — On the Waterfront, in a freshly restored Blu-ray version from Criterion.

Mugs and palookas, racketeers and dockworkers, mob boss Lee J. Cobb running the union with an iron fist, Marlon Brando tripping up its control when Eva Marie Saint urges him to go to the feds and rat out the rats.

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5:08pm

Thu February 14, 2013
Movie Reviews

Say Yes To 'No': Retro Political Thriller Packs A Timely Punch

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 4:18 pm

Brash ad man Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) brings a youthful, positive energy to a campaign aimed at ousting a dictator in the political drama No.
Sony Pictures Classics

In 1988, Chile's brutal military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, was facing international pressure to legitimize his regime. Confident that the opposition was splintered, and that state-run media could control the political dialogue, his administration agreed to a simple yes-or-no vote on extending his rule.

It was a vote that even Pinochet's opponents expected to go his way — but it didn't, for reasons made both compelling and instructive in Pablo Larrain's rousing Oscar-nominated drama, No.

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5:04pm

Thu February 7, 2013
Movie Reviews

'Identity Thief': Nearly Two Hours, Stolen

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 7:09 pm

An overextended Sandy (Jason Bateman) must prevent the raunchy Diana (Melissa McCarthy) from continuing to use his identity as a financial crutch in Identity Thief.
Universal Pictures

The new road-trip comedy Identity Thief — about a guy who confronts a woman who's wrecking his credit rating — is such a catalog of missed opportunities, it probably makes sense just to list them.

The setup: Sandy Patterson, who works in a Denver financial firm (and is not supposed to be mentally challenged), blithely hands over his Social Security number to a stranger on the phone who says his accounts have been compromised, at which point his accounts get compromised. No tricks, no subterfuge, no laughs — he's just stupid.

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5:17pm

Thu January 31, 2013
Movie Reviews

In Prison And Among Zombies, Shakespeare's Reflection Shines

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:39 am

In the Romeo and Juliet-inspired Warm Bodies, a zombie known only as R (Nicholas Hoult) falls in love with Julie (Teresa Palmer), who's still human.
Jan Thijs Summit Entertainment

The Italian art-house film Caesar Must Die and the teen zombie-comedy Warm Bodies do not, at first glance, appear to have much in common. But they share a bit of creative DNA, both being inventive riffs that turn Shakespearean tragedies into something else entirely.

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5:06pm

Thu January 24, 2013
Monkey See

Home Video Review: 'Buster Keaton: The Ultimate Collection'

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 5:44 pm

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Buster Keaton, aka "The Great Stone Face," brought side-splitting comedy to the silent-screen era. Here, he's pictured in 1924's The Navigator.
Kino Lorber

Time now for a home-viewing recommendation from NPR movie critic Bob Mondello. A quiet recommendation — because Bob is touting the Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection, a 14-disc set of classic silent comedies.

Silent film had three great clowns. Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp is the one everyone remembers; all-American daredevil Harold Lloyd is the one who made the most money; and Buster Keaton was the genius.

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3:03pm

Tue January 15, 2013
Monkey See

Home Video Review: 'Slings And Arrows'

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 7:16 am

Richard (Mark McKinney) and Sanjay (Colm Feore) get up close and personal in the zany backstage comedy Slings and Arrows.
Ken Woroner Acorn Media

Time now for a home-viewing recommendation from movie critic Bob Mondello. He recently caught an online episode of the Shakespeare-centric comedy Slings and Arrows and says it reminded him how much he liked the whole series.

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