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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Movie Reviews
1:16 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

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

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

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

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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Movie Reviews
2:21 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 4:20 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
11:51 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Mike Myers Steps Behind The Camera With 'Supermensch'

In Supermensch, talent agent Shep Gordon recalls arriving in Los Angeles in 1968, dropping acid and getting slugged by a woman who later identified herself as Janis Joplin.
Dogwoof Films

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 4:55 pm

When you've played Austin Powers, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat and the title dweeb in Wayne's World, what do you do for an encore? If you're comedian Mike Myers, the next logical step, evidently, is to direct a documentary about your agent. And damned if it doesn't turn out to be a decent career move — as smart, and sometimes even as funny, as anything Myers has done recently.

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Movie Reviews
1:06 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 5:18 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
2:00 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Feminine, Foreign, And Struggling To Come Of Age

Alex Brendemuehl plays a mysterious doctor, obsessed with perfection and purity, who befriends an Argentine family in The German Doctor.
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 3:18 pm

Sex and violence mean one thing in Hollywood, quite another overseas. At any rate, it'll seem that way to anyone watching this week's most alarming foreign-language films: Francois Ozon's coming-of-age saga Jeune et Jolie, and the Argentine thriller The German Doctor.

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Movie Reviews
2:32 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Big Names, High Production Values ... And These Are Indie Flicks?

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play some really hip vampires in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
Sandro Kopp Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 5:13 pm

A small budget doesn't mean a film can't have big-name stars or high production values. Witness the rural Southern drama Joe, which brings Nicolas Cage back to indie films, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, which turns the city of Detroit into an otherworldly landscape. Their low-budget aesthetic also allows these films to turn Hollywood conventions inside out.

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Movie Reviews
1:17 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Stay Classy, Norwich: 'Alan Partridge' Aims For American Success

Steve Coogan brings his Alan Partridge character — a conceited, petty, utterly inept broadcast blowhard who once killed a guest on live TV — to the big screen in Alan Partridge.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 4:43 pm

Say the name Alan Partridge in Britain, and everyone knows who you're talking about: An airheaded, funny and entirely fictional broadcaster prone to saying things like, "You can keep Jesus — as far as I'm concerned, Neil Diamond will always be King of the Jews."

British comedian Steve Coogan has been playing Partridge on radio and TV for more than 20 years. Recently, the character made a successful leap to British movie theaters — and his new movie may make a successful leap across the Atlantic as well.

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Movie Reviews
11:16 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Addicted To Sex, But Not Really Having Much Fun

Stacy Martin (right, with Sophie Kennedy Clark) plays the younger version of Charlotte Gainsbourg's sex-addict protagonist in Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac — a study of sex and intimacy that's calculated, characteristically for this director, to provoke.
Christian Geisnaes Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 5:47 pm

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has found all sorts of ways to provoke moviegoers in the past — with metal spikes in Antichrist, by ignoring narrative conventions in Dogville, by presenting depression as the only reasonable reaction to the world as we know it — and then destroying that world — in Melancholia. And as if this last weren't enough, he told a Nazi joke to a crowd prepared to shower him with adulation at Cannes.

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Movie Reviews
8:11 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Middle-Aged Souls Channel Teen Rebellion, Just For A 'Week-End'

A middle-aged British couple (Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent) attempts to re-create the sizzle of their Paris honeymoon in Le Week-End, from director Roger Michell.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 3:33 pm

Nick and Meg have gotten into a bit of a rut in Le Week-End, and to get out of it they're "celebrating" — if that's the word — their 30th anniversary by heading back to a city they last saw on their honeymoon. Nick has even booked a room in the same hotel — which is not, alas, quite the way Meg remembers it. "Beige," she sniffs.

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Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

A Meet-Cute Romance With A Delicious Twist

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a Mumbai housewife who accidentally begins a correspondence with another man when the lunch she packs for her own husband goes astray.
Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 4:57 pm

When people talk about Bollywood movies, they usually mean Indian romances with extravagant musical numbers. But there are smaller Indian films, too, and one that has earned international acclaim at film festivals is opening tomorrow in major U.S. cities. It's called The Lunchbox.

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Remembrances
7:23 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis: A Big-Screen Comedy Nerd, Eager To Please

Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, was one of Ramis' many successful comedies. The writer, director, actor and producer died Monday; he had co-written and planned to star in the long-awaited Ghostbusters III.
Corus Entertainment / Sony Pictures

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 5:02 pm

Harold Ramis, who died Monday at 69, helped create such hits as Animal House, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, Meatballs and others. And he brought an impish spirit to all of them.

Onscreen he was a big smiling lug: shaggy, upbeat, cheery. He was almost always a supporting player, but invariably a forceful one you really couldn't ignore.

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Movie Reviews
5:47 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

One Conflict, One Wall, Two Sides Of The Arab-Israeli World

Omar (Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker and secret informant who braves the wall that splits his community to visit his lover, Nadia (Leem Lubany) in the Oscar-nominated film Omar.
Adopt Films

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 2:27 pm

American art-house audiences are being offered an intriguing exercise in double vision over the next couple of weeks: two movies about Palestinian informants and their complicated relationships with Israel's secret service, one directed by a Palestinian, the other by an Israeli. Their similarities turn out to be nearly as intriguing as their differences.

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Movie Reviews
3:57 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Sun And Water, And A Dangerous Brand Of Desire

Pierre Deladonchamps (right) and Christophe Paou anchor the dark thriller Stranger by the Lake, in which danger and desire become as tangled as in a Hitchcock classic.
Strand Releasing

Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 3:49 pm

The lake in Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake is gorgeous — aquamarine, pristine, surrounded by pebbly beaches and dense woods. Families cluster on the far side of it, but on the side we see, there are only men. It's a gay cruising spot, frequented by mostly nude sunbathers and swimmers, many of whom come here often enough to know each other by sight if not by name.

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Movie Reviews
3:48 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

From An Oscar Winner, A 'Past' Still Hauntingly Present

Asghar Farhadi's The Past focuses on the complex family dynamics between Marie (Berenice Bejo), her soon-to-be ex-husband, her new love (Tahar Rahim, above) and her children.
Carole Bethuel Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 3:46 pm

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi came to international attention last year when his film A Separation won the Oscar for best foreign language film. His latest picture, The Past, has been showered with awards, too — at the Cannes Film Festival and from critics groups in the U.S. I saw The Past in September at the Toronto Film Festival, and it has haunted me ever since.

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Monkey See
11:13 am
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 10:16 am

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