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
3:41 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

The Shaggy Story Of A Real-Life 'Dog'

In 1972, John Wojtowicz robbed a bank to pay for his lover Ernie's sex-reassignment surgery. The robbery and his subsequent imprisonment inspired the movie Dog Day Afternoon.
Seed & Spark

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 9:24 am

A Brooklyn bank, a sweltering crowd, swelling cheers as Al Pacino's charismatic bank robber baits the police with chants of "Attica. Attica. Attica. Attica."

That scene, along with the rest of Sidney Lumet's 1975 classic Dog Day Afternoon, was based on a true story. Now, an odd — and oddly compelling — documentary called The Dog brings us the story behind that true story, and if you're anything like me, it'll leave you alternately amused and slack-jawed in astonishment.

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Book Reviews
7:08 am
Fri August 8, 2014

'Joss Whedon': Biography Of A 'Shiny' Geek King

Originally published on Fri August 8, 2014 4:04 pm

Published in Britain as Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe and in the U.S. less cheekily as Joss Whedon: The Biography, Amy Pascale's portrait of pop culture's man of just about any recent hour may not make her title subject any new converts, but it is hero-worshipping enough to make devoted Whedonites feel they're being inducted into the Scooby Gang.

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Movie Reviews
2:55 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

No Forgiveness, But A Kind Of Cinematic Grace In 'Calvary'

Brendan Gleeson, as tough-minded Father James, faces a death threat from an angry parishioner in the darkly comic new Calvary.
Reprisal Films

Originally published on Mon August 4, 2014 4:07 pm

Ireland's barrel-chested force of nature Brendan Gleeson plays a priest who has a date with murder in Calvary, John Michael McDonagh's comic but darkly existential detective story.

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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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Book Your Trip
4:28 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

By Trolley, Train, Show Boat Or Surrey, These Musicals Will Move You

Barbra Streisand does a lot of singing on transit — over the course of Funny Girl, Funny Lady, Yentl and Hello Dolly (above) she sings aboard a train, a plane, a taxi a tugboat, and an ocean liner.
20th Century Fox/Chenault/The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 10:06 am

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Movie Reviews
2:54 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Oh, 'Boyhood!' Linklater's Cinematic Stunt Pays Off

Ellar Coltrane — pictured here with screen family Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater — grows from boy to man on-screen in Richard Linklater's new Boyhood.
IFC Productions

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 11:50 am

Filmmaker Richard Linklater breezed through plenty of genres in his career, establishing that he's comfortable making loose comedies like Slacker, animated sci-fi thrillers like A Scanner Darkly, and even messing with longer-form studies in time with his Before trilogy, Before Sunset, Before Sunrise and Before Midnight.

Still, it's safe to say that he's never done anything even remotely like Boyhood, his latest film, because neither has anyone else.

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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
4:08 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

A Leap Too Far? 'Venus' And 'Jersey Boys' Bounce From Stage To Screen

Mathieu Amalric as a Roman Polanski look-alike and Emmanuelle Seigner — the director's real-life wife — play psychosexual mind games in Venus in Fur.
Mars Distribution

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 8:07 pm

An intellectual play about sadomasochism, a musical about a '60s pop group, and a pair of famously cinematic directors. There's always going to be a bit of a leap when a play moves from stage to screen — but Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur and Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys leap a little further than usual.

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Movie Reviews
2:18 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

It's A Summer Sequel Spectacular With 'Dragon' And 'Jump Street'

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum age out of high school in a Jump Street sequel that doesn't mess with its successful formula.
Sony Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 6:23 pm

In a summer of sequels — 16 in all — this weekend is the sequelliest, offering blockbuster deja-vu (How To Train Your Dragon 2 AND 22 Jump Street) as well as a few object lessons in how to train your audience. One film goes all meta with its concept, the other goes back to basics, and for a change, both approaches work.

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