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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A new tourist attraction in Argentina — The Centro Cultural Kirchner in downtown Buenos Aires — has been posting some impressive numbers since it opened in mid-May. As many as 10,000 patrons a day are trooping through an ornate, turn-of-the-last-century building that has been converted into what's said to be the fourth-largest cultural center in the world. Remarkably, everything in it is free, from video installations to comedy acts to symphony concerts.

Tell an influential, internationally celebrated filmmaker he can't operate a camera, write a script, or direct a movie and what does he do? If he's Jafar Panahi, he drives a taxi.

China's Cultural Revolution was a period of political turmoil, launched by Mao Zedong in 1966, a dark decade that many in Chinese society would prefer to forget. So it says something that Zhang Yimou's new drama Coming Home, which is set during those years, has been a big success in China.

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Editor's Note: Hot weather is the time for popcorn pictures — escapist films that may have laughs or tears along the way, but that inevitably end happily. It's a formula that's served Hollywood well, and that's also served to make a lot of people into movie addicts, including our critic Bob Mondello. He now sees more than 300 movies a year — many of which do not have happy endings, and that suits him fine. But we asked him if he remembered his first trip to a movie theater. And he did.

I remember a blue and white sign that used to tempt me every summer when I was a kid. It dangled from the marquee of our neighborhood movie theater: Painted penguins and three irresistible, snow-covered words, "It's cool inside."

The Mattress Factory hasn't been an actual mattress factory for a while now. Built on a hillside in the Central Northside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, back at the turn of the last century, it was used as a warehouse and showroom for Stearns & Foster until the 1960s.

Today, it's one of the country's more unusual art museums. Filled not with paintings or sculptures — and certainly not with mattresses — it is now, four stories of ... well, of "stories" in a way. Installations that take you places you don't expect to go in an art museum.

I'm gonna guess that in pitch meetings, and maybe even in script form, Woody Allen's Irrational Man and Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes looked a lot like police procedurals.

Happily their directors didn't leave them on the page, so they've warped into something a little different: A mystery of memory and the aging mind in the case of Mr. Holmes, a romance in the Hitchcock tradition for Irrational Man.

Some movie titles tell you exactly what the movie's going to be about. Others, not so much.

The new documentary Do I Sound Gay? falls firmly into the first category. (The comedy Tangerine, which has nothing to do with citrus, falls just as firmly into the latter; more about it in a moment.)

But first, the obvious question: Do I sound gay? I mean, you hear me on the radio all the time. (Or, if you don't, you can also hear me in the audio link above.) So really, do I?

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I'm Rachel Martin, and I have a confession to make. It's the Fourth of July weekend, and there was a really big movie made in 1975, 40 years ago, pegged to this weekend - "Jaws."


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Dinosaurs have been rampaging through movie theaters for weeks. And now, just in time for Independence Day, they are joined by robots and male strippers. Critic Bob Mondello says let the block busting go on.

The notion that action speaks louder than words gets quite a workout in a new movie called The Tribe. It's the often-violent story of a teenager who tries to join the in-crowd at his new school. But on the film festival circuit, what has caused a lot of talk ... is that the film has no talk. Not a single syllable of dialogue.

A movie about high school students dealing with mortality — haven't we been dipping into that well a lot lately? So the surprise was the laughs when Me and Earl and The Dying Girl became the surprise smash at this year's Sundance Film Festival, taking both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Here was a film that managed to be at once earnest and flip, capturing teen angst without wallowing in teen drama.

The crevices in Charlie's careworn face look as deep as any in the Australian outback when we first spy him in Charlie's Country. He's sitting in a government-provided tin-roofed shack on territory where his aboriginal ancestors once roamed free. Where he once roamed free, in fact.

With Spy topping Hollywood's box-office charts this weekend, Melissa McCarthy becomes the latest woman to head a major box-office hit in 2015. And while that merely puts her in good company this year, it's hardly been common in the past.

The first time Melissa McCarthy worked with director Paul Feig, she had a bit part in his comedy Bridesmaids. The second time they worked together, in the police-comedy The Heat, McCarthy got equal billing with co-star Sandra Bullock. Now, in Spy, a globe-trotting action comedy that proves to be an ideal star-vehicle, McCarthy's finally billed above the title.

Long time coming. Worth the wait.

The title Mad Love in New York City makes Arielle Holmes' memoir sound like a fun summer read. It's actually a story of homelessness and heroin addiction that has inspired a movie, Heaven Knows What, with a backstory precisely as fraught as what happens on screen.

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When a Broadway musical feels as effortlessly right as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's did to audiences in 1956, it's easy to imagine that it simply sprang to life that way. Not My Fair Lady. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, is filled to bursting with some of the best-known songs in Broadway history — "The Rain In Spain," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "On the Street Where You Live" — but it turns out the show originally had other tunes that almost nobody knows.

A film critic doesn't often have to review movies about film critics — probably a good thing — but sometimes, as with Hernán Guerschuny's postmodern rom-com The Film Critic (El crítico), there's nothing to be done. That's also a good thing, as it turns out.

Genre flicks on steroids — that's the general rule for this time of year, whether we're talking superheroes, supercharged cars, or romance — and in that context, the lush, overstuffed costume epic, Far From the Madding Crowd is a perfect fit.

It's 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the Oscar-nominated Tangerines, and in a bleak, northwest corner of the Republic of Georgia called Abkhazia, the world has more or less come apart. Warring factions — Chechen separatists, Georgian troops — patrol rural roads in jeeps outfitted with bazookas and machine guns. The locals have mostly fled for more urban areas.

Most Americans don't have a clear picture of what everyday life is like in Iran for the obvious reason that Iran has been isolated from the West for more than three decades. Still, windows open occasionally. A few years ago, Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language film, A Separation, offered Western eyes a glimpse of a middle-class Iranian marriage under stress.

Having recently celebrated the accomplishments of musicians and dancers in his transcendent documentaries The Buena Vista Social Club and Pina, it perhaps makes sense that Wim Wenders would now turn his camera on a man who wields a camera.

David Robert Mitchell's debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, was a gentle, evocative story of teens and summer crushes set in Detroit. Unthreatening, sweet in the way of Freaks and Geeks, and the coming-of-age stories of John Hughes, it embraced the confusion of adolescence with warmth and affection.

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench reunite in Jaipur, India, for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which came to theaters Friday. Despite a stellar cast, the sequel to the surprise 2012 hit comedy, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is second best.

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Seen from street level, the young Eastern European men cruising a Paris train station at the outset of Eastern Boys would doubtless look like individuals. But filmmaker Robin Campillo has positioned the camera overhead, and from his bird's eye perch it's clear they're working in tandem — looking out for each other, stealing, soliciting.

Plenty of movies sound as if they'll warm you up — Heat, The Towering Inferno, Hot Fuzz, Blazing Saddles, The Long Hot Summer, Paris When It Sizzles, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, In the Heat of the Night — the list goes on and on.

But just as you can't judge a book by its cover, it's tough to take a film's temperature from its title. Yes, In the Heat of the Night does swelter, both from being set in Mississippi and from having Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger spend most of its length hot under the collar. But most of the rest of those films won't warm you up much.