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."

In the space of a few weeks, Hollywood will give us four serious dramas about mentally unstable characters. It's a minitrend at best, and most likely coincidental. But it got me thinking about how filmmakers use narrative form to shake up audiences and put them in the same frame of mind as the characters they're watching.

It's been a big year for Hollywood remakes — more than a dozen, not counting sequels. There were new versions of Conan the Barbarian and Arthur this summer. Fresh incarnations of Footloose and The Thing open today. And soon we'll see Hollywood's take on the Swedish hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Cue the standard complaint: Hollywood has run out of ideas.

Hold on, though. Let's think this through.

A political thriller, The Ides of March, opens Friday. That's one week before the ides of October — and a few months before the first presidential primaries.

Time for our movie critic Bob Mondello to suggest something for home-viewing. Today, he's exploring a 15-disk collection of classic TV comedy that nobody's seen for a while: The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes.

DVD Picks: 'Ben-Hur'

Sep 27, 2011

Time for our movie critic Bob Mondello's suggestions for home-viewing. Today he's recommending a wide-screen 1950s epic that was specifically designed to draw people away from their TV sets: Ben-Hur.

Everything about Ben-Hur was big. Reeeeally big. The sound was stereophonic (which was new back then), the screen wider than all outdoors, and that chariot race — flat-out enormous.

NPR's Bob Mondello reviews a true-life triple feature: Machine Gun Preacher, Moneyball and Toast, three unlikely stories based on real people.

Time again for film critic Bob Mondello's recommendation for your home-viewing queue. This week, to prepare for the start of NBC's new TV series Prime Suspect, he suggests you look back at the original PBS series, starring Helen Mirren.

The year was 1991, and a new British police procedural had what then counted as a gimmick: Its star — smart, forceful, and assertive — was a woman, which was a big deal.

It's time again for our movie critic Bob Mondello's latest home-viewing recommendation. This week, Bob takes a look at a 70th anniversary Blu-Ray release of what many call the greatest film of all time: Citizen Kane.

Tragic, demanding, controversial, larger-than-life, and a mystery even to those who knew him. That's newspaperman Charles Foster Kane, and those terms could also be applied to theater genius Orson Welles, who produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in Citizen Kane when he was all of 25.

Contagion is about a flu epidemic that causes millions of deaths, Warrior about sibling rivalry in a working-class family. The former is a disaster epic writ surprisingly small, the latter a domestic drama writ larger than you'd think. Both prove effective, both have intriguing structures; it's a good week for movie nuts.

Deep breath ... summer blockbusters now officially a thing of the past, and I'm looking forward to quieter movies coming up.

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