NPR
For 264 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 69% higher than the average critic
  • 3% same as the average critic
  • 28% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 11.2 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Bob Mondello's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 72
Highest review score: 100 Son of Saul
Lowest review score: 10 I Am Number Four
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 7 out of 264
264 movie reviews
    • 100 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    It seems almost odd to talk of performances when they're as natural and unforced as they are in Boyhood, but they're fascinating, with the adults nearly as physically altered by time as the kids.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    It is Ejiofor — bewildered, sorely tested, morally towering — whose staggered dignity anchors the film.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Cuaron and his son Jonas have felt the need not just to come up with ways to keep the characters talking — there's even a mildly sneery reference to NPR at one point — but to brush in backstory and motivation, quite as if the peril of being isolated in space with a limited supply of oxygen weren't sufficient rationale for the characters' actions.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    Terrific entertainment - an unlikely thriller that makes business ethics, class distinctions and intellectual-property arguments sexy, that zips through two hours quicker than you can say "relationship status," and that'll likely fascinate pretty much anyone not named Zuckerberg.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 95 Bob Mondello
    Was the death of Osama bin Laden worth the moral price, the compromised ideals? The filmmakers could hardly avoid raising those questions, but they pointedly leave them for the audience to answer. This is not a triumphant story in their telling, but it is one uncommonly freighted with the weight of history.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    A film that captures the drama and suspense of real life as urgently as any picture released this year.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Delpy and Hawke have never been more persuasive. Nor has the series.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    Turner's painting of the scene, The Fighting Temeraire will, in fact, become his masterpiece. As Mr. Turner is Mike Leigh's — a growling, snuffling, earthy work of art, every frame worthy of framing.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The adrenaline rush of war has been largely missing from Hollywood's Iraq, but it's certainly front and center in The Hurt Locker, the first war movie in a while that feels as if it could have starred John Wayne.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The first hour of Wall-E is a crazily inventive, deliriously engaging and almost wordless silent comedy of the sort that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton used to make.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Scenes that are about to turn catastrophic for Kolya often begin with flat-out comedy.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    Seriously, one of the most jaw-dropping revelations occurs halfway through the final credits. All of which makes the stories Sarah Polley tells in Stories We Tell an enormously intriguing lot.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The rich, not-always-rule-following mosaic of Iranian life he's created in Taxi — at once inspired, and inspiring — is the portrait that the outside world will see of Iran.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    Those pole riders swaying high above the action - hired from Cirque du Soleil, don't you know - there to help make "Fury Road" a gorgeous, scrap metal demolition derby of a popcorn picture.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer is obviously treading on dicey moral ground here, empowering killers to tell their story when they've never been called to account for the barbarism that brought them to power.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    It's not an easy sit, but it is a riveting, effective one, and a genuine change from the familiar conventions of most holocaust dramas.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The awkwardness, the humiliation and the central unfairness of the position these folks have been put in is what filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne are exploring in Two Days, One Night — a slice of pressurized middle-class life they've made so real, it feels a bit like a documentary.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The film's timing, in short, could hardly be more resonant. And DuVernay's most remarkable accomplishment may be that with such passion inspiring material, she has made such a measured, resolute and levelheaded film.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    The delighted gasps in the theater will make you glad you took a chance on The Artist. Silent black-and-white movies are not coming back, but this one is such a rewarding labor of love by all of the artists involved that it just might make you wish they could.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    It's the relationship between the two men that makes the film work: Geoffrey Rush's teacher cracking the quip, and Colin Firth so persuasive as the panicky king that by the time he gets to his crucial speech about going to war, you'll be panicking right along with him.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Doing a whole movie this way isn't unprecedented, of course. Hitchcock's "Rope" did it without digital trickery more than half a century ago. Still, it's a great cinematic stunt, even when you think you've found the hidden edits. And it makes Birdman as exhilarating a flight of fantasy as you're likely to see anytime soon.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    About Elly, a thriller perched right on the fault line between modern thinking and Islamic tradition.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    As odd as it sounds, director Ruben Ostlund manages to make Tomas's crisis of masculinity — his not having lived up to expectations that even he shares — as funny as it is appalling.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The Tillman Story is ferocious filmmaking, but it wouldn't have half the force it does if the director didn't also get at the complicated man Pat Tillman was.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 95 Bob Mondello
    The filmmaker has crammed Nebraska with orneriness, humor, greed, Americana and performances so natural they seem like found objects — especially Dern's, which caps a career of character parts with a delicately nuanced character.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 96 Bob Mondello
    Romantic, action-packed and always held together by an intriguing social conscience, Slumdog Millionaire is a rapturous crowd pleaser.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    By its final fade, Argo feels like more than just a thriller - even a thriller with real thrills and serious Oscar buzz. It feels like a window on events that led to the world we live in now.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    The last 30 seconds of the film — wrenching, startling, utterly transformative of everything that precedes them — has haunted me for months. The Past will, I'm guessing, haunt me for years.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    The film is gorgeous and abstract, leaping around in time and space, structured in movements and more like a symphony than a conventional narrative.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Fruitvale Station isn't really a surprising film, except insofar as it's rare to see such a warmly emotional big-screen portrait of black family life.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Writer-director Martin Provost tells much of Seraphine's true-life story without words, lingering here on the process by which she makes paints, there on the obsessive single-mindedness she brings to her art.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    What sets this film entertainingly apart from most civil-rights sagas, though, are a slew of relaxed, offhandedly persuasive performances, along with the flamboyance of hippie-era San Francisco.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    So relentlessly upbeat that it won't take long before you're wondering just how the director plans to wipe the smile off her face.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    McConaughey's flirty drawl and rowdy energy have never been put to better dramatic use than they are in Dallas Buyers Club.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    Psihoyos describes his troops as a kind of "Ocean's 11" team, and that's apt enough: He's making a real-life action caper, a heist with potential consequences in the real world. The buildup to getting the shots they want has a good deal of natural tension. And the payoff -- well, let's just say it's devastating.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The performances are explosively funny, from Hollander's increasingly bewildered and way-out-of-his-depth Simon to Chris Addison's hapless PR fledgling. But the star is Peter Capaldi.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Healing the land helped heal Salgado. It also provides an eloquent closure to The Salt of the Earth, as landscapes of human misery give way to ... landscapes.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    First-time writer/director David Michod reportedly worked for eight years on his screenplay, deepening its tale of a violently dysfunctional family until its gangster conventions feel as if they're in the service of a modern-day Greek tragedy.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Hanks and Abdi are so compellingly matched that unlike with most thrillers, it won't be the action climax in Captain Phillips that'll stick with you. It'll be that aftermath, which gets at the emotional toll of terrorism in a way few movies have.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    James White is never more moving than when the filmmaker shows his callow hero doing the best he can: when James helps his mom weather a particularly rough patch, for instance, with what amount to real-life bedtime stories. Imagining happy scenes he's pretty sure she'll never see — of James all grown up.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    From the opening moments, the one thing clear about It Follows is that it will not follow in everyone else's footsteps.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Fellag, a comedian and himself an exile from Algeria, makes Lazhar both a sensitive and an amusing figure. And the kids are just terrific, especially Emilien Neron as a boy who carries the guilt of the whole school on his shoulders.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    What might seem on paper a cloyingly sentimental heartwarmer becomes, in Cretton's hands, a briskly believable, often funny, always invigorating and ultimately wrenching story of emotional fortitude.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The filmmakers have mostly cast from Dominican playing fields rather than from acting studios -- Algenis Perez Soto, the accomplished first-time performer who plays Miguel Sugar Santos, was himself a teen ballplayer -- so game and practice sequences have an easy authenticity from the start.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    If weird is what you're looking for, The Lobster is, claws down, the rom-com of the year (though possibly not one you'd want to choose for a first date).
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    It's hard to imagine anyone caring much why we're plunging ahead at warp speed, when the ride is so insanely satisfying.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    These guys are a hoot, and The Trip is a trip and a half.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The film's tension comes partly from a raft of terrific performances — everyone's good, and Fassbender's stellar — and partly from juxtaposing Jobs' public and private personas. He could make cheering audiences believe he was changing the world, but backstage ... not so much.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 95 Bob Mondello
    The real relationship here is between a Batman in existential crisis and a Joker who'd love to leap with him into the abyss -- tight-a--ed yin and anarchist yang in a fantasy franchise that Nolan has made as riveting for its psychological heft as for the adrenaline rushes it inspires at regular intervals.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    Stranger by the Lake has become a psychosexually intriguing blend of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and William Friedkin's "Cruising" — one in which sex gets intertwined with murder, fear battles desire, and the police discover that voyeurs don't necessarily make good witnesses if no one ever exchanges names or phone numbers.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    A dramedy laying out the dueling coaching philosophies of guys who doubtless meant a great deal to fans, but of whom I'd been blissfully unaware for decades -- is enormously engaging. Enormously.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    There's something kind of captivating about a film that's been painstakingly drawn to glorify the craft of illustration, and that's comfortable using retro techniques. Because after all, what else makes sense for bringing to life the gold and scarlet ornamentation in ancient manuscripts?
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    The stars and the explosions are backed up by plenty of class - Ralph Fiennes as M's new boss, Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe as a couple of the requisite Bond beauties, and Judi Dench finally given the space to turn M into a full-bodied character.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    Director P.T. Anderson isn't generally a guy you go to if you're looking for answers. Questions are more his game, and that's as true here as it was in his far more serious pictures "The Master" and "There Will Be Blood." He is a terrific stylist, though, and the scattershot pleasures he's peddling in Inherent Vice may well satisfy those who like style more than substance, or maybe who like their style with substances.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    There is something weird about the twins, something that will fuel a bar room brawl until it goes quite literally global, that will let director Wright take a leap into another genre entirely and that will allow The World's End to spin into ever grander comic mayhem, even as it becomes a surprisingly effecting look at the folly of trying to recapture one's youth.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    All you really want to know is whether it's good, right? Well, in fact, it is better than it had to be.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    The Secret World of Arrietty may be too gentle and meditative to be the studio's breakout hit in this country, but it's another sweet advance, and further evidence that the Ghibli secret must soon out.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    The storytelling in Incendies strikes me as primal the way Greek tragedy is primal. Shattering. Cathartic. It is a breathtaking film.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Daniel Craig brings us a new James Bond in Casino Royale. He's not only rugged, fearless and — when the chips are down, as they often are in this poker-faced thriller — a lethal weapon. He's also vulnerable.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    The Secret in Their Eyes finds secrets everywhere -- even in what's driving Ben and Irene as they separately examine the decisions they made back in the 1970s. For both of them, as for their country, accurate remembrance of that period is crucial.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    Selick puts his real faith not in the gimmickry that Coraline's audiences will think they've shown up for, but in the stronger virtues that they'd likely view as old-fashioned: character, and story, and handmade figures, handmade milkshakes, handmade blades of grass, each one moving utterly persuasively as he and his animators tweak it, frame by frame.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    A case is being made here that it wasn't really Frost who did Nixon in: It was Nixon's old nemesis, the TV camera.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    It says something that 30 years after the events it depicts, Pride should feel so unexpectedly rousing. People cooperating across ideological lines? Finding common cause with folks they don't 100 percent agree with? What a concept.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Its story ends up packing an emotional wallop as substantial as its title character.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    As the film demonstrates over the course of a full year with her, and not a great year by any stretch -- there is more to this particular hard-charging, egomaniacal, joke machine than gets revealed onstage.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 70 Bob Mondello
    By the end of Gone Girl, the social issues that animate the film's beginning — job loss in an economic downturn, differences in wealth and class, media manipulation — have receded, and things have gotten so plot-driven and pulpy, there's nothing to challenge the director or make him stretch. In the film's final stages he seems to be relying entirely on craft — but, boy, is it effective craft.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    After sitting at his elbow that day, I can tell you how he manages the tricks I saw really close-up. Not mysterious at all: It's magic, pure and simple.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The script I did question; it takes awhile to get going, and it feels strangely flat at the very end. But in between, Lee is very skillfully employing cinema's most advanced digital techniques in the service of an adventure yarn that is gloriously old-fashioned - and often just glorious.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    The film, though, is as sure-footed as their partnership is not - a nuanced portrait of emotional turmoil, persuasively acted, richly sensual one moment, wrenching the next, and unlike so many films centering on gay characters, not particularly concerned with things like coming out or HIV.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Without their guns, the men prove surprisingly helpless. And when a representative of a larger pan-African community tells them that if they want the women to stop treating them like children, they must behave responsibly, you sense a corner has been turned.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    As you might expect from the creator of "Inception" and "Memento," there are surprises both in the story and in the storytelling. But the biggest surprise may just be how satisfying Nolan has made his farewell to a Dark Knight trilogy that many fans will wish he'd extend to a 10-part series, at least.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 100 Bob Mondello
    By the end, The Tribe has revealed itself as so original, and so chilling, it's likely to leave you speechless.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    It's a more mature magic than in previous Potter movies.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    All of which is to say that most of the real world challenges that Leo DiCaprio faced in "The Revenant," 10-year-old Neel Sethi faces plenty persuasively in The Jungle Book's digitized world.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    An exquisite, almost sensual grief suffuses every frame of A Single Man.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    Messengers with the worst possible message, they nonetheless manage to be human and alive, humorous and lively. In a film that itself bears such sad tidings about the costs of war, that is an affirming, even an inspiring, gift.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, have been blurring the line between reality and fiction in their films for six decades.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Calvary is bleak and corrosively funny in about equal measure, with the rugged grey/green landscape suiting the harshness of the village's attitudes about the Church, and repentance, and the worth of good works.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Director Stephen Frears, working from a book by the real Martin Sixsmith, isn't about to let the Irish church off the hook for a monstrous (and well-documented) chapter in its history. In flashbacks, he pictures the young Philomena as a sort of proto-Katniss, doing battle with a tyranny of nuns.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The result? A briskly self-aware, thoroughly stage-struck portrait of a theatrical portrait.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    The picture's real achievement though, is the warmth it brings to the music that animates the lives of these Afro-Cuban characters.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    The director makes clear that everyone means well — the headmistress, protective of her students; the parents, trying to shield children from things they shouldn't know about just yet; the investigators asking questions carefully, trying to see their way through ambiguous answers.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The filmmakers have been telling interviewers they have sufficient additional material for a whole other movie. And The Dog is eye-opening enough to make you kind of hope that's true.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Undertow, for all its narrative tricks, has been given the rhythm and texture of real life, as well as emotional undercurrents that are haunting.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    What the women are there for in Listen Up Philip is to be truth-tellers to these childish novelists — especially Philip's eventually assertive girlfriend, who ends up using his books as coasters in a long (and welcome) mid-movie detour from the story of his self-involvement.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The Lunchbox is a first feature for director Ritesh Batra, but it nicely captures the almost overwhelming crush and noise of contemporary India, and it plays cleverly and delicately with the tension of whether its two correspondents might eventually meet. Theirs is one "virtual" romance that has nothing to do with social media.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    What elevates this standard, if relentless, plot line is that The Revenant feels like high-wire work without a net.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 95 Bob Mondello
    As with Six by Sondheim, Tim's Vermeer works at capturing on film how artists work their miracles. And it will have you, long after the credits fade, puzzling out questions of invention, creativity, science, talent, painstaking craft, and the magic that comes of putting all that together.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    Director Dean DeBlois has been saying this installment is the middle movie in a How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. It's clear that he took inspiration from the first Star Wars trilogy — not a bad model for breathing new life, and yes, a bit of fire, into one of Hollywood's more nuanced animated franchises.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 75 Bob Mondello
    Lisbeth, pierced, tattooed and played by Rapace with a sometimes uncontrolled ferocity, qualifies as both a victim of male violence and a violent avenger of it. This makes her a lot more compelling than her comparatively passive partner -- something that Hollywood will doubtless find it necessary to "remedy" when Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is remade in English.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    An animated western that's effortlessly the most exhilarating flight of computer-drawn fancy since "Ratatouille."
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    Jack, as played by Andrew Garfield, comes across as agonized, desperately anxious to get things right -- something you might also say about the filmmakers, who have turned Boy A's very particular story into a scary, universal and wrenching social statement.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    What's not fictional in their Trip to Italy is the gorgeous Italian coastline director Michael Winterbottom has them romping through, or the food they barely notice (though it'll have you famished by film's end), or the yacht they commandeer, bellowing all the while ...
    • 75 Metascore
    • 85 Bob Mondello
    As captured by the Safdies, they are — one and all — persuasive, arresting and fiercely in the moment, whether scamming or shooting up or doing heaven knows what to get by.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 90 Bob Mondello
    Spy
    It is, in short, a generous, smart, sexy comedy, surrounding this generous, smart, sexy star. About time.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    It's customary to describe this kind of thriller as "adrenaline-fueled," but this is the first time apart from "Pulp Fiction" I can recall there being an actual shot of adrenaline on screen. Samuel uses it to wake Hugo from his coma, then kind of wishes he hadn't.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    It's the sort of film that feels so authentic that even knowing it's a fiction, the morning after seeing it, I found myself scanning headlines to see if there were any new developments.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    In their no-budget-goofball way, these minifilma are genius. Sheer genius. This kid, you figure, is gonna grow up to be quite a storyteller. And in a sense, he did.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 80 Bob Mondello
    The Safdies filmed with handheld cameras, an obvious affection for New York and its denizens, and a script that includes so much structured improvisation that it's hard to imagine any of the dialogue was actually written down. Not surprisingly, the result is a character study with an almost documentary feel to it.

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