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."

You know the formula — troubled teen meets inspirational mentor, and it hardly matters whether we're talking a delinquent battling a judge, or a chess champion pitted against a street gang.

But suppose the mentor is more troubled than the teen. That's the story in The Dark Horse, a based-on-truth tale about a middle-aged Maori speed-chess champion who is released from a New Zealand mental institution, alas, into the home of his biker-gang brother. From frying pan to fire, with medication issues.

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It's been three years since the Superman movie Man of Steel arrived in theaters — three years in which DC Comics has released no other superhero movies. Meanwhile, its rival, Marvel, has earned more than $9 billion from a dozen men-in-spandex films.

So the Man of Steel sequel, a ponderously overlong epic called Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (that solitary "V" being pretty much the only thing abbreviated about it) has some serious catching up to do.

The Clan is a mostly true, occasionally comic thriller about an Argentine family that made kidnapping its family business. For a surprisingly long time in the 1980s, the upper-middle-class Puccios seemed sincerely convinced that the family that slays together stays together, although you'd never guess that backstory when you meet 20-something Alejandro Puccio on screen, scoring a goal in a championship rugby match.

This week the world's been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.

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