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Bob Mondello

When Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and her partner (Michaela Watkins) arrive in small-town Alabama for the reading of her grandfather's will, she thinks they're inheriting a house. But to pay for his final years, he'd taken out a reverse mortgage, so instead, she's handed ... an antique sword.

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The title of the new film "The Fall Of The American Empire" makes it sound very grand. Critic Bob Mondello says it's actually an intimate crime comedy with an intellectual twist.

Is it weird to keep asserting that Summer Movie Season starts Memorial Day weekend, when Avengers: Endgame, the ultimate summer movie, and also the year's (the decade's! the century's!) biggest blockbuster, opened last month?

Maybe. Sure. Who cares?

"Summer movie" is a term, after all, that has taken on a negative connotation, as it tends to be deployed by those looking to sniffily dismiss the whole crop of films that come out in the months without an R. See also: "popcorn movies," "comic-book movies."

Let's specify right at the start that movies are not history, and that biopics take liberties.

Not taking liberties would mean not shaping the material of life to make it dramatic, so you'd never get a scene like, say, the one in which a young Tolkien and his college buddies declare undying devotion — declaring their friendship "a fellowship."

I'm gonna guess that that particular coinage didn't happen like that.

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The Avengers were warned in their last movie, "Infinity War," that an intergalactic villain intended to wipe out half the universe.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR")

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Five-time Oscar nominee Albert Finney has died. He leapt to international fame in the period comedy "Tom Jones" and went on to play characters as varied as Daddy Warbucks, Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul II. Bob Mondello offers a remembrance.

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An Oscar-winning director from Iran, stars from Spain and Argentina - critic Bob Mondello says the new movie "Everybody Knows" marries far-flung talent with a story about a wedding gone wrong.

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Carol Channing, Broadway's original Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!", died early this morning at 97. She was a performer of many gifts, as critic Bob Mondello remembers.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: She had a wide-eyed innocence...

In its first issue of 2019, National Geographic named a shop in Buenos Aires, Argentina "the world's most beautiful bookstore." NPR was ahead of the curve. Bob Mondello filed this report 18 years ago, shortly after the Teatro Gran Splendid was converted into El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

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Superheroes have helped push movie ticket sales to a record $11.8 billion this year. Money isn't everything, though. Even in Hollywood, quality also counts. Here's critic Bob Mondello with his list of the year's 10 best films plus a few extras.

Two films open this week with titles that make them sound a lot sexier than they are: On the Basis of Sex and Vice.

They're both biopics — Sex about a liberal Supreme Court justice, Vice a conservative vice president. But they differ in ways that go far deeper than politics.

On The Basis Of Sex

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


George M. Cohan was 64, and had just a few weeks to live, when producers showed him the movie they'd made about his astonishingly productive life.

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In the Lebanese movie Capernaum (the title translates to "chaos," an apt description of the world of the film), skinny, sad-eyed Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is 12 years old, though he's so tiny he could pass for eight.

He's running and playing with other kids in the streets of Beirut under the opening credits. Once those credits are done, we watch as he's led past TV reporters into a courtroom, where he barely comes up to the waist of the soldier who's brought him. He looks firmly at the judge who asks him why he's there.

"I want to sue my parents," he says.

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At the movies, 2018 was the year of Black Panther, the year of more Incredibles and Avengers, more Star Wars and Mission: Impossible. But it was also the year of intimate stories of youth and love. It was the year of period pieces and fantasies, crushing tragedies and raucous comedies. Bob Mondello, Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon would never agree on a single list of best movies of the year. But here are 15 of the movies we admired and will remember.

Black Panther

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It is sometimes said that historians reveal as much about their own era as they do about the eras they scrutinize. Critic Bob Mondello says that is also true of historical movies, including the new costume epic "Mary Queen Of Scots."

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Do not expect corgis and decorum. That's the word on the new movie comedy "The Favourite." There's palace intrigue and a British monarch, an 18th-century one - Queen Anne played by Olivia Colman. Our critic Bob Mondello has this review.

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Young Lara is asleep as Girl, Belgium's official submission for this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film, begins. Her mane of straight blonde hair falls across her cheek as her five-year-old brother Milo (Oliver Bodart) climbs onto her bed, whispering her name.

It's clearly a ritual: As she wakes, she stays motionless — then, suddenly, hoists him in the air. The boy giggles.

Virtue is often associated with beauty, and evil with ugliness. But in Argentina in the 1970s, there was a teen serial killer so strikingly becoming he was known as El Angel — the Angel of Death.

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