Bob Mondello

As a college sophomore, I knew exactly what the Apollo astronauts would find when they arrived on the moon: a desolate rockscape, craters shining white in reflected earthglow — and a big, black monolith.

Stanley Kubrick showed us all of that in the top-grossing movie of 1968 — 2001: A Space Odyssey — a full 15 months before Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. And even Kubrick was late to the party: Moviegoers had been heading moonward from pretty much the moment there were filmmakers to lead the way.

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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.

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"Avengers: Endgame" has given Hollywood's summer movie season a very healthy head start, but maybe you're looking for something different. Or maybe you just can't get enough of superheroes and their super-issues. Our critic Bob Mondello has this summer preview.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: What's it been, six weeks since "Endgame"? And already there's another Marvel movie. But in fairness, its teen superhero is angling for a vacation far from home...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME")

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."

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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...

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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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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Fall is often the most intense movie season of all. Awards contenders begin to come into focus after the Toronto International Film Festival, while comedies and thrillers continue to hit screens. We got to see a lot of upcoming films at TIFF — below you'll find write-ups of 15 movies we really enjoyed and a heads-up about nearly 40 notable releases.

Actor Burt Reynolds, who played good ol' boys and rugged action heroes in an acting career that spanned seven decades, has died. Reynolds died Thursday morning at a Florida hospital following a heart attack. He was 82.

Spike Lee's new movie, BlackkKlansman, is based on a true story, but the plot sounds crazy enough that you'd be excused for thinking he'd just made it up. It's about an African-American police officer, Ron Stallworth, who went undercover in the 1970s to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan ... by joining it.

Stallworth was the first black officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. In the film, when his chief and the mayor tell him they're hoping he'll "open things up," they don't anticipate that he'll go about that task in quite the way he chooses to do so.

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Steven Spielberg's pets are off the leash again.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM")

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Fifty years ago this past weekend, Broadway "let the sun shine in."

The musical Hair was controversial in 1968, with its rock music, hippies, nude scene, multiracial cast and anti-war irreverence. It billed itself as "the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical."

Audiences ... didn't quite know what to make of that. (They figured it out eventually.)

To appreciate how unexpected Hair was in 1968, consider what else was playing on Broadway the week it opened:

Hello, Dolly!

Man of La Mancha

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