Clear68° FULL FORECASTClear68° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

Steve Persall, Times Movie Critic

Steve Persall

Steve Persall's movie reviews usually appear in Thursday's Weekend section but — like his columns, features and interviews — can pop up anywhere in the Tampa Bay Times, any day of the week. Persall was conceived behind a Tarpon Springs drive-in theater his father managed, making him practically born for this job. He lives in Clearwater with his wife, Dianne (a.k.a. the right side of his brain), and trusty dog, Mojo.

Phone: (727) 893-8365

Email: persall@tampabay.com

Twitter: @StevePersall

link
  1. Review: 'Black or White' squanders chance for real insight on race

    Movies

    The only thing Black or White adds to the discussion of race relations is another one-sided argument. The title suggests a choice Mike Binder's movie will make for you, stacking the deck with half the cards. Hearts and diamonds, of course.

    Representing the white side is Kevin Costner, so regardless of his character's flaws, the scale tips in his favor. Costner plays Elliot Anderson, gaining sympathy from the start when his wife dies. Don't worry, she'll show up in hallucinations since Elliot is an alcoholic, but it's Costner, so he'll get it together in time....

    Eloise’s grandmother (Octavia Spencer) and attorney Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie) fight for custody.
  2. Casting call goes out for 'Infiltrator' with Bryan Cranston

    Movies

    Want to be in a movie with the star of Breaking Bad?

    Now you can, after the casting agency fixed a computer system badly broken.

    The Infiltrator, a true crime drama starring Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, opened online applications for extras to work when the $47.5-million production visits Tampa in late April.

    Thursday morning, the casting agency's computers were rendered inoperable for hours by the response....

    Octavia Spencer and Anthony Mackie in a scene from “Black or White.”  (AP Photo/Relativity Media, Tracy Bennett)
  3. Review: 'A Most Violent Year' a tense, urban noir

    Movies

    J.C. Chandor's crime drama A Most Violent Year is set in Sidney Lumet's New York, at the dicey intersection of just business and making ends meet. Set in 1981, coincidentally the year Lumet made Prince of the City, Chandor channels that kind of subtle tension and shady deals into a unique scheme.

    Caught in a jam is Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), a heating oil entrepreneur striking a deal with the Hasidic owners of waterfront storage property that can make him very powerful, in an industry run by crooks. Abel carries the immigrant's dream of fairness paying off, which isn't smart. As a mobster's daughter, Abel's wife Anna (Golden Globe nominee Jessica Chastain) knows as much....

    Oscar Issac plays Abel Morales, an immigrant whose heating oil company has been targeted by criminals, and Jessica Chastain is his wife, Anna, in A Most Violent Year.
  4. Scientology movie 'Going Clear' creates buzz at Sundance Film Festival

    Movies

    A hot ticket at the snowy Sundance Film Festival this week is a scathing documentary about Scientology from an Academy Award-winning director.

    Alex Gibney's Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book, reportedly earned a standing ovation at its Sunday premiere. Gibney won an Oscar in 2008 for Taxi to the Dark Side, exposing torture tactics at Guantanamo Bay....

    Although Scientology’s spiritual headquarters are based in Clearwater, the film focused on the Los Angeles branch.
  5. After SAG awards, Oscars get more interesting (w/video)

    Movies

    Heading into the homestretch of movie awards season, we suddenly have a horse race.

    After trailing Boyhood through critics' lists and the Golden Globes, Birdman pulled neck-and-neck over the weekend, bearing down on Hollywood's biggest prize, the best picture Academy Award.

    Birdman won two prizes often used to forecast the academy's choice: the Screen Actors Guild award for best cast, and the less glamorous, untelevised yet more influential Producers Guild of America award for best feature film....

    Birdman got a nod of approval from the Screen Actors Guild for best cast and the Producers Guild of America for best feature film.
  6. Look who's turning 85: Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery …

    Movies

    BY STEVE PERSALL | Times Movie Critic

    Making movies is a strenuous art, so it's refreshing whose movies got attention during awards season:

    Two directors nearly as old as talkies.

    On the surface, Clint Eastwood and Jean-Luc Godard have little in common except filmmaking and that both turn 85 this year.

    Eastwood is an American icon, Godard a founder of the French New Wave. At this stage in life, they choose what is improbable, if not impossible, for others their age....

    Charles Grodin
  7. 'American Sniper' tweets reveal hidden cost of free speech

    Movies

    No good movie goes untarnished during awards season, so Michael Moore and Seth Rogen taking shots at American Sniper isn't surprising.

    Consider the sources: An antiwar filmmaker practiced at the art of self-promotion, and a pothead who recently ignited an international incident by mistake — each making sketchy use of their constitutional right to free speech.

    First, the back story:...

    Seth Rogen, above, and Michael Moore each criticized the film on social media.
  8. Update on plans for local filming of 'Infiltrator'

    Movies

    For The Infiltrator, it's a case of lights, camera and not so fast on the action.

    Nothing is confirmed yet for the movie — a true crime story starring Emmy and Tony winner Bryan Cranston — except production locally won't begin soon.

    "They're going to start (in London), and finish up here in late April (or) early May," Tampa-Hillsborough County film and video commissioner Dale Gordon said Tuesday....

  9. Review: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad perfect match in 'Wedding Ringer' (w/video)

    Movies

    Right on time to remind everyone that not all movies are created for awards comes The Wedding Ringer, an affably crude bromantic comedy with an appealing set of bros.

    Kevin Hart, the speediest mouth in movies, stars as Jimmy Callahan, running a high-end business supplying best man talents to strangers in need. Nobody is needier than Doug Harris, a marshmallow played by Josh Gad, who voiced the snowman in Frozen but don't tell the kids because then they'll want to see The Wedding Ringer and that could get really awkward, with the bachelor party and the dog and the peanut butter. … Awkward....

    The funniest of the bromance: Doug (Josh Gad) and Jimmy (Kevin Hart) do a dance routine.
Sony Pictures
  10. Oscar nominations: 'Selma' snub, surprises reflect year in movies

    Movies

    It was just a joke, delivered by Ellen DeGeneres on last year's Academy Awards telecast, that isn't as funny after Thursday's announcement of this year's Oscar nominees.

    DeGeneres told last year's Dolby Theatre audience that the evening could end one of two ways.

    "Possibility No. 1: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture," she said. "Possibility No. 2: You're all racists."

    No one should take that seriously. But some folks aren't laughing about the latest list of Oscar finalists, that doesn't include a single non-white actor among its 20 acting nominees. This will be Oscar's whitest red carpet since 1999....

    Above, Michael Keaton in a scene from Birdman.
  11. Oscar nominations: 'Selma' snub, surprises reflect year in movies

    Movies

    It was just a joke, delivered by Ellen DeGeneres on last year's Academy Awards telecast, that isn't as funny after Thursday's announcement of this year's Oscar nominees.

    DeGeneres told last year's Dolby Theatre audience that the evening could end one of two ways.

    "Possibility No. 1: 12 Years a Slave wins best picture," she said. "Possibility No. 2: You're all racists."

    No one should take that seriously. But some folks aren't laughing about the latest list of Oscar finalists, that doesn't include a single non-white actor among its 20 acting nominees. This will be Oscar's whitest red carpet since 1999....

    A scene from "How To Train Your Dragon 2." The film was nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Animated Picture on Thursday. [Associated Press / DreamWorks Animation]
  12. Oscar nominations come out Thursday morning

    Movies

    Do Academy Award voters think the Budapest Hotel is grand, that Imitation Game is flattering and Theory. . . is everything it's cracked up to be? Will Birdman poop on all their Oscar dreams? These silly questions will be replaced by many more when the 87th annual Academy Awards nominations are announced Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. For the first time, nominees in all 24 categories will be announced in Beverly Hills, with the ones moviegoers really care about scheduled at 8:38. The event will be streamed live at oscars.org, and widely televised on outlets including Good Morning America, Today, and the E! channel. Into the Woods co-star Chris Pine, Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Star Wars reviver J.J. Abrams are among the presenters. The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 22 in a live telecast from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting for the first time....

  13. Review: 'American Sniper' is right on target

    Movies

    It's a hell of a thing, killing a man, Clint Eastwood mournfully lectured in Unforgiven: "Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have."

    Eastwood reprises that Old West melancholy in American Sniper, with New West warfare in Iraq extending the killing to enemy women and children, if necessary. That grim scenario opens the movie, frames its first half, and weighs heavily on the shooter, U.S. Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with more than 160 confirmed kills....

    Bradley Cooper immerses himself in the role of the late Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle.
  14. Review: 'Foxcatcher' a chilly thriller done well

    Movies

    Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher is a true-life crime story that the director's previous subject, Truman Capote, might have written about: murder in cold blood, mirroring the American nightmare. It is a case study in steady dread, even if viewers know who killed whom.

    Like Capote's benchmark of nonfiction journalism In Cold Blood, Miller probes and provokes, seeking the elusive "why."...

    Steve Carell, left, plays John E. du Pont, who enlists Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his Olympic gold medal-winning sibling Dave for a vanity project.
  15. Will Oscars mimic Golden Globes? Let's hope not (w/video)

    Movies

    Don't start filling out those Academy Awards office pools yet. Sunday night's Golden Globes results raised more questions than they answered about what Oscar voters are thinking.

    For starters, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association comprises fewer than 100 journalists who rarely make or market movies. Reportedly only one is among the 6,124 voting members of the academy, who do.

    Yet the Oscars have dug themselves into a rut. The Globes' anointment of Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel as supposed frontrunners is a chance to dig themselves out....

    Actors Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke celebrate Boyhood’s Golden Globes win for best drama on Sunday. But the Globes’ voting pool is made up of fewer than 100 foreign journalists; Selma and American Sniper are likely to play better with American judges at the Oscars.