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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


Twitter: @StevePersall

  1. Movie Planner: Reviews of Jerry Lewis' 'Max Rose,' John Krasinski's 'The Hollars'



    Two diversely remarkable performances make a cloying pair of indies tolerable this week. One comes from a certified Hollywood legend; the other by a quintessential character actor.

    The legend is Jerry Lewis, making his first screen appearance since 1995's Funny Bones, as Max Rose (R), a recent widower discovering his wife's infidelity decades earlier. There's nothing funny about writer-director Daniel Noah's barely-a-movie or Lewis' intensely brittle portrayal of a haunted cuckold....

    Margo Martindale, right, is a hoot as matriarch Sally Hollar in The Hollars, directed by co-star John Krasinski, left.
  2. Review: Parents, get ready to explain the miracle of life to kids after 'Storks'


    Parents have more explaining to do after Storks, a breezy animated exaggeration of where babies come from. Rather, where they came from before online shopping turned these nursing birds into delivery drones.

    Storks presents the act of procreation as obsolete, a factory contraption banished to the basement of In the old days, people wrote letters to storks, requesting infants delivered. Now those letters are piled up, unanswered, although I'm guessing babies were still being born. Smart children will, too....

    Nate Gardner, voiced by Anton Starkman, from left, Sarah Gardner, voiced by Jennifer Aniston and Henry Gardner voiced by Ty Burrell in a scene from "Storks." Warner Bros. Pictures via AP
  3. Review: 'The Magnificent Seven' is a real rip-snorter with enormous personality


    Westerns haven't tried to simply be fun in years. Too preoccupied with dark history and making amends, what John Ford would call rebranding the legend. That almost isn't the case with The Magnificent Seven.

    Director Antoine Fuqua's reboot of the 1960 western classic is what used to be termed a rip-snorter, a rambunctious movie with no agenda other than thrilling audiences. The Magnificent Seven had me smiling throughout, tapping into Saturday matinee memories without seeming entirely old-fashioned....

    Denzel Washington, center, stars as Sam Chisolm in the fun-to-watch western The Magnificent Seven.
  4. Lineup for inaugural Et Cultura festival announced


    St. Petersburg's Et Cultura festival dropped its inaugural lineup Friday, reflecting a purpose of showcasing the local arts community.

    Et Cultura, slated for Nov. 16-20, is compared by organizers to the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., with live musical performances, independent films, interactive events, workshops and pop-up art exhibits.

    "Right now, St. Pete is primed for a cultural renaissance of sorts," Et Cultura project manager Nikki Devereux said. "There's so much activity in arts and music that this seems like a perfect time to come together."...

    The Hip Abduction, seen here in 2014, will perform at the Et Cultura festival in St. Petersburg. Luis Santana | Times
  5. Review: The only thing scary is how bad 'Blair Witch' is


    Blair Witch is blasphemy, taking in vain the name of a landmark exercise in horror, 1999's The Blair Witch Project.

    The creators of that no-budget sleeper hit — four University of Central Florida film school students — already tarnished their legacy with a misbegotten 2000 sequel. Now it's desecrated by director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, in a wheel-spinning homage gone terribly awry....

    Callie Hernandez in a scene from "Blair Witch." (Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Lionsgate via AP)
  6. Movie Planner: Steve Persall takes a break at Telluride Film Festival



    Here's a confession: I spent four days at the Telluride Film Festival and only watched one movie.

    Feeling pretty good about that, too.

    Someday I'll get psychoanalyzed to determine why I annually choose to spend precious vacation time in a setting that otherwise calls for work. Some kind of subconscious pushback to a job largely built upon other people deciding what I can do, and when....

    Jeff Bridges, left, and Gil Birmingham in “Hell or High Water.” MUST CREDIT: Lorey Sebastian, CBS Films
  7. Review: 'Snowden' is Oliver Stone's return to relevance


    Oliver Stone hasn't sunk his cinematic teeth into an American outrage since Nixon, so the saga of Edward Snowden offers a return to patriotic dissent form.

    Unlike Stone's previous politically charged projects, Snowden isn't rooted in history, or attempting to change its perception. The subjects of government overreach in surveillance, of Snowden exposing that process, even the very definition of patriotism are still being weighed....

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a scene from, "Snowden." Open Road Films via AP
  8. Fall Movie Preview: Season is stocked, from 'Miss Peregrine' to 'Deepwater Horizon' to 'Snowden'


    Fall is when Hollywood's attention, like leaves, turns from green to gold.

    Money is still paramount (and Disney, Universal, Sony, etc.), but studio executives might swap a healthy box office weekend for a guaranteed Oscar or Golden Globe.

    Movies generally get better after Labor Day. That's just the way it is. Movies remembered are those rewarded, and award voters have notoriously short memories....

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a scene from, "Snowden." Open Road Films via AP
  9. Tampa Theatre celebrating 90th birthday with 25-cent admission


    Maybe they don't make movies like they used to, but Tampa Theatre movie tickets will roll back to silent era Hollywood prices when the historic venue celebrates its 90th birthday.

    On Oct. 15, Tampa Theatre will present four acclaimed films paying tribute to cinema, each for 25 cents admission, which was the average ticket price in 1926 when the movie palace opened. Bust out a buck, and you can watch all four classics in a marathon, under the twinkling "stars," surrounded by the old world Mediterranean opulence designed by John Eberson....

    Buster Keaton stars in the silent classic The Cameraman.
  10. Journalist, author, Oscar nominee Sebastian Junger to lecture free at the Straz


    Different wars and soldiers demand different sorts of storytellers about them.

    World War II had the grunt's-eye view of Ernie Pyle. Vietnam was revelead in Michael Herr's dark missives. Afghanistan has Sebastian Junger, whose books and Academy Award nominated documentary Restrepo help to define the modern wartime experience....

    Author, journalist Sebastian Junger, while filming his Oscar nominated documentary Restrepo
  11. Tom Hanks talks diversity in Hollywood and 'Sully' at Telluride


    TELLURIDE, CO. — The optics weren't flattering, until Tom Hanks put the picture in focus, with his energetic blend of levity and perspective.

    At a time when a lack of diversity in Hollywood is being challenged, the Telluride Film Festival staged a open-air panel discussion among actors about heroism in movies.

    Aside from moderator Annette Insdorf, there wasn't a single woman or actor of color involved....

    Tom Hanks and Bryan Cranston speak on a panel at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival. Photo by Steve Persall.
  12. Review: 'Sully' is about a great guy, but that doesn't carry a movie


    Chesley Sullenberger's life, and certainly his finest 208 seconds as a pilot, don't need to be ginned up. Here's an unfathomably decent person by all accounts, who in 2009 landed a crippled commercial jet on New York's Hudson River, saving everyone aboard.

    And that's why Clint Eastwood's Sully, recounting that Miracle on the Hudson, doesn't entirely work as a movie. On the good side, we get Tom Hanks — the go-to choice for playing anyone's integrity — as Sullenberger. And thankfully, the true story doesn't contain the heavy conflict or tragedy that drama requires....

    Tom Hanks is predictably effective as pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood’s film.
  13. Movie Planner: 'Gone With the Wind' at Tampa Theatre; 'When the Bough Breaks,' 'Wild Life' open



    Take the erotic suspense of Fatal Attraction, mix in a helping of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, then dilute the formula with two decades of Lifetime movies cribbing those ideas.

    Voila! You have When the Bough Breaks (PG-13), starring Morris Chestnut in the role Michael Douglas made cliche: a happily married man led astray by a beautiful, mentally unbalanced woman. Hide the boiling pots and the bunnies....

    Warner Bros.
  14. Movie Planner: Telluride Film Festival preview, 'Light Between Oceans' opens



    It's the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas of sorts in the Rockies, where the 43rd annual Telluride Film Festival is a cinematic gift waiting to be opened.

    Telluride is where I've spent many of the past two dozen Labor Day weekends, on vacation but not entirely. I'll bring back the awards season buzz traditionally kicking in there, comments from artists discussing their films and thoughts on whatever films I get to see....

    Jeff Bridges, left, and Gil Birmingham in “Hell or High Water.” MUST CREDIT: Lorey Sebastian, CBS Films
  15. Gene Wilder, star of 'Willy Wonka,' 'Young Frankenstein' and 'Blazing Saddles,' dies at 83


    Gene Wilder hadn't made a movie in 25 years when he died Monday at age 83, at his Stamford, Conn., home.

    The long absence doesn't matter. Neither does Mr. Wilder's relatively slim body of work; barely two dozen feature films.

    One role is all Mr. Wilder needed to be eternally mourned.

    He's forever the mischievous moralist Willy Wonka, whose chocolate factory tour remains a rite of cinematic passage for young viewers, or those needing reminders of what being young is like....

    Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in "Stir Crazy." [Times files]