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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

Email: spersall@tampabay.com

Twitter: @StevePersall

  1. Tampa Bay: 'the hottest cult horror movie scene in the country'

    Human Interest

    Call them a creatively incestuous bunch of filmmakers, often working on each other's movies, sometimes helping each other to distribute their macabre artistry. Grisly loves company. Especially in Florida.

    The masked reapers are gruesome, doing unspeakable things to two nude, barely alive women strapped on tables. Limbs are amputated in grainy closeup, internal organs fondled, flesh peeled. Garden-tool surgery at its most sickening....

    Sean Donohue says he and the other gore horrormakers are “pretty regular guys.”
  2. Ringling makes honor roll of U.S. film schools


    Hollywood Reporter released its annual ranking of the top 25 American film schools Thursday,with two Florida institutions making the list.

    Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota was ranked No. 17 overall, making the list for the fourth time in the past five years. Florida State University was ranked No. 22.

    The legendary University of Southern California film school that graduated George Lucas, Judd Apatow, Jason Reitman (and turned down Steven Spielberg) was No. 1, as usual....

    Elijah Wood teaches a master class at Ringling College of Art and Design
  3. Review: 'Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation' has Tom Cruise at his best


    No matter what anyone thinks of Tom Cruise, about his marriages, divorces, religion, couch jumping or wherever he stands on immigration, one thing is undeniable:

    The man is a movie star, underline it twice. Cruise is this young century's personification of what it takes to earn that title, a perfect storm of personality, drive and talent on delivery, incapable of irrelevance.

    Anyone can be in a movie; only a few like Cruise are the movies....

    Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation features a succession of action sequences showcasing practical stunt work at its finest. It’s hard to choose a favorite among the set pieces, but there is a thrilling motorcycle chase in Morocco — with Cruise leaning steel.
  4. Rocky movie high, Colorado


    I'm just about one month away from departing for heaven. More accurately, as close as I wish to get to the pearly gates for a while.

    The Telluride Film Festival, high in the San Juan mountain range of southwest Colorado, is where I love going for summer vacation, currently nine of the past 10 years. If it sounds crazy that an overworked movie critic would choose to spend down time at a film festival, it's nice to meet you....

    Telluride Film Festival poster art by Laurent Durieux
  5. Movie Planner: A new 'Vacation' and an old 'Gone With the Wind'



    Debate over the Confederate Stars and Bars in the wake of the mass shooting in Charleston, S.C. resulted in retailers halting sales of the image, governments removing flags, and car-booting The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee.

    New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick recently raised hackles by suggesting a similar fate for Gone With the Wind, being shown at 3 p.m. Sunday at Tampa Theatre....

    Christina Applegate, left, Ed Helms, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins star in Vacation.
  6. 'The Wiz' eases on down that bumpy road


    NBC has a novel idea for its third live musical broadcast, after the previous one fell flat as a Pan-cake: Hire people who can actually sing, in a musical containing more than one song the audience knows.

    Oscar nominated everywoman Oueen Latifah and R&B diva Mary J. Blige are joining the cast of The Wiz Live!, premiering Dec. 3 on the peacock network, who apparently doesn't think we'll know it's happening LIVE by then, and believes exclamation points are good marketing tools....

    Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige join 'The Wiz Live!'
  7. Lots 'o smiles at Big Stone Gap


    First poster art released today for Big Stone Gap, based on Adriana Trigiani's novel of Appalachian eccentrics, starring St. Petersburg's own Patrick Wilson and other Wilson family members including his father, legendary WTVT Ch. 13 news anchor John Wilson, and brothers Paul Wilson and current WTVT anchorman Mark Wilson.

    For good measure, Big Stone Gap co-stars Patrick Wilson's wife Dagmara Dominczyk as Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor, who drops the town by for a visit....

    First poster art of Big Stong Gap, due Oct. 9
  8. Review: New Griswolds 'Vacation' bawdier and less likable


    Comedy today works in cruder fashion than the '80s, so why should it be expected to Vacation any differently?

    That's what 32 years of eroding filters, losing Harold Ramis and John Hughes along the way, have done to the second-greatest movie National Lampoon ever presented. The new, unimproved Vacation tries being funny differently, more abrasively even than the original's (unseen) dragging of a Griswold family dog behind a car, or a dead aunt tied atop....

    Steele Stebbins, left, as Kevin Griswold, Leslie Mann as Audrey Crandall, Christina Applegate as Debbie Griswold and Skylar Gisondo as James Griswold, in Vacation. The movie shocks out its share of guilty laughter but that’s easy these days.
  9. Movie Planner: Hollywood's best physical transformations like 'Southpaw'



    Southpaw debuts this weekend, starring bulked-up Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who appears to have eaten Donnie Darko. (Read our full review of Southpaw here.) Gyllenhaal's transformation got us thinking about others sacrificing movie star looks — not to mention possibly endangering their health — for their acting craft....

    Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope in Southpaw.
  10. Indie review: Mark Ruffalo charms in 'Infinitely Polar Bear,' about bipolar disorder


    Infinitely Polar Bear (R) stars Mark Ruffalo as Cameron, a Boston husband and father struggling to reconnect with his family. The title is his youngest daughter's mispronunciation of Cameron's bipolar disorder, leaving him unemployed and living in a halfway house after a nervous breakdown. His wife, Maggie (an affecting Zoe Saldana), seeks a job in New York, leaving the children in the care of a careless man....

    Mark Ruffalo as Cam Stuart, Imogene Wolodarsky as Amelia Stuart and Ashley Aufderheide as Faith Stuart in "Infinitely Polar Bear."
  11. Review: 'Pixels' is a video game movie undeserving of your quarters


    Pixels is either a kiddie flick for children born 40 years too late, or a '80s nostalgia-com for infantile Gen Xers. Either way, it's a fitfully amusing mess.

    Based on a two-minute short in which video arcade characters attack New York, Pixels packs only slightly more ingenuity into its feature length. Basically it's Ghostbusters meets Wreck-It Ralph, without the sustained charm or wit of either....

    As for spectacle, moviegoers are advised to look elsewhere. Here, Mini Coopers make cheaper Pac-Man ghosts than CGI.  (Sony Pictures via AP)
  12. Review: 'Southpaw' packs a violent and emotional punch


    An old boxing punchline: Fighter goes 12 rounds, gets beaten to a pulp, broken nose, the works, then says: "But you should see the other guy."

    Billy Hope is the other guy, eyes swollen shut, leaking blood like a meat locker, maybe a little brain damaged. He's also the undefeated light heavyweight champion in masochistic fashion, leading with his chin, taunting opponents into more punishment....

    Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Southpaw.
  13. Review: 'Sharknado 3' is the worst, and the best


    Straining the boundaries of good taste and mediocre (at best) filmmaking, Sharknado 3 lives down to its subtitle: Oh Hell No!, dripping with cheap gore, cheaper gags and a squish list of below C-level celebrities.

    Not so bad that it's good; so bad that it's epic.

    This is a horror movie that in its most terrifying moments presents Ann Coulter as veep to U.S. president Mark Cuban, skeet-shark shooting, an Iwo Jima-style impaling, and Bo Derek downgraded to an 8. Nothing can be taken seriously; the polished amateurism and eagerness to sleaze is to be embraced....

    Ian Ziering portrays Fin Shepard in Sharknado 3.
  14. Molly Ringwald bringing 'Breakfast Club' anniversary tour to Clearwater


    Raise your fist in a triumphant salute and cue the Simple Minds song. Former Brat Packer and enduring '80s icon Molly Ringwald is bringing The Breakfast Club to Clearwater. Ringwald, 47, is marking the 30th anniversary of John Hughes' touchstone dramedy with a national tour stopping at Capitol Theatre on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. General admission tickets ($60-$75) go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m, available at the Ruth Eckerd Hall box office, online at atthecap.com, or by calling (727) 791-7400. A limited number of VIP tickets including premium seating and a meet-and-greet with Ringwald are available for $175. Titled Molly Ringwald Revisits the Club, the audience-interactive event includes a screening of The Breakfast Club followed by a Q&A session. Hot off the success of Sixteen Candles, Ringwald played the "princess" among socially diverse misfits — a group including a brain, jock, criminal and basket case — spending a Saturday in detention, learning they're not so different after all. Should be fun. Don't you forget about this. Steve Persall, Times movie critic...

    Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club (1985) as Claire Standish. Courtesy of A&M Films.
  15. Movie Planner: Amy Schumer in 'Trainwreck,' plus fine indie 'Mr. Holmes'



    For two weeks we've been thrilled to tears by the downbeat Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy.

    Time to lighten up a lot with a much funnier Amy, as in Schumer, making her movie-starring debut in Trainwreck, which, if you've known her comedy style, should earn its R rating in the first 30 seconds.

    Schumer also wrote Trainwreck, so well that for the first time, comedy overachiever Judd Apatow is directing another person's screenplay. That says something considering how blindly faithful he has been to his own words. (Funny People and This Is 40, anyone? I didn't think so.)...

    Amy Schumer, left, and Bill Hader, who play the characters Amy and Aaron, are pictured in a scene from Trainwreck, which Schumer wrote. Judd Apatow is the director.