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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: [email protected]

Twitter: @StevePersall

  1. 'The Foreigner' is Jackie Chan's (terrible) attempt at being taken seriously


    Jackie Chan, master of martial arts comedy, wishes to be taken seriously as an actor. Seriously.

    The Foreigner is no place to start and a smart place to finish.

    For once, Chan isn't the most incomprehensible thing in one of his movies. The Foreigner expects viewers to come in understanding the Irish independence movement and its terrorist history. Or else, strain through brogues arguing about it. Before long it isn't worth the trouble....

    Jackie Chan plays Ngoc Minh Quan, a London restaurant owner whose teenage daughter is killed in an IRA bombing. 
STX Entertainment
  2. Somehow Thurgood Marshall isn't even the star in his own biopic 'Marshall'


    Truth is an obstacle that the Thurgood Marshall biopic never overcomes.

    It's true that a prejudiced judge in 1941 banned the NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice from addressing the court during the career-shaping case this movie depicts. Marshall had to channel his defense of a wrongfully accused black man through a white lawyer without criminal trial experience.

    Marshall is all about the mouthpiece....

    Sam Friedman (Josh Gad, left) takes center stage standing in for a banned Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) during 
a 1941 case against a black chaffeur (Sterling K. Brown).
  3. What's in theaters this week: 'Marshall,' 'The Foreigner,' 'Happy Death Day'



    Wonder Woman was a PG-13 blockbuster but her real origins are for adults only, as depicted in Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (R). Writer-director Angela Robinson dramatizes her comic book creator's erotic inspirations; you'll never think of Wonder Woman's lasso of truth the same way again....

    Martial arts movie legend Jackie Chan gets serious in The Foreigner.
  4. 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women' is comic book heroine's R-rated back story


    Wonder Woman was a PG-13 blockbuster but her real origins are for adults only, as depicted in Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (R). Writer-director Angela Robinson dramatizes her comic book creator's erotic inspirations; you'll never think of Wonder Woman's lasso of truth the same way again.

    Luke Evans stars as Dr. William Moulton Marston, a psychology professor exalting feminism decades before the women's liberation movement. His theory that all human behavior is caused by dominance, inducement, submission or compliance was a radical idea Marston worked into his love life. Bondage and light S&M were his kinks that Robinson tastefully portrays....

    From left, Bella Heathcote stars as Olive Byrne, Luke Evans as Dr. William Marston and Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston in the film, "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women." (Claire Folger/Annapurna Pictures) 1212629
  5. Dale Gordon, executive director of Film Tampa Bay, resigns


    Four years after taking over as Hillsborough County's de facto film commissioner, it's a wrap for Dale Gordon.

    Gordon, 41, resigned Friday from her position as executive director of Film Tampa Bay, a branch of Visit Tampa Bay, the county's tourism board.

    Efforts to reach Gordon on Monday were unsuccessful, her voicemail box refusing to take messages.

    Film Tampa Bay director of operations Tyler Martinolich said Monday that "everything is status quo at the moment." Although not officially named as interim replacement, Martinolich already handles location scouting and city permit requests that film productions require....

    Dale Gordon introduced at a Tampa Economic Development meeting in 2013. SKIP  O'ROURKE  |  TImes
  6. Is it worth watching Idris Elba and Kate Winslet freeze in 'The Mountain Between Us'?




    Ain't no mountain high enough, no plot valley deep enough, to keep Idris Elba and Kate Winslet from setting off romantic sparks in The Mountain Between Us (PG-13). But this movie surely doesn't do them any favors.

    Based on Charles Martin's novel, The Mountain Between Us is movie star chemistry interrupted by a survival yarn without much danger. Even the dog is more indestructible than usual. Winslet and Elba handle hoo-hah like the pros they are, through an hour of clumsy dramatic foreplay then a passionate payoff....

  7. Pup fiction: A doggie film festival is coming to Tampa this weekend


    Take your best friend on a leash Friday to Water Works Park on Tampa's Riverwalk for open-air screenings of selections from the NY Dog Film Festival at 6 and 8 p.m.

    The event is sponsored by the Gasparilla International Film Festival. (Insert going-to-the-dogs joke here.) Each session is a family-friendly mix of live-action, animated and documentary shorts evoking relationships between dogs and humans. Running about 70 minutes each, the programs are titled "Second Chances" (6 p.m.) and "Love Changes Everything" (8 p.m.)....

  8. 'Blade Runner 2049' is as puzzling and striking as the original, sure to be equally revered


    If not electric sheep, of what do androids dream?

    Of being human of course. The evolution of AI id propels Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve's at-last sequel to 1982's classic sci-fi noir. Villeneuve crafts a movie both cerebral and sensuous, as puzzling and visually striking as its predecessor. The experience should be likewise revered by next generations.

    Be assured that revisiting Blade Runner isn't necessary. Introductory notes tidily recap the basics: Replicants are androids used as slaves until synthetic farming made them obsolete. Blade runners like K (Ryan Gosling) are cops sent to "retire" replicants. We soon see that K is point-blank good at what he does....

    Ryan Gosling, left, and Harrison Ford in a scene from "Blade Runner 2049." (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  9. Tom Cruise's 'American Made' is hectic but familiar fun, all speed and greed


    After all the goodfellas, war dogs and Wall Street wolves, American Made doesn't have much new to show about good people getting rich doing bad things. Money is still the root of affable evil thanks to Tom Cruise's winning grin, in a true-life immorality tale needing to dig deeper.

    Cruise's maverick swagger gets a workout as Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited in the 1980s by the CIA to fly covert South American missions for the U.S. government. Seal then got hired by the fledgling Medellin cocaine cartel and later the DEA, a Gumpian path through the Reagan decade's greatest misses....

    Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited in the 1980s by the CIA to fly covert South American missions.
  10. Ben Stiller feels inadequate in sharp indie flick 'Brad's Status'








    Ben Stiller completes his unofficial trilogy of midlife ennui in Brad's Status (R), after harsh lessons from Walter Mitty's daydreams and coveting hipsters in While We're Young. Now he's Brad Sloan, a beta male going out of his way to feel inadequate, whose every cloud has darker linings....

    This image released by Universal Pictures shows Tom Cruise as Barry Seal in a scene from, “American Made.”  (David James/Universal Pictures via AP) NYET704
  11. 'Victoria and Abdul' is a charmer peppered with snooty spoofery


    Queen Victoria lived long and lonely enough to fill two movies, both starring Judi Dench, each with distinct approaches to the monarch's widowed years.

    Twenty years ago, Mrs. Brown earned Dench an Oscar nomination in a traditionally stiff-upper-lip production. She's in contention again for Victoria & Abdul, set nearly as many years in the queen's future. It's a delightful piece of found history, thematically similar to Mrs. Brown yet tonally different....

    Judi Dench, left, and Ali Fazal in "Victoria and Abdul." (Focus Features)
  12. 'Battle of the Sexes' is a fine time capsule comedy, and not really about the tennis


    In 1973, tennis champion Billie Jean King joined a two-ring circus with hustler Bobby Riggs, billed as a Battle of the Sexes amid the women's liberation movement. Fifty million Americans watched the pop spectacle on TV.

    Only a few knew the circus included a third ring.

    King's lesbian awakening behind the hoopla is romanticized in Battle of the Sexes, starting with casting Academy Award winner Emma Stone as the tennis great. Stone is terrific, easy to cheer. She's feisty but a bit softer around the edges than King deserves. Another Oscar nomination is certain....

    Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the film "Battle of the Sexes." [Fox Searchlight Pictures.]
  13. Poorly assembled 'Lego Ninjago Movie' waters down Lego movie franchise


    Well, that didn't take long.

    After only three movies, the Lego franchise is already a shadow of its original self, less irreverent and go-for-broke bricky. The watering down of an ingenious formula comes with The Lego Ninjago Movie, the sort we expected all along from plastic construction toys.

    Everything was awesome in 2014's The Lego Movie, a high-wire risk paying off with a new look in computer animation based on Lego's interlocking design. The Lego Ninjago Movie hasn't abandoned that uniqueness but certainly reins it in....

    A scene from "The Lego Ninjago Movie." (Warner Bros.)
  14. What's new in theaters: 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle,' 'Lego Ninjago Movie,' 'Stronger'




    Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service sneaked up on audiences like a spy in the night, making an unlikely action hero of Academy Award winner Colin Firth. Director Matthew Vaughn mushed the secret agent genre's extremes — bracing violence, Austin Powers cheekiness — into a sleeper hit leaving fans wanting more....

    Tatiana Maslany, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal in “Stronger.”  The film chronicles the story of Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman. 
Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions
  15. 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' is exhausting, crass and too long


    Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a tarnished sequel demolishing the original's balderdash charm in a torrent of tumble-dry camera moves, CGI slosh and Elton John f-bombs.

    It's a movie that doesn't know when to quit or even take a breather, exhausting as much as it entertains over a running time at least 30 minutes too long. When a movie goes over the top this aggressively, there's nowhere to go but down....

    Taron Egerton stars in Twentieth Century Fox's "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," also starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Elton John, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges. (Giles Keyte/20th Century Fox)