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. 'Korengal,' sequel to Afghan film 'Restrepo,' opens in Tampa


    Looks like Kickstarter can actually benefit an important movie, not just a Zach Braff throwaway or Veronica Mars reunion. Filmmaker-journalist Sebastian Junger used the crowd-sourcing website to get his new documentary Korengal — a sequel to the Oscar nominated Afghan War study Restrepo — into a limited number of U.S. theaters including AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa, starting Friday. Korengal examines the psychological toll of battle on members of Battle Company's 2nd Platoon, the soldiers featured in Restrepo. A Q&A session follows Friday's 8 p.m. showing with Battle Company veterans including Largo resident Marc Bryan Solowski, who appears in Restrepo and Korengal. Junger co-directed Restrepo with photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who was killed in 2011 while covering the Libyan civil war. Junger personally financed Korengal's production then turned to Kickstarter to cover distribution costs. "It turns out, releasing a film theatrically is both a logistical nightmare and an enormous economic burden," said Junger on Kickstarter. Tickets for Korengal are available at the Veterans 24 box office and — Steve Persall, Times movie critic...

    Staff Sergeant Elliot Alcantara of Second Platoon in overwatch near Loy Kalay. Outpost Films
  2. Review: 'Get on Up' can't find the right groove


    The first time you see Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in Get on Up, it's in silhouette and you're sold. Not just the shape but the motion, striding toward the camera with confident intent to thrill, as the Godfather of Soul did to concert audiences for decades. The man meant business, and the actor playing him is open for it.

    Then you see Boseman in the spotlight, and, yes, it's James Brown, at least the most reasonable facsimile an actor can craft. Boseman is electrifying, so much better than the movie around him, dancing in perpetual sweat on what must be greased soles. It isn't easy portraying "the hardest-working man in show business," but this young man (along with some deft makeup) brings the funk....

    Chadwick Boseman is electrifying as James Brown in Get on Up — and so much better than the movie around him. As the Godfather of Soul, Boseman dances and lip-synchs with passion. However, director Tate Taylor has constructed a movie as mercurial as its subject. 
  3. Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' fun, but forgettable


    Guardians of the Galaxy is the anti-Marvel Marvel movie, a risky subversion of the superhero formula perfected by the comic book empire. Coming from the same universe as the Avengers but with a fraction of their fame, this movie thrives on the fact that it doesn't need to exist.

    In one of Marvel's more niche adventure series, the heroes aren't household names. Only the geekiest of geeks would realize if no one ever produced a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Director and co-writer James Gunn seems creatively liberated not only by the source material's strangeness but by its relative obscurity. He can get away with anything, and that's what he tries, at times too hard....

    “Guardians of the Galaxy”: Yondu (Michael Rooker from “The Walking Dead”). 
  4. Review: 'Boyhood' charm doesn't last


    Boyhood (R) (165 min.) — Richard Linklater's time-lapse cinema experiment arrives showered with rapturous praise, some deserved and some concocted in the sort of adjectives race for superiority that film critics sometimes engage. Boyhood is an impressive feat, produced over 12 years with annual shoots totaling a mere 39 days, shaping a non-plot around the maturation of its anti-star, Ellar Coltrane. It is interesting even when nothing much happens, which is for most of its 3-hour running time....

    Ellar Coltrane’s role as Mason Jr. is the compass of Boyhood, which was filmed with annual shoots totaling 39 days over 12 years.
  5. Tampa Bay Comic Con: Evan Peters on long list of celebs


    Evan Peters is doing coast-to-coast Comic Cons this week, San Diego to Tampa Bay with an extended layover in New Orleans, filming his fourth season of the FX series American Horror Story.

    Busy guy. What else would you expect from the one but not the only Quicksilver, the teenage mutant who literally ran away with the latest X-Men movie?

    American Horror Story is the reason for his Comic Con visits but Peters, 26, can expect as much attention for one scene in the recent hit X-Men: Days of Future Past. It's one of this summer's more imaginative sequences, 97 seconds of action comedy set ironically to Jim Croce's drowsy ballad Time in a Bottle, with Quicksilver racing in super slo-mo around a hazardous confrontation, rearranging bullet paths and setting up attackers to knock themselves out....

    Pedro Pascal  (All three days) Game of Thrones, Graceland, The Mentalist.  Autographs, photos:
$40 each.
  6. Clearwater's Capitol Theatre showing '70s classic movies


    Back in the 1970s the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater only showed movies, back when one screen was enough. Times change and so did the Cap, now resurrected and renovated primarily as a concert venue, but that's also changing a bit. Through September the Capitol presents the '70s Movie Series, a slate of double features including some of the decade's biggest hits, many of which made their Tampa Bay debuts at the Cap. The series begins at 7 p.m. Saturday by pairing the first summer blockbuster ever, Steven Spielberg's Jaws, with Charlton Heston saving L.A. from an Earthquake. Future double features include an Aug. 16 tribute to Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein), the terror combo of Burnt Offerings and The Exorcist (Aug. 23), disaster classics The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno (Aug. 30), sci-fi milestones Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien (Sept. 6), throwback faves Grease and American Graffiti (Sept. 19), and the first two Rocky flicks (Sept. 27). Tickets are $7, available at the Capitol and Ruth Eckerd Hall box offices. Visit for details....

     Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, left) protects Newt (Carrie Henn, right) against the army of deadly extraterrestrials that has overrun an Earth Colony in 'Aliens'.
  7. Review: Roger Ebert biodoc 'Life Itself' impressive on any screen


    After tweeting admiration for the Roger Ebert biodoc Life Itself, a colleague needled me for watching it at home, on demand, outside a movie theater. "Just doesn't seem right," he replied, and I had to agree. But it wasn't yet booked in a Tampa Bay theater.

    Then I was reminded that Ebert in 1987 predicted a future in which cinema gems deserving fairer shakes than Hollywood impatience offers — movies like Life Itself — would be available anywhere, practically anytime....

    Roger Ebert battled cancer in his thyroid and salivary glands and lost the ability to speak and eat after surgery.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
  8. Review: 'Lucy' is way too crazy


    When he isn't making movies, I imagine director Luc Besson sitting alone and shabby in an all-night diner, arguing a deranged point with the salt shaker before heading out to wash windshields for tips. There's "out there" and there's Besson, whose latest wackadoodle Lucy makes as much sense as a caveman with a Zippo lighter. Which, of course, Besson includes.

    The anachronism is part of Besson's so-crazy-it-might-work twist on his girl with a gun routine, adding bogus even for sci-fi lessons in anthropology, biology and other -ologies, CGI'd into confusion like some kick-butt Cosmos episode. (Or, since Morgan Freeman does most of the lecturing, like his Through the Wormhole TV series). It is crazy. It doesn't work....

    Scarlett Johansson plays an American woman in Taiwan forced to be a drug mule and handcuffed into delivering a briefcase to cold-blooded mobsters.
  9. Review: 'A Most Wanted Man' is fitting epitaph for Philip Seymour Hoffman


    A Most Wanted Man is based on a novel by espionage ace John le Carré, which should tell you this isn't a Jason Bourne action flick filled with car crashes and hand-to-hand combat. Director Anton Corbijn's idea of action is a fat man in a foot chase.

    Neither is this the sort of cerebral somnambulism that the most recent le Carré adaptation — 2011's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — turned out to be. Part of the reason is topicality: contemporary terrorism, not the Cold War. And part of the reason is Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance, at once elegaic and thrilling....

    Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Gunther Bachmann, a German antiterrorism security expert, the film adaptation of spy novelist John le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man.
  10. Get ready for authentic frontier gibberish in 'Blazing Saddles' at Tampa Theatre


    There are two types of people in this world: Those who can quote Blazing Saddles at the drop of a 10-gallon hat, and those I'd never wish to hang around. In the authentic frontier gibberish of Gabby Johnson: "No sidewindin' bushwackin' hornswogglin' cracker croaker is gonna rowll my bishen cutter."

    Now, who can argue with that?

    As Seth MacFarlane learned the hard way this summer, there's a million ways to flop when poking fun at Wild West cliches. No movie did it successfully before or since Blazing Saddles, the 1974 spoof directed and co-written by Mel Brooks. From its Rawhide-inspired theme song to Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid's Cadillac limo ride into the sunset, Blazing Saddles remains a landmark of irreverence, political incorrectness and schnitzengruben (15 is my limit)....

    Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little star in Blazing Saddles, being shown at Tampa Theatre.  Warner Bros photo
  11. For free movies, they will gladly spend time


    Quentin Parramore can't pick a favorite among the estimated 1,000 movies he watched in theaters over the past decade.

    Parramore can, however, say exactly how much all those tickets cost.

    "I've been doing this since '05 and I haven't paid for a movie since," said Parramore, 48, waiting outside AMC West Shore 14 to see another for free.

    Sitting in a canvas chair. Doing needlepoint. Seven hours before show time....

    Quentin Parramore  camps out outside AMC West Shore 14 to see a movie for free. Parramore benefits from the Hollywood strategy of screening new releases days before opening in theaters.
  12. Review: This 'Sex Tape' not much fun to watch


    You get what you pay for with Sex Tape, if that's matinee prices: a little celebrity skin and recycled wink-wink comedy, teasing without much tickling. Dirty minded yet wholesomely executed, like a 6-year-old retelling a smutty joke he doesn't understand.

    Hard to imagine a cuter pair to hold this peep show together than Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, gamely exposing their backsides and dependency upon better material. This screenplay, co-written by Segel, is a flaccid assortment of restroom wall wit and not-wacky-enough sidekicks, re-explaining everything as it goes along — and this stuff isn't rocket science, people....

    Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz recycle wink-wink comedy and show a little skin in the comedy Sex Tape.
  13. It's a 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)' reunion at bay area movie theaters


    Clever wordplayers they are, the famed British comedy troupe naming their farewell concerts Monty Python Live (Mostly). The title may refer to a portion of the show at London's O2 arena that, according to reviews, is dedicated to Terry Gilliam's prerecorded, absurdist animation, a staple of the group's Flying Circus television show.

    Or it could be a cheeky nod to missing cast member Graham Chapman, whose death in 1989 effectively pooped the Python party until the current reunion. Such a joke would skirt the boundaries of good taste, scattering propriety to the winds. So, that's likely what the boys meant....

    Michael Palin, left, and Eric Idle perform on the opening night of  "Monty Python Live (Mostly)" in London. [Getty Images]
  14. 'Planet of the Apes' franchise is a rocky evolution


    By STEVE PERSALL | Times Movie Critic

    After seven movies over six decades, the Planet of the Apes franchise is one of Hollywood's enduring species. But it hasn't been a smooth evolution. After a big bang beginning in 1968, the Apes saga had its ups and downs, not the upward evolution that inspired a cool college dorm poster. We're tweaking that image "The Evolution of Man" to rank the Apes movies, not counting this weekend's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which wasn't screened in time for Weekend. A review of that one is available at and will be published on Etc, Page 2B. Get your stinking paws on it....

     Arthur P. Jacobs production  Battle for the Planet of the Apes  Movies: Battle of Algiers
  15. Review: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is armed and extremely evolved


    It's a good thing Charlton Heston didn't live to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This would've killed him.

    Heston famously detested being pawed by damn dirty apes, and as former president of the National Rifle Association he could appreciate standing ground against them. Seeing those paws wrapped around pistol grip triggers, firing back? That's some Second Amendment sci-fi, for sure....

    In a role that should be made eligible for the Oscars, Andy Serkis is the face behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ CGI Caesar, leading the gun-toting apes. It’s a bold subtext in Matt Reeves’ brilliantly conceived fantasy, showing a civilization’s disintegration with the introduction of firearms.