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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: Cranston shines in 'Trumbo,' plus Thanksgiving movies





    Hollywood's blacklist era in the mid-20th century produced more than its share of creative martyrs, none more famous than screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, whose ties to Communist Party members and principles made him unhired by studios caving to Red Scare tactics.

    The era also inspired its share of movies, so Trumbo (PG-13) has little new to offer except Bryan Cranston's sophisticated portrayal of the title role....

    Bryan Cranston’s sly righteousness makes for one of the season’s more amusing performances in Trumbo.
  2. Review: 'Victor Frankenstein' better left for dead


    At this time of giving and being thankful for life's blessings, I give you the advice to stay far away from Victor Frankenstein. You can thank me later.

    Victor Frankenstein is misshapen as the bad doctor's creature itself, straining without wit or viscera to be a devilish horror romp. The movie could use a body snatching or two, maybe a few villagers with torches, to better connect with Mary Shelley's myth. Something besides a raging chimpan-zombie for the gore crowd....

    Daniel Radcliffe as Igor and James McAvoy as the titular doctor are certainly game for more daring material than Max Landis’ screenplay provides.
  3. 'S'Beasts...,' 'Carol' lead Indy Spirit Award nominations


    Nominations were announced Tuesday for the coolest awards show in Hollywood, the Independent Spirit Awards annually presented under a circus tent on Santa Monica Beach, a day before the Academy Awards.

    In recent years, results of Spirit and Oscar ballotings have grown more similar, with two of the past three best picture Oscar winners and several acting prizes feted first on the beach....

    Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are lead actress nominees for 'Carol.'
  4. Review: 'Brooklyn' an understated immigrant tale with a shining star


    Despite recent hotheads and headlines, the immigrant experience is what America is all about. Brooklyn is a lovely, classically constructed reminder of our best melting pot instincts.

    Set in the far more innocent 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irishwoman traveling to New York on her own. Eilis is played by Saoirse Ronan, whose Emerald Isle lineage — born in the U.S. to Irish parents, raised in Ireland — is evident in each expression flickering across her freckled face. Hers is a performance commanding a movie by understatement, tamping down sentimentality without extinguishing it....

    Saoirse Ronan as Irish immigrant Eilis delivers a performance commanding a movie by understatement, tamping down sentimentality without extinguishing it.
  5. Lonely Thanksgiving: Six movies for embracing solitude


    Editor's note: Thanksgiving. A time for the entire family to gather around the table, smiling and laughing over a golden turkey as if life is just one big Publix commercial. Fortunately, some people actually get that experience. But many others don't. Maybe you and your family live in totally different states. Maybe you just don't have a family. Maybe you have chosen a family of friends. Or maybe you just don't want to talk to your family at all. We got you covered. All week, we're bringing you our Guide to Lonely Thanksgiving. Our critics and writers have offered their best advice for going the holiday alone, from TV to reading to eating out. It doesn't have to be a pity party. If you do it right, you can be thankful for your solitude, too....

    Cast Away: Tom Hanks marooned on a desert island is an apt analogy for spending Thanksgiving alone.
  6. Review: 'The Good Dinosaur' is just that — good, not great


    The Good Dinosaur is Disney-Pixar's obligation gift for the holidays, hoping moviegoers remember it's the thought that counts.

    Something was chipped during shipping, leaving The Good Dinosaur less than perfect, which is what Disney-Pixar teaches us to expect. This prehistoric fable built from the fossils of past work was originally due in theaters a year and half ago, changed directors, reworked the third act....

    The Good Dinosaur pairs wild child human Spot (voice of Jack Bright) with and agriculturalist Apatosaurus Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) in a quest to get back home after a flash flood.
  7. Review: 'Creed' hit the same beats as 'Rocky' movies with respect


    "You look real hard, you can see your whole life from up here," says the old man to the kid. So can we, watching in the dark.

    Rocky Balboa's 72-stairstep ascent to the museum landing overlooking Philadelphia is different this time. He isn't the young stallion who first made the climb in 1976, and neither are we. The view hasn't changed much, nor the underdog formula Rocky coined way back when....

    Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson Creed, who seeks out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) when he needs a trainer.
  8. Review: 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2' is dark, organic and deep


    The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 concludes the scrappiest movie franchise to emerge from the post-Harry Potter run on young adult lit adaptations.

    Not the richest or sexiest, and certainly not with Harry's magical production budgets, but it's a series doing little like any others, stretching the theme limitations that blockbusters placed on themselves. By design or necessity, The Hunger Games movies concentrate on story more than spectacle, allowing a savage antiwar allegory to ring through....

    Natalie Dormer as Cressida, left, and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in a scene from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.” (Murray Close/Lionsgate via AP)
  9. Movie Planner: Keaton talks 'Spotlight'; 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2' and other openings


    ACTING JOURNALIST: Michael Keaton talks 'Spotlight'

    Michael Keaton spent his 64th birthday at the Telluride Film Festival, where his new movie Spotlight held its North American premiere.

    Spotlight marks Keaton's third portrayal of a journalist; in this case playing Walter "Robby" Robinson, real-life lead reporter of the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize expose of sexual abuse by Catholic priests....

    Secret in Their Eyes features Julia Roberts.
  10. Reviews: 'Secret in Their Eyes' has no twists, 'Night Before' has few laughs


    Busy time for movies and their critics, as our holiday movie preview coming Thursday in the Weekend section makes clear. That means so many screenings that double features are sometimes set up by studios, not always smartly for reviews' sake.

    Case in disappointment: Monday's pairing of Secret in Their Eyes, a misshapen remake of an Argentine thriller, and The Night Before, which is essentially The Hangover Part III with mistletoe. Separately these movies would stink; seen back-to-back they're hazmat material....

    THE NIGHT BEFORE:Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie don’t declare war on Christmas; it’s more like fire from Super Soakers. 
Columbia Pictures
  11. Holiday Movie Preview: 'Star Wars,' 'Creed,' 'Room' and more


    Think those Black Friday crowds at department stores are tough?

    Take a look how many new movies are stampeding into theaters between now and the New Year (plus a few beyond that).

    Just open the doors and get out of the way.

    Nearly two dozen movies are scrambling for attention during the holiday season, from audiences and awards voters, starting with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 opening Friday. (See review at

    Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens: Perhaps you’ve heard of this one. Fans believe the movie event of 2015 will be the most extraordinary experience of their lifetimes. But that’s what people said about The Phantom Menace.
  12. Review: 'Spotlight' shines an accurate beam on journalism


    Four decades ago, a new generation of journalists wanted to be Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, or more accurately the Washington Post investigators they played in All the President's Men. Toppling a president, walking red carpets.

    Redford-Hoffman, Woodward-Bernstein, the Watergate movie forever linked the pairings, a cultural symbiosis making actors seem important and reporters glamorous. Journalism and movies about it changed, not always for the better....

    Rachel McAdams stars as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes and Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll in the movie Spotlight, about the Boston Globe’s investigation of sexual abuse.
  13. Movie Planner: Meryl Streep talks 'Suffragette,' 'My All-American' and 'Love the Coopers' open



    Meryl Streep shows up for only two minutes in Suffragette as activist Emmeline Pankhurst, giving a fiery pep talk to Englishwomen demanding the right to vote.

    The three-time Oscar winner spoke longer at the Telluride Film Festival in September, where Suffragette had its world premiere. Streep joined director Sarah Gavron and others on an open-air panel discussing the responsibilities of portraying historical figures and events in movies....

    Diane Keaton and John Goodman star in Love the Coopers.
  14. Review: 'The 33' explores collapsed mine but lacks depth


    An introductory note to The 33 informs viewers that 12,000 miners worldwide die annually in work accidents. Patricia Riggen's movie is about 33 who famously didn't, so surprise isn't an element.

    Instead, The 33 pads along like the TV-movie that incredibly no one produced after the men's 2010 rescue from a collapsed gold and copper mine in Chile. Miraculous stories getting that much play in global news outlets — 69 days total — are ripe for the Lifetime treatment. Riggen therefore presents the "untold" story, and not altogether well....

    Antonio Banderas, far right, plays the miners’ de facto leader “Super” Mario Sepulveda, allowing him to show his lusty, paternal side above ground.
  15. World premiere of Florida conservation doc at Tampa Theatre


    Don't know if there's a green carpet planned at this world premiere but it would be appropriate.

    The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a non-profit organization working for Florida conservation, will debut the documentary The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida” on November 12 at 8:00 p.m. The screening takes place at Tampa Theatre, in association with WUSF Public Media....

    The conservation documentary The Forgotten Coast celebrates Florida's wilderness