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: persall@tampabay.com

Twitter: @StevePersall

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  1. Bishop pained by filming of 'Sex Ed' movie at Tampa Catholic school

    Movies

    Faith-based films are hot in Hollywood but a local bishop is steaming about what he considers a faith-debasing movie.

    Catholic Bishop Robert Lynch blogged a blistering response Tuesday to a report that "an apparently raunchy and sleazy movie" titled Sex Ed was partly filmed at Sacred Heart Academy in Tampa, a parochial school closed in 2012, more than a year before production began....

  2. Review: Just too hard to believe in 'Calvary'

    Movies

    Calvary (R) (100 min.) — John Michael McDonagh's bleak movie begins in gripping fashion, in a seaside Irish village where bearish Father James (Brendan Gleeson) hears a chilling confession.

    The penitent was sexually abused as a child by a priest, and now wants to kill.

    Not the abuser but Father James, because murdering a good priest will get more attention. In seven days, on the beach. It's a date....

    Brendan Gleeson does well with an absurd plot as Father James, a priest hunted in an Irish village.
  3. Review: 'Are You Here' a waste of top-notch comedy cast

    Movies

    Are You Here (R) (112 min.)Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner makes a troublesome filmmaking debut, wasting a dream cast for a comedy in a fitful story of family tension, mental illness and corrosive self-absorption. Are you laughing? Not nearly enough for a movie starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler.

    This is one of those semi-serious projects comedians occasionally step into, wanting to stretch and winding up straining. Wilson plays Steve Dallas, a TV weatherman breezing through women when he isn't getting stoned with his clinically bipolar friend Ben Baker (Galifianakis). Ben's estranged father dies, and Steve joins him for the trip home for the funeral. Poehler plays Ben's type-A sister Terri, sniping at her underachieving sibling....

    Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis are the stars of Are You Here, an unfunny tale about family tension and mental illness.
  4. Provocative filmmaker John Waters coming to Tampa for gay film festival

    Events

    For its 25th anniversary this year, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival gets a special present: a visit from John Waters, filmmaker, author and filth connoisseur. Waters will perform his acclaimed one-man show This Filthy World: Filthier and Dirtier at Tampa Theatre at 6:30 p. m. Oct. 4. Tickets range from $33 for general admission to $63 for preferred seating and a copy of Waters' latest book, Carsick, to be autographed after the show. The festival will also present Waters with a lifetime achievement award, for 50 years of queer cinema, including the seminal bad taste classics Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. An after-show street party on Franklin Street is free to the public with music, beer and food trucks. The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival runs Oct. 3-11. Visit tiglff.com for tickets and information. — Steve Persall, Times movie critic...

    Director John Waters of the film "This Filthy World" poses for portraits at the Intercontinental Hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14, 2006.  (Getty Images)
  5. Clearwater to get an early glimpse at 'Dolphin Tale 2'

    Events

    As with any sequel, Dolphin Tale 2 is repeating what worked the first time around.

    The makers of the Dolphin Tale sequel announced Thursday that the continuing adventures of Winter the tail-less dolphin will have a local premiere at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, the same spot the hit movie premiered in 2011 after it was filmed in Pinellas County.

    Dolphin Tale 2 will debut Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m., two days before opening in theaters nationwide....

    Hope, left, and Winter work with trainers at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2012. Hope is also featured in the sequel.
  6. Review: 'What If' rom-com revamp fails, despite Daniel Radcliffe

    Play

    What If (PG-13) (102 min.) — The advance buzz about Michael Dowse's romantic comedy is that it would subvert the genre, which couldn't be further from the truth. It simply reassigns the cliches to trendier personalities, retaining the vacant minds. It is a tired rom-com in boutique clothing. Girls with far less dangerous boys.

    What If does continue the nonsupernatural film career of Daniel Radcliffe, escaping Harry Potter's shadow. Radcliffe plays Wallace, who we meet sitting on his rooftop, where he does his best depressed thinking. Pushed to a party by friends, Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), who's perfect for him but she has a boyfriend. Can they just be platonic friends? Didn't Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan answer that question 25 years ago?...

    Sparks fly between Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) in "What If." (MCT) 1155799
  7. VOD turning into prime entertainment source for moviegoers

    Movies

    Movie tickets are expensive, babysitters are tough to find, and theater audiences can be rude.

    Watching movies at home is cheaper and comfier, but new releases that everyone's talking about are showing only at multiplexes, right?

    Not always, and perhaps not for much longer. Several of this summer's buzzed-about titles simultaneously debuted on television as video-on-demand offerings, a trend shaping up as the future for movie distribution....

    SNOWPIERCER: Tilda Swinton stars in this sci-fi action film, which cost under $8 to view on Verizon Fios VOD.
  8. Film legend Lauren Bacall dies at 89

    Nation

    When we needed to define Hollywood's sultriest sirens of the 1940s, all Lauren Bacall had to do was whistle.

    She told us and Humphrey Bogart exactly how to do it, in the 1944 version of Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not.

    Just put your lips together and blow, she instructed, in a husky voice that practically lasted her lifetime. And a nation of moviegoers knew exactly what she insinuated, in an era when sex on the silver screen was, by law, a discreet shade of gray....

    Actors Humphrey Bogart and wife Lauren Bacall attend the premiere of The Desperate Hours in Los Angeles. Bacall shared chemistry with Bogart off and on the screen.
  9. Review: Woody Allen 'Magic' fizzles

    Movies

    Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13) (97 min.) — Woody Allen's 44th movie over slightly more years continues his later work's erraticism, with its initial charms gradually blunted by arcane ramblings on faith and romance. It feels like a rush job, needing another draft or two for cohesion's sake, or for Allen to decide what sort of story he's telling.

    The premise suggests the sort of lightweight yarn that only Allen completists seek out, lazily woven with swatches of previous works, especially the 1920s segments of Midnight in Paris. Colin Firth is suavely irritable magician Stanley Crawford, famous for wearing Mandarin drag under the stage persona Wei Ling Soo. Like Harry Houdini, Stanley is a renowned debunker of mediums claiming to be in touch with the spirit world....

    Magician Stanley (Colin Firth) falls in love with medium Sophie (Emma Stone) while trying to debunk her.
  10. Review: 'What If' rom-com revamp fails, despite trendy personality Daniel Radcliffe

    Movies

    What If (PG-13) (102 min.) — The advance buzz about Michael Dowse's romantic comedy is that it would subvert the genre, which couldn't be further from the truth. It simply reassigns the cliches to trendier personalities, retaining the vacant minds. It is a tired rom-com in boutique clothing. Girls with far less dangerous boys.

    What If does continue the nonsupernatural film career of Daniel Radcliffe, escaping Harry Potter's shadow. Radcliffe plays Wallace, who we meet sitting on his rooftop, where he does his best depressed thinking. Pushed to a party by friends, Wallace meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), who's perfect for him but she has a boyfriend. Can they just be platonic friends? Didn't Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan answer that question 25 years ago?...

    Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan play a young, witty pair in Toronto.
  11. 'Expendables 3' packed with faded superstars

    Movies

    Any 20th century action star who's still ambulatory and not invited to join The Expendables 3 (PG-13) should be miffed. Except for Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, who served their time in Part 2 and understandably bailed on this one.

    Replacing them in a dream cast (if you're Rip Van Winkle) are faded superstars Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. Plus Kelsey Grammer, who isn't tough but he's old enough. Of course, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger are still around because what else do they have going on? It was either this or rebooting Cocoon....

    The cast of The Expendables 3 includes, from left, Sylvester Stallone, Randy Couture, Antonio Banderas, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes and Dolph Lundgren.
  12. Actors, directors, friends share fond memories of Robin Williams

    Movies

    To the very end, Robin Williams made the world laugh until it cried.

    The outpouring of grief after Williams died Monday at age 63, apparently a suicide by asphyxiation, is soothed by a comparable flood of fond memories for a tireless comedian, an Academy Award-winning actor, and a charitable soul.

    Here are just a few stories emerging from the tragedy of Williams' death.

    Making Reeve laugh...

    Steven Spielberg
  13. Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams dead of apparent suicide

    Celebrities

    No laughter was ever loud enough for Robin Williams, a speed-of-instinct comedian whose most unpredictable act was his last.

    The Academy Award-winning actor and comedy legend was found dead Monday at his Tiburon, Calif., home, apparently of suicide by asphyxiation. He was 63.

    An investigation by the Marin County Sheriff's Office is continuing, including an autopsy planned for today....

    Robin Williams performs at the 6th Annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert for injured service members and veterans on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
  14. Review: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' serves up plenty of corn

    Movies

    The food looks delicious in The Hundred-Foot Journey, but Lasse Hallstrom's movie mostly serves corn. Based on a novel blessed by Oprah Winfrey, this culture-and-cuisine clash is precisely what her endorsement suggests: persistently uplifting and thickly ladled with charm.

    This is the sort of project begat by The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in the unflattering tradition of Hollywood imitation. Same audience, similar subtexts, including a rich Indian culture, here exported to France. The difference is one British star, Helen Mirren (rather than a handful), yet with such a distracting French accent, she might not count....

    Still of Helen Mirren and Charlotte Le Bon in The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
  15. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Drax just wants to relax at home in Tampa

    Movies

    When he isn't guarding the galaxy, Drax the Destroyer's favorite corner of the universe is Tampa.

    Neighbors and friends know him as Dave Bautista. Pro wrestling fans cheered him as "Batista," a 10-time WWE champion.

    The world now knows Bautista as Drax, the hulking, gray-skinned breakout star of Guardians of the Galaxy, the blockbuster based on Marvel Comics' atypical superheroes. Bautista's past few weeks have been an international whirlwind of red carpets, interviews and Comic Cons, as the phenomenon begins to sink in....

    Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy is played by South Tampa resident Dave Bautista.