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

link
  1. Review: 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is armed and extremely evolved

    Movies

    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....

    Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the leader of the ape nation in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
  2. 'Planet of the Apes' franchise is a rocky evolution

    Movies

    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 tampabay.com/movies and will be published on Etc, Page 2B. Get your stinking paws on it....

    At rock bottom:     Battle for the Planet of the Apes in 1973, with Caesar leading a revolt against humans.
  3. St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Commission taps new leader

    Movies

    Tony Armer, co-founder of the Sunscreen Film Festival, was recently hired to lead the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Film Commission — a job made more difficult in recent years when state funding dried up.

    Armer, 44, replaces Jennifer Parramore, who retired in April after nearly 21 years as head of the film commission, a division of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Convention & Visitors Bureau....

  4. Review: 'Begin Again' is like 'Once' again

    Movies

    Begin Again begins like a lot of movies about musicians, but because it comes from John Carney, it isn't ordinary for long. Carney is the Irish filmmaker who made Once, a slight romance fortified by music, now a Broadway hit. Begin Again is set in a vastly different place and level of success, but Carney's faith in the emotional power of song remains the same.

    Rather than Dublin buskers, the Los Angeles characters in Begin Again are familiar folks. There's Gretta (Keira Knightley), a recent arrival from England with her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), who is getting attention as a next big thing. One night, Gretta is coaxed on stage by a friend to perform one of her songs, and nobody cares much except one disheveled, clapping guy....

    Keira Knightley is Gretta, a soulful songwriter and musician who attracts the attention of Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a downtrodden music producer, in Begin Again. Knightley contrasts well with Ruffalo.
  5. Review: 'Tammy' is a whammy of a mistake for Melissa McCarthy

    Play

    This summer's hands-down disappointment is Tammy, a mistake we should've seen coming. Looking back at the clues, it was right under our noses.

    First, the poster art showing Melissa McCarthy's face, declaring Tammy is entirely her show after Roman candle success, swapping punchlines and punches with established movie stars. Tammy shows McCarthy's rolling boulder comedy isn't enough — not with this lazily semi-improvised material — to carry a movie on its own....

    Susan Sarandon as Pearl, left, and Melissa McCarthy as Tammy in New Line Cinema's comedy "Tammy," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Courtesy Michael Tackett/MCT) 1154518
  6. Review: 'Tammy' is a whammy of a mistake for Melissa McCarthy

    Movies

    This summer's hands-down disappointment is Tammy, a mistake we should've seen coming. Looking back at the clues, it was right under our noses.

    First, the poster art showing Melissa McCarthy's face, declaring Tammy is entirely her show after Roman candle success, swapping punchlines and punches with established movie stars. Tammy shows McCarthy's rolling boulder comedy isn't enough — not with this lazily semi-improvised material — to carry a movie on its own....

    Susan Sarandon as Pearl, left, and Melissa McCarthy as Tammy in Tammy.
  7. Review: 'Transformers: Age of Extinction' is long, loud, ludicrous

    Movies

    Even the heartiest Transformers nerd must admit that Michael Bay took his mecha-fetish too far this time. The fourth episode in a saga that didn't need a second, Age of Extinction, is 2 hours and 45 minutes of numbing dumb and dull end credits listing the artists cashing in. It is exactly what moviegoers who made this franchise thrive deserve.

    Age of Extinction — a wishful title if ever there was — is set a few years after the planned finale, 2011's Dark of the Moon, and its battle royale between Autobots and the evil Decepticons. Everything was settled as Chicago got leveled, with Bay's dispassion for human stuff making what must be an astounding body count nothing worth mentioning. Autobots save the world, end of story. Please....

    Left to right: Hound, Bingbing Li plays Su Yueming, Stanley Tucci plays Joshua Joyce, Bumblebee, Jack Reynor plays Shane Dyson, Nicola Peltz plays Tessa Yeager, Mark Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, Optimus Prime, Drift, and Crosshairs in TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION, from Paramount Pictures.
  8. Review: 'Obvious Child' is rom-com with a bold side

    Movies

    Obvious Child is a nervy romantic comedy in which the pathway to love runs through an abortion clinic. It's a movie as unfiltered as its unexpectedly pregnant hero, Donna Stern, a standup comedian who can appreciate the irony of an abortion being scheduled on Valentine's Day.

    Donna is played tart-tongued and with an abundance of mopey, millennial charm by Jenny Slate, best known for dropping an f-bomb on Saturday Night Live that got her fired from the show. Slate still has that adorably soapable mouth, and Donna's open mic hobby, bawdily riffing on her lady parts and boyfriend, sets Gillian Robespierre's movie on its appealing way....

    Jenny Slate, starring with Jake Lacy in Obvious Child, uses her bawdy sense of humor to great effect.
  9. Review: Eastwood waves bye bye baby to music of 'Jersey Boys'

    Movies

    People wondered if Clint Eastwood could direct a musical, and after seeing Jersey Boys it's obvious he still hasn't tried.

    Eastwood pulled the plug on the jukebox musical based on the formidable song catalog of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, going stingy with the music and too generous with material that on stage is only filler between tunes. The mamaluke drama behind the rise and stumble of this seminal rock 'n' roll band is nothing we haven't seen in movies before, maybe starring Joe Pesci (who's a character here … really) with the Four Seasons on the soundtrack....

    Michael Lomenda plays Nick Massi, from left, John Lloyd Young is Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen is Bob Gaudio and Vincent Piazza is Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys.
  10. Review: 'Think Like a Man Too' is wisely built around the very funny Kevin Hart

    Movies

    What happens in Vegas happens a lot in movies. Think Like a Man Too goes to the same casinos, strip clubs and pleasure pools with a fistful of jokers and an ace up its sleeve, the irrepressible Kevin Hart (pictured).

    Once again there's a wedding involved and a last blowout to plan, although this time with Hart as the necessary worst best man for the occasions. In the first movie inspired by Steve Harvey's relationship advice book, Hart's scene-stealing as Cedric catapulted his movie career. Two years later he's brinking on Eddie Murphy stardom, and the sequel is smartly built around him....

    Cedric (Kevin Hart)  in Screen Gem's THINK LIKE A MAN TOO.
  11. Will Packer, native son of St. Pete, becomes Hollywood powerhouse

    Movies

    Will Packer's life these days is bouncing bicoastal, Atlanta to L.A. and back, "doing my Hollywood hustle, brother," as a successful movie producer and black cinema pioneer.

    With one recent detour to his native St. Petersburg, as an appreciative son.

    Mom needed a new car. Packer, 40, sneaked into town and surprised her with a shiny new Buick LaCrosse, bows, ribbons and all.

    "It's got all the bells and whistles," Birice Packer said. "Everything I said I don't need, he put on this car."...

    Four of Will Packer’s movies have debuted at No. 1 at the box office.
  12. Review: Robert Pattinson a bright spot in muddled 'The Rover'

    Movies

    The Rover (R) (102 min.) David Michod's second feature is grimmer, more dog-eat-dog than his first, 2010's Animal Kingdom, and that's saying something. The Rover is a nasty muddle of Australian Outback noir in broad, boiling daylight, starring Guy Pearce as a vengeful enigma chasing three men who stole his car while escaping a robbery gone wrong.

    Set in a desolate near-future after an unexplained economic collapse, The Rover fascinates and frustrates in equal measure, with Michod withholding details of plot and character so thoroughly that a nihilistic fog sets in. It's all intended to set up a final scene explaining why Eric (Pearce) is so determined to retrieve his car, amounting to less of a payoff than intended. Yet the violent set pieces and one performance keep Michod's pointlessness interesting....

    Guy Pearce, left, and Robert Pattinson star in The Rover.
  13. 'Dolphin Tale 2' release date changes

    Movies

    The wait for Dolphin Tale 2 to reach theaters got a little shorter late Thursday, when Warner Bros. moved up the sequel's opening date a week to Sept. 12.

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO and Dolphin Tale 2 producer David Yates texted news of the switch to the Times, citing results of the studio's "competition study."

    Checking the release schedule, September is loaded with adult-themed movies that wouldn't cut into Dolphin Tale 2 ticket sales. However, the release date change gives the sequel two weeks of essentially no competition for family business before the animated comedy The Boxtrolls arrives on Sept. 26. ...

  14. 'Dolphin Tale 2' trailer gives more plot clues

    Movies

    The final trailer for Dolphin Tale 2, continuing the adventures of Winter the tailless dolphin, was previewed for the media Thursday at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the sequel's primary filming location.

    Our movie critic's review: The trailer is two and a half minutes of adorable inspiration, a calling card for Tampa Bay tourism, and at least one key plot point revealed.

    Like the 2011 original, Dolphin Tale 2 is based on a true-life dolphin rescue, this time a bottlenose calf named Hope, whom Winter took under her fin as a mentor. ...

    Expect to see more of the white pelican "Rufus" in the movie "Dolphin Tale 2 ."
  15. Review: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' flies in the face of usual sequels

    Movies

    How many dragons are too many? It's a question that apparently never occurred to Dean DeBlois and his How to Train Your Dragon 2 creative team but crossed my mind during their eventually entertaining sequel.

    Not just the number of creatures but their infinitely schoolboy doodle designs: two wings, four wings, spotted, striped, horned, fanged, whatever. Nearly all appear to be the last of their species because so few two are alike. Most can fly, a 3-D talent DeBlois wears thin before settling into a story that startles with its seriousness....

    Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) learns a shocking truth from dad Stoick (Gerard Butler) and Valka (Cate Blanchett).