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. For free movies, they will gladly spend time

    Movies

    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....

    People camp out in chairs at AMC West Shore 14, sometimes for hours, to get a seat for free screenings of new movies. Times photo by Steve Persall
  2. Review: This 'Sex Tape' not much fun to watch

    Movies

    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.
  3. It's a 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)' reunion at bay area movie theaters

    Movies

    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]
  4. 'Planet of the Apes' franchise is a rocky evolution

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    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....

    In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis, and James Franco are shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ." (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox) NYET904
  5. 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....

    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.
  6. '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.
  7. 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....

  8. 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 and Adam Levine play a couple who experience different degrees of success in different musical genres in Begin Again.
  9. Review: 'Tammy' is a whammy of a mistake for Melissa McCarthy

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    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
  10. 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.
  11. 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....

    Optimus Prime is the only hero returning in the fourth movie; the humans are new.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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."...

    Will Packer, 40, oversees his latest movie, The Wedding Ringer, starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad, due in theaters next year. Packer lives in Atlanta and runs a production company in L.A.