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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: Persall's at the Telluride Film Festival, 'The Transporter Refueled' opens



    ALMOST HEAVEN: Telluride Film Festival


    By now I'm in heaven, at least as close as I wish to be for a while.

    I'm at the Telluride Film Festival, high in the San Juan mountain range of southwest Colorado, where I've visited for summer vacation nine of the past 10 years.

    Telluride gives me an early glimpse at, or at least get the buzz about, movies that will be awards season players next spring. Telluride premieres in recent years include the best picture Academy Award winners Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire — six of the past seven Oscar champs. Not to mention major awards players like Gravity and The Imitation Game....

    Johnny Depp plays the infamous Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass.
  2. Review: 'A Walk in the Woods' has charming stars, and that's about it


    A Walk in the Woods isn't always the wilderness hijinks comedy that trailers are selling, with pratfalls by stunt men hiding their faces so maybe we'll believe that's really Robert Redford and Nick Nolte taking lumps.

    Sometimes the movie wanders into serious topics that should be explored — conservation, mortality — then it wanders right back out. Those are the times in this adaptation of Bill Bryson's backpack diary when watching "Redford" dive through a window and Nolte doing a better impression of a bear than the bears come in handy....

    Despite the awful material in this aspiring wilderness hijinks comedy, Robert Redford still has an easy charm.
  3. Review: 'Mistress America' shines with great writing and Greta Gerwig


    Meet our nation's girl on the side, as she describes the title of Mistress America, a fictional short story that perhaps shouldn't be written, in a movie that gloriously is.

    Brooke Cardenas is a cosmopolitan whirligig, a chic chatterbox trumping disagreers by simply not allowing them time to speak, and not listening if they do. As played to perfection by indie cinema sweetheart Greta Gerwig, Brooke is impulsive and patronizing yet somehow adorable for it....

    Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke in "Mistress America." (David Feeney-Mosier/Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures/TNS)
  4. Brando, Vidal/Buckley docs opening at Tampa Theatre


    One of the most frustrating things about this job is enduring exhibitors, bookers, distributors and their publicists, who are entrusted with the visions of artists and moviegoers' tastes, then treat them with such low respect.

    Cases in point: Two well-reviewed (elsewhere) documentaries opening Friday at Tampa Theatre but somewhere along the marketing line no one thought to let the media know in time to effectively spread the word....

    Listen to Me MarloBrando's personal photos and recordings inform Listen to Me Marlon
  5. Movie Planner: 'The Diary of a Teenage Girl' a top-notch indie, plus Indian films and 'A Walk in the Woods'



    Fifteen-year-old Minnie Guetze just had sex for the first time, she breathlessly tells her cassette tape recorder in the opening frames of The Diary of a Teenage Girl (R). The recipient of Minnie's virginity is her mother's thirtysomething boyfriend Monroe, which in mid-70's San Francisco during the sexual revolution isn't the same statutory rape scandal it would be today....

    Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in A Walk in the Woods (2015) based on Bill Bryson’s memoirs.
  6. Review: 'We Are Your Friends' a soulless, repetitive DJ story


    We Are Your Friends is to electronic dance music DJs what Punchline is to standup comedians, a laughable repre-Zen-tation of what it's like to be them. The movie takes something primally appealing and attempts to explain it, fetishize it, turn it into something deeper and more dramatic than it is.

    The only thing more pathetic would be those viewers who'll believe what writer-director Max Joseph is spinning, and walk out thinking, hey, I can do that. All you need is a laptop, some talent and one crowd-surging track, the hero informs us. How hard can it be?...

    Zac Efron stars as Cole Carter, a DJ who wants to make it big, in We Are Your Friends.
  7. Eckerd College's International Cinema Series announces fall lineup


    One of the relatively hidden gems of Tampa Bay's movie culture is the International Cinema Series conducted at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

    Founded by professor Nathan Andersen, the series goes beyond art house and multiplex programming to bring local cineastes some of the world's most obscure yet important independent cinema. This year's lineup is no exception....

    'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,' Sept. 25 at Eckerd College
  8. Regal Cinemas begins bag checks for security (and snacks?)


    Regal Cinemas, by far North America's largest theater chain, is now bolstering security -- and perhaps its coffers -- with bag and backpack searches at entrances to its locations.

    A smart move, considering this summer's pair of deadly events at theaters (not Regal's) in Louisiana and Tennessee, in addition to the recent sentencing to life in prison of a man responsible for mass murder in a Colorado multiplex in 2012....

  9. Review: 'American Ultra' a clumsy modern action-romance


    Mike and Phoebe are in over their heads in love. Mad, stupid love like Clarence and Alabama in True Romance, when kisses swap spit and blood; theirs and anyone else's in their way. They're so cool.

    American Ultra wants to recapture that bloody valentine spirit for the ramen generation, two crazy kids rushing headlong into implausible danger. Stoners, of course, because that's the current foundation for youthful comedy....

    Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Kristen Stewart star in American Ultra, a stoner-action film that hits theaters Friday.
  10. Movie Planner: Simeon Rice premieres horror flick, plus 'America Ultra,' 'Hitman: Agent 47,' 'Sinister 2'


    CINEMA SIMEON: 'Unsullied' premiere

    Simeon Rice hasn't been a rookie since 1996, when he was picked third overall in the NFL draft.

    Now 41, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end, Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowler is a rookie again, playing a much different game.

    Rice makes his feature film directing debut with Unsullied (R), "an action-thriller-suspense (movie)," he said, calling from Chicago. "I like to say all three."...

    Hitman: Agent 47, a thriller-action flick, features Rupert Friend.
  11. Screen siren Sophia Loren coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall


    No, this isn't an April Fool's joke. Just one of those once in a lifetime opportunities one never imagined, happening on April 1, 2016.

    Academy Award winner Sophia Loren, 80, one of the most celebrated beauties of the 20th century, is coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall for a candid conversation about her long, storied career.

    Loren could fill the evening discussing her leading men alone, a list including such luminaries as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman. Or perhaps her historic Oscar best actress Oscar for Two Women, becoming the first winner in a foreign language role....

    Sophia Loren, the face that launched 1,000 dreams
  12. Richard Dreyfuss postpones 'Jaws' retrospective


    This news breaks our hearts like Mary Ellen Moffat did shark hunter Matt Hooper's in Jaws.

    Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss, who played Hooper in Steven Spielberg's suspense classic, has been forced to postpone his Sept. 10 appearance at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Jaws.

    The appearance is rescheduled for Nov. 7, featuring a screening of Jaws and a candid Q&A session moderated by Times movie critic Steve Persall. Show time is 7 p.m....

    Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.
  13. Will Packer tweets on 'Straight Outta Compton' blackout at Sundial


    Straight Outta Compton executive producer and St. Petersburg native Will Packer tweeted Sunday in response to a Times report after the movie wasn't booked in his hometown's only multiplex.

    Among Packer's remarks was a hope that Carmike Cinemas, which operates Sundial 19, will "rethink" that decision.

    The Universal Pictures biopic of rap pioneers N.W.A. finished  No. 1 at the box office with $60.2 million. The movie is showing at theaters in every corner of Tampa Bay except Sundial 19, located in a gentrified shopping district that was formerly a troublesome hangout area....

    Will Packer participates in a panel at the NBCUniversal Television Critics Association Summer Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Aug. 13 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
  14. Elvis Presley left the building 38 years ago Sunday


    Where were you Aug. 16, 1977 when news came that Elvis Presley had died?

    If you're reading this online, chances are high that you weren't born yet, or perhaps too young to notice. Thirty-eight years is a long time and a lot of technology ago.

    But if anything could be considered going "viral" in the pre-internet era it was the sudden, shocking death of the King of Rock and Roll at age 42, at his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn....

    Elvis Presley died 38 years ago Sunday
  15. 'Straight Outta Compton' mysteriously absent from Sundial in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — When Straight Outta Compton hits theaters today, Tampa Bay moviegoers can see it from Sarasota to Clearwater to Plant City.

    But not in St. Petersburg.

    The city's lone multiplex, Muvico Sundial 19, doesn't have the Universal Pictures release on its schedule despite industry analysts pegging it to be No. 1 at the weekend box office, projected to earn $32 million....

    Straight Outta Compton profiles the group N.W.A., which made a name in the 1980s with lyrics reflecting inner city frustration and anger created by police brutality. Some songs objectified women and romanticized gang culture.