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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

Email: persall@tampabay.com

Twitter: @StevePersall

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  1. Mike Nichols, celebrated director of 'The Graduate,' 'Silkwood,' dies at 83

    Movies

    Where have you gone, Mike Nichols? Our nation always turned its lonely eyes to you.

    Like Mrs. Robinson in a director's chair, Mr. Nichols seduced audiences spanning seven decades, making us think differently about mediums and their messages to an America in transition.

    Mr. Nichols, who was married to broadcaster Diane Sawyer, died of cardiac arrest Wednesday night in New York at age 83, leaving behind generations he redefined on stage and screens, large and small....

    Mike Nichols and wife, broadcaster Diane Sawyer, at the AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards that honored Nichols in 2010. Nichols brought fierce wit, caustic social commentary and wicked absurdity to film, TV and stage. He died Wednesday of cardiac arrest at age 83.
  2. Eva Longoria's 'Food Chains' documentary showing in Tampa on Friday

    Movies

    Proving she's deeper than Desperate Housewives, actor Eva Longoria is also an activist for farm workers, and an executive producer of Food Chains, a documentary exposing their abuse by agriculture conglomerates. Food Chains focuses on south Florida's Coalition of Immokalee Workers, tomato farmers who formed the Fair Food Program with retailers like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to earn an extra penny per pound for their crops, that can make a difference in workers' lives. Meanwhile, retailers including Publix and Wendy's remain opposed to the program. Narrated by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, Food Chains opens Friday in 25 U.S. theaters including AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa, and will be available digitally on iTunes. The 82-minute documentary will also be released as video on demand beginning Thanksgiving Day. In conjunction with Food Chains' limited U.S. theatrical release, civil protests favoring the Fair Food Program are planned at supermarkets in cities where it plays. The Veterans 24 engagement is linked with a gathering Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Publix supermarket at Twelve Oaks Plaza, 7018 W Waters Ave. in Tampa. For information visit foodchainsfilm.com. — Steve Persall, Times movie critic...

  3. Review: 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' smartly sets up the end

    Movies

    After being cliff-hung by Catching Fire, the Hunger Games saga could've taken me anywhere. As someone who hasn't read Suzanne Collins' books, it's gratifying to see where Mockingjay - Part 1 goes, where movie franchises with the nerve to split a finale into two paydays typically won't.

    Once again, this is a blockbuster fantasy of unusual intelligence yet differently, which is even smarter. These are darker days in Panem than before, with President Snow (Donald Sutherland, exquisitely wicked) cracking down on the rebellion Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) began by destroying the Hunger Games....

     Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is in the clutches of the Capitol in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.
  4. Review: In shallow 'Theory of Everything,' Eddie Redmayne shines as Stephen Hawking

    Movies

    The Theory of Everything is a rather ordinary biography of an extraordinary life, less inquisitive and ready to test boundaries than the brilliant mind it portrays.

    James Marsh's movie is for physicist Stephen Hawking what Walk the Line was to Johnny Cash, emotional complexity distilled for easier commercial digestion. An obstacle that can be communicated in cinematic shorthand — Cash's drug addiction, Hawking's neuromuscular disease — is subject to such superficial treatment....

    Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is the foundation of The Theory of Everything.
  5. Interview: Garfunkel and Oates on bingo and bad dates

    Music & Concerts

    Garfunkel and Oates aren't the rock 'n' roll hall of famers you may think they are. Even if they were, that musical pairing likely wouldn't be as weird, and definitely not as funny.

    Stage-named for famous second bananas, Garfunkel and Oates are, respectively, Riki Lindhome (tall, airy blond) and Kate Micucci (short brunet, with a running joke about growing a mustache). You might recognize Lindhome from Gilmore Girls and House, Micucci from Scrubs and Raising Hope, plus they were both in The Big Bang Theory. But they're not household names yet, except for those that aren't theirs....

    Kate Micucci, left, and Riki Lindhome are the musical group Garfunkel and Oates. (Getty Images) 
  6. Locally filmed 1975 horror flick 'Satan's Children' showing at Tampa Theatre

    Movies

    Spring Breakers. Cocoon. Magic Mike. Each considered among the finest movies ever produced around Tampa Bay. Satan's Children belongs nowhere near that list.

    Never heard of Satan's Children? That's because this piggy-bank budgeted 1975 horror flick never became the grindhouse sensation writer-producer-director Joe Wiezycki intended. Wiezycki, a former director at WTVT-TV Ch. 13, died in 1994 without realizing his auteur dream....

  7. Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To' is dumb and pointless

    Movies

    Right now I'm juggling two reviews on deadline: the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, and Dumb and Dumber To. I'll try not to get them confused.

    Both movies include people of extraordinary intellect or lack thereof in wheelchairs. The Theory of Everything features a life-saving, world-changing surgery. In Dumb and Dumber To someone swaps an organ for a pork chop....

    Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as Lloyd and Harry in Dumb and Dumber To. Lloyd and Harry set out to find Harry’s daughter in the hopes of finding a kidney match. The movie’s best jokes are the brief bits that come with no setup.
Universal Studios
  8. Review: One of year's best movies, 'Whiplash' doesn't miss a beat (w/video)

    Movies

    Whiplash is musical drama with a Hitchcock heart, a minor-key thriller set to a double time swing beat. That's one jazz rhythm Andrew Neyman hasn't mastered on the drums, and his future, perhaps his sanity, depends upon it.

    Andrew is a wallflower freshman at fictitious Shaffer Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Terrence Fletcher, a jazz perfectionist in the cruelest ways. Whenever Fletcher acts supportive is the cue for Andrew to steel himself or duck. Andrew wants to be the next Buddy Rich. Fletcher will find out how badly....

    Andrew (Miles Teller) is a freshman at a music conservatory, under the tutelage of Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). For an interview with Teller, go to tampabay.com/movies.
  9. Snoopy? How rising star Miles Teller, a Lecanto High grad, found acting (w/video)

    Movies

    Maybe if Beth Bedee weren't so pretty, Miles Teller wouldn't be a movie star.

    Teller, earning Oscar buzz for his new movie Whiplash, would've kept playing baseball at Citrus County's Lecanto High School, with sportscasting in mind after graduating in 2005.

    But boys will be boys, and Mrs. Bedee was a blond, young incoming teacher taking over the Panther Players drama program. Like other smitten students, Teller joined in his sophomore year, debuting as "Willard" in a production of Footloose....

    Lecanto High School graduate Miles Teller, left, is attracting Oscar buzz with his role as a driven jazz drummer in Whiplash.
  10. Blue Ocean Film Festival wraps with awards, actor Jeremy Irons

    Human Interest

    The Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit crested Sunday with an appearance by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons and curtain calls for its prize-winning films.

    Irons, 66, a Best Actor Oscar winner for Reversal of Fortune, presented the 2012 eco-documentary Trashed, a film he narrated and executive produced. Directed by Candida Brady, Trashed focuses on the world's waste disposal crisis, with Irons visiting former paradises that are now landfills....

    Jeremy Irons, 66, introduces Trashed, a documentary he narrated and executive produced. Irons also received the Making Waves Award for spreading a cleanup message.
  11. Inarritu interview: Go inside the mind of the man behind 'Birdman'

    Movies

    Alejandro G. Inarritu is the wind beneath Birdman's wings, the mind and guiding hand behind the movie of the moment and possibly awards season.

    Birdman stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, a washed-up former movie superhero trying to rekindle his career on Broadway adapting a Raymond Carver short story. When asked in a telephone interview why Carver, Inarritu (pronounced ih-NYAR-ee-too) said: "Because it is a bad idea," which tells us everything about Riggan....

    Director Alejandro G. Inarritu is the mind behind "Birdman."  (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
  12. Review: Part genius, part crazy, 'Birdman' soars (w/video)

    Movies

    A meteor's spectacular flameout opens Birdman or (the enigmatic subtitle, if you prefer). The space boulder has nothing on Riggan Thomson, whose movie career spiral after superhero stardom is a lot like Michael Keaton's, who is playing him here, in a stroke of meta genius.

    What goes down must come up, right? For Riggan, a jury of two — himself and that taunting voice in his head — is still out. For Keaton, it's solidly affirmed by the performance of his career and perhaps this year, a naked portrait of ego, desperation and self-obsession....

    Michael Keaton, left, is Riggan, a former star trying to find fame in his own Broadway show that includes Edward Norton as Mark, who has what Riggan wants.
  13. Review: 'Big Hero 6' is good enough

    Movies

    Disney's purchase of the Marvel universe — lock, stock and superheroes — is bound to expose a few black holes of greed.

    Big Hero 6 isn't one of them, but this first invasion of Marvel's comic book sensibility on Disney's animation empire suggests it is possible. This is something the Mouse House and Pixar — another acquisition — did before and better with The Incredibles. Big Hero 6 is brawnier and grasping, a primer for the next generations of Marvel fanboys and girls babysat by video....

    Fred, from left, Honey Lemon, Hiro, puffy Baymax, GoGo Tomago and Wasabi from Disney’s Big Hero 6.
  14. Review: 'Interstellar' falls into a big black hole of nothingness (w/video)

    Movies

    Stanley Kubrick had the right idea. When making a philosophical space epic steeped in scientific theory, don't explain everything. Be bold but be vague; fewer corners to back into that way. And don't let Hans Zimmer do the music.

    Christopher Nolan didn't learn much from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Nolan's ambitiously faulted Interstellar is all about the "huh?" as in: What did Matthew McConaughey just say about gravitational anomalies, in his solemn drawl usually reserved for car ads? Is the fifth dimension more than a '60s pop group? Can we ever reconcile Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum mechanics? (No joke, that's a topic of conversation.)...

    Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and Romilly (David Gyasi) search for a new home beyond Earth 
— but in the midst of all sorts of over-explained space anomalies — in Christopher Nolan’s ambitiously faulted Interstellar.
  15. For Haley Joel Osment, growing up includes 'Sex Ed'

    Movies

    Is there life after seeing dead people? Haley Joel Osment hopes so.

    Fifteen years ago, Osment was the littlest next big thing in Hollywood, an Oscar nominee at age 11 for The Sixth Sense, with a creepy catchphrase that still haunts him.

    Now it's quoted by fans remembering the kid, not yet knowing the man he matured into, away from a spotlight he wants to reclaim. Osment is, in show biz terms, having a moment. After exiling himself to New York University, graduating in 2012 and returning to acting, the results are showing up, seemingly all at once....

    Before graduating from New York University, former child actor Haley Joel Osment took the role of teacher Ed Cole in Sex Ed, which was filmed around Tampa Bay. “You just have to take (roles) over time that are different from anything you’ve done before.”