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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. Review: 'The Overnight' swings between intimate and uncomfortable


    Movies about swinging haven't changed much since Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice got cold feet in bed together, way back in '69. From The Ice Storm's key party to A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, swapping sexual partners is usually portrayed as either shameful or a source of nervous laughter.

    In Patrick Brice's The Overnight, it's a little of both.

    The Overnight begins as comically mannered as casting Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) would suggest. They play Alex and Emily, wed parents newly moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, uncertain how to fit in. Visiting a playground with their son, they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son. Everyone hits it off....

    Adam Scott, left, and Taylor Schilling play Alex and Emily, married parents newly moved from Seattle to Los Angeles. 
The Orchard
  2. Movie Planner: 'Magic Mike XXL' fizzles, but don't miss 'Dope,' 'Me and Earl'



    It's easy for worthy, smaller films to get overlooked in the summer stampede of Hollywood blockbusters. That shouldn't happen to Dope and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, for each put fresh spins on teenage movie tropes.

    Dope (R) stars newcomer Shameik Moore as Malcolm, who unlike most African-American teenagers in movies isn't into thug life or street dancing. Malcolm wants to attend Harvard, appreciates the "white" things in life, like BMX bikes, and fronts a hip-hop and punk band....

    Dope features Shameik Moore, left, and Zoe Kravitz.
  3. Review: Franchise runs out of steam with 'Terminator Genisys'


    Don't worry about brushing up on Terminator mythology before seeing the latest sequel. There's a helpful prologue in Terminator Genisys that explains everything that happened since 1984, and a movie after that makes much of it useless.

    The players behind Terminator Genisys are resetting the game, having time-traveled themselves into an acute corner, through four movies of declining quality and popularity since James Cameron stopped directing them. Cameron isn't around for this one, either, but he's happy to praise it for TV ads. Not many will....

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, who passed on 2009’s Terminator Salvation, returns for Terminator Genisys.
  4. Review: 'Magic Mike XXL' needs to shut up and dance


    A fun idea gets a little too big for its g-strings with Magic Mike XXL, a movie that really needs to shut up and dance.

    The unexpected critical and box office success of 2012's Magic Mike, the stripper bromance partly filmed around Tampa Bay, went to everyone's heads. Now these guys barely share a stage, when volume testosterone was part of the first movie's charm. Even Matt Bomer thinks he deserves a solo spotlight, not to hump-and-grind much but to sing....

    The guys are looking more triumphant here than they probably have a right to. Magic Mike XXL is darker, and between money-rain showers (of which there are fewer), duller. It’s the movie many feared the original would be.
Warner Bros
  5. Review: A crude 'Ted 2' will keep you laughing until the next morning


    Seth MacFarlane got a bigger budget for Ted 2 and blew much of it in the opening credits, a splashy production number Busby Berkeley would love, led by Ted Clubberlang, a walking, (dirty) talking teddy bear.

    It's the classiest thing about Ted 2, and for that we are grateful. Not to mention a little sore from laughing so hard.

    This will either be the most evasive movie review of MacFarlane's movie you'll read or the shortest, for the same reason. The jokes are too off-the-chain hilarious to spoil, and can't be repeated unless I'm writing for Hustler....

    Mark Wahlberg , from left, the character Ted, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, and Amanda Seyfried appear in a scene from "Ted 2." (Universal Pictures via AP)
  6. Review: 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' a cancer story set apart


    As usual in such movies, the young cancer patient of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl goes slowly and lovely, putting on a brave, pallid face for someone unlikely who cares.

    What sets apart Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's YA tearjerker — most of the time — is a determination to not get too worked up about what our unreliable narrator calls a "doomed friendship" from day one. This is among the funnier entries in the cancer-kid genre, flawed yet affable, with no fault in its dweebly charismatic stars....

    Olivia Cooke, from left, as Rachel, Thomas Mann as Greg, and RJ Cyler as Earl star in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
  7. 'Eight is Enough' patriarch Dick Van Patten dies at 86

    The Feed

    Dick Van Patten, the affable paterfamilias on the '70s television hit Eight is Enough, died Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., of complications from diabetes. Mr. Van Patten was 86.

    At a time in American culture when large, nuclear families began declining in number, Eight is Enough stubbornly portrayed their virtues, with Mr. Van Patten guiding a brood of eight children ranging in age from 8 to 22. The role was based upon memoirs written by syndicated newspaper columnist Tom Braden, renamed Tom Bradford for the series....

    Actor Dick Van Patten was best known as the patriarch of TV’s Eight is Enough, guiding a brood of eight children ranging in age from 8 to 22. He died Tuesday in California of complications from diabetes at age 86.
  8. Friends, family gather to remember wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes


    TAMPA — Dusty Rhodes, the "people's champion" for five decades in professional wrestling, was quietly celebrated Wednesday in private services after his death last week at age 69.

    The scene outside St. Lawrence Catholic Church in West Tampa was so unlike Mr. Rhodes, a garrulous performer whose lisping Texas twang and "bionic elbow" practically shook the foundation of Fort Homer Hesterly Armory two generations ago. Billing himself as "the American Dream," Mr. Rhodes sometimes invited fans to join him in wrestling rings after important victories, perhaps dine with them at Waffle House, anything to make a connection....

     Wrestling fan Janice Jones wipes a tear from her eye as she watches people arrive for the Dusty Rhodes funeral at the St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa Wednesday, June 17, 2015.
  9. Review: 'Dope' turns familiar coming of age movie into drug caper


    Whatever definition of "dope" you prefer, it applies to Rick Famuyiwa's movie of the same name. Dope is a drug caper involving teenagers doing stupid things for the geeks they are, the kind John Hughes might have written if he allowed black people in his movies.

    Famuyiwa has a blast flipping Hughes' script, the angst of adolescent outsiders in suburbia now set in an Inglewood, Calif., neighborhood dubbed "the Bottoms." Famuyiwa set 1999's The Wood near there, knows the multicultural territory and shares it with pure, sometimes sloppy exuberance....

    Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is an honor student dreaming of Harvard in a high school dominated by gangs in Dope.
  10. Review: Brainy 'Inside Out' among Pixar's best films


    A train of thought runs through Inside Out. Seriously, there's an actual train chugging through the candy-colored mindscape of an 11-year-old girl, an ingenious new frontier for Pixar's brand of magic and Disney's magical brand.

    Inside Out is the animation leaders' most ambitiously original project since Up, a relief after a five-year streak of sequels and Brave. This one ranks among their finest, certainly the most intellectually challenging in the way it makes abstracts so relatable to anyone, young and old. It thinks, therefore it is....

  11. Independent documentary 'Cowspiracy' may screen in Centro Ybor


    Another independently produced documentary that might otherwise skip Tampa Bay needs 84 tickets sold to make a one-time only showing happen. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret examines the global impact of large-scale factory farming including climate change, deforestation and water pollution. So you can see why is isn't a hot ticket like Jurassic World. Enter concerned citizen Heather Allen of Tampa, who arranged with the movie's distributor for a Cowspiracy screening June 25, 7:30 p.m. at Centro Ybor 20 in Ybor City, but only if 84 tickets are sold by Thursday. On Friday, the ticketing website ( showed 35 sold at $12 each. Another moviegoer, Barry Silber of Lutz, recently used a similar method to bring the skeptics documentary An Honest Liar to Regency 20 in Brandon. Yes, kids, there's more to movies than dinosaurs and superheroes. It just takes extra effort to find it. Steve Persall, Times movie critic...
  12. Remembering Dusty Rhodes, Tampa Bay wrestling legend and original sports hero


    Before Tampa Bay ever had a Buccaneer, Lightning, Rowdie or Ray to cheer, Dusty Rhodes was the community's biggest sports hero.

    Perhaps not in size (6-foot-1, 275 pounds) but certainly in personality, a bellowing Texan with a faint lisp and "bionic elbow" proclaimed himself the American Dream and fans believed it.

    The pro wrestling legend died Thursday at age 69, reportedly of kidney failure....

    Big, blond, boisterous and the ultimate ambassador of wrestling, Dusty Rhodes signs autographs in his heyday in this file photo.
  13. Remembering screen stars Christopher Lee and Ron Moody


    Legendary screen villain Christopher Lee and Golden Globe winner Ron Moody shared a craft, a homeland and not much else professionally.

    Now they share eternity, each after dying of natural causes in their native England in recent days. Mr. Lee died June 7 but the announcement was delayed in order to contact family members; Mr. Moody died Thursday.

    Mr. Lee, 93, was one of cinema's most prolific actors ever with 280 film, TV and vocal performances to his credit. He was the most famous Dracula not named Lugosi, a sinister Bond villain who should've won, and the only actor appearing in both the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings franchises....

    Christopher Lee, the prolific, aristocratic British actor who brought dramatic gravitas to the low-budget thrills of Hammer Studios’ 1950s and 1960s horror films and to the more recent “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and two of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequels, has died at age 93. [Associated Press]
  14. Review: 'Jurassic World' full of thrills and purposeful sellouts


    The first dinosaurs we see in Jurassic World are holograms, a transparent fakery when we've waited 14 years for the CGI-real things. Don't worry, they're coming.

    Initially, Jurassic World is about a different sort of gargantuan beast created by technology run amok. Call them Themeparkasaurus, those fantasy thrill centers devouring vacation budgets. The behemoth causing John Williams' recycled music to swell isn't a dinosaur but the first sighting of the Isla Nublar park itself, teeming with tourists. Or, as they'll come to be known, lunch....

    Owen (Chris Pratt) attempts to keep the raptors at bay in “Jurassic World”. Universal Pictures
  15. Universal's first Halloween haunt revealed: Freddy vs. Jason


    For its 25th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Orlando is pitting Hollywood's grisliest icons against each other, and park visitors.

    Universal announced Wednesday that Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees will go scarred face to hockey mask in their own haunted house. The attraction is titled Freddy vs. Jason, echoing their lone screen collaboration....

    Freddy (Robert Englund) and Jason (Ken Kirzinger) in 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason. Although the 2003 movie ended in a bit of a draw, the two villains will be back together at Halloween Horror Nights in their own haunted house.