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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. Debra Winger talks about shunning celebrity and why she's back for 'The Lovers'


    Fifteen years ago, Rosanna Arquette's documentary went Searching for Debra Winger, or more accurately why a bankable Oscar nominee in her prime (or any woman) found less opportunity than men.

    Debra Winger was Hollywood's face of the 1980s, starring in such touchstones as Terms of Endearment, Urban Cowboy and An Officer and a Gentleman. Then she wasn't.

    It was part choice, part circumstance. Celebrity became a drag. Winger's independence — "being difficult" in studio-speak — preceded her....

    Debra Winger, who turned her back on her career after performing major roles in several 1980s classics, has come to terms with celebrity and at 61 stars in the new film The Lovers.
New York Times
  2. 'Chuck' tells the story of what happened to Chuck Wepner, boxer who inspired 'Rocky'


    Chuck Wepner was a tomato can, a heavyweight boxer who practically bled at the opening bell. The pride of Bayonne, N.J., could really take a punch as he proved time after hemorrhaging time.

    You probably know Wepner better as Rocky Balboa.

    That's because Sylvester Stallone was among millions in 1975 watching the underdog Wepner take Muhammad Ali into the 15th round of a heavyweight championship title fight. Plucked from obscurity to give Ali an easy title defense, Wepner's refusal to quit inspired Stallone to write an iconic movie....

    Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner in Philippe Falardeau’s “Chuck.” 
IFC Films
  3. This weekend in theaters: 'Alien: Convenant;' 'Everything, Everything;' 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul'



    Alien: Covenant

    Perfecting outer space terror with 1979's Alien wasn't enough for director Ridley Scott. Now he's reshaping the franchise into sci-fi theology with Alien: Covenant (R), five years after the sideways prequel Prometheus left many fans scratching their heads.

    Alien: Covenant stars Michael Fassbender in dual android roles, one a holdover from Prometheus, the other watching over a colony ship's passengers in suspended animation. ...

    Katherine Waterston stars in Alien: Covenant.
  4. New 'Alien: Covenant' is a gift to fans who hated 'Prometheus'


    In 2012, Ridley Scott puzzled viewers with Prometheus, a sideways prequel to Alien posing grandiose questions of sci-fi creationism without answers. Or as much face-sucking, flesh-bursting goo, as it turned out.

    Alien: Covenant is more like what the franchise's fans expect, and why not? Scott practically invented the dead-meat-in-space genre with Alien. Here, he adroitly balances lofty ideas rooted in Prometheus and what can be described as covers of alien kills. A mind scramble here, a gut punch there. It works....

    Katherine Waterston plays Daniels, a crew member of the colony ship Covenant, which makes a detour to a closer planet apparently safe for humans but previously undetected.
  5. The King Arthur myth needs a movie makeover. 'Legend of the Sword' is not it


    King Arthur: Legend of the Sword isn't a movie as much as a feature length montage of bastardized lore and rejected Game of Thrones pitches.

    Director Guy Ritchie brings his aggressively kinetic style to a myth in need of a makeover — but not this one. So little of Arthurian legend is preserved that this could be any blade swinger since Conan. No Guinevere, minimal Mordred and Merlin gets only a mention. Not a lotta Camelot....

    Charlie Hunnam has the title role in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
  6. John Cena talks about his indie war drama 'The Wall,' getting work in Hollywood




    Pro wrestling legend and Land O'Lakes resident John Cena adds an indie dimension to his acting career in The Wall (R ), an Iraq War nightmare in broad daylight.

    This isn't the gung-ho war movie Cena's WWE fans might expect. Director Doug Liman crafts a sparse, deadly dilemma of two U.S. soldiers (Cena, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) pinned behind crumbling bricks by sniper bullets and taunts from a disembodied radio voice (Laith Nakli)....

    John Cena stars as a U.S. soldier in The Wall.
  7. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn make beautiful F-bombs together in 'Snatched'


    Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn's dream pairing in Snatched is an Evolution of Funny Women poster waiting to happen. You won't find a missing link between them.

    At this still-early stage of her career, Schumer's boldness reflects modern femininity as Hawn's ditz did in her Laugh-In days and first movie roles beyond. A bikini shimmy then is a drunken twerk today, a foundation for a new level of comedy by and for women. Hawn got classier; Schumer has time....

    Dumped by her boyfriend  right before leaving for their romantic vacation, Emily (Amy Schumer) convinces her helicopter mom (Goldie Hawn) to come instead. The two wind up kidnapped by sweaty, swarthy stereotypes. Twentieth 
Century Fox
  8. Movie Planner: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,' Richard Gere's 'The Dinner'



    No matter what the calendar reads, the Hollywood solstice says it's summertime.

    A season of blockbusters that began with The Fate of the Furious finds another gear tonight, unleashing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG-13) on an eager public.

    Marvel's offbeat space saga doesn't carry an element of surprise this time. Vol. 1 in 2014 caught everyone off-guard except the cosplay crowd. The guardians didn't have Avengers-level name recognition. Chris Pratt wasn't box office gold yet. Bradley Cooper's face wasn't on display. Vin Diesel was a tree (okay, that's not unusual)....

    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stars, from left, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper).
  9. Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is everything fans expect — and that's not a good thing


    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reveals an inherent flaw in the Marvel universe-building blueprint. Getting to know these sleeper-hit misfits is much more fun than revisiting them.

    Starlord. Gamora. Drax. These weren't household name superheroes in 2014. They needed an origins story, some explanation of who, why and how these oddballs came to be. Guardians of the Galaxy was a genre rarity, a truly necessary introduction after too many renditions of radioactive spider bites and the like....

    Baby Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) is a mascot doing in CGI what puppies and babies do best in movies: make people go awwwww. His cuteness gets stale before the opening credits end. 
  10. Summer Movie Preview: It's all about females with 'Wonder Woman,' 'Snatched,' 'Atomic Blonde' and more (w/trailers)


    Women. Can't live with 'em, can't make a summer movie to get excited about without 'em.

    I'm kidding, of course. I get along well with women and Dunkirk looks cool. But this summer at the movies it's all about the ladies, or more than usual at least.

    There's only one Wonder Woman, but lots of wonderful women in front of and behind the cameras. This summer it's the women having wild and crazy misadventures, rescuing dudes in distress, maybe even causing the distress....

    Hacker emoji Jailbreak (Ilana Glazer), exuberant Gene (T.J. Miller) and his handy best friend Hi-5 (James Corden) embark on the app-venture of a lifetime.
  11. Documentary 'Stop the Presses' chronicles the end of the Tampa Tribune


    Deborah Kerr's documentary intended to trace a day in the life of a newspaper.

    She ended up depicting one's death.

    Stop the Presses goes behind the scenes at the Tampa Tribune, which was driven to extinction last year after being purchased by its cross-bay rival, the Tampa Bay Times.

    The project was always personal for Kerr, a first-time filmmaker and advocate of print journalism....

    The site of the former Tampa Tribune offices, shown being demolished on Feb. 22,  will hold an apartment complex.
  12. Stars shine in St. Petersburg for Sunscreen Film Festival


    St. Petersburg had stars in its eyes Thursday when the Sunscreen Film Festival kicked off its 12th edition.

    Award winning actors Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story) and Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos) walked the red carpet outside the Palladium Theater before the opening night feature Blind co-starring McDermott.

    Cheers star Kirstie Alley dropped by during one of her frequent visits to Clearwater....

    Celebrities and fans turned out by the dozens at the Palladium in St. Petersburg for the Sunscreen Film Festival Thursday, April 27, 2017. Joe Pantoliano was among the actors who came to the event.
  13. Movie Planner: 'The Circle,' 'How to Be a Latin Lover,' 'Sleight' open



    Tom Hanks and Emma Watson are box office roadkill this weekend, as The Fate of the Furious roars while The Circle (PG-13) looks like a zero.

    The Circle is a sci-fi thriller with Hanks as a social media mogul whose latest unethical idea shatters all expectations of privacy. Watson plays a fast-rising associate whose disenchantment with the program leads to danger. Hanks is listed eighth in the cast, suggesting his role isn't large....

    Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Patton Oswalt in a scene from James Ponsoldt’s sci-fi thriller The Circle.
  14. Sunscreen Film Festival brings stars and indie films to St. Pete



    Times Movie Critic

    Escaping the heat in a dark movie theater this weekend?

    Don't forget the Sunscreen.

    St. Petersburg's 12th annual Sunscreen Film Festival won't be fast or furious. The beasts and beauties in these independent gems don't sing. Sunscreen celebrates films and their makers that modern movie audiences don't go out of their way to experience....

    Members and fans of the film industry gather outside of the Palladium during opening night of 11th annual Sunscreen Film Festival at  in St. Petersburg in 2016. LUIS SANTANA  |   Times
  15. Interview: Daphne Zuniga talks 'Spaceballs' and Carrie Fisher 30 years later


    Funny, after 30 years, Daphne Zuniga still doesn't look Druish.

    Mel Brooks first noted the lack of resemblance in Spaceballs, putting a pun in John Candy's mouth about Zuniga's Princess Vespa, daughter of Roland, king of the Druids.

    Any resemblance between Vespa and a certain scrappy princess in a galaxy far, far away isn't coincidental, but since 1987 it's funny. Brooks' madcap spoof of Star Wars, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, still has the Schwartz going for it....

    Daphne Zuniga, seen here in Spaceballs, will visit St. Petersburg for the Sunscreen Film Festival and a screening for the movie's 30th anniversary.