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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: spersall@tampabay.com

Twitter: @StevePersall

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  1. How Sofia Coppola's 'The Beguiled' compares to the 1971 version

    Movies

    It was a man's world in 1971 when Clint Eastwood starred in The Beguiled, a Southern gothic thriller that's as misogynistic in hindsight as old movies can be.

    A half-century later, director Sofia Coppola presents the feminist morality tale at the core of The Beguiled that Eastwood's macho image and society in general wouldn't allow at the time. In 1971, he played a charmer-turned-victim; now the character is a manipulator who'll get what he deserves....

    Colin Farrell, left, and Elle Fanning in a scene from “The Beguiled.”
  2. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack

    Movies

    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Everything moves to the beat, even beatdowns. Car chases become interpretive dances of destruction, drums and bullets pound staccato in tandem. Wright takes music video literalization to breathtaking heights. Baby Driver doesn't operate from its hero's point of view but rather his point of hearing, essentially the same thing. Wright's ingenious approach literally turns the genre on its ear....

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  3. In theaters this week: 'Beatriz at Dinner,' 'The Hero,' 'A Very Sordid Wedding'

    Movies

    INDIE FLICKS:

    BEATRIZ AT DINNER

    Miguel Arteta's culture war comedy Beatriz at Dinner (R) gets a lot off its chest in just 80 minutes. "Comedy" is a term loosely used since the laughs stick in your throat, using indelicate topics for sly purpose.

    Salma Hayek is a quiet storm as Beatriz, an otherworldy health therapist whose car won't start after a session at a longtime customer's mansion. Cathy (Connie Britton) is a one-percenter with a heart and deep affection for Beatriz. Cathy is hosting a dinner for her pushy husband's law partner and wife (Jay Duplass, Chloe Sevigny) to welcome an enormously wealthy new client....

    Gal Gadot stars in the title role of Wonder Woman.
  4. Somehow, 'Transformers: The Last Knight' isn't as painful as others

    Movies

    Lord Megatron help me, Michael Bay has finally pummeled this viewer into submission.

    That's the only way to explain the feeling that Transformers: The Last Knight isn't nearly as painful to sit through as Bay's four previous exploding toy boxes. All that destruction, from Soldier Field to Shia LeBeouf's career. Nearly 10 hours of cacophonous action wrapped around insipid dialogue over the past decade has broken me, hands lowered in masochistic surrender. Just take the beating. It'll be over soon, although with Transformers' brand of Bay-hem never soon enough....

    Optimus Prime has gone to the dark side in the fifth installment, which also travels back to the Dark Ages.
  5. 'Rough Night' flips through hangover movie cliches tweaked for women

    Movies

    June has been a big month for women in movies with Wonder Woman, Megan Leavey and even Cars 3 putting them on equal or better footing than men.

    Now comes Rough Night, proving women are just as capable as men of shaping mediocre comedies.

    A catnip cast and director Lucia Aniello's Broad City instincts are drowned by gender-flipped formula not shaken up enough. If girls will be boys then show boys how they can do raunchy better. Rough Night wouldn't be fresh or funny no matter what gender it's written about or for....

    Kate McKinnon, left, and Jillian Bell in "Rough Night." (Columbia Pictures)
  6. What's in theaters this weekend: 'Cars 3,' 'Rough Night,' 'All Eyez on Me'

    Movies

    OPENING THURSDAY:

    CARS 3

    We'll see if Disney-Pixar's Cars franchise has anything left in its tank this weekend, after a 2011 sequel that skidded off-track. Cars 3 (G) continues the Hollywood fallacy that every successful idea deserves a trilogy.

    Owen Wilson, at least his voice, returns as Lightning McQueen, the popular, profitable Dale Jr. of animated racing in the homestretch of his career. A new generation of anthropomorphic race cars is taking over, led by musclehead car Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). Lightning must prove he still has what it takes to win....

    Gal Gadot in a scene from Wonder Woman.
  7. 'Cars 3' puts Lightning back on the right track by getting under the emotional hood

    Movies

    Lightning McQueen's racing career comes full oval in Cars 3, returning to his quasi-NASCAR roots after a not-so-Grand Prix detour.

    Disney-Pixar's autos franchise isn't truly beloved like toy stories and fish tales before. The 2006 original did have a folksy quality in its desolate Radiator Springs setting that balanced Lightning's Piston Cup commotion. That goodwill was smoked by Cars 2 and Formula One, its Eurocentric nothingness making even Tow Mater less fun....

    This image released by Disney shows Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson, foreground, in a scene from "Cars 3." (Disney-Pixar)
  8. What does 'The Mummy' reveal about Dark Universe future? Shaking up convention and Easter eggs

    Movies

    While The Mummy isn't the big bang preferred to start the Dark Universe of classic monsters, it's a serviceable popcorn flick dangling hints of promising things to come.

    That's more than expected from another take on Universal's least scary feature creature, whose most recent movies resembled bad theme park ride ideas on a drawing board. Swapping out Brendan Fraser for Tom Cruise was already a step in the right action hero direction. Or anti-hero, as it turns out....

    Swapping out Brendan Fraser for Tom Cruise was a step in the right action hero direction. Cruise stars as a soldier of fortune anti-hero.
  9. In theaters this week: 'The Mummy,' 'Megan Leavey,' 'Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life'

    Movies

    INDIE FLICKS:

    IT COMES AT NIGHT

    Spoiler alert: Nothing comes at night in Trey Edward Shults' It Comes at Night, which is basically a zombie movie without zombies involved. This movie is about cannibalism of the fearful soul, a lofty conceit played as uninterestingly as it sounds.

    It Comes at Night is purposely vague about the deadly virus wiping out humans, its grisly effects and hazmat euthanasia echoing countless nights of the living dead. Shults begins with such a mercy killing, a bullet and bonfire for an elderly man. "Goodbye, grandpa," a gas-masked mourner says....

    Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz star in the film My Cousin Rachel, a Victorian mystery.
  10. 'My Cousin Rachel' is a Victorian black widow mystery so classy it's practically defiant

    Movies

    Roger Michell's revival of My Cousin Rachel is a graceful note amid summer's movie din, adapting Daphne du Maurier's black widow mystery with class bordering on defiance.

    Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz plays enigmatic Rachel Ashley, returning to the farming estate of her recently deceased husband. Awaiting her is second cousin Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin), who suspects she may have poisoned his friend and mentor....

    Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz in the film, "My Cousin Rachel." (Fox Searchlight)
  11. 'Megan Leavey' is matter-of-fact statement on feminism, war's toll and canine companionship

    Movies

    Comic books aren't the only place Hollywood can find warrior women to make movies about. Megan Leavey is as real and heroic as it gets.

    Her story could inspire a more rote movie than director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has in mind. Leavey was a social misfit who found a home in the U.S. Marines, earned a Purple Heart in Iraq then resigned with depression and a purpose. She served as a K9 handler, forging a lifelong bond with her German shepherd partner Rex, also wounded and decorated....

    Kate Mara stars as Megan Leavey in the film "Megan Leavey." (Bleecker Street Media)
  12. Review: 'Wonder Woman' does the job better than the DC dudes and duds who tried before

    Movies

    Once again, a woman does the job better than dudes who tried before.

    Not only Wonder Woman winning World War I, but director Patty Jenkins righting a DC Universe burdened by Batfleck and other less-than-super men. Jenkins crafts a superhero flick defying the dark DC template, not only with gender but by rousing core comic book values that have nothing to do with gloom. Truth, justice and the American way (a century ago) defended by a pure-of-heart champion isn't hokey; it's about time....

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Elena Anrya, left, and Chris Pine in a scene from "Wonder Woman," in theaters on June 2. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP) NYET628
  13. 'Wonder Woman' is only the fourth woman-headlined superhero movie. And it'll stand out

    Movies

    OPENING THURSDAY:

    WONDER WOMAN

    Sight unseen, here's a prediction about Wonder Woman (PG-13) that you can take to the bank:

    It's the best superhero movie ever that doesn't need a man.

    There's really no competition. Wonder Woman is only the fourth superhero adventure toplined by a woman since Christopher Reeve's Superman carved out the blockbuster template in 1978....

    Ed Helms lends his voice in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.
  14. Please, let 'Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales' be the last

    Movies

    Zombie sharks are jumped by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, our fifth and hopefully final ride through Disney's theme park franchise. You can cut in line ahead of me, if you like.

    Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to bring closure to a saga cobbled on the fly after 2003's opener genuinely surprised. Back when Capt. Jack Sparrow was a fresh costume for Halloween and Johnny Depp seemed like Brando's second coming. Were we ever so young?...

    In this image released by Disney, Johnny Depp portrays Jack Sparrow in a scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” 
Disney
  15. In theaters this weekend: 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5,' which no one needs more than Johnny Depp

    Movies

     

    New this week:

    Pirates of the Caribbean: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

    Johnny Depp's stormy career seeks safe harbor this weekend in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13), a sequel no one demanded more than its star....

    Jabaar Edmond wrote and directed Art in the City, premiering Tuesday at Studio@620.