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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. Persall: 'Moonlight' eclipses 'La La Land' in confused Oscars finale (w/video)


    Oh, Oscar, even when you do something right it goes so wrong.

    Sunday night the Academy Awards weren't so white for a change, capped by the extraordinary selection of Moonlight as 2016's best picture.

    That would've been a stunning announcement even if Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway correctly read the results.

    This is what happens when you trust Bonnie and Clyde. Or perhaps blame lands on a stage manager handing out a wrong envelope. Maybe those tabulation accountants aren't as smart as they look....

    Warren Beatty shows the card for Best Picture winner "Moonlight" after "La La Land" was incorrectly presented the Oscar during the 89th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 2017. [Patrick T. Fallon | The New York Times]
  2. Jimmy Kimmel's Oscars monologue didn't pull Trump punches (w/video)


    Political colors tinted Hollywood's golden evening when the 89th Academy Awards were presented Sunday in Hollywood.

    From blue ribbons on the red carpet supporting the American Civil Liberties Union to host Jimmy Kimmel's jabs, the Oscars shaped up an entertainment industry stand against President Donald Trump's policies and tweets.

    "We're at the Oscars . . . ," Kimmel reminded his Dolby Theatre audience. "Some of you will get to come up here on stage and give a speech that our president will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement tomorrow."...

    Jimmy Kimmel delivers his opening monologue at the 89th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 2017. (Patrick T. Fallon/The New York Times)
  3. Review: 'Logan' is a gripping Wolverine story to take seriously


    James Mangold's Logan is an uncommonly mature comic book movie, practically from another universe unto itself. It's a movie demanding and deserving to be taken seriously, an elegy for a mutant.

    A classic loner hero, Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine as played by Hugh Jackman, is iconic in a genre too often rebooted or recast. Mangold seeks more than a shorthand screen presence in the portrayal this time. Jackman throws a haymaker, an emotional bruiser that's surprisingly good for this sort of movie....

    Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) tries to protect the young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) in "Logan." (Ben Rothstein)
  4. Fill out your Oscar ballot with Steve Persall's predictions


    Here's to the ones who dream of La La Land leaving the 89th annual Academy Awards without the best picture prize.

    Dream on.

    Nearly six months after being christened an Oscar frontrunner, Damien Chazelle's modern-day yet old-fashioned musical is poised to seal the deal. In recent weeks La La Land claimed top honors from the Golden Globes, directors and producers guilds plus the British Academy Film Awards, all signposts pointing to the best picture Oscar....

    Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in “Moonlight.”
  5. Review: Jordan Peele's 'Get Out' a smart allegory wrapped in a horror flick


    Jordan Peele's Get Out isn't Oscar material, yet it's a razored rebuttal to the movie industry's so white, so what reputation. Nothing is more Hollywood than horror movies, nor more show-business-as-usual than cultural appropriation.

    Get Out is an allegory of African-American strengths being siphoned for the benefit of white people, disguised as a run-of-the-kill horror flick. Details of how Peele depicts blacks being used by whites are as gruesome as they are spoilable, so care will be taken. But as far as Get Out takes its premise, it could and should be much further....

    From left, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford,  Allison Williams, Betty Gabriel and Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from “Get Out.” 
Universal Pictures
  6. Movie Planner: 'Get Out,' 'Rock Dog,' Oscars goodies galore



    Remember that Eddie Murphy standup routine about haunted houses and ghostly whispers urging visitors to leave? You can bet Jordan Peele does, lifting Murphy's riff for the title of Get Out (R), his directing debut.

    Peele works without his sketch comedy cohort Keegan-Michael Key this time, crafting a horror comedy that turned heads at Sundance last month. Get Out sounds squarely in Peele's wheelhouse: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at the Stepford Wives' Place....

    Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from Get Out.
  7. Watch the Oscars in style Sunday at Tampa Theatre's Hollywood Awards Night


    Tampa Theatre ended its official Oscar Night affiliation with the academy years ago, but the party goes on. Now it's called Hollywood Awards Night, the way sports bars throw "Big Game" parties on Super Bowl Sunday to avoid copyright infringement.

    A rose by any other name would be just as much fun.

    Tampa Theatre signature red carpet touches: a limo ride around the block; adoring "fans" and "paparazzi" lining the entrance; movie-themed costumes. Formalwear or glam are welcome. There's a cash bar, the Oscars on the big screen plus coffee and doughnuts while the show runs long....

    Tampa Theatre signature red carpet touches: a limo ride around the block; adoring "fans" and "paparazzi" lining the entrance; movie-themed costumes. Formalwear or glam are welcome. [Times file (2012)]
  8. Persall: It would be a mistake for 'La La Land' to win big at the Oscars


    The likeliest best picture winner at tonight's Academy Awards is the worst mistake voters could make.

    After six months of film festivals, campaigning and awards shows, every shred of conventional wisdom says La La Land will claim the 89th best picture award.

    After two years of #OscarsSoWhite, in our current political climate, handing Hollywood's top prize to an expertly crafted yet lightweight musical starring attractive white people in — you guessed it, Hollywood — is bad optics at best....

    The Moonlight cast includes Andr? Holland and Trevante Rhodes.
  9. Review: 'The Great Wall' is not-so-great, but full of wonderfully wacky visuals


    The Great Wall is a so-so movie with eye-popping images: giant ill-tempered iguanas munching medieval warriors, bungee-jumping China dolls spearing them, Matt Damon's man bun. Sights you can't forget.

    Zhang Yimou is a dazzler from way back in Asian cinema, but most Americans likely know him from all those drums and aerial dancers he directed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Great Wall is pretty much the same thing with sharp fangs and less plot. You probably got fed up with the Olympics show, too....

    After months of technical delays, Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park on Friday will finally turn on the lights for its new nighttime show Rivers of Light.
  10. Here's the lineup for Tampa's Gasparilla International Film Festival


    Well, it's Academy Awards time, so moviegoers know what that means:

    Tampa's Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival is right around the corner.

    The 11th edition opens March 2, continuing for a week with 35 features and documentaries, plus more than 70 shorts, master classes with industry professionals, panel discussions and parties.

    Gasparilla organizers announced this year's lineup Wednesday, including Jordan Roberts' Burn Your Maps in the prized opening night slot....

    Among the Gasparilla International Film Festival’s ticket options is $1,510 for VIP red carpet treatment for two throughout the festival.
  11. Movie Planner: Oscar shorts at Tampa Theatre, Young Directors Film Festival


    Next week's Academy Awards show is shaping up as the most political Oscars telecast ever, for obvious reasons.

    Even the academy's short film categories seem more topical than usual. Silent Nights and Ennemis Interieurs are live action front-runners dealing fictionally with questions of immigration and national security. Three documentary shorts are set amid the Syrian refugee crisis. Animated finalists are relatively apolitical but provocative except for Pixar's adorable favorite Piper....

    Charlie Day and Ice Cube in Fist Fight.
  12. Planning a visit to Cuba? You better find a guy to help you


    Anyone traveling on their own in Cuba needs to "know a guy."

    Could be a woman, but enterprising locals typically offer a guy.

    Looking for a casa particular, a comfy room rented by friendly, licensed homeowners? Someone knows a guy to make it happen.

    Want to spin backward through time and Havana in a vintage automobile? Guys arrange that, too. Our guy knew a guy who drove us to the hovel where our accompanying friend's mother lived a half century ago, where a distant yet welcoming relative lives today....

    A street market in Havana’s Parque John Lennon sells New Year’s dinner groceries.
  13. Review: 'A Cure for Wellness' so over the top, it's repellent


    Growing up with Hammer Films and Poe a la Roger Corman makes me appreciate economy in gothic terror, a quality sorely missing from A Cure for Wellness. Alleged "visionary" director Gore Verbinski — earning that title in ads after The Lone Ranger — ignores their lessons at double feature running time.

    A Cure for Wellness is a repellent curiosity, rich in atmosphere yet starved for dramatic morsels a sound plot might nourish. Two hours is a long time spent going nowhere until Verbinski and screenwriter Justin Haythe drag out an unpleasant conclusion. Everything about this movie trudges until springing wildly over-the-top, too late and/or too disturbing to matter....

    Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a businessman sent to retrieve his company’s executive from a mysterious “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps. Lockhart then learns why people don’t trust the resort.
  14. Review: '50 Shades Darker' light on plotty, heavy on naughty


    Fifty Shades Darker is what you'd expect from encoring a regrettable one-night stand. Not a keeper, but nothing to gnaw off your arm about.

    Compacted from E.L. James' trashy novel, Fifty Shades Darker continues the sexual odyssey of Anastasia Steele, again played by Dakota Johnson although wishier-washier than the woman who slammed an elevator door in her kinky lover's face at first movie's end....

    Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, left, and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in "Fifty Shades Darker." (Doane Gregory/Universal Pictures via AP)
  15. Review: 'John Wick: Chapter 2' a brilliantly-staged action ride for Keanu Reeves


    When it comes to choreography, the spunky dreamers of La La Land have nothing on the death dances Keanu Reeves leads in John Wick: Chapter 2. This movie's balletic brutality, its relentless pacing and practical stunt work are breathtaking. Or maybe that's just a No. 2 pencil shoved in my throat.

    That's one of the killing techniques on display in this ultra-violent and equally entertaining sequel to 2014's cult fave. Chad Stahelski's follow-up is further proof of his talent, and that the actor he stunt-doubled for in The Matrix trilogy paid attention....

    Keanu Reeves in a scene from, "John Wick: Chapter 2." (Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate via AP)