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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. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target

    Movies

    The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

    This movie's violence is numbing, each kill shot, power tool mangling, beer bottle stabbing and jumper cable torture session intruding on the rascal stars' charms. Director Patrick Hughes' instinct isn't to find dark humor in violence, only to graphically depict it. There's a sadistic edge to The Hitman's Bodyguard that's unbecoming to its comedy....

    Samuel L. Jackson plays a master assassin testifying against a dictator, and Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard tasked with keeping him alive.
  2. What's new in theaters: 'The Hitman's Bodyguard,' 'Logan Lucky,' 'Wind River'

    Movies

    OPENING FRIDAY:

    THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD

    Loving the trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard (R) poking fun at quotes from reviewers prone to phrases like "It's a roller coaster ride!" for better chances to see their names in TV ads.

    People quoted in this trailer would have their names in it, anyway.

    "'Ryan Reynolds is extraordinarily annoying' — Samuel L. Jackson," reads one blurb....

    Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner star in Wind River, a slow burn crime story set in a Wyoming reservation.
  3. Southern fried 'Logan Lucky' is Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 7-11

    Movies

    Steven Soderbergh beats everyone to the punch in Logan Lucky, pegging a harebrained scheme to rob a redneck mecca as Ocean's 7-11. It's a throwaway line in a movie playing more like O brother, where have you been?

    Returning from a four-year "retirement" no one really believed, Soderbergh eases back into action with a signature heist flick and Coen-esque flourishes; beefy jerks and Southern fried simpletons, desperate times and ridiculous measures. Logan Lucky is a hoot, a holler, a drag at times and doesn't know when to end but it's fun....

    Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, Riley Keough as Mellie Logan and Adam Driver as Clyde Logan in Steven Soderbergh's LOGAN LUCKY. 
Bleecker Street
  4. Strong performances help 'The Glass Castle' come to terms with family pain

    Movies

    The movie world is filled with dysfunctional families meaning well while falling apart. They're typically fictional, so a true story like Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle should feel stranger than it does.

    Before her successful writing career, Walls grew up in itinerant poverty encouraged by self-destructive parents. That domestic turbulence is smoothed by director Destin Daniel Cretton into just another bumpy ride, kept interesting by an actor's moving portrayal of Walls....

    Ella Anderson, center, movingly plays a young Jeannette Walls, growing up in poverty encouraged by self-destructive parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts).
  5. What's new in theaters: 'The Nut Job 2,' 'The Glass Castle,' 'Annabelle: Creation'

    Movies

    OPENING FRIDAY:

    THE GLASS CASTLE

    Celebrities who rub elbows with former gossip columnist Jeannette Walls wouldn't have guessed this sophisticated woman grew up hardscrabble strong. That is, not until 2005, when her best selling memoir The Glass Castle was published.

    Walls' parents raised four children without putting down roots anywhere, a nomadic journey leading to an Appalachian shack without utilities. All the while, her father, Rex, distracted his family from poverty by pledging to build his family the magical home Walls used to title her book, now a movie....

    Fionn Whitehead in a scene from Dunkirk. [Warner Bros. Pictures]
  6. Steely Dan's Donald Fagen talks about his new band the Nightflyers, touring with millennials and more

    Blog

    Donald Fagen's career as co-founder of Steely Dan and then four solo albums is off book, apart from music industry norms creatively and professionally.

    When the music industry zigged, Steely Dan guided by Fagen and Walter Becker zagged, adding jazz to rock while subtracting concert tours for two decades, holed up in studios crafting rock classics.

    Teaming with musicians one-third his age for a new band, the Nightflyers -- who come to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Wednesday (click here for details) -- rather than the usual polished suspects is just Fagen's restless soul showing....

  7. Steely Dan's Donald Fagen talks hanging with new band of millennials, the Nightflyers

    Music & Concerts

    Donald Fagen likes what his new band the Nightflyers brings to the table.

    Sometimes he has seconds.

    "It's great hanging around with 20-somethings," Fagen, 69, said in a teleconference call from upstate New York. "They know all the good places to eat. I've been eating a lot of exotic foods for me, things I don't usually do. … It's like the menus say stuff like your protein will be such and such, your carbohydrates will be such and such. I'm more of a grilled cheese guy, you know?"...

    Donald Fagen and the Nightflyers, named after his debut solo album, The Nightfly, will perform Steely Dan staples as well as Fagen’s solo tracks.
  8. The Dark Tower: That time they tried to fit 8 Stephen King books into one movie

    Movies

    After eight books, more than 4,000 pages, nobody expects Stephen King's trans-dimensional Gunslinger saga told in barely 90 minutes.

    Yet that's exactly what The Dark Tower attempts, shrinking a woolly mammoth plot to lapdog size, defying anyone considering King's literary opus unfilmable. Those people are right, from a purist's perspective.

    From the impure perspective of someone who hasn't read King's series, The Dark Tower isn't half-bad. Faint praise, but this movie will take all it can get. It plays like a decent pilot for a TV series, which is reportedly what producer Ron Howard has in mind, that director Nikolaj Artel promises will be "totally canon," unlike his movie....

    Idris Elba, left, and Matthew McConaughey in the Columbia Pictures film, The Dark Tower." (Ilze Kitshoff/Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)
  9. 6 new movies in theaters this week: 'A Ghost Story,' 'The Dark Tower,' 'Kidnap,' more

    Movies

    OPENING FRIDAY:

    A GHOST STORY

    David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a different sort of haunting, a quiet reverie of never letting go of people, places, anything. Some viewers may think it silly, others profound.

    Oscar winner Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a nameless couple in Texas whose fragile marriage is detailed by long silences. The husband is killed in a car accident; his wife identifies him at the morgue....

    Former Vice President Al Gore returns with another film on climate change, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
  10. Casey Affleck acts under a sheet in 'A Ghost Story.' Silly or profound?

    Movies

    David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a different sort of haunting, a quiet reverie of never letting go of people, places, anything. Some viewers may think it silly, others profound, but there's no other movie quite like it.

    Oscar winner Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a nameless couple in Texas whose fragile marriage is detailed by long silences, or their expressions when silence is broken. They're undecided about whether to stay in their home or move elsewhere. Before any decision, the husband is killed in a car accident; his wife identifies him at the morgue....

    The Studio@620 has hired Barbara Mazer Gross as its first executive director.  Courtesy of Barbara Mazer Gross.
  11. In Kathryn Bigelow's 'Detroit,' victims don't get the focus they deserve

    Movies

    By its own end credits admission, Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit is history reconstructed with incomplete information.

    The worst facts are undisputed, that three black teenagers were killed by policemen at a Detroit motel during the city's 1967 rebellion against police brutality. Others were physically and emotionally tortured in the name of investigating "sniper" fire from a cap pistol....

    John Boyega in a scene from 'Detroit.' (Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures)
  12. What new movies are out this week: 'Atomic Blonde,' 'The Emoji Movie'

    Movies

    OPENING FRIDAY:

    ATOMIC BLONDE

    The world's baddest Academy Award winner Charlize Theron kicks Cold War butt in Atomic Blonde (R), in a role more furious (and Furiosa) than ever. It won't win Theron another Oscar but maybe an MMA title shot.

    Theron, above, plays MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, a sexy/deadly spy assigned to extract a vital dossier from behind the Berlin Wall. Assisted by an embedded fellow agent (James McAvoy), Lorraine will stop at nothing except a sensual interlude or two with a French spy (Sofia Boutella). Ooh la la....

    Fionn Whitehead in a scene from “Dunkirk.”
  13. Atomic Blonde does not live up to its giant movie poster hype

    Movies

    Beware of movies spending money selling one scene, like the Atomic Blonde poster big enough to block a restroom entry, as it has for a while at AMC Westshore 14.

    The restroom is out of order. Atomic Blonde overall doesn't work, either.

    The display rightly celebrates a scene in which Charlize Theron as an MI6 agent in Cold War Berlin mops up a multistory stairwell with numerous men intent on returning the favor. Director David Leitch, a stunts ace who turned Keanu Reeves into John Wick, plays the maim game well, spinning the illusion of a single unbroken shot for nearly eight minutes....

    Charlize Theron, left, and Sofia Boutella in "Atomic Blonde." (Jonathan Prime/Focus Features via AP)
  14. Pinellas keeps movie dreams alive with indie roles, including Kevin Smith's latest film

    Movies

    Tampa Bay's film industry isn't dead. It's just resting, staying limber with a few shoestring indies and ambitious life support.

    Thanks to a tax-funded production incentives program, Pinellas County is staying in a game Florida already lost to states like Louisiana and Georgia, which have fortunes to lure movie and TV projects.

    St. Petersburg-Clearwater film commissioner Tony Armer has petty cash by comparison: $500,000 annually drawn from tourist development tax dollars, also known as "bed taxes."...

    Indie icon Kevin Smith, pictured at last week's San Diego Comic-Con, recently filmed his latest horror flick Killroy Was Here around Sarasota, and also filmed scenes at a house in St. Petersburg. (Getty Images for IMDb)
  15. For Dunkirk veteran, movie brings back different memories

    Movies like the World War II epic Dunkirk are popular escapes from reality.

    Unless you're Fred Clutterbuck, who watched Christopher Nolan's movie expecting more reality about his escape.

    Clutterbuck, 97 and belying it, survived the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, France, in 1940 that Nolan's acclaimed film dramatizes. His story is different from the movie's triangulated tension on land, sea and air....

    British soldiers form a human chain to reach a rescue ship that will bring them from Dunkirk, France, back to England.