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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. The new 'Baywatch' movie is basically about hot people in swimsuits


    Baywatch is a running gag in slow motion, a thong-in-cheek TV retread swapping wholesome jiggles for dirty giggles. There are places for such humor but beaches don't have gutters.

    What Baywatch has in its favor is Dwayne Johnson fireman-carrying a dead weight comedy to safety. Johnson handles comedy as effortlessly as any prop weapon, evidenced by his recent SNL hosting gig, Moana and upstaging Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence....

    Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker, Alexandra Daddario as Summer, Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden, Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, Zac Efron as Matt Brody and Jon Bass as Ronnie in the film, "Baywatch."
  2. Tampa teenager gets rescued by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson in 'Baywatch'


    For child actor L.J. Ruth, meeting his idol was easy as falling off a pier.

    Ruth, 13, winds up safely in the arms of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in Baywatch, an updated version of the 90's TV series opening Wednesday.

    The seventh grader at Tampa's Villa Madonna School is billed as "Pier Boy," one of several beach rescues performed by Johnson's lifeguard hero.

    "Actually, I auditioned for another role as 'Shark Bite Boy,'" Ruth said Monday after school. "They liked me so they picked me for Pier Boy instead, which is a little more screen time sort of thing."...

    L.J. Ruth, 13, was born and raised in Tampa. He is a child actor/model/voice artist and is currently in the movie Baywatch alongside Dwayne Johnson. Courtesy of Ruth family.
  3. 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....

    Brad Culpepper, a former NFL player and contestant on the reality show "Survivor," is seen in his law office in downtown Tampa on Monday, May 8, 2017. Culpepper is currently appearing in his second season on the show. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. '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....

    In this combination photo, Liev Schreiber, left, portrays boxer Chuck Wepner in Chuck and the real Chuck Wepner on Jan. 21, 1975. The film will open in limited release on Friday.
IFC Films and Ray Stubblebin
  5. 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. ...

    Nick Robinson, left, and Amandla Stenberg.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)....

    Zoe Saldana, from left, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, in a scene from, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. The movie has rocketed to a $17 million opening night, beating out early showings of the first film. The sequel’s Thursday night earnings, from May 4, are the biggest of the year so far. (Disney-Marvel via AP)
  9. 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
  10. 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).
  11. 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....

    Mantis (Pom Klementieff, foreground) is one of the minor Marvel Comics characters getting a makeover in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Also pictured (from left): Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper).  (Marvel Studios)  1201273
  12. 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....

     Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman."
  13. 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....

    Filmmaker Deborah Kerr, left, says she wants Stop the Presses to rally viewers against the decline of print journalism.
  14. 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....

    Castille Landon, a director from Los Angeles who went to high school while living in Terra Ceia, leads Apple the miniature horse down the steps of the Palladium in St. Petersburg during the Sunscreen Film Festival Thursday, April 27, 2017. The horse was a star in Landon's film, Apple of My Eye.
  15. 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....

    Eugenio Derbez and Rob Lowe star in the comedy How to Be a Latin Lover.