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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. What's new in theaters this weekend: 'Dunkirk,' 'Valerian,' 'Girls Trip'

    Movies

    OPENING Thursday: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

    Spending $200 million on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is Luc Besson's sci-folly, too much for a fantasy gorgeous to observe yet torturous to sit through. "Too much" is Besson's signature move.

    Based on a French comic book series, Valerian casts sleepy-eyed Dane DeHaan in the title role, a scrawny space jockey too confident in his charms. DeHaan is slightly more convincing as an intergalactic detective than model-turned-mannequin Cara Delevingne as his partner Laureline. Neither wrestles Besson's clunky banter anywhere close to submission....

    Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish in 'Girls Trip'. (Universal Pictures) 1206241
  2. Yes, 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' makes absolutely no sense

    Movies

    Spending $200 million on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is Luc Besson's sci-folly, too much for a fantasy that's gorgeous to observe yet torturous to sit through. "Too much" is Besson's signature move, so we shouldn't be surprised.

    Based on a French comic book series, Valerian casts sleepy-eyed Dane DeHaan in the title role, a scrawny space jockey too confident in his charms; Han Solo's bratty kid brother. DeHaan is slightly more convincing as an intergalactic detective than model-turned-mannequin Cara Delevingne as his partner Laureline, whose impact can be gauged by her name's absence from the title. Neither wrestles Besson's clunky banter anywhere close to submission....

    This image released by STX Entertainment shows Dane DeHaan in a scene from "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets." (Domitille Girard/STX Entertainment via AP) NYET111
  3. Why 'Dunkirk' is one of the best war movies ever made

    Movies

    After a career of mind-bending fantasies, writer-director Christopher Nolan has now crafted a historical epic almost too perfect to believe.

    Dunkirk is Nolan's cinematic foray into reality, the true story of a Allied rescue against all odds in 1940 that stemmed the tide of World War II. Brilliantly conceived from triangulated timelines and perspectives, Dunkirk deserves mention among the finest war movies ever, and certainly among the best of any sort this year....

    Tom Hardy in "Dunkirk." (Warner Bros.)
  4. Meet the raunchiest 14th century nuns ever in 'The Little Hours'

    Movies

    Get thee to the nunnery of The Little Hours, a smutty comedy starring Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci as 14th century nuns in heat. This Sundance grad from writer-director Jeff Baena is bawdy, blasphemous and very funny when on its game, which isn't always.

    Based on a few pages from Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, The Little Hours is set in a Tuscan convent overseen by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) and Sister Marea (Molly Shannon), each more interested in the other than what their nuns are doing. Three are already breaking their vows regarding profanity....

    Alessandra (Alison Brie), Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza) and Ginerva (Kate Micucci) swear like Philistines, 
a sign they’re already breaking their vows.
Gunpowder & Sky
  5. The five best movie trilogies of all time

    Movies

    This weekend, War for the Planet of the Apes concludes arguably one of Hollywood's finest trilogies ever. We can argue just as passionately about which ones don't deserve consideration.

    The Godfather and Back to the Future? Each worthy until their respective Part IIIs, when the Corleone saga jumped the Pope and Marty McFly headed west. Rocky Balboa didn't know when to quit, a great trait for a boxer but not a trilogy. Indiana Jones made the same mistake....

    Actors, from left, Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
  6. What's new in theaters this week: 'War for the Planet of the Apes,' 'The Little Hours,' 'Wish Upon'

    Movies

    Opening Thursday: War for the Planet of the Apes

    This weekend, War for the Planet of the Apes concludes arguably one of Hollywood's finest trilogies ever.

    Like its hyper-intelligent simian hero Caesar (Andy Serkis in another masterful motion-capture performance), the series evolves beyond mere expectations of summertime fun into Shakespearean spectacle. War for the Planet of the Apes is fantasy as history's mirror, from primal survival to inhumane atrocities. Stakes are raised through hindsight: These apes are us, and the worst of us is them. Matt Reeves' movie broods even better than it blows up things....

    Joey King, left, is granted seven wishes in Wish Upon.
  7. Humanity gets what it deserves in 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

    Movies

    Humanity gets what it deserves in War for the Planet of the Apes, rounding out a thrilling trilogy setting the stage for Charlton Heston's arrival in 1968.

    Like its hyper-intelligent simian hero Caesar, the series evolves beyond mere expectations of summertime fun into Shakespearean spectacle. War for the Planet of the Apes is fantasy as history's mirror, from primal survival to inhumane atrocities. Stakes are raised through hindsight; these apes are us, and the worst of us is them. Matt Reeves' movie broods even better than it blows up things....

    Woody Harrelson, center, plays a colonel trying to wipe out the apes in a "War for the Planet of the Apes." (Twentieth Century Fox)
  8. Kumail Nanjiani's 'The Big Sick' is the cure to cookie cutter rom-coms

    Movies

     

    INDIE FLICKS: THE BIG SICK

    Kumail Nanjiani is known for HBO's Silicon Valley, but he'll be remembered for living a truly original romance then co-writing a movie about it and playing himself in The Big Sick (R). You will love Nanjiani and this movie.

    The spoiler is right there in the opening credits. Nanjiani co-wrote The Big Sick with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, so obviously they married after she survives the critical illness in the movie. Emily is played by the beautifully plain Zoe Kazan, whip smart and just as funny as Nanjiani, a standup comedian drawing on his Pakistani culture for material....

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) and Debora (Lily James) steal a car to get away in “Baby Driver.”
  9. Director of 'Sharknado' talks favorite Sharkmoments before Tampa screening

    Movies

    Anthony C. Ferrante can't escape that other shark movie directed by that other guy.

    Not that anyone confuses the Sharknado franchise with Jaws, or Ferrante with Steven Spielberg, even after directing all four schlock-tacular Syfy channel movies. His fifth, Sharknado: Global Swarming, debuts in August.

    That's one more than the Jaws franchise. Four more than Spielberg, but Ferrante isn't counting. He's just proud that since 2013's phenomenal debut, his Sharknado movies are mentioned in the same breath as Jaws, for better or worse....

    Ian Ziering portrays Fin Shepard in a scene from "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" premiering on Wednesday, at 9 p.m. EDT on Syfy. (Gene Page/Syfy via AP)
  10. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is a 'Deadpool' for the entire family

    Movies

    Spider-Man: Homecoming does the improbable, successfully rebooting a reboot of a trilogy that did the job well enough only a decade ago. It's a movie that could be unnecessary but isn't.

    In fact, Spider-Man: Homecoming turns the web slinger into the funniest superhero not named Deadpool, an eagerly awkward wannabe Avenger. This Spider-Man is actually a teenage boy as usual, but finally with an actor who can pass for one. Tom Holland is the third try, and he's a charmer....

    Now mentored by Tony Stark, eagerly awkward Peter Parker (Tom Holland) wants to prove he’s capable of more than just being a “friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.”
  11. New in theaters July 4 weekend: 'Despicable Me 3,' 'Baby Driver,' 'The House,' 'The Beguiled'

    Movies

    OPENING Thursday:

    DESPICABLE ME 3

    One of Hollywood's most successful animation franchises isn't about "me" anymore; it's about them.

    Minions, those jabbering yellow baldies with their pharmaceutical physiques. Nothing but Teletubbies with better agents.

    Back in 2010, Minions knew their funniest place, playing sidekicks to Steve Carell's arch-villain Gru, the title character in Despicable Me. They were only one reason Despicable Me is one of the decade's more enjoyable 'toons....

    Ansel Elgort, left, and Jon Hamm star in Baby Driver, an inventive heist flick from Edgar Wright.
  12. Fewer Minions make things better in 'Despicable Me 3'

    Movies

    Despicable Me 3 doubles down on Steve Carell's silly way with words, a smart idea after too much Minions gibberish spoiled Part 2. They're still here, in smaller doses and somewhat funnier for it.

    Carell gets dual roles, one reprising his former arch villain turned doting adoptive father, crimefighter and newlywed Gru. He also voices Dru, Gru's twin brother with luxurious hair who desires to follow the family tradition of villainy. A sharp character kneecapped by a previous sequel gets a playmate, a playful actor gets more of the material he needs....

    Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, left, is up against Balthazar Bratt, 
voiced by Trey Parker, 
a former child star from the ’80s who has a serious grudge against Hollywood. 
Universal Pictures
  13. 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....

    Nicole Kidman, left, and Colin Farrell in a scene from “The Beguiled.”
  14. '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
  15. 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....

    Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”