For 495 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 69% higher than the average critic
  • 2% same as the average critic
  • 29% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 8.7 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Steve Persall's Scores

  • Movies
Average review score: 68
Highest review score: 100 The Secret in Their Eyes
Lowest review score: 0 The Last Airbender
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 50 out of 495
495 movie reviews
    • 97 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    There has never been a movie like 12 Years a Slave, which is Hollywood's shame. Miss it, and that mistake is yours.
    • 96 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Gravity is a game-changer like "Avatar" in the realm of digital 3-D special effects, inventing trickeries to be applied by future filmmakers and possibly never improved upon. Yet its spirit is closer to Avatar's smarter descendants, "Hugo" and "Life of Pi," with the gimmicks embellishing, not driving, the material. Less Cameron, more Kubrick.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    This is a remarkable film for more reasons than its antihero, from the cyberspeed wisdom of Aaron Sorkin's screenplay to Jeff Cronenweth's camera prowling the excesses of youthful genius gone wild.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The last thing we see in Zero Dark Thirty is Maya's face and it is also ours, silently crying tears of reflection.
    • 95 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    It's a mystery wrapped inside an enigmatic nation, flawlessly acted and difficult to predict. I'm always impressed when a movie informs about a foreign culture while it entertains, and this one is powerful art in that regard.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    The movie at times resembles a screenwriting workshop, with Delpy and Hawke trying to shoehorn every shade of this shifting relationship into a single scene. It doesn't feel genuine; certainly these two would know each other better by now.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    With Amour, it's the rare feeling of watching a masterpiece unfold.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The Coens fashion an atmospheric descent for Llewyn, a meticulous re-creation of Greenwich Village's folk scene in 1961, around the time Bob Dylan hit town.
    • 92 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Toy Story 3 isn't merely the best movie of the summer -- even with summer just kicking in -- but an immediate candidate for best of the year.
    • 91 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Plenty of secrets are uncovered before the fadeout, plus another nugget dropped midway through the end credits that may render nearly everything beforehand to be false. That's the nature of intimacies submerged so long then revealed.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Lawrence is in every scene of Winter's Bone, leaving her plenty of opportunity to make false moves. I dare you to find one, in a performance to be remembered during awards season.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Her
    So many things could go terribly wrong with Spike Jonze's Her, and it's a small cinematic miracle that nothing does.
    • 90 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Russell and co-writer Eric Warren Singer lay out these deceits and double-crosses with precision but American Hustle isn't merely a procedural. Defining these outsized personalities, tracing their unconventional connections and affections, is where Russell's movie finds its irreverent heartbeat.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Hazanavicius crafted more than a replica of the silent era; this feels like a time capsule found 80 years later, right on time to be revolutionary in a louder world. Yet The Artist is a masterwork that likely won't be imitated. How many movies in 2011 can you say that about? Only the best one.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 50 Steve Persall
    Kechiche's doting on entwined limbs, thrusting pelvises and oral stimulation, all carefully posed and continued longer than necessary to get his point across, races beyond titillation to creepy voyeurism.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Like Bertie's struggle, there's so much wonderment to articulate about this film that being mistaken for a stammering idiot is a risk. See it, then say it for yourself: The King's Speech is the best movie of 2010.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 58 Steve Persall
    Leigh's characters merely act in a goofy and irritating fashion until their dramatic pay-off scenes. This uneven style cheats fine actors out of the chance to shade their roles rather than rely upon black-and-white emotions. [6 Mar. 1992, p.10]
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The Grand Budapest Hotel is as artistically manicured as any of his seven previous movies, and richer comically and emotionally than most.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Chandor and Redford make an illuminating procedural of Our Man's response to calamity... Our Man is everyman, revealed by beautifully filmed and edited action without exposition.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Considering Parts 1 and 2 of Deathly Hallows as a single enterprise, as they should be, this is a rare franchise that just kept getting better.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Lincoln is like a thoroughly researched poli-sci term paper come to life, with interesting personal material about the participants relegated to footnotes.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    One of the year's best documentaries.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Not much happens to Woody in Payne's movie, compared to modern penchants for rushed narratives and easily defined characters. Yet patience pays off, with a suitably minor triumph for such an unassuming man. And a major acting triumph for Dern.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    What makes Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right remarkable also makes it a tad humdrum, which may be the filmmaker's point.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    The pointlessness of Jep's journey is Sorrentino's point, richly made.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Argo works superbly on two levels, first as a white-knuckle re-enactment of events in Iran and scrambling strategies in Washington.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    This is a rapturous cinematic experience, a spellbinding expression of shrouded ideas and exposed talent, top to bottom.
    • 86 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Hushpuppy carries a lot of emotional weight on her slender shoulders, and Wallis makes one wish to climb into the screen to lighten the load with an embrace. Do not miss this performance, or this quietly astonishing, life-affirming masterpiece.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is boldly dull in protest to modern movie tastes, and that alone may earn it more praise than it deserves.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    A movie as direct and devastating as a point-blank bullet to the back, like the one that killed Oscar Grant on the first morning of a new year, 2009.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    With The Past, Farhadi again displays a gift for poking into corners of nondescript lives and discovering unique drama.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Restrepo is about soldiers, not politics. The question of whether U.S. troops belong there isn't posed. Their devotion to duty and each other is unquestioned.
    • 85 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Ponderous and perplexing, a somberly audacious film to make viewers swoon or snore, take your pick. It is defiantly opaque, a free-form meditation on nature and nurture across millennia with a tinge of biblical grace.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    These characters don't realize they're funny, and the actors are determined not to push it. Willis fares best, playing against in-control type; Murray fans expecting a comedy explosion won't find it here.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Johnson keeps it simple, yet never stupid. Looper is a puzzle engaging your brain, rather than frying it, as one character describes the process. Obviously he has seen enough movies on the subject by 2024 to know how frustrating that is. This one plays fair with the fantasy.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The Descendants would still be a splendid movie without him; with Clooney, it's one of 2011's very best.
    • 84 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Director Jean-Marc Vallee dutifully progresses from one obvious scene to the next. Solid work but unspectacular, perhaps figuring the boldness of his characters' words and actions can be artistic enough. And it is, in the hands of a temporarily reformed sex symbol and his unexpected leading lady.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite creates a fascinating character study of Tilikum, part of a revered species without a single confirmed kill of a human in the wild. Captivity is where Blackfish's evidence continually points the blame for Tilikum's deadly behavior.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Monsieur Lazhar becomes a deeply affecting film not for pathos but for the way sadness is conveyed so subtly. It's a small triumph of restrained compassion, coaxing throat lumps rather than jerking tears.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    This is a gorgeous production, even by Miyazaki's standards.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    The choicest performance in Animal Kingdom is Weaver's sing-song sinister matriarch of the Cody clan, a cheery sort with the benign nickname "Mama Smurf."
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Hugo is Scorsese's most personal film, from the standpoint of both an artist and a grandfather. He is as interested in Melies' posterity as in making a movie that his descendants can see before they're adults.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    At this point in his celebrated career, there shouldn't be much new that Hanks can show us. But there is, as the actor reaches deep inside to express the relief of dodging death as I've never seen it played before. He's in shock; we're awed.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    It's gory and gut-wrenching but strangely life-affirming.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The soundtrack is a small marvel of music hall tunes and dialogue that is mostly garbled, allowing expressions and body language to be interpreted.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Incendies is a gallery of nightly news atrocities - a bus massacre, rape, children with guns - yet it's made intensely personal under the director's steady hand.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Baumbach keeps everything dialed down to medium cool, with occasional flashes of exuberance like Frances dancing down a street to the beat of David Bowie's Modern Love.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    As a wisely devised teenage drama, The Spectacular Now treats kids and adults respectfully, even their foolish weaknesses. That respect extends to the audience.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The jokes fly at a pace demanding viewers to either refrain from laughing (highly unlikely) or see The Lego Movie again to catch all the wondrous sights and amiable wit sliding by the first time.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    The easiest way for filmmakers to show injustice in the world is through the eyes of a child. In the case of Haifaa al-Mansour's movie, the injustice is Saudi Arabia's male-centric culture, and the child is a preteen girl named Wadjda.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The movie grabbed me and wouldn't let go during a bravura set piece at a soccer game when Campanella's camera glides into the stadium, finds Benjamin's face in the crowd and doesn't stop moving (with only a couple of edits) for six breathtaking minutes.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Sounds depressing, but Blue Valentine is a reminder that well-measured and expertly acted pain is as thrilling to watch as 3-D spectacle.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    No
    The movie needs one or two central characters directly affected by the dictatorship, in order to create more tension around a conclusion that's already known.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The movie's assured direction by Sam Mendes can't be underestimated.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Allen eventually gets to the heart of this matter: the allure and danger of nostalgia.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    What "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" did for zombie and cop flicks The World's End does for sci-fi fatalism, respecting its doomsday tropes while presenting them with cheeky wit and a refreshing strategy of sensory underload.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Silver Linings Playbook is a bracing shaken cocktail of awkward failure and accidental success, with Pat and Tiffany making a refreshing and unlikely couple to root for. We just want them to be abnormal together, share their favorite antidepressants, maybe even dance to Stevie Wonder.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    Nobody can disagree that Waiting for Superman deals with a subject demanding attention. But it paints the engulfing problems of U.S. education with a brush too broad and samples too small to be definitive.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 25 Steve Persall
    By the time Melancholia finally crawls to its conclusion, his (von Trier) round orb in the sky isn't as depressing as the rectangular screen.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    The Queen of Versailles leaves viewers with one feeling about the Siegels: Let them eat stale cake.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    True Grit is a very good movie that might be more embraceable if we didn't know who was pulling the trigger.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    I'm not sure there's anything else to take away from this film besides Manville's performance and gratitude that we aren't these people.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Thanks to Jackson's involvement as a producer, Berg has time and access Berlinger and Sinofsky didn't, allowing expansion of whatever material that's repeated.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The Sessions is often brazenly funny, not from shocking dialogue but characters speaking and reacting the way real people do, especially with such a flustering subject as sex.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    In the movie's best moments, Rivers is defiantly obnoxious and forthcoming about the fact that she'll do anything for money. At other times, the filmmakers attempt to make the wildcat warmer and fuzzier.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    A boxing movie swinging in too many directions at once, as if someone sneaked a third clubber into the ring. All the emotional punches land solidly, to occasionally devastating effect, but at the conclusion you're not sure which competing cliche wins.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    The role of Albert in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said is closer to who the man was, and who the actor seldom got the chance to play: bearish yet soft-spoken, a self-confessed slob with a soul bigger than his gut. There's warmth pouring from those slitted eyes, loosening up guarded smiles as Albert takes a chance on love again.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Never has 3-D illusion been used to such pure storytelling effect.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    This is how a romantic vampire flick should work.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Black Swan is a stage door melodrama putting new spins on cliches as old as "All About Eve" (and maybe Adam). Setting them among ballerinas as opposed to showgirls or movie stars doesn't make them any less familiar.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Buckle up for a bumpy ride but one that a road warrior like McQueen would hitch in a heartbeat.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    There's something fairly malignant in the way Glazer's strange movie holds attention, against the urge to give up and leave. There is no doubting its boundless artistry or pretension, a dangerous position for any movie in today's love-me pop culture to place itself in. Under the Skin is exactly where it gets.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Blue Jasmine is Allen's 44th movie in 47 years, an amazing run with storied highs and notorious lows along the way. This one ranks among his finest dramas, his best since "Match Point."
    • 78 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    It can get a bit redundant but always remains interesting, as young lives take shape on an asphalt oval.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    When the fadeout comes, viewers may feel as unsatisfied with the movie as these characters are with their lives.
    • 78 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    The Dark Knight Rises declares its importance with each scene but seldom backs up the claims. It is a climax more fitful than fulfilling, solemn to a fault and begging the Joker's question: "Why so serious?"
    • 78 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Much Ado About Nothing is simply a fun time among Whedon and his friends, and for the most part it's contagious.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 58 Steve Persall
    Chungking Express essentially tells two muted love stories set in a bustling locale, without fully involving the audience in either. [3 May 1996, p.5]
    • 77 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    To borrow just a few of Aleichem's words that are ingrained in Jewish culture: "It could be worse."
    • 77 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    If he made The Ghost Writer under a pseudonym, it might be roundly hailed as the classy white-knuckler it is. But it's Polanski's name above the title, with his own ghosts haunting each frame.
    • 77 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Get Low is a pleasant yarn, well-acted and dutifully mounted with period designs. There isn't a false note among the actors.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Whatever Career Girls lacks in polish or ambition, it compensates with three memorable performances and an unwavering filmmaker working on nobody's terms except his own. [5 Sep. 1997, p.3]
    • 76 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Philomena is simply one of those small, true stories that astonish in print and inspire good movies.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    The images captured by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw are more dreamy than nightmarish as if his camera — like the children — doesn't fully understand the dangers.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Buck is a movie to be revisited again and again, like passages from a satisfying self-help book. Riding experience isn't necessary to realize how extraordinary this man and his calling are.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Exhilarating drama, and a triumphant return to glory for both Zemeckis and Washington.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 58 Steve Persall
    At least the latest movie about the financial meltdown doesn't make the same mistake as the last one. It also doesn't prove that a fictional film can explain the downturn's causes and effects better than a documentary.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Kaur and Khan, who was robbed of a IIFA nod, scarcely share a frame of The Lunchbox, yet the emotional connection of their characters is palpable.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    A Dangerous Method is a movie believing the most formidable sex organ really is the brain.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Sounds depressing, although Rabbit Hole isn't, with David Lindsay-Abaire presenting a perceptive, subtly dark-humored adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    Nothing much happens in Greenberg, yet Stiller and co-star Greta Gerwig make inconsequence tolerable with solid performances.
    • 76 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Rapace is a magnetic presence in a far-ranging mystery requiring such a solid character to orbit around.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Rango is wild, woolly and weird, and the first movie of 2011 that I must see again.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The movie's finest performance is Daniel Bruhl's unapologetic bluntness as Lauda, and his subtle conveyance of jealousy the driver — whose resemblance to a rat is often noted — must have felt about Hunt's popularity and handsomeness.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 67 Steve Persall
    The standout in Win Win is Alex Shaffer, a former New Jersey state champion cast as Kyle.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Bridesmaids is a bit of a groundbreaker... Not exactly a banner for feminism but equal time is overdue.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Yes, Kermit does reprise The Rainbow Connection, surely one of the loveliest movie songs ever and, yes, it still brings tears to your eyes. Happy tears, realizing some marvelous things never change.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is movie escapism made with intelligence, and that doesn't come around often enough. As I sensed this movie ending I wished it wouldn't, and when it did I wanted the next one now. Take that, Bilbo.
    • 75 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    For all of its carnal frivolity, The Wolf of Wall Street lacks passion and purpose, qualities Scorsese at his best has in abundance.
    • 74 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Frankenweenie is stitched together with love and a bit raggedy, like Sparky the dog in question.