Steve Persall

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For 765 reviews, this critic has graded:
  • 67% higher than the average critic
  • 2% same as the average critic
  • 31% lower than the average critic
On average, this critic grades 6.8 points higher than other critics. (0-100 point scale)

Steve Persall's Scores

  • Movies
  • TV
Average review score: 68
Highest review score: 100 Rush
Lowest review score: 0 Blair Witch
Score distribution:
  1. Negative: 74 out of 765
765 movie reviews
    • 100 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    It is interesting even when nothing much happens, which is for most of its 3-hour running time.
    • 98 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Hoop Dreams is what sportwriters would call "the total package:" intimate and illuminating in its depiction of two Chicago high-school basketball players and their goals, while never allowing an audience to forget that these boys and the families who support their struggles are part of the American fabric which hasn't received its due. [13Jan 1995, p.6]
    • Tampa Bay Times
    • 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
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Haynes designs a perfectly nostalgic sensory experience — something like a Manhattan department store window — needing a suppler story to sell.
    • 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
    The surprises are plentiful and seamlessly connected.
    • 94 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    With Amour, it's the rare feeling of watching a masterpiece unfold.
    • 93 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Spotlight is a rare movie about the profession — and just enough about people in it — that simply feels right, speaking from the inside.
    • 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
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Mad Max: Fury Road is a relentless marvel of sense-pummeling stunts and gargoyle horror that needs to take a breather once in a while.
    • 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
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Two Days, One Night is deceptively slight of drama; it's simply a procession of real moments encountered by a simple character deserving more happiness than life allows, fleshed out by an extraordinary actor.
    • 89 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    This is a modest film with towering potential to make a difference, looking back to move forward.
    • 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
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Teller plays notes all over the emotional chart, dovetailing into a divine riff on ambition. And he does nearly all of Andrew's drumming, aggressively and impressively so.
    • 88 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.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Hell or High Water is a terrific piece of entertainment.... It isn't a highbrow indie but a gritty work of art. Mackenzie's movie thrills for all the right reasons and will be fondly remembered at year's end.
    • 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
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Anomalisa ends with a major decision and a minor triumph, the result of a one-night stand in Cincinnati. Sad, desperate? Maybe. But in the hands of Kaufman and Johnson, an extraordinary movie.
    • 88 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Everything about Birdman is a bold cinematic stretch, from its snare-jazz soundtrack to a climax regrettably stretched too far. The line between Iñárritu's genius and Riggan's madness gets crossed once too many, but no matter. Birdman has 99 virtues and ignorance isn't one.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Ronan is Brooklyn's linchpin, and its saving grace.
    • 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.
    • 87 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Life Itself impressively covers the elements of Ebert's memoir.
    • 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
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Room is a startling movie experience, peculiar in setting and profoundly simple. It's a story of love born out of unseen horror, of nurture conquering nature. Room must be felt to be believed.
    • 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
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Amy
    In some moments, Amy feels like another intrusion on the singer's privacy, like the gossip vultures circling her drug and alcohol binges, awaiting her 2011 death. Those uncomfortable moments are far outweighed by sympathetic ones.
    • 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
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Everybody Wants Some!! is as playfully raunchy as any sex comedy doubling down on exclamation points can be.
    • 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
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Eggers' chilling debut is a small masterpiece of atmosphere.
    • 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.
    • 83 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.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Gabe Polsky's movie about the dynastic Soviet Union hockey team is surprisingly light on its skates, despite being a Cold War history lesson and conventional sports documentary.
    • 83 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    It Follows has an impressively sustained sense of dread, less explicit gore than measured tension. Mitchell slyly inverts the conventions of dead-meat teenager flicks, although not with wink-wink comedy like the Scream series. This movie is serious about creeping out viewers, and Mitchell is just artistic enough about it to create a minor masterpiece.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Creed proceeds to hit the same beats as six Rocky movies preceding it, all the way to the Big Fight. But there's a difference here. This is the first Rocky movie Stallone didn't write, enabling Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington to bring new perspective and respect.
    • 82 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.
    • 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
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The End of the Tour asks viewers to lean in, listen well and be rewarded with an uncommonly intelligent and relatable movie experience.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    The Lobster remains strangely romantic throughout, an absurdist take on the notion that great love stories — Casablanca, The Way We Were, Gone With the Wind — don't always end tidily.
    • 82 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    The new, vastly improved Star Trek moves at warp speed through a marvelously reinvented sci-fi franchise, reverent to the past and firmly entrenched in the now.
    • 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
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Danny Boyle's movie is meticulously crafted to artful specifications, written in Aaron Sorkin's torrential style and acted to perfection by a superb ensemble. Yet like Jobs' NeXT Cube in 1988, there's one obvious question that isn't satisfactorily answered: What does it do?
    • 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
    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
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Top Five is the funniest movie I've seen this year, and the calendar's running out. No matter whose movie Rock's resembles, it is completely his, and a brash start to being taken seriously as an artist.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    Bridge of Spies is solid work but feels like Spielberg's best intentions as a filmmaker and world conscience on cruise control.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    The stop-motion technique never ceases to fascinate, but the episodic structure of Shaun the Sheep Movie hinders any true emotional buildup and payoff.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Miller unravels this story with the grim inevitability of a death row vigil, but not without flashes of sly humor.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Sicario is a tentacled drug cartel thriller grabbing viewers by the throat and squeezing for two hours. This movie continually defies the conventions of its genre, from its hero's gender to the vagueness of its morality.
    • 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.
    • 81 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    The Force Awakens accomplishes its fan base mission, bringing back a modern myth with the torch-passing respect it deserves (plus some crass commercialism it doesn't).
    • 80 Metascore
    • 91 Steve Persall
    Ridley Scott's The Martian is a brainy blockbuster, melding genuine science and fiction into a rare popcorn epic that actually makes you feel smarter for watching.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    The man's goodness and his support team's devotion are quickly obvious; Gleason is nearly two hours long. Tweel could get to every uplifting turn his movie makes a bit sooner.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    The Queen of Versailles leaves viewers with one feeling about the Siegels: Let them eat stale cake.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 75 Steve Persall
    Casino Royale mostly succeeds as an introduction to a badder Bond than ever.
    • 80 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    It's a remarkable movie, the first of 2015 that I can't wait to see and hear again.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 83 Steve Persall
    A Most Violent Year has its share of wham-bam moments — a car-truck-foot chase into the city's bowels is superb — but the action never speaks louder than Chandor's hard-boiled words.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 100 Steve Persall
    Gone Girl is a terrific movie, everything the book and its fans deserve.
    • 79 Metascore
    • 83 Steve Persall
    James Schamus makes an impressive directing debut with Indignation, an oasis of summer movie intelligence.

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