Patterico's Pontifications


New Crew at “At the Movies”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:17 am

The same way I want to dig up Ronald Reagan sometimes, I often find myself wanting to dig up Gene Siskel.

Roger Ebert has always been a dreadful joke of a movie critic. Any movie that hackishly promotes the liberal point of view is GENIUS!!!1!! And art-house movies? They’re the best!

Siskel had both feet on the ground. I didn’t always agree with him, but he was a fairly reliable barometer.

Now comes word that the losers who have most recently been doing the “At the Movies” program having been given their papers. I don’t watch the show but my wife does, and I often see a few minutes at a time when I’m in the room with her. These punks are the reason we recently ended up watching one of the worst movies of all time: “World’s Greatest Dad.” “World’s Worst Movie,” more like. I predicted the entire ending, which was not hard. My eye-rolling muscles were badly strained by the end.

Anyway, back to these “At the Movies” morons who recommended that tripe. One of them is a young punk and the other guy is just an idiot.

Anyway, now A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips are taking the helm. I remember seeing Michael Phillips as a guest reviewer before. I guess he’s OK. Scott I don’t know.

But I still miss Gene Siskel.

41 Responses to “New Crew at “At the Movies””

  1. If they want a great reviewer, they should hire Holly McClure. That would also fix their EEO numbers, too.

    PCD (02f8c1)

  2. Without giving up anything, while on the topic of movies, I have to give a caution to those who might ant go to see “District 9″.

    The last quarter of the movie isn’t too bad, but the first half is like watching “Borat on the set of ‘V'”. My wife wanted her money back 10 minutes in.

    Neo (7830e6)

  3. I read Siskel and Ebert when they first started out here, first as rival newspaper reviewers, then later in their first form on the local PBS station. While Siskel kept Ebert from going off half – cocked, the real entertainment was in watching their distinct personalities play off each other. Here’s just one example, early on in the show – they really lay into each other on this outtake:

    Dmac (a93b13)

  4. Don’t waste your time with the TV movie pundits. Just go to

    RB (fbae5a)

  5. “Blaine” and “Antoine” from the In Living Color skit “Men on Film” were better.

    Is that dinosaur queen Rex Reed still around?

    Robert in Missouri (d42833)

  6. I still miss Gene, too. The chemistry between him and Ebert was magical.

    My favorite Siskel memory occurred 20 years ago, when they reviewed a Tony Danza dog called “She’s Out of Control.” Siskel become almost violently angry as he described the film. It was so bad that on the show the following week, when reviews included a much better teen movie called “Say Anything,” Siskel compared it to the Danza movie and began frothing at the mouth all over again.

    Dagwood (d4597a)

  7. Ebert used to be a much better critic when he had Siskel to keep him honest. And one of the few good things I can say about Ebert these days is that he probably knows it. At the very least, Ebert’s remembrance of Siskel from February is one of the best things Ebert has written in years.

    Karl (f07e38)

  8. I came to say what RB said: use Rotten Tomatoes, imdb, and other online movie review resources. Ebert is dead to me.

    gp (72be5d)

  9. It’s the cancer Ebert had, seriously. Lost his ability to speak, almost died. That’s bound to warp anyone’s perspective. Sure, he was always a liberal, but he was at least honest. Now he goes off on anything that’s remotely liberal as, well, GENIUS!!!11!ONE!!

    Luke (c228fe)

  10. Tony Scott’s a teriffic writer. He actually knows about the history of the cinema — and isn’t afraid to demonstrate his knowledge.

    That’s rather dangerous these days, as the President is being criticized for telling children they should stay in school.

    Intelligence is clearly unpatriotic.

    David Ehrenstein (2550d9)

  11. Dagwood – I loved Say Anything. I actually really enjoyed most of the cheesey teen movies John Cusack starred in. Grosse Pointe Blank. Better Off Dead. A Sure Thing. Serendipity. I denounce myself.

    JD (92fffb)

  12. Greetings:

    I think one of the reviewers, currently on the program, is the son of a movie reviewer on another channel. Family business, I guess.

    11B40 (06d91d)

  13. Hey, have you seen Hiltzik today? Stunningly stupid, even for him.

    Most of it is just rehashed ‘the cloud is the next thing’ blah-de-blah that populated all of the tech sites a year ago. It’s the opener that makes it special, where he reveals that he still uses Word 97 and a computer so dated that he doesn’t think it will run the current version of Office.

    This is the guy with his eye on the pulse of business?

    epobirs (60643b)

  14. JD,

    Caught Grosse Pointe Blank again on cable last night:

    Leave your livestock alone.

    Plus, a fittingly 80s soundtrack.

    Karl (f07e38)

  15. I’m interested in seeing how two serious film critics – of which Scott & Phillips fit that designation – fare in this role. I think they will bring a different perspective than the show has been accustomed to – at least of late – and might have difficulty relating to the audience when it comes to the popcorn films like Transformers & GI Joe. It will be fun to watch.

    Brotherico (5c621d)

  16. I still spend my movie watching time at home with classics. My wife and I watched “You Can’t Take it With You” on TV last weekend. I had seen it a couple of times but it is good and is a good example of the Depression movies. She loved it ! I ordered a DVD with a restored version. A few years ago, my kids were over and we watched Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen. They could not believe how good it is.

    I’ll go to a theater for a few like Gladiator or a few others that sound good but most of my watching of movies is at home with classics. More and more of the classics are coming out on DVD now. I got “Story of Three Loves” a month or so ago and watched it.

    I gave up on S&E when Siskel died.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  17. Small world, Mike K. My husband and I watched “You Can’t Take It With You,” too.

    DRJ (3f5471)

  18. We only watch movies in this house. We don’t have TV. The wife, the daughter, and I all know what we want to see. Some of our choices are better than others. In our TV watching days we treated Siskel and Ebert as Coming Soon. We tuned them out and watched the clips and made our own judgment. Neither of them was smarter, better educated, or had better taste than us.

    Basic hint — what’s in the previews or the clips in the movie reviews is as good as the movie gets.

    nk (df76d4)

  19. Comment by Mike K — 9/3/2009 @ 11:12 am

    The daughter is watching “American Velvet” (with Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney) right now and at seven she knows that it’s way better than “Saddleclub”.

    nk (df76d4)

  20. The only thing Ted Turner did right was create the Turner Classic Movies channel. I watched Richard Burton in “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” and “The 27th Day” with Gene Barry. They don’t make movies like that anymore because the writers in Hollywood are all Politically Correct Boobs now.

    PCD (02f8c1)

  21. Nothing to be ashamed of, JD. “Say Anything…” and “The Sure Thing” are much better than most films in the teen-screen genre. Siskel praised the former for treating parents (John Mahoney) as intelligent and supportive, and father-daughter relationships as warm and meaningful. And “Sure Thing” is a movie I’ve enjoyed viewing more than once. Nothing on your list I’d call a “guilty pleasure.”

    Dagwood (d4597a)

  22. Dagwood – Agreed. Nicolette Sheridan in A Sure Thing was a cinematic masterpiece. Better Off Dead remains one of my all-time favorites to this day, though it will never begin to approach Tombstone and Gladiators, movies that, for me, have no limit to the number of times I will watch them.

    JD (9e41b2)

  23. I agree with Tombstone. It’s as good as myth-making gets. Gladiator basically sucked, in my opinion. A chick-flick, actually.

    nk (df76d4)

  24. DRJ, the Depression movies all had a theme. Rich people were eccentric and mostly good-hearted after they saw the light. It Happened One Night is an example. There is a sort of Superman complex in that the hero often looks like a bum but turns out to be very smart and often a famous guy like a novelist. That’s a common theme. People didn’t want to go to watch misery. Topper is another example. If you haven’t watched that, you should do so. I have a whole set of The Thin Man movies. The costume romances were another escape type. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like that come back as we are in for some tough times. Watch Captain Blood and realize that was Errol Flynn’s first movie. Prisoner of Zenda is another excellent costume drama.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  25. I’m interested in seeing how two serious film critics – of which Scott & Phillips fit that designation – fare in this role.

    Back in the early 90’s some friends of mine had a cable access variety show that they needed some filler for. They asked me and one of my roomates to do a “drunken sports review” seeing as neither of us had any experience with team sports. Within two months they scrapped the rest of the show and joined our segment.

    Perhaps At the Movies could benefit from a couple of (lightly lit) non-professional counterpoints to the “reminiscent of Bergman” guff that I suspect we shall get with these two.

    I do miss Siskel, terribly. He was a feisty man. I especially liked his retort to Ebert’s complaint with Species;

    ” I liked it when she took her shirt off. “

    That type of honesty is far too rare.

    Uncle Pinky (e4d7c2)

  26. Speaking of William Powell, I just bought my favorite movie from the Depression era, “My Man Godfrey.” Still hilarious, and even though the first two Thin Man movies were excellent as well, they can’t touch Godfrey for pure nuttiness.

    Gladiator basically sucked, in my opinion.

    I hated it – nothing but a bad retread of “Spartacus.” And even though I like almost anything with Oliver Reed in it, you can’t improve on perfection.

    Dmac (a93b13)

  27. I love The Thin Man series. William Powell and Myrna Loy are two of my favorites because of those movies. Also, I looked up Jean Arthur after we watched “You Can’t Take It With You.” It said she didn’t like Jimmy Stewart and passed up the chance to do “It’s a Wonderful Life” as a result. She also may have suffered from stage fright and that led to her early retirement.

    DRJ (3f5471)

  28. “They don’t make movies like that anymore because the writers in Hollywood are all Politically Correct Boobs now”

    They don’t make movies like that anymore because all Hollywood is interested in is animated cartoons with celebrity voices for the talking animals.

    David Ehrenstein (2550d9)

  29. Part of the problem is that Siskel (whom I greatly miss) was a movie critic, while Ebert was (and is) a movie reviewer. The former (at least as I was taught) tries to answer Goethe’s three questions of art: what was done, how well was it done, and was it worth doing; while the latter tries to answer two more immediate questions: will I have a good time, and is it worth my money? There’s not much overlap there.

    For a couple of years in the 1960’s I did movie reviews for a campus radio station, and tried to answer all five questions for a movie or two a week. (The reviews were, to a certain extent, advertising for the movie houses, who gave us bunches of tickets to give away.) I gave each movie seven stars to start with, and took away as I found things wrong. Most ended up with scores of 3, 4, or sometimes 5. “2001” was the first seven star that I saw in initial release. “Star Wars” was the second.

    Avoid “The Terminators”, a direct to DVD release that looked like bad cover art for “Terminator: Salvation”, which is what I thought it was. Zero stars out of four, five, or seven. Easily one of the worst 100 movies I’ve ever seen, and a strong contender for Worst Ten. This is so bad. Not in the “so bad that it’s good” kind of bad, this was the so bad that it’s horrible kind of bad. To answer Goethe’s questions: a ripoff of the Terminator series; very poorly in every way a film can be measured; not at all.

    htom (412a17)

  30. AO Scott is/was one of the primary film critics for the NYT.

    Pretty high-brow. Not sure his style will play on “At The Movies”.

    Shipwreckedcrew (7f73f0)

  31. A.O. Scott of the New York Times has appeared as a guest reviewer with Richard Roeper before the show made the ill-fated changeover. He favors left-tilted movies, though maybe not to the same extreme as Ebert.
    As stated above, the way to get a balanced appraisal of a movie is to call up the Rotten Tomatoes Web site.

    James Fulton (86d115)

  32. DRJ,

    Myrna Loy and Jean Arthur were utterly adorable and charming in their own self-effacing ways, weren’t they? I always enjoyed their humor, Arthur’s more zany silliness and Loy’s wry observations (Thin Man). They would be anomalies in today’s world.

    Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives was one of my favorite WWII films. And put Jean Arthur together with Cary Grant, and it was magic.

    Dana (863a65)

  33. Oh this makes me like Myrna Loy even more!

    “With the outbreak of World War II, she all but abandoned her acting career to focus on the war effort and worked closely with the Red Cross. She was so fiercely outspoken against Adolf Hitler that her name appeared on his blacklist. “

    Dana (863a65)

  34. Myrna Loy was a notorious left-winger, Dana.

    David Ehrenstein (2550d9)

  35. Please say you didn’t pay to see “World’s Greatest Dad.” It was on HD Net for free in order to stir up buzz. They promoted the hell out of it and it looked awful.

    Also, the ads revealed that Bobcat Goldthwait was the writer/director. That alone should have been enough to scare away any potential viewer.

    bskb (112a26)

  36. Myrna Loy was never than in The Razor’s Edge. “I love the sight of you. ….” I wish I could have said that to her.

    nk (df76d4)

  37. *never better*

    nk (df76d4)

  38. Sergio Leone kind of stole it in the last scene between Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards in Once Upon A Time In The West.

    nk (df76d4)

  39. 27, David, I’ve seen the crap posing as enlightened scripts in the USC Film School. The crop of new writers, directors, and producers are PC Braindead idiots.

    PS. My daughter graduated Cum Laude from the USC Film School, Something Ebert and Spielberg couldn’t do.

    PCD (02f8c1)

  40. If you would like to see Gene Siskel as you’ve likely never seen him before, check this photo out.

    He’s right below the “9.”

    L.N. Smithee (3e1cba)

  41. bskb wrote:

    Also, the ads revealed that Bobcat Goldthwait was the writer/director. That alone should have been enough to scare away any potential viewer.

    I also would have thought so if not for my experience accidentally coming across Windy City Heat.

    L.N. Smithee (3e1cba)

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