Entertainment behind the scenes
The latest movies from Sylvester Stallone, Julia Roberts and Michael Cera will forever be remembered by film buffs as the last to be reviewed on the weekly TV show “At the Movies,” which ended its influential 35-year run this past weekend. Syndicator Disney announced in March that it was canceling the show because it no longer made financial sense to produce.
The show, originated by rival Chicago newspapermen Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, brought film criticism to mainstream America. The two scribes passionately debated each other on the merits of Hollywood blockbusters and small art-house releases, making or breaking movies with their trademarked (literally) thumbs-up and thumbs-down recommendations.
The swan song episode replayed some of those moments: Siskel lavishing praise on the documentary “Hoop Dreams,” and the duo almost coming to blows over such long-forgotten films as the Burt Reynolds comedy “Cop and a Half.” In one notable sequence, Siskel changed his thumbs-up on “Broken Arrow” to a thumbs-down, after being swayed by Ebert’s distaste for the John Travolta thriller.
Siskel and Ebert jumped from local public television to national syndication in 1986. Siskel died in 1999 and was eventually replaced by columnist Richard Roeper. An ailing Ebert stepped down in 2006, and Roeper reviewed movies with a succession of guests for two years. Two of them, A.O. (Tony) Scott of the New York Times and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune (at left in picture with Scott), rescued the show in 2009 after an ill-fated restructuring with a pair of lightweight critics sent ratings into a freefall.