Last year, two new cast members joined the syndicated TV series where two film critics review movies and debate them. After one year though, both of those members have been fired and replaced.
Michael Phillips, the film critic for the Chicago Tribune, and A.O. Scott, the film critic for the New York Times, are now the two new heads of At the Movies. The two are essentially this year's Siskel & Ebert.
In Phillips and Scott's first episode together, which aired on Sept. 5, the two reviewed five new films newly released in theaters. They disagreed only once.
Along with WBOC's Sports Director Scott Abraham, both disliked the new Sandra Bullock film All About Steve. Instead of the trademarked "Thumbs Down," both used the phrase "Skip It." Phillips even remarked that so far it's "not been a good year for female protagonists."
Both enjoyed the comedy Extract from writer-director Mike Judge (Office Space). Phillips called Judge a "really observant humorist," while Scott said the comedy showed off the "varieties of stupidity." Both also liked the indie film Big Fan, about a sadsack of a sports enthusiast by the writer of the Oscar-nominated film The Wrestler.
In both cases, instead of "Thumbs Up," they said, "See it." The only time they disagreed was during the review of the new Tim Burton-inspired, animated film 9. Phillips basically said he wasn't excited about all the violence and dark material, while Scott said it reminded him of early Eastern European work.
Many may not get that reference, but it comes from a man, two men really, who have had decades worth of experience of being film critics. One reason why last year's host of this TV series, Ben Lyons, got fired was because he lacked such experience.
Lyons was lampooned for not being as experienced or as scholarly a film critic as his predecessors. The 27-year-old was accused of having no taste, no substantial knowledge of film history, and of being just a hype machine.
I had my reservations about Lyons, but I got used to him. I didn't think he was that bad, and I thought at times he offered a fresh perspective. As a self-proclaimed film critic, I'm in a similar boat as him. I might be subject to the same attacks.
However, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert originally started this series. Siskel was a Yale University graduate and Ebert is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The two of them had weight behind them that must be respected. What Lyons and the producers tried to do last year was change that, and try to be more hip and cool.
It didn't work, and ratings dropped over 20 percent because of it. I may be the same age and have the same experience as Lyons, but I respect the standards of film criticism that Siskel and Ebert established. I share a kinship with both of them, especially Roger Ebert, who is an idol of mine.
From what I can tell, Phillips and Scott share those feelings. I think they'll have a better time carrying the torch, a torch that was slightly diminished when Siskel died in 1999 and diminished even more when Ebert announced that he could no longer host the show due to a botched cancer surgery. I look forward to hearing the intelligent film dialogue that Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott will bring.
For more information on the new hosts and video reviews, go to: http://atthemoviestv.com/
You can also check up on the show on cable, just go to: http://www.reelzchannel.com/show/75/at-the-movies
Five Stars out of Five
Running Time: 30 mins.
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on WBOC