(As you may have noticed, The Narrator took a break from all of his series besides the home-video round-up to focus on writing reviews of U2’s albums. Now that that series is over with, he returns his attention to telling you about what Siskel & Ebert thought about movies and about well-shot bad movies.)
21 years ago, Siskel & Ebert liked some films, didn’t like some films, agreed on some and disagreed on some. The first disagreement (although it’s a rather cordial one) of the night kicks off the show, with a review of Star Trek: Generations, the not-too-well-received debut of TNG‘s crew on the big screen. Roger opens his portion by pontificating about the Star Trek series’ increasing impenetrability to newcomers, before getting into his main complaint; the silliness of the plot (Malcolm MacDowell’s villain has a plan that would require everything to be perfect within a margin of a few inches to work) and the silliness of the fist-fight climax, which he feels let down the film’s early big ideas. Gene doesn’t really disagree with his complaints, but he liked it more than Roger, being particularly entertained by how friendly the characters were towards each other, which gave the film a pleasant vibe for Gene that overrode the dumbness. Roger ties Gene’s feelings back into his opening statement, feeling that Gene’s response would be a common one amongst Star Trek fans (“Trekkers”, as he calls them), enjoying it as a piece of showbiz history rather than as a sci-fi movie in general. Their next film is the animated non-classic The Swan Princess, which Gene feels doesn’t hold a candle to Disney’s then-recent efforts in any department and, more importantly, just isn’t a very good movie on its own merits. But Roger feels that it’s good family entertainment, saying that, while it isn’t up to Disney, it is the best of the wannabe Disney movies coming at the time, miles ahead of Thumbelina (Gene retorts “So is a still picture of you taking a shower” to that, to which Roger wonders if he’s spent a lot of time studying that image) and on par with Aladdin‘s DTV sequel The Return of Jafar.
Next up is the John Hughes-penned remake of Miracle on 34th Street, which Gene and Roger both like. Roger feels that it shares much of the same spirit as the original, a quiet tone when it could have been done louder and slicker. Gene agrees, feeling that it is “classically made”, although he isn’t a fan of the remake’s new ending. Roger thinks he’s referring to a wedding scene, which he says touched him, albeit solely because he was married in the exact same church where the scene was filmed (Gene knew this and pointed it out to his daughter, who saw the movie with him and was the flower girl at Roger’s wedding), but Gene is actually referring to the courtroom ending, much preferring the original’s delivery of letters to Santa.
Gene and Roger both didn’t like the next film, Luc Besson’s The Professional (AKA Leon, AKA Leon the Professional). Gene felt that the film was all style and no substance, that its sexualized portrayal of Natalie Portman’s 12-year-old character was creepy, that the affectations of Jean Reno’s hitman character were boring, and that Gary Oldman was too over-the-top in the villain role. Roger agrees with everything Gene says, adding that the climax, in which Reno is able to predict what the bad guys were going to do with pinpoint accuracy, is completely implausible.
We get the first complete rave of the night with the final new release, Zhang Yimou’s To Live. Roger thinks it’s a wonderful, epic film, and is disappointed, if not surprised, that the Chinese weren’t fans of it, given its story following a Chinese family as the communists take together. Gene agrees, feeling that its greatest strength is the way it stages its epic story of political unrest as a personal movie with two main characters.
Gene gets the Video Pick this week, and it’s inspired by his distaste for The Professional. It’s Besson’s breakthrough La Femme Nikita, which Gene praises as a stylish film with an excellent lead performance from Anne Parillaud.