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The TV Film Critics: A Scouting Report

January 03, 1988

Why was "Lethal Weapon" one of Roger Ebert's favorite films of the year? Did Rex Reed really love "Running Man?" So many opinions, so few good movies. What's a moviegoer to do? If you've always wondered which TV reviewers to trust--and which ones to ignore--here's an informal guide to the tastes of seven of TV's top critics.

CRITIC

ROGER EBERT "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies"

LIKES TV's resident high-brow. Big supporter of offbeat movie fare like "Barfly," "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" and "House of Games." Loves horror movies--an all-time fave is Wes Craven's "Swamp Thing." Recently touted such inexplicable favorites as "The Principal" and "The Big Town."

DISLIKES A stickler for plausibility. Hates movies that expect audiences to buy any nonsensical plot development or dramatic device (except for movies made by his favorite foreign directors). Still thinks Steven Spielberg is a lightweight.

QUIRKS Named "Lethal Weapon" as one of his Top 10 films of 1987!

CRITIC

GENE SISKEL "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies"

LIKES Has a weakness for stagy performances and theatrical-style movies (like "Glass Menagerie" and "House of Games"). Also loves airy romantic comedies--"Baby Boom," "Roxanne"--and is such a diehard Cher fan that he liked both "Moonstruck" and "Suspect."

DISLIKES Most action films, virtually all horror films, those that seem self-consciously arty, smug, ironic or opt for striking visual imagery over nuts 'n' bolts storytelling (so, naturally he thoroughly demolished "Less Than Zero").

QUIRKS Gave thumbs-up to "The Big Town."

CRITIC

GARY FRANKLIN KABC-TV

Channel 7

LIKES The critic whose tastes more closely reflect the average Academy voter. Relishes meaty films with serious, uplifting themes, lots of heart--and plenty of showy, Oscar-bound performances. He raved about Streisand in "Nuts," Cher in "Moonstruck," everyone in "Ironweed."

DISLIKES Is quick to blast films with excessive violence or sex. Also particularly sensitive about casual racism (an accusation he made against "Adventures in Babysitting") and exploitative portrayals of Nazism.

QUIRKS Sometimes goes over the deep end (In giving "Weeds" a 10+, he said: "It will stand for a long time as a great American film classic long after you and I are dead.").

CRITIC

DAVID SHEEHAN KNBC-TV

Channel 4

LIKES Big, splashy films. Raved about "Empire of the Sun." Also enjoys weighty pictures like "Cry Freedom." Favors strong narrative films, vivid acting and movies that offer a message. Dubbed the preposterously plotted "Suspect" as "totally terrific and intensely involving from beginning to end."

DISLIKES Not much of a film buff--when Hitchcock died, he offered an obituary wondering what all the fuss was about. Has little interest in adventuresome projects.

QUIRKS Sometimes gets distracted by issues which have nothing to do with the film--he once spent more time complaining about a movie's ad campaign than the picture itself.

CRITIC

GENE SHALIT "Today"

LIKES Often boasts about his love of the theater--and frequently praises stagy films like "Nuts," "The Glass Menagerie" and "Orphans" (a film he dubbed "one of the best of the year").

DISLIKES Movies that don't have Oscar-winning potential performances.

QUIRKS The Ayatollah of Alliteration. On "Fatal Attraction": "Filled with suspense, surprises, secrets . . . it's sexy, it's scary, it's some kind of movie!"

CRITIC

REX REED "At the Movies"

LIKES Actresses--regardless whether their performances are emotionally powerful or just hammy. Adored Sally Field in "Surrender," Annette O'Toole in "Cross My Heart," Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom" and--of course--Streisand in "Nuts."

DISLIKES Downbeat, disturbing, difficult films.

QUIRKS This is the man who once gave a rave review to "Mahogany."

CRITIC

JOEL SIEGEL "Good Morning

America," ABC-TV

LIKES Just about everything. Including "The Pick-Up Artist," "Running Man," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Made in Heaven."

DISLIKES "The Sicilian."

QUIRKS Addicted to S-words, describes films as "steamy" . . . "sexy" . . . "suspenseful" . . . "sizzling."

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