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We bring sad news from the ongoing Film Critic Death March: In a broken-down negotiation that we like to imagine at one point contained the exchange, "You're asking for how much money?! You think you two are the only Ebert and Roeper out there? Someone get me a Chicago phone book and I bet I'll find you an Ebert and Roeper with an opinion about movies. Even a monkey (who happens to be named Ebert and/or Roeper) could do your job!" the two star critics have pulled out of their show At The Movies With Ebert & Roeper, with legendary opinion-haver Roger Ebert hinting at disastrous creative changes to come:

In an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday, Ebert said Disney-ABC Domestic Television had decided to take the show "in a new direction" and he won't be associated with it.

In a statement, Ebert said, "The show was a wonderful experience," and added that he and Siskel's widow, Marlene Iglitzen, retain the trademark to the phrase, "Two thumbs up." [...]

His announcement came a day after Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper said he was leaving the nationally syndicated "At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper."

"Several months ago, Disney offered to extend my contract, which expires at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season," Roeper said. "I opted to wait. Much transpired after that behind the scenes, but an agreement was never reached, and we are all moving on."

Whatever Disney's "new direction" entailed—we're picturing the large-breasted Roeper Girls spinning a giant Thumb-O-Tron, which miraculously pointed to "TWO WAY, WAY, WAY UP!!!" every time a Disney release was up for review—we're dreading it. It's time to bring in the big guns, and re-animate Gene Siskel via the magic of XBox 360's RAW 2008 for some old-school Sneak Previews smackdowns like the ones we savored weekly in our youth.