Jack Is Back

We all could use a little good news these days.  Here’s some exceptionally good news for me:  Jack Nicholson has decided to return to the big screen, after an absence of seven years (!), to star in a remake of the German film Toni Erdmann.

jack-nicholson-to-return-to-movies-toni-erdmannI haven’t seen Toni Erdmann — it hasn’t made its way to Columbus yet — but I’ve seen the previews and read about it.  Nicholson seems well-suited to playing the part of the daffy Dad who intrudes upon his daughter’s life.  But really . . . I think I’d watch Jack Nicholson in just about anything.  He’s been a huge personal favorite since I first saw him, way back when, in Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces.  And while he’s made some clinkers along the way, he’s been brilliant in so many movies — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, A Few Good Men, About Schmidt, and the list goes on and on — I think he’s clearly the best actor of our time, and certainly one of the top five in history.  Hell, he even made Batman a lot more interesting.

Whenever somebody comes back to work after a long absence, you always wonder whether they’ll be at the top of their game, or whether they’ll be resting on their laurels.  With Nicholson, coming back after such a long absence, I don’t think that will be a problem.  He’s always good, and I suspect he’s want this film to really be special.

Brunch At Melt

IMG_4518Today Kish and I decided to check out Grandview Mercantile in the Short North and have some brunch beforehand.  We parked near the store and decided to stroll down High Street until we saw a restaurant that piqued our interest.  When we passed by Melt, we had to stop to check it out.

Kish loves grilled cheese sandwiches, and that — along with beer — is basically what Melt has to offer.  But saying they serve grilled cheese sandwiches is like saying Jack Nicholson is a decent actor.  It doesn’t really capture the entirety of the body of work, or the creativity and talent behind the performances.  Melt offers every imaginable form and combination of grilled cheese that a rational person could imagine — and a few others, besides.

So, I was intrigued to see what Melt’s brunch would be like.  I ordered the green eggs and ham offering from the brunch menu, which included ham, cheese, an egg over easy, and Green Goddess dressing, all served in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich.  It was tasty, and also titanic — so frigging huge that I could only eat half of it, and I was pretty hungry.  When our friendly waitress came by to ask if we wanted dessert, we laughed out loud at the ludicrousness of that notion.  She smiled and admitted that she typically sells only about one dessert a month because the entrees are so massive.  They have good coffee, too, by the way.

Melt is a pretty good option for brunch, but for God’s sake be sure to bring your appetite.

RVs On The Blocks (And In The Voting Booths)

In About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson memorably plays a retired mid-level executive who, after his wife’s unexpected death, takes an RV on the road and experiences various adventures — including a hot tub encounter with Kathy Bates.

I thought of the Schmidt character, and the many retirees who are part of the American RV community, when I went to fill the tank this morning and saw that gas prices were above $4 a gallon.  Even filling up my Acura cost just shy of $60.  How much would it cost to top off one of those enormous houses on wheels?  What kind of mileage do those behemoths get?  And if you were a senior living on a fixed income who hoped to spend your retirement touring the countryside and hanging out at KOAs and Good Sam campsites across the fruited plain, how would you feel about the rising gas prices that are making your retirement dreams so much more difficult to afford?

Of course, summer is the peak RV driving season.  Only time will tell how many RVs will be on the road this summer, and how many will be on blocks because of gas prices.  My guess is that any disappointed seniors who are foregoing their tours of America’s highways and byways due to rising gas prices aren’t going to be happy about it — and they are probably pretty likely to vote, too.

Let the Heroes Rest

Well, they’re making a new round of Superman movies. This news comes right after the announcement that Hollywood will also be rebooting the Spiderman franchise.

When I was a columnist for the Daily Northwestern, I wrote that I thought Hollywood should make fewer sequels and more movies with original plots and characters. I used the latest Terminator movie as an example of an uninspired sequel that strays from the vision of the original.

The new Superman and Spiderman movies are an even greater offense to our film tradition. At least the new Terminator broke new ground within the franchise. Like it or not (I did not), the new Terminator movie explored a different aspect of the Terminator universe than its predecessors. In the first three movies, we only saw Terminators sent back in time to kill humans who would end up playing a role in the future war. We never saw much of the war itself until the latest movie.

The new Star Wars and Indiana Jones films also get passes. The Star Wars prequels showed us an era of the Star Wars universe that we hadn’t seen before. “The Crystal Skull” gave us a different Indiana Jones – growing old,  even ready to settle down with a wife. And heck, at least they were made by the same talent that made the originals.

There’s no new perspective to shed on the Superman and Spiderman stories. Both franchises have been done recently. The Spiderman franchise was rebooted in 2002. I remember the excitement around it very well. There were sequels in 2004 and 2007 – less than three years ago. The series’ stars, Tobey Macguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco, are still young. The Spiderman story has already been told for our times.

Same with Superman. “Superman Returns” came out in 2006, not that long ago.

Maybe someone can revisit these franchises in a few decades, when special effects have improved, memories of the last movies have faded, and our society has changed a little bit. I didn’t mind the current Batman series, which began in 2005, even though the previous one only ended in 1997. Special effects technology progressed dramatically between “Batman and Robin” and “Batman Begins”, but more importantly, we changed. September 11th made us more paranoid and self-doubting, and as a result the new Batman movies are darker than the old ones. Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 “Batman” was obnoxious; he liked to spray paint on classic works of art. Heath Ledger’s 2008 Joker was evil and perverted, taking delight in disfiguring and murdering people. He took advantage of our society’s weaknesses to confront us with difficult moral choices.

We haven’t undergone any changes since 2007 significant enough to justify rebooting these two franchises. Leave them alone for a while. When the current Spidermans look as dated as the 1960s Batmans, then you can reboot. (OK, maybe you don’t have to wait that long.)

The sad thing is that these pointless movies occupy lots of valuable talent. Christopher Nolan, who directed “The Dark Knight” and the innovative “Memento”, shouldn’t waste his time acting as a “mentor” for the new Superman. He should be making another “Memento”.