At Cinemas: Hailing the unsung members of Hollywood dynasties

It took me a while, but I have found an unlikely link between two of the films in this preview. Without one, this piece would lack transition and risk losing you in the opening paragraph to the TV page opposite. With more photos and sections, it’s frankly more accessible, just like online streaming sites. And given the number of actors and directors now preferring the small screen’s bigger vision and greater depth, you wouldn’t be the first to jump ship.

Involves a decapitation
Still, it’s a good link, so thanks for sticking with me. It involves the films of two well-known documentary makers making their debut as the director of a feature film – proof it goes both ways, Marty – and a decapitation, but not of a horse.

The first reads like a quiz question. Some 81 years old, and a member of a famous movie dynasty, her most famous work was 15 years in the making, during which time her eldest child was decapitated in a bizarre boating accident.

The answer is of course Eleanor Coppola who developed a new genre of her own by making movies from the sidelines of other movies. But while Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse proved a worthy companion piece to Hubby’s iconic Vietnam War film, The Making of Marie Antoinette was possibly the most pointless documentary ever made.

And sadly there’s not much to get excited about with Coppola’s Paris Can Wait (48 on Metacritic; released on Sep 21), an unpromising romcom starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin. Also known as Bonjour Anne, we think it’s a safe bet this will be Adieu Eleanor.

A true clash of the titans
So who was driving the boat, you may ask. It was none other than another unsung member of a Hollywood dynasty: Griffin O’Neal, the son of Ryan and brother of Tatum, the wife (bear with me) of John McEnroe, whose epic showdown at the 1980 Wimbledon championships is the subject of Janus Metz’s debut Borg/McEnroe (Not Released Worldwide; Sep 14).

It’s seven years since Metz made Armadillo, an acclaimed but controversial documentary about Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, but bar an episode of the second season of True Detective, he hasn’t done much since.

It’s hard to know what to expect. For starters, its biggest competition is the game itself and most particularly that fourth set 18-16 tiebreak that McEnroe won before going on to lose the fifth set. Good luck trying to out-drama that.

Shia LaBeouf has made a career out of proving the doubters wrong, and he looks the part as the Superbrat. But the early word out of Toronto, where the film made its worldwide premiere last week, is that he’s the only good thing in the film.

Curiously, according to IMDB, Metz directed a 1996 episode of a sports documentary series, Clash of the Titans, about this very match – except he didn’t. Let’s hope he didn’t lie on his CV to get the gig and ends up with more reason than Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to regret the mention of ‘Wimbledon’.

High praise from Leeds
Also making their directorial debut this month is Francis Lee, the former Manchester City forward who is also 81. Not that Franny Lee? In fact this Lee is a journeyman actor with the kind of dreary career that makes you despair for British television, but he’s come up trumps with God’s Own Country (80; Sep 14), the tale of a Yorkshire sheep farmer who falls for a Romanian migrant worker, which both fans and detractors are calling Britain’s answer to Brokeback Mountain.

“A stunning love story that in its finest moments is pure poetry,” praises Empire magazine about a film that has already picked up awards in Berlin, San Francisco, Sundance, Toronto and … err, perhaps a bit biased this one … Leeds.
While another first-timer, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, has been entrusted with Home Again (43; Sep 14) a romcom vehicle for Reese Witherspoon that sounds like it should have stayed in the garage.

A franchise we can’t kill
Continuing with directors not well known in the movieworld, Michael Cuesta is taking charge of American Assassin (NRW; Sep 14) – his second full-length feature following the so-so Kill the Messenger.

However, take a look at his TV showreel and you’ll discover Cuesta has directed some of the best TV shows of our time, from Six Feet Under to Dexter to Homeland, of which he directed the nerve-jangling finale to season one.

But as impressive as the trailer of American Assassin is, this could be the start of a franchise Hollywood never wants to end, as there have already been 16 books written about the lead character, Mitch Rapp. And while it’s sad that his creator Vince Flynn died in his 40s of prostate cancer, and heart-warming to know he’s provided well for his family, with a new author on the case knocking out books 14-16 there’s a chance these films will never go away.

Will we be saying the same about Kingsman: The Golden Circle (NRW; Sep 21), a sequel as inevitable as a standing ovation at a Danish show. Unlike with Kickass 2, both director Mathew Vaughn and his old chum Mark Strong return, along with standout British actor Taron Egerton (so good as Eddie the Eagle), so there’s every reason to be optimistic.

Elsewhere, Mother! (83; Sep 14) and The Lego Ninjago Movie (NRW; Sep 21) have together given me a bad flashback to my childhood, and I hate them already, even though the former is an acclaimed horror directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler).

Oh no! According to IMDB, his last film was a biopic about Noah, presumably Yannick Noah, the winner of the 1983 French Open, the perfect link to the Borg film. Oh well, at least Mrs Coppola got to appear centre court (pending an objection from Miss Wozniacki) for a change.