On Screens: Steering clear of the ‘What happened to their talent?’ club

Not every breakout, genre-redefining film (think Reservoir Dogs, Shallow Grave) is necessarily followed by continued brilliance in the director’s next offering (Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting).

Some simply can’t rediscover the magic (Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko; Michael Lehmann, Heathers), others come unstuck in another language (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The Lives of Others). Paul Brickman (Risky Business) simply didn’t want the huge fame and, as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (or even Brian Clough and Peter Taylor) will agree, double acts often struggle to produce the goods when they go solo (Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, City of God; Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, The Blair Witch Project).

Some of their later films you would have heard of – Kelly went on to make the lamentable The Box, and Lehmann the deeply unfunny Hudson Hawk, while Von Donnersmarck went one worse, or maybe two, with The Tourist – others are just too obscure. But none of them ever came close to matching the heights of their magnum opus.

Carrey on containing
Desperately hoping he won’t join their esteemed company is Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

While the industry prefers to label the 2004 film as a work by Charlie Kaufman, Gondry was the driving force behind the film, firstly developing the story with a friend before Kaufman got involved, and then railroading the celebrated screenwriter into completing the script after he got worried the premise was too similar to that of Memento.

If you don’t include pop videos, Gondry hasn’t made much of note since. The Science of Sleep had its moments but was mostly pretentious twaddle that induced snoring, while The Green Hornet’s sting in its tale was that it was mostly atrocious. But now, teaming up with Jim Carrey, his favourite leading man, he is launching a small screen comeback with Kidding (HBO Nordic, Sep 10), a dramedy about a children’s TV host whose life starts to unravel.

Co-starring the always dependable Catherine Keener and Frank Langella, it is Gondry’s involvement that is the most exciting. Firstly, he is the director of all ten episodes of the first season – thus ensuring the quality is maintained throughout – and secondly, he has already proven his ability to rein in the excesses of Carrey’s over-indulgent comic brain.

Mile ‘high’ issues
Keener is also involved in Incredibles 2 (80 on Metacritic; released on Aug 30), which is being released in Denmark over two months after its US premiere. Apparently, Denmark is low priority for Disney, and for this film it was given a pitiful category 5 territory – the Pixar film Coco was similarly delayed – meaning it is coming out four weeks later than the Baltic states, and two months after most of South America. According to Disney, it chooses the most advantageous release dates based on “family-specific seasonal habits”. Perhaps it had prior word on the current Venezuelan migrant crisis.

Also among the cast are Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, the main stars of the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul in which some of the actors are beginning to look more like their BB selves’ fathers.

Marky Mark’s dad Mark Wahlberg has another star vehicle, Mile 22 (40; Aug 30), in which a combat team with a valuable asset must traverse a US city hunted down by a crack team of Indonesians (like inspired by The Act of Killing?), a stoner selection right up there with the South Africans in Lethal Weapon 2. Among the ‘good guys’ is mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, who has now made four movies since her debut in The Expendables 3 in 2014.

Four, pah! Mile 22 director Peter Berg’s last five films – Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon and the forthcoming Wonderland – all star, you guessed it, Mark Wahlberg. Berg is clearly a capable filmmaker (as his debut Friday Night Lights suggested), but he and Waldo are quickly becoming the worst big action double-act since Michael Bay and Ben Affleck.

Creepy Catholics
Elsewhere this coming fortnight, nearly an entire year after its UK release, On Chesil Beach (62; Sep 6) follows the aftermath of a fateful wedding night in 1962 that casts a cloud over a young couple’s relationship. Talk about a 20th century girl. Following her turns in The Seagull (1900s), The Grand Budapest Hotel (1930s), The Way Back (40s) and Brooklyn (50s), Saoirse Ronan is slowly working her way through every decade. With Atonement (most decades), this is also her second Ian McEwan adaptation.

The Nun (Not Released Worldwide; Sep 6) is the fifth film set in the universe of The Conjuring, a realm in which no member of the Catholic clergy is safe, but given the endless abuse scandals involving the church, is it really a domain that we want to milk for cheap thrills?

And Whitney (75; Sep 6) is the latest documentary to chart the life of the spectacular downfall of one of music’s greatest divas.

Meanwhile, back on the small screen, we’ve got keenly anticipated season twos of acclaimed 2017 debutant series Atypical (Netflix, Sep 7) and The Deuce (HBO Nordic, Sep 10).

Will Kidding make any best of 2018 lists? As long as the director keeps a lid on Carrey’s ego and collection of Aretha Franklin paintings, we should be okay.