What I Watched… In April

Another month, another bunch of movies. The continuing lockdown means that when I’m not out working, I’m either writing, playing or watching. Pretty aptly suited for a site called Watch, Play, Type don’t you think?

So, without any further ado, let’s jump into the world pirate infested seas, exorcising demons and familial alien planets.

Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy.

The infamous Captain Jack Sparrow is someone entirely synonymous with my childhood. I was completely enamoured by the whimsical Pirate, and it started a brief obsession with the work of Johnny Depp in those formative years.

Revisiting the swash-buckling franchise was a daunting task, but I had to get some use out of my Disney + subscription. What I found from the three films (and yes, it is only the three in my mind), was a fun, ridiculous ride that felt simultaneously fresh from today’s grey barrage of fodder, and all the more childish than I had ever remembered. That’s not to say that this childishness is some form of criticism. I gleefully bellowed my way through all three of these films, with their playful action, back and forth banter, and increasingly ridiculous plot points.

Johnny Depp is an absolute blast in these movies as I am sure anyone with the slightest inkling towards entertainment will know. Yet I forgot just how fantastic the rest of the cast are. Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbosa is menacing and vulgar yet brings a smile to your face each time he is on screen; Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom bring some form of levity to the madness to even things out; and Bill Nighy is unapologetically superb as the tentacle-ridden Davy Jones.

The old days of the Pirates franchise was a time when films weren’t afraid to make a fool of themselves a little and thrive in the ridiculousness of their set-pieces. We all know the three-way fight on a rotating wheel in Dead Man’s Chest makes little to no physical sense, but it brought back a childlike sense of awe in me that I feel is missing from most modern blockbusters of its ilk.  

Spy

Paul Feig is a double-edged sword for me. Sometimes utterly hilarious, and other times poorly misjudged. Spy is an odd entry in his filmography as it see-saws back and forth between both. Melissa McCarthy is Melissa McCarthy, as she always is, but for the most part within this world of super spies it works.

From jokes about her image, her level of confidence, competing spies, and horny comrades, Spy blast through its first half with a witty, free-flowing script, and hilarious performances to boot. Then around the half-way point a particular story beat means that it exchanges its witticisms for low-ball humour filled with expletives and non-sensical insults.

I am by no means someone to campaign against the use of bad language, but littering the word “fuck” through every single sentence became one-note and almost numbing. It does regain some of that original level of hilarity, but come the end the damage had been done, and what was shaping up to be another comedy hit alike to Bridesmaids, became something that will ultimately be forgotten – even if it doesn’t really deserve to be.

Alien: Covenant

I have the oddest relationship with Alien Covenant. Being a big fan boy of Ridley Scott’s original, and even a fervent defender of his controversial Prometheus, I was over the moon to find another entry was finally happening, after five long years since the prequel’s promise to find the creators of human life. It was an exciting prospect and one I felt that took the franchise in a bold new direction; rather than one stuck within the confines of the past.

Yet when Covenant was finally released it was one part Prometheus sequel, and another part Alien prequel – never wholly committing to either, and leaving me with a film that felt rife with potential, and utterly devoid of originality.

The first half of this movie is near perfection in my mind – but only with the pretence that Prometheus content was to come. It was not afraid to take things slow and spent upwards of forty minutes before even touching down on the Engineer’s home planet – much like in the original. As terror and mania began to take hold on the crew of the Covenant, Scott was bolstering this new visceral, body-horror approach, and while I have issue on its treatment to the Xenomorph in comparison to the original, it still felt new and exciting; modern yet old. It was a return to the gritty and grounded feel of the Alien franchise that had captured my imagination to much in the original film, yet it all went up on smoke at the shot of a flare.

David’s entry in the movie marks the turning point for me. The following twenty minutes after his arrival proved that Scott was fearful to lean too heavily into the creator storyline he had patiently set up in Prometheus. I was desperate to explore their world and know their culture. Instead, all of that was surmised in brief expositional flashbacks and glanced at backdrops. It was heartbreaking. The moaning masses had morphed this movie into something it wasn’t intended to be. Scott had started this prequel series with a vision, and it had been abandoned.

I could really go on and on about this movie and its implications in the confusing identity of the franchise, but I may save all that for a more in-depth article. Suffice to say Alien Covenant is a contentious film for me. I love it. I hate it. Yet regardless of its conclusive outcome, it draws me in to the underlying potential of this franchise and its world. Maybe its too committed to its titular Alien. Maybe it’s not supposed to go beyond it.

Who know? Who cares?

Me… kind of.

Beetlejuice

When I started Beetlejuice, on a quiet weekday night, I had no real intentions of watching it. It had been recommended to me by a friend, and I only put it to cover the time before I decided what I actually wanted to watch.

Then came the first laugh. Then the next. And the next.

Within the first fifteen, I had laughed more than I do at most modern comedies. A dismissively clever type of humour that can’t be found in anything this side of the millennium. It’s casually wrapped up in a tight script and interesting premise, that manages to pack a lot into its relatively brief runtime.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis bounce off each other in a light-hearted way that felt real despite the otherworldly premise and had me hooked long before the star of the show was even introduced.

When Michael Keaton is finally brought into the fold, I was glad to see the reputation behind the character be met, with a superbly disgusting and brilliantly funny spin brought to an unstoppably energetic performance. Beetlejuice is used with incredible restraint, yet a restraint that made his appearances feel special in a way that kept your eyes glued to the screen.

I had a surprising ball of a time watching Beetlejuice, and my only real complaint was that I hadn’t found the time to watch it sooner.

Published by Aaron Bayne

I’m a film and video games journalist based in Scotland. I write stuff about them on my website, talk about them on my podcasts and film videos about them for BBC The Social.

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