Category Archives: Musical

Review: The Cheetah Girls 2

Promotional Poster

When you watch one you gotta watch em all- once my sister and I had watched the original movie, I knew we had opened Pandora’s Box. Within a few days we were back at again with the sequel. Thankfully, Kenny Ortega takes all the elements that were enjoyable from the first movie and amps them up to the next level. The musical moments are shot better, each of the “Cheetahs” is given more to do, and there’s a more coherent plot which gives the movie more of a punch.

The plot follows the Cheetah Girls 3 years after the events of the first movie. The girls crash Chanel(Adrienne Bailon’s) mothers romantic getaway to Barcelona in an attempt to win a music festival competition. After promising to do their best, the girls embark on their new journey. Each of the characters feels more defined- everyone from Galleria (Raven-Symone) to Aqua(Kiely Williams) gets their own storyline – no matter how on the wayside it feels. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the overall character arc the group goes through. The “Cheetahs” feel fairly similar to their previous incarnation in the last movie except Galleria is less bossy. I wish I saw some growth between the girls proper but everything related to the same feels tacked on or hammy.

Like the last movie- the songs are the best part. Thankfully, they’re shot well and aren’t jumbled and messy like the last movie. I could feel myself actually singing along (as corny as the lyrics were), but this time I could actually look at the screen without being forced to dart my eyes around needlessly.

While the plot makes far more sense than the last movie – it’s still Disney TV movie which means there’s more than one moment that will make you scratch your head. This problem becomes even more prevalent in the 3rd act when everyone acts a lot less intelligent than they really are. There are also some rushed moments and I feel like a more developed 3rd act could’ve given the last musical number more depth.

Rating

TLDR: The Cheetah Girls 2 is fun and filled with bops to nod your head along to. The plot and characterization leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a jam packed adventure the whole way through.

Final Rating: 6.0/10. The Cheetah Girls 2 brings in all the stuff you loved from the last movie with a more cohesive story and better shot musical moments. If you didn’t like the first one, chances are good you won’t find anything here either.

Review: Cats (2019)

I’m someone who normally gives pieces a more positive and optimistic shot than most. My higher than normal review scores are indicative of that. I always try and find something good to latch on in a movie and have fun with it. I saw the reviews for this movie on opening day and realized the potential horror of what I was walking into. I held onto some hope, because I loved Les Miserables, and thought that even a bad Tom Hooper musical would be okay. I was wrong. Not just wrong – horribly mistaken. By the time the first hour had passed I was literally just praying for the movie to end. This isn’t just the worst movie I’ve seen this year – it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The movie follows a series of horrific anthropomorphized cats as they talk about this vague competition that leads to an eventual rebirth. I’ll be the first to say I never saw or read about the Broadway show, and the plot was near incomprehensible to me. I’m someone who likes subtitles, so the fact that most of the exposition in the movie was sung hurt my ability to comprehend the movie. That normally wouldn’t be an issue but the film never takes a break to develop any themes or ideas. It literally follows the same structure the whole time- introduce cat – have song – maybe Macavity (Idris Elba) makes a slight cameo- then repeat. The lack of change in editing makes the whole movie drag on and I felt like I was being forced to endure the length of the film. The whole thing would have felt better 30-40 minutes shorter because at least then the absurdity of the film would stop while it was fresh.

Unlike most typical good bad movies like Troll 2, this film takes its sweet time being subpar so you can’t even laugh at the monstrosity at hand because it never stops or changes. There are few movies that have ever made me want to walk out in frustration – this film has joined the not so prestigious list. It’s not just that its bad- it’s that it won’t stop being bad so you can never laugh at how bad it is because you’re constantly being bombarded by worse elements.

The film goes at a breakneck pace but also feels incredibly slow because nothing meaningful ever happens. The movie could best be described as almost non stop exposition followed by an ending that tries to be emotionally resonant but fails on every note. This is because literally no character arcs or emotional bonds are ever set up in a way that could be conducive to any meaningful development. It’s a shame that the “antagonist” feels like a plot device instead of a meaningful character. I love Idris Elba and seeing him being used in such a poor fashion is upsetting. At least let him give the character some personality as opposed to be being a random bad guy. The only characters that give the movie any personality are Old Deuteronomy (Judie Dench) and Gus (Ian McKellen). The former takes command of the scene whenever she appears and makes the events feel more justified even though they’re just as haphazard as we think. The latter adds some emotional panache that gives the film much needed personality and actually helped jolt me awake near the end of the second act (or third act it’s confusing). The lack of real character motivation or explanation makes the whole movie feel like it’s a series of meaningful unrelated events. It literally feels unfinished.

Tonal whiplash is the name of the game and experiencing the shift from puns/comedic moments to the more serious nature of the competition the movie sets up(?) feels out of place. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are usually funny, but their style of humor and incorporation into this film feels forced and out of place. I can’t take the movie seriously if the characters in it make jokes about it and poke fun at the holes. Normally this tactic would be fine if the movie didn’t take itself seriously – but it does- and worse than that – it tries to be emotionally resonant. That’s a no-no and absolutely took me out of any immersion I had tried to feel.

Honestly, the biggest issue with the movie is how unappealing the film is. Forget a boring plot. Forget the uninspired songs. Forget the fact that most of the movie feels like an exposition reel through song. Hell, you could forget about all of that if the movie was at least fun. But it isn’t fun. It’s hollow and feels like a quick cash grab. The characters are one dimensional and just repeat lines with no personality. No one’s motivation is explored. The CGI looks unfinished and terrifying at the same time. Some of the characters literally look like humans with “cat” like additions which feels at odd with other characters and makes the shoddy CGI more apparent. The characters are also all strangely sexual. Parents please don’t take your kids. The way the cats licked the milk, flicked their tails, and stretched themselves had me cringing not only in embarrassment but also sheer dread at how horny the whole thing felt like. I guess maybe if you’re a furry you could get something from these moments- but that’s a pretty niche market group.

Rating

TLDR: Cats broke me. I used to say “no movie is that bad.” But no – some are. You can’t find something great in every piece of media.

Final Rating: 1.8/10. This movie is hard to positively react to. If you’re a furry maybe you might like it if you can ignore all the awful portions. If you take a shot every time there’s an awful cat pun or a strange sexual moment you might find something fun – but I can’t guarantee anything. Honestly – there’s not a lot here and I’d recommend staying away unless you really like bad movies. At the very least the movie might make influence the zeitgeist so that a future Cats like movie is never created again.

Is there a point in a spoiler section? I don’t think so . Save yourself.

Review: The Cheetah Girls

Theatrical Release Poster

Oh Disney Plus, you nostalgia machine. I only bought the service because of Star Wars – baby Yoda was too cute to resist and since I started the journey in November, I’ve been swept up in Star Wars fever. Buying Disney Plus felt like a must the moment I started The Clone Wars (2008) ( look forward to a review of the first six seasons soon). Thankfully, along with the Star Wars goodness, the service is filled with movies I remember watching by myself or with my sister when we were much younger- good old nostalgic times. When I saw The Cheetah Girls pop up while scrolling, I knew I had to watch it – it was one of my favorite Disney-to-TV movies and I wanted to see how much I would like it over a decade later . Even now, this movie entertains. It has great bops, some cute moments, and an utterly ridiculous plot that’ll have you laughing with friends. This is by no means a good movie- but it is a fun one.

The plot follows the titular Cheetah Girls- a group of four high school kids trying to make it big as musicians while living their own Cheetah Way. Raven plays Galleria, the self appointed leader of the group. Chanel (Adrienne Bailon), Aqua (Kiely Williams), and Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan) fill out the group, each bringing and adding a different element to the musical group. Acting between the girls feels odd at times (though mostly fine) and makes the relationship feel out of place. This impacts tense moments and undercuts a lot of the potential emotional moments. There are still some heartwarming moments but their overall impact falls short of where they could be. One thing I did appreciate about the film was that every girl (sans Aqua) gets a real moment of growth or emotion that feels semi-earned. In a movie as chaotic as this- that’s a huge deal. I wish it was just more applied and followed through on.

The best part of the movie is obviously the songs. As my sister reminded me, “Cinderalla” is a bop and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s surprising how catchy some of these songs still are. The over the top elements add to the corny fun of the whole thing, so I was genuinely enthralled by the experience. The only issue is how poorly edited the music videos are. The camera never properly focuses and jumps a lot. Thankfully, these issues don’t plague the final number too much but it really took me out of the earlier two songs.

What the movie lacks in subtlety it makes up in sheer absurdity. Things in the movie just happen out of nowhere and it proceeds at a breakneck pace. In particular, the third act is just a series of events that are more and more ridiculous. I couldn’t stop laughing at how everyone came together. Granted, the last song and the number are great but it literally makes the whole movie feel like some strange joke. It’s a great, entertaining joke to be sure. It’s hilariously bad in the best way.

There’s some decent buildup for some of the characters but the overarching story of the whole group feels haphazard and out of place. The film doesn’t do a great job at establishing why the girls are together or why they care so much about each other outside of just exhibiting cheetah-ness??I think? So when conflict comes up, it’s hard to understand how the dynamic should be playing out besides the basic way the movie presents itself in. Add on to this to the heavy handedness of certain character traits and absurd resolution of the groups tensions and you have a strangely unsatisfying story that’s fun enough to sit through.

Rating

TLDR: The Cheetah Girls is a fun ridiculous time. The music is fun, the energy is great, and there are more than one moments of pure comedic absurdity.

Final Rating: 5.7/10. This movie is great if you can watch it without taking it seriously. Just have a fun time with it- if you liked it before, chances are it’s infectious energy will get to you even now.

Review: Frozen 2

Theatrical Release Poster

When I saw the first trailer for Frozen II drop I felt one part entranced by the visuals, one part curious on where the story could go, and two parts nervous that this movie would be a cash grab with no substance. Although Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee don’t reach the same heights as they did thematically, musically, or story wise in Frozen, there are still more than enough gorgeous and fun moments in their sequel to satisfy the fans and entertain kids.

The story picks up some time after the ending of the first movie and follows our makeshift family unit of Elsa (Idina Menzel) , Anna (Kristen Bell) , Olaf (Josh Gad) , Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) , and Sven. They’re domesticated and having fun, but Elsa has been hearing a call beckoning her to leave her homeland and find her true calling. If the story sounds weird that’s because it is. It feels lazily written and almost feels like a series of excuses meant to guide characters from one set piece to another. It’s frustrating because the movie is supposed to be dealing with Elsa and her powers and had a real potential to explore the lore in interesting and philosophical ways to help develop the themes from the previous movie. Instead, it focuses on hashing out these really basic character arcs that either feel like they were better resolved in the previous movie or they just feel out of place overall.

Thankfully, the set pieces in this movie are absolutely breath-taking. Elsa has a lot of amazing action moments that serve to demonstrate how mind-blowing her powers are. Even though I thought the plot was absurd, I was left stunned with how cool and gorgeous a lot of her moments ended up looking. The color palette is distinct and vibrant and makes these moments that much prettier. There are gorgeous autumn leaves and amazing snow effects. The water looks and feels alive and fluid. The lighting is immaculate and everything feels imbued with vitality. There are a few scenes where the background felt like it was actually straight ripped out from reality. It all comes together to create one of the most stunning movies I’ve ever seen. I already know I’m going to re-watch the movie to see some of these moments again. If nothing else, this movie knows how to look near perfect.

The music is also good, even though it doesn’t reach the heights of the first movie. The title song is incredible, however, and I loved how it was incorporated throughout the movie. Into the Unknown probably won’t get as many plays from me as Let It Go did, but it’s a great song and I know I won’t be able to get it out of my head for a bit. Menzel and Bell are also still great, and each of their characters had at least one musical solo scene that I enjoyed. This film more so than the last felt like it had a few too many songs. In particular, Kristoff’s song felt misplaced and actually ended up making me like his character less. I appreciate how funny the song is supposed to be and thought the editing and feel of it was great. However, it makes him feel like he’s less mature than we’re led to believe and also interrupts the action in an non-ideal way.

Thematically, the movie attempts to do cool things but just falls on its face. Certain ideas are explored on a surface level which is a shame because of how interesting they could have been. There’s a lot of discussion about growth, but we rarely get to see it explored because the characters don’t feel like they actually change that much. There’s also this really neat idea of water in relation to time that feels Taoist in nature but outside of a cool visuals and interesting thoughts never reaches the potentials of what it could have been.

Rating

TLDR: Frozen II is gorgeous and breath taking, even if it feels like its lacking in substance. It never reaches the same heights of its predecessor, but is still entertaining and sure to give you some fun moments.

Final Rating: 7.5/10. I’ll watch the movie again – it’s beautiful and has some amazing scenes. Fans of the original should check this out, but be wary – the story leaves a lot to be desired and may be disappointing to some.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Frozen

Theatrical Release Poster

So when this movie first came out, I was completely enamored by it. The visuals were gorgeous. I couldn’t stop singing the songs. I was absolutely into the Frozen craze. Given the news of Frozen 2, I thought it’d be fun to revisit the original – not only to get ready for the sequel but also to see if I really enjoyed the movie or was just caught up in the craze at the time. Happily, I can confirm it was the former. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s story has all the markings of a musical classic and reminded me of the power of Disney magic.

The story follows the royal princesses of Arendelle¬† , Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) as they prepare and celebrate the latter’s coronation. However, everything goes wrong and it’s revealed to the kingdom that their newly anointed Queen has supernatural ice powers. Already, the basic premise of the plot has distinguished itself from so many other Disney movies. This time the “villian” is the Queen herself and because of that, the film gets to explore a lot of emotional ideas in beautiful ways.

The discourse on love and the extents of it is touching and gets explored in a lot of cute and emotionally satisfying ways. In particular, the relationship between Anna and Elsa is magnificent and serves as the emotional crux of most of the movie. Watching their interactions and growth is moving and there were genuinely moments that made me tear up. Bell and Menzel do a great job giving the sisters a real emotional depth to their dialogue that helped it hit emotional beats I didn’t expect.

Outside of them, Josh Gad is phenomenal as Olaf. The snowman is charming, funny, and a delight to watch. There are times where his character feels like he over explains some more emotional scenes that takes away from the subtlety of them. It’s not too annoying, but I feel like it made some of the more cathartic moments feel weaker. I enjoyed both of the male characters, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Hans (Santino Fontana), and enjoyed how they served as foils for each other in meaningful ways. The only character I didn’t like that much was the Duke of Weselton. He feels too over the top and I wish he was more grounded. It would have made certain moments more believable and sinister, which is something I would personally have preferred. He’s not awful – I just see wasted potential.

The music is absolutely great and I love most of the tracks. I love how the songs are incorporated into the movie and how much emotional weight they bring. Obviously Let it Go is amazing, but there are just so many great tracks its hard to choose from. Even the more unnecessary songs (like the rock people one) was fun to listen to in the moment. I thought the musical scenes with Menzel and Bell were amazing. In particular, there’s a duet in the second act that’s absolutely mesmerizing from a thematic view but also sounds phenomenal. It’s dark, desperate, and emotionally complex. I absolutely had chills afterwards.

The animation is also gorgeous. The characters all look beautiful, but my favorite moments were when Elsa used her ice powers to fight. The action scene with her is probably my favorite moment in the entire movie. The camera and lighting make it all feel intense and the particle effects of her ice magic makes everything feel more visceral. I honestly forgot I was watching a musical for a few moments and let myself get absorbed into the intensity of the situation.

Honestly, my only major problem with the film is how absurd one plot element feels. I won’t spoil it, but literally two characters make a mention of how ridiculous this element is and no one does anything about it. It felt frustrating because obviously sensible individuals in this universe proved to understand the issue , but it just gets glossed over. Normally this wouldn’t be that big of an issue, but it serves as the main driver for a lot of the conflict in the third act so the issue feels even more apparent. I also think that there should have been more of a consequence for certain actions, but I’ll talk about that in the spoiler section.

Rating

TLDR: Frozen is fun, funny, and bursting with personality. The songs are top notch and the animation is gorgeous. Outside of a few story issues and some missed opportunities, this movie rocks.

Final Rating: 9.0/10. One of my favorite Disney movies. Honestly, if you’re okay with coming down with some infectious ear worms, I’d suggest giving this movie a chance if you haven’t yet.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!