• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

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Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

TITLE: Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm

YEAR: 1993

GENRE: Superhero/Comics and Animation

There were many animated and live action superhero television shows back in the day, and most of them were the butt of many jokes. Most just could not taken seriously and were just terrible, especially most of the 1960’s cartoons and the amazingly awful 1970’s live action Spiderman show. That all changed in 1992 when the epic “Batman: The Animated Series” was debuted on Fox’s animation block on Saturday mornings. The first animated show inked on black paper instead of the traditional white, “Batman: TAS” brought together fantastic character development, multi-layered villains, and surprisingly mature storylines to bring about the best animated television show ever made. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm was a full length movie made around this television show, and this is the crème de la crème of all the animated superhero films made before or since.

Batman’s career has already lasted for several years, and the film begins with the Dark Knight busting up a money laundering operation. While the lead gangster Chucky Sol attempts to escape, he is confronted by The Phantasm which is a gothic-type of villain that ends up killing the gangster. Several other gangsters associated with Sol end up dead shortly after thanks to the Phantasm, but people assume that Batman has finally gone off the deep end. As if that is not enough stress, Andrea Beaumont, a former love of Bruce Wayne, shows up unexpectedly and stirs up old emotions within our caped hero. To add even more fuel to the fire, who else would make an appearance but The Joker himself, as he has interest in “who iced the old gang” and fears that he may be next. Batman, The Joker, and the Phantasm end up in an epic showdown that will forever alter Batman’s future.

There are so many aspects of this film to like. First of all, no other Batman film has developed the Bruce Wayne character better as the back story of the origins of Batman showed much of Bruce’s conflict between being the nocturnal crime fighter and living a normal life with Andrea. The scene where Bruce weeps and pleads at his parents’ grave stone is particularly powerful, especially when he more or less asks for the superhero cup to be removed from him because he “never expected to be happy.” The animation has a  30’s art deco feel to it and is crisp and unique. The emotions in the characters are drawn well, especially the scene where the faithful butler Alfred hands Bruce his mask for the first time, with a look of concern, despair, and a “what the heck am I getting myself into” on his face all at the same time—powerful animation! The musical score by Shirley Walker is wonderful, with a  combination of majestic symphonic supremacy and profound sadness all in the same notes. The Joker is also well done and shows his sick sense of humor in ways such as his hideout: the grounds of a former World’s Fair in “The World Of Tomorrow” display which now is a crumbling mess of rusted metal, peeling paint, and overall urban decay which I am sure The Clown Prince of Crime would have seen as a joke in itself. In addition, the last laugh out of The Joker (expertly played by Mark Hamill) is a perfect combination of hysteria, mental sickness, and psychopathic madness that is best associated with Batman’s arch enemy. No disrespect, but Heath Ledger has nothing on Hamill’s take on The Joker.

Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm best exemplifies The Caped Crusader as he really should be displayed: as a modern tragedy. Think about it: a multi-billionaire who has had everything handed to him on a silver plate has his life completely dictated by one major disaster in his life (the death of his parents), and he is so hell-bent on giving justice for his misfortune that it will eventually lead to his own self-destruction. Sounds a little bit like Hamlet to me. Fans of the Adam West-era “Batman” TV show will want to leave this on the shelf, but fans of The Dark Knight and Batman Begins will watch this again and again. A great way to spend 75 minutes, and this gets our highest rating. DC is trying to recapture the magic of Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm in their current DVD offerings, but has yet to come close to this celluloid masterpiece.

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