Arrow Academy Hits Another Bullseye With Its Re-Issue Of ‘The Apartment’

Courtesy: Arrow Academy/Arrow Films/Arrow Video

Romantic comedies, dramas and dramedies nowadays are not exactly the cream of the crop. From one to the next, they center on the boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end storyline with far too many similarities from one to the next. Even the execution of the stories far too often mirror one another, even while some movies are more light-hearted than others and vice versa. Keeping that in mind, having an original entry in that field come along is always welcome. Enter United Artists’ 1960 dramedy The Apartment. Starring a laundry list of now famed actors including Jack Lemmon, Shirley Maclaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston and others, this heartfelt romantic dramedy is a true classic that every classic film buff should own, especially in its new re-issue from Arrow Academy. The movie’s limited edition re-issue is a must have in part because it is a brand new opportunity to experience a story that is just as relevant today as it was more than 50 years ago when it originally premiered. This will be discussed shortly. Lead star Jack Lemmon’s work on camera also makes the movie so entertaining. It will be discussed later. The bonus material included in this new re-issue rounds out the most important of its elements. Each item is important in its own way to the movie’s presentation, as will be explained through this review. All things considered, they make Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of The Apartment more proof that re-issues are just as valuable for movie lovers as the prequels, sequels, reboots and over-the-top biopics that flood theaters today.

Arrow Academy’s recently released re-issue of United Artists’ 1960 Jack Lemmon romantic dramedy The Apartment is a must have for any true classic movie buff. It is one more example of why re-issues are just as important as viewing options as the prequels, sequels, reboots and over-the-top biopics that flood theaters today. That is proven in part through the story at the center of the movie. The story centers on Lemmon’s character, C.C. Baxter as he tries to work his way up the corporate ladder by letting his superiors use his apartment for their illicit romantic trysts. As he proceeds, he eventually grows as a person and finally grows a spine, standing up to them (specifically to J.D. Sheldrake–played by Fred MacMurray (The Absent Minded Professor, Son of Flubber) ) and making his own way. To that end, it is a classic underdog story. Here is a man who just wants to make it, but has had to sacrifice his own dignity in order to do so. When he finally stands up to Sheldrake, He finally comes out on top, just in an unexpected fashion. That unexpected ending is another part of what makes the story so interesting. It won’t be revealed here, for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen the movie.

While it is, at its heart, a warm, entertaining underdog story, it is also a statement about corporate America; a statement that the culture that has for so long been accepted within that world, must change. As is noted in the bonus commentary (which will be discussed later), this is critical because this movie came along during the age of McCarthyism, yet still didn’t land director and co-writer Billy Wilder on Hollywood’s black list. Considering the ongoing discussions about the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements going on right now, this element of the story becomes that much more critical to its whole. It makes even more so, the story overall just as relevant today as it was in its 1960 premiere (nearly 60 years ago). That is a very telling statement. When this element is coupled with the story’s more heartfelt, fun underdog story, the whole of those elements make the overall story a tale that insures audiences’ entertainment and engagement from beginning to end. Of course, the story is only one key part of what makes this movie so entertaining so many decades after its original premiere. Lead star Jack Lemmon’s work on camera plays its own critical part here, too.

Lemmon’s work is so important to note in examining this movie because it is so entertaining in its own right. This movie, as audiences learn in the bonus content, was only the second time that Lemmon and Wilder had worked together. The first time was only a year prior in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. Audiences see a lot of similarity in his portrayal of Baxter to that of Jerry (from the prior flick). In the same breath, one can also argue that Lemmon’s take on Baxter here also could be where he got the inspiration for Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, which interestingly would not come along for another eight years after The Apartment. A close side-by-side comparison of those portrayals would seem to hint at that considering Baxter’s at times semi neurotic behavior. The general sympathetic, underdog persona adds to the strength of that comparison. Of course, as audiences learn in the bonus material (again, this will be discussed later), this was nothing new for Lemmon by this time. To that end, maybe Felix’s character wasn’t influenced by Baxter, but it’s interesting to consider the similarities regardless. Either way, Lemmon’s take on Baxter is so entertaining that audiences will agree it is just as much of a strong point in this movie’s presentation as the story itself. It is of course still not the last of the movie’s most important elements. The bonus material that is included with the movie’s new re-issue rounds out the most important of its elements.

The bonus material included in the movie’s re-issue is extensive to say the very least. There is an archived one-on-one interview with Wilder from the Film Writers Guild in which Wilder talks film theory and how it related to how he helmed The Apartment. It comes complete with an audio introduction from Lemmon. Also included in the bonus material is an interview with Hope Holiday, who played Margie McDougall in which she shares her story of how she actually ended up in the movie almost by chance. The tears of joy that Holiday sheds as she shares her story make the story all the more engaging. That is because they are clearly not crocodile tears. She really is so thankful to have been able to have been in the movie. As if all of this isn’t enough, the bonus feature-length commentary reveals its own share of interesting information. For example, audiences learn through that commentary that Fred MacMurray was not the original actor who portrayed Sheldrake. As a matter of fact, it turns out that he was under contract to Disney when he was called to replace the original actor who played Sheldrake, and was not exactly in favor of playing a character such as Sheldrake because of the characters he was playing for Disney. Obviously he ended up being convinced to play Sheldrake, and the rest (as the adage states) is history. The commentary also reveals that the scene in which Baxter had a cold was very real. He in fact had a cold when the scene in question was filmed. There is also discussion on the anti-capitalist themes presented in the movie and how Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond surprisingly got away with putting them into the movie without being black listed. This adds its own insight into the movie. Between all of this, the commentary about Wilder’s distaste for television (and the contradiction thereof since he hired a bunch of television actors for his leads), and so much more, it becomes wholly clear why the bonus material included in The Apartment‘s new re-issue is so critical to its overall presentation. It adds just as much — if not more — to the re-issue’s presentation as the movie’s story and Lemmon’s acting. When all three of those elements are considered together, they make this movie a work that should be in any true classic movie buff’s movie library, and a work that shows once more that re-issues are just as important for audiences as all of the prequels, sequels, reboots and biopics out there today.

Arrow Academy’s recent re-issue of The Apartment is a presentation that belongs in the home library of any true classic movie buff. That is because it is a re-issue done right. From the movie’s look and sound to its very story alongside Lemmon’s acting to the bonus material included this time, there is so much done right here. All things considered, this re-issue shows that re-issues are just as important as viewing options for audiences as the new theatrical offerings out there today. It is available now and can be ordered online direct via Arrow Academy’s online store. More information on The Apartment and other titles from Arrow Academy is available online now at:

Website: http://arrowfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArrowAcademy

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

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New Downton Abbey Set An Excellent Gift For Fans New And Old

Courtesy:  itv/PBS

Courtesy: itv/PBS

2014 is set to be a big year for Downton Abbey.  PBS’ British import has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the annual awards show.  The series’ fourth season is also set to premiere on PBS in just a matter of days.  The current date for its Season Four premiere is January 5th, 2014.  And Season Four is also currently scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray January 28th, 2014.  So it goes without saying that the show’s fans have a lot to look forward to this Winter.  Before Season Four makes its U.S. premiere, the show’s fans can get caught up thanks to the new three-season gift set on Blu-ray and DVD.  This new set is a great gift for the most devoted of the show’s fans.  Not only does it include the series’ first three seasons together in their own entirety, but it also includes the companion DVD, The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This is the central point of what this latest set offers audiences.  Those that might perhaps be new to Downton Abbey will appreciate in watching this box set the writing.  Most people don’t like the thought of watching a show about rich people.  But once said audiences allow themselves to get past that outer layer, they will be pulled in by the purely human drama that makes up the series’ plot.  The cast’s attire and the overall setting also play into the overall enjoyment of this series.  That together with the solid writing and the box’s bonus material makes this latest box set a wonderful addition to the library of any Downton Abbey fan.

Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 is not the first of the Downton Abbey box sets released in 2013 by PBS and the BBC.  The show’s first two seasons have already been released in a special Blu-ray box set.  So what sets this latest box set apart from that set?  The first thing that audiences will notice is that the first three seasons are all included in this set.  Also included as an added bonus, is the companion documentary The Secrets of Highclere Castle.  This documentary had previously only been available as a stand-alone piece on DVD.  Now, it’s included in its proper place with this set for those that want the full show experience.  It’s not all that audiences get as a bonus, either.  There is also episode-specific commentary that adds even more to the overall experience.  It is all packaged in one relatively ergonomic set.  This is the case both with the DVD and Blu-ray box set.  And it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this set, too.

The packaging and bonus features that comprise the Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 1 2 & 3 box set are important parts of the set’s overall presentation.  One would be remiss though, to ignore the show’s writing and its effect on the series thus far.  Most audiences don’t seem too interested in watching a TV show about a rich family.  The last time that such show had an audience as devoted as this one was the original Dallas, starring the late Larry Hagman.  What sets this rich family apart from the stereotypical aristocratic family is that its members actually don’t feel above everyone else.  The show’s writers actually give the family members a certain heart despite the cultural divide between themselves and the servants that live and work in Highclere Castle.  The family actually does everything to not get rid of the servants even in somewhat difficult financial situations.  While it may not make the family more relatable to average viewers, it does make them more human and in turn, more worthy of praise.  It makes audiences want to find out what happens next within the confines of the story, which goes back to the overall writing.  It makes the stories all the (pardon the term) richer for viewers.  And in turn, it exhibits just why the show is such a favorite among audiences and critics alike.  It shows why this is the center of what makes this new set so worth checking out especially for those that might be new to the world of Downton Abbey.

The writing behind Downton Abbey is some of the purest writing for scripted television shows today.  By comparison, it outshines so much of the programming that pollutes American airwaves today.  In direct relation to the writing, audiences that are new to this hit drama will be impressed by the backdrops and attire used throughout the show’s first three seasons.  It’s obvious that the show’s heads wanted to be as accurate as possible to the series.  They wanted to be respectful both to the show’s history and its fans.  This is something else that audiences will learn about in the set’s bonus material.  It’s nice to see that just as in Mr. Selfridge painstaking efforts were undertaken to make the series as real as possible.  That’s something else that is rarely seen in most American television offerings today.  It makes the series stand out even more.  Along with its equally solid writing and bonus features, it becomes one more part of what is one 2013’s top box sets for adults.  It is available in stores and online now, and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=29630176&cp=&sr=1&kw=downton+abbey&pg=2&origkw=Downton+Abbey&parentPage=search&searchId=29650486.  More information on Downton Abbey is available online at http://www.facebook.com/DowntonAbbey and http://itv.com/downtonabbey.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Coming To TV, DVD, Blu-Ray In January

Courtesy:  BBC/PBS

Courtesy: BBC/PBS

The countdown is on.  For fans of the British drama, Downton Abbey, the show’s third season will finally come to America on Sunday, January 6th on PBS affiliates across the country.  Downton’s second season was met with mixed reviews, but as fans will see in the season premiere of Season Three, things have gotten much better.  Season Three opens where Season Two closed.  Audiences see Lady Mary and Matthew are finally getting ready to get married.  But among all the happiness of the impending nuptials, things at the abbey aren’t entirely rosy.  Financial issues have the fate of Downton Abbey up in the air.  Fans will also find interesting Matthew’s thoughts that maybe he doesn’t want to live at the abbey after he and Lady Mary are wed.  It’s obvious that things at the abbey are changing through this revelation.  And the introduction of Cora’s mother (played wonderfully by veteran actress Shirley MacLaine) makes for the possibility of plenty of great moments of cultural differences between herself and Lady Violet, Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith—Harry Potter).  There is so much more for audiences to look forward to in Season Three’s premiere, and the season’s other episodes, too without giving away too much.  Even more to look forward to is the upcoming release of Downton Abbey Season Three on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

Downton Abbey Season Three will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 29th.  Included in the upcoming release will be a feature on Shirley MacLaine, a standard behind the scenes featurette, and a bunch more.  Fans will be able to order Season Three online at PBS’s online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

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