Coming to DVD/Blu-ray and VOD from director Goro Miyazaki, writer Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, GKIDS and Cinedigm is the latest amazing work of story and animation with FROM UP ON POPPY HILL.

This film tells the story of 1963 in Japan after World War II and Umi (Sarah Bolger). Umi is a young girl who has lost her father to war and is living with grandmother while her Mom finishes her schooling in America.

Working her daily chores at the bed & breakfast run by her grandmother, Umi also attends school. Before she leaves each day the young girl puts up flags that face the vast ocean as a message to her father. What she didn’t know was that someone was responding to her.

At school Umi spends time with her friends and becomes attached to Shun (Anton Yelchin). Shun is a young man who is active in the school debates and the run down clubhouse that is in danger of being torn down.

With Umi and the other girls, they teach the boys how to clean, organize and make the run down clubhouse look less in need of a wrecking ball. At the same time a mystery is brought to Umi and Shun by a simple photograph that can change their friendship forever.

FINAL WORD: Umi is an amazing character to be sure. It may be difficult for children to understand watching this character struggle at such a young age but at the same time watching is also learning. This young lady preservers with loss, love and an intense desire to be a part of something bigger than herself.

Shun is a young man who wants to break out of a shell he doesn’t understand. He may be a tad mischievous but nothing harmful. The scenes with Umi are respectful, confusing and fun all at the same time, just as life is at this age for kids. This young man has a sense of what is right and wrong and stands behind his decision with conviction – and friendships.

The blu-ray/DVD combo is absolutely astonishing with three hours of bonus materials that include: original Japanese language and English language versions with subtitles and dubtitles; feature-length storyboards; celebrity cast recording featurette with behind-the-scene footage and interviews (which are fantastic); an interview with director Goro Miyazaki; original Japanese tv spots; the music video for the theme song by Aoi Teshima, a featurette about Yokohama exploring the history of the sea side where the film is located.

There are also bonuses exclusive to the blu-ray edition including a staff speech and press conference by Hayao Miyazaki only days after the Fukushima earthquake and a 20-page booklet with the original project proposal.

Other cast include: Gillian Anderson as Hana Matsuzaki, Christina Hendricks as Miki Hokuto, Aubrey Plaza as Sachiko Hirokoji, Jamie Lee Curtis as Ryoko Matsuzaki, Bruce Dern as Yoshio Onodera, Charlie Saxton as Shiro Mizunuma, Chris Noth as Akio Kazama, Beau Bridges as Chairman Tokumaru, Isabelle Fuhrman as Sora Matsuzaki, Alex Wolff as Riku Matsuzaki, Emily Osment as Nobuko Yokoyama, Ron Howard as Philosophy Club President, Jeff Dunham as Gen. Shiraki, Jake Steinfeld as the Fish Seller, and Raymond Ochoa as Riku Matzusaki.

TUBS OF POPCORN: I give FROM UP ON POPPY HILL three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. First of all the animation is spectacular and those that love this type of animation are going to be thrilled.

GKIDS has teamed with Cinedigm to bring FROM UP ON POPPY HILL and are also responsible for the release of such films as THE PAINTING, THE RABBI’S CAT, A LETTER TO MOMO, WRINKLES, ZARAFA and the autobiographical novel by Jung APPROVED FOR ADOPTION.

Cinedigm has a large library that include documentaries, Indies from Flatiron Film Company and festival picks from Sundance and Tribeca. Some of these titles include THE INVISIBLE WAR, HELL AND BACK AGAIN, GASLAND, WASTE LAND and PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY. Currently the hit SHORT TERM 12 is high on my list!

FROM UP ON POPPY HILL is sure to be an instant classic and one I know I will be showing to my own grandchildren who look for films geared toward animation and outstanding story telling. These characters are endearing, thoughtful, very relatable and surrounded by a beautiful story.

Written and directed by a father and son it is not surprising that the themes of family, respect and love flow through this film with grace, elegance and a dignity not often found in animated story telling.

In the end – there is hope for the future without forgetting the past!




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