From Up On Poppy Hill Stands Out Successfully Among The Anime Masses

Courtesy:  Studio Ghibli/GKids

Courtesy: Studio Ghibli/GKids

From Up On Poppy Hill is a surprisingly interesting work from Hayao Miyazaki.  This latest re-issue of the story from one of the masters of modern Japanese anime stands out among the masses as it strays from the typically standard fantasy tales to which viewers have become accustomed from the anime film genre.  It also boasts an equally surprisingly enjoyable soundtrack.  And thanks to the new Special Edition re-issue, fans of this modern anime classic will get even more out of the story than in any previous release.  When set next to the other factors that play into the movie’s success, they come together to make a movie that any anime fan will appreciate no less with each watch.

The most commonly held belied about the anime genre is that its stories are centered in fantastical worlds with stories of equal level fantasy.  From Up On Poppy Hill completely breaks that mold, opting instead for a more real world situation that is sure to keep even the least of anime fans engaged throughout the story’s toughly ninety-minute run time.  The story in question centers on two young high school teenagers living in Yokohama, Japan in 1963.  Both children had lost their fathers when they were much younger.  This leads to a long-held secret that shocks both youths.  And because of just how real the situation is, it will surprise viewers just as much.  The reality of the story makes it so much easier for viewers to suspend their disbelief in watching the story unfold.  Audiences will appreciate the included booklet with story notes written by both Hayao Miyazaki that is included with the upcoming Special Edition re-issue of the movie.  The booklet in question adds even more insight into the movie, and is highly recommended reading before watching the movie.  It’s just one of the bonus features included in the Special Edition re-issue that anime fans will find to be an especially worthwhile addition to the overall package.  It explains both the original story’s concept and its evolution into the story that viewers will have before them in the movie’s Special Edition.

The story behind From Up On Poppy Hill is a very touching and moving tale.  Despite the fact that its main characters are teens, even adults will appreciate the story of the two youths who were ironically enough brought together as a result of a war that tore apart so many families’ lives.  It makes for one of Miyazaki’s more interesting stories.  Just as interesting as the story is the story’s soundtrack.  The largely swing-jazz heavy soundtrack is quite surprising considering the music that backs most of the film maker’s other works.  It fits, though.  This story came right on the early edge of the 1960s.  So the jazz movement that marked the 1950s still had some life.  It adds one more extra touch to a story that already stands out among so many other anime features and helps to make the movie that much more worth the watch.

The music and the story together work quite well in keeping viewers engaged from start to end in From Up On Poppy Hill.  There is one more aspect of the movie’s upcoming re-issue that anime fans will appreciate in taking in this modern anime classic.  That aspect is the collective bonus features included in the movie’s Special Edition.  The Special Edition includes not only the movie on DVD and blu-ray, but also in both English and its original Japanese presentation.  There is also an interview with director Goro Miyazaki included in the set’s bonus features that will both entertain and enlighten viewers.  In the nearly twenty-minute interview, Miyazaki discusses the comparison of the Yokohama that was created in this movie versus the real one.  He laughs as he discusses how those that lived in the real Yokohama disputed so many of the designs intended for the movie.  It leaves him laughing.  And it will leave viewers laughing, too.  In one of the interview’s more moving moments, he becomes introspective in discussing what life must have been like for those that lived in the real Yokohama during the 1960s.  He discusses the importance of getting a feel and respect for what life back then was like.  It shows that while Miyazaki has a sense of humor, he also is human and has emotions.  That would explain why From Up On Poppy Hill is more than just another anime movie.  It’s a movie that although it’s anime, has heart and is worth at least one watch whether one is an anime fan or not.  It will be available September 3rd from GKids and Studio Ghibli and can be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Poppy-Hill-Blu-ray-Combo-Pack/dp/B00CSYRHG6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1377654658&sr=1-2&keywords=from+up+on+poppy+hill.  Audiences can find out about even more films from GKids online once they’ve pre-ordered From Up On Poppy Hill at http://www.facebook.com/GKidsfilms and http://www.gkids.tv/films.  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.

MST3K Vol. XXVII A Laugh Riot For Film Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

The latest installment of the cult classic, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), keeps the laughs coming yet again.  MST3K Volume XXVII brings audiences four more episodes and four more movies that are so bad that they’re good.  And of course, what volume of MST3K episodes would be complete without the absolutely hilarious commentary by Mike, Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo?  It’s all here in one more collection that any fan of this classic series will love to watch again and again.  Audiences even get to see a young Ron Howard away from his more well-known role as Opie Taylor in one of the movies.

From giant dancing teens to Cold War propaganda to a giant killer bug to subterranean creatures coming to take over the surface world, this volume has more than its share of campy greatness in its four discs.  The set is anchored by what is one of Universal’s best of the bad in The Deadly MantisThe Deadly Mantis is just one of the many classic horror/sci-fi flicks that Universal Studios churned out after the success of its original monster movies (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon).  This terribly campy flick features a giant prehistoric praying mantis wreaking havoc on the world when the iceberg in which it was encased breaks loose from the arctic and thaws out in warmer waters.  This sci-fi classic was one of the campiest of Universal’s monster movies.  But by comparison to today’s over-the-top movies claiming themselves to be horror, it is a welcome inclusion for fans of real sci-fi and horror flicks.  Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo’s irreverent commentary makes it even better.  There are pop culture references, some slightly politically incorrect jokes, and even some that are so nonsensical that one can’t help but laugh at them.  The jokes are just part of what makes this movie the anchor to this new set.  Fans of classic movies will appreciate the bonus feature on the life of William Alland.  “Chasing Rosebud: The Cinematic Life of William Alland” explains the importance of Alland in the history of monster and sci-fi movies.  Whether viewers are watching this movie for the first time or for the first time again, this feature will make audiences appreciate his work and The Deadly Mantis even more as a campy yet highly important piece of movie history.

If a classic monster movie from Universal isn’t enough, then perhaps audiences will enjoy the Cold War era propaganda piece, Rocket Attack U.S.A.  This black and white movie was centered on tensions between the United States and Russia and what would happen if the two sides both launched their nuclear warheads.  It would be no surprise if this 1961 classic was at least partially the influence behind the far more influential 1964 drama, Failsafe.  The movie’s criticisms don’t’ stop during the film.  Just as with the other movies in this and previous volumes of MST3K episodes, this episode is presented exactly as it aired, complete with intermission segments.  The killing of the movie keeps going with its intermission segment as Joel and company go off on the evil Dr. Forrester about all of the movie’s inconsistencies.  It’s so funny hearing them filet the movie because viewers know that what Joel and company have to say is exactly what they themselves would have said.  That ability to relate to viewers event today makes both this flick and The Deadly Mantis (as well as the set’s other pair of movies) as enjoyable as they are campy. 

The movies included in this latest volume of MST3K episodes are funny and enjoyable.  It should be noted that Village of the Giants probably isn’t entirely proper for younger viewers.  If anything, it comes across as a little bit of an exploitation film, as the “teen” girls outgrow their clothes when they grow.  They do keep themselves covered.  But some parents might find this a little unsuitable for children.  That aside, there is one more factor to note in this new set of episodes.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  Each episode is set in its own slim case within the larger box.  And each box has its own hilarious artwork that goes along with the movie.  The artwork used on each episode’s box is just as campy as the movies themselves.  So even before viewers put in each disc, they get a good laugh from the artwork on each case.  That each disc has its own slim case, this protects each disc from scratching.  It’s one more positive—along with the set’s other factors–that will impress fans from the very first time they pull the wrapping from the box.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXVII will be available Tuesday, July 23rd.  It will be available in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217352.  Fans can find out about all of the latest releases from Shout! Factory on its official website, http://www.shoutfactory.com and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

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.