I was lucky enough to be able to attend a pre-screening of the new film The Ultimate Life last week. It will be released in theaters September 6, 2013. This is a movie I have been eagerly anticipating for…well, it feels like forever, but it is finally here and that is all that matters! It was well worth the wait. I loved, loved, loved this movie. It was visually stunning, the acting was wonderful and the story…well, I left the theater with a good feeling that carried over well into the next day. Here’s the trailer…just to give you a peek.
Looks good, huh? The real deal is even better. This is both a prequel and a sequel to The Ultimate Gift. Huh? Right, it really is both. And it works, really, really well. The cool part is that The Ultimate Life is a stand alone film. No prior knowledge is necessary to fall in love with this one, I promise! However, I can’t imagine anyone watching The Ultimate Life and then not wanting to go back to watch The Ultimate Gift. (That could just be me though…no? Good!) The film stars Peter Fonda, Bill Cobbs, Lee Meriwether, and Ali Hillis just to name a few.
Chronologically, it takes places after the events of The Ultimate Gift. Jason Stevens, played by Logan Bartholomew, is fighting his greedy family to retain control of the Stevens Foundation that he earned from his grandfather, Red Stevens, in the first film. Jason’s busy, doing good things, trying to help people with the gifts that his grandfather has bequeathed him. He’s come a long way from the young man we met in the first film, but he’s got a few things let to learn yet. I’ve always liked Jason. Not in spite of his flaws, but because of them, I think. More that as he becomes aware of those flaws, Jason’s trying to work to overcome them. He’s willing to learn, and become…better. The Ultimate Life shows him trying to bear the burden of his inheritance. He’s focusing so hard on trying not to be the person he was before he learned the ultimate gift from Red, that he’s missing out on some big stuff now.
Now, for anyone who has seen The Ultimate Gift you’re probably out there thinking that no one can replace actor Drew Fuller as Jason. I was kind of worried about this too, I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t. He did a great job with the role. Logan had quite a bit of skepticism to overcome, and it took him all of like three minutes on screen to do that. Really, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Mr. Bartholomew’s portrayal of this character is spot on, no joke. His smile is infectious and he embodies the person we know Jason has become to perfection. After those first few minutes, he was just Jason and I didn’t think about it again.
As the daily grind and the fight with his money grubbing family take over Jason’s life, he does a great job of keeping the big picture in focus. The details….well, this is where the lawyer comes in to help. I know, I know. Not the typical role of an attorney in the movies, but Mr. Hamilton is not just a sharp attorney. He’s also been a friend of Jason’s grandfather since the beginning of Red’s career as an oilman. Mr. Hamilton gives Jason Red’s journal to read, in hopes that his grandfather’s struggles will help Jason gain some…perspective maybe.
Red kept a journal since he was 15. It was given to him by his teacher who told him that it wasn’t “girly”. Girls had diaries and boys had journals. Journals were different. In this leather bound book, he relates his journey. We get to see it through Red’s own eyes.
Now, Red has always been a favorite of mine in these movies. It doesn’t hurt that the Red that Jason knows is played by James Garner. I do so love James Garner…he’s just awesome! I was a little nervous about the prequel portions, and the men who would be playing Red as a teenager and a younger man. I shouldn’t have wasted my time. I had nothing to worry about. Austin James plays the teen aged Red Stevens, and he does a fantastic job. All that ambition and drive just pulse out of him, and it just encapsulates the character so well. I was even more impressed when I found out this was his first major role. The guy knocked it out of the park. Drew Waters took over the role of Red as an adult, and the transition was seamless. The Texas oil man still chasing his dream of becoming a billionaire was just as I’d pictured Red, and seeing how the family ended up…the way they ended up, was a bit heartbreaking. Just as watching young Red fall in love with his Hannah was breathtaking.
Then there’s Gus. He’s played by Brian Dennehey in The Ultimate Gift, and I couldn’t wait to see what he would look like in The Ultimate Life. Seeing their friendship develop throughout this film was just awesome, because they have such a competitive relationship of friendly one-upmanship. And the young Gus, played by Jack DePew, has just the right mix of humor, snark, competitive drive and friendly attitude.
Surprise, surprise, there are books that go along with the movies. They’re titled The Ultimate Gift, The Ultimate Life and The Ultimate Journey by Jim Stovall. Check out Jason Steven’s limo driver in The Ultimate Life movie, because the author makes a cameo there. I recommend reading the books also, because…well, you already know how I feel about that. Just read Book Before Movie? Movie Before Book?.
The author is based in my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he has written more than 20 books, four of which have been made into movies now. Jim Stovall is also a motivational speaker and President of the Narrative Television Network as well. The Narrative Television Network makes movies and television accessible for the blind and visually impaired and their families. Even though it was originally designed for individuals who are visually impaired, a large percentage of people who tune into programming are like me. They don’t have issues with their eyesight, but they enjoy the programming. Sometimes it is as simple as not being able to see the television from the kitchen. (If I were more motivated I would do something about that, but I don’t have to. NTN tells me what’s going on, and keeps me from moving furniture…and fish tanks.) He’s even been an Olympic weightlifter too. Just please don’t ask me which book is my favorite, because I’d have a really hard time answering.
Did I mention The Ultimate Life comes to theaters September 6th? Just in case I forgot, September 6th-8th is opening weekend. Go see it. There will be no regrets! You can get tickets here.
‘Til next time,