A thoroughly mediocre production from all standpoints: story, acting, and production, Michael Landon Jr.’s The Ultimate Life is middle-of-the-road bland. In telling its "uplifting" story of family values triumphing over materialistic aims, the film couldn’t be any more predictable, and it seems a much more fitting entry into the Hallmark made-for-TV sweepstakes than as a feature film even if it is a sequel to the feature film The Ultimate Gift from 2006.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 12/10/2013
Billionaire Jason Stevens (Logan Bartholomew) is under fire from the family who greedily wish more of the family’s foundation moneys to go to them. In trying to clear his head and get some insight into his grandfather (James Garner) who left him rather than his own children the multibillion dollar foundation to manage, he reads his granddad’s journal begun in 1941 when he was fifteen. He reads about grandpa Red (Austin Stevens as a teen, Drew Waters as an adult) and his absolute determination to make a billion dollars no matter what, inevitably at the expense of raising his large family or giving his loving wife Hannah (Abigail Mavity as a teen, Elizabeth Ann Bennett as an adult) the attention she needs or deserves. Reading his grandfather’s eventual realizations helps Jason come to some of his own conclusions about his life and his feelings for the girl he loves, a nurse named Alixia (Ali Hillis) who’s left Texas to go to Haiti to help out there.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Because Red Stevens made his billions in the oil business, you’ll see more than a few similarities to the James Dean character in Giant and the Daniel Day-Lewis character in There Will Be Blood in the screenplay by Brian Bird and Lisa G. Shillingburg only without the real depth of character or intensely dramatic situations which dot both of those classic movies. Red’s dream of a comfortable life takes him from Louisiana to Texas (with a detour through the fields of Italy in World War II though this sequence in the movie is certainly the most ill-conceived moment in the picture with Italy looking more like some wooded acreage behind someone’s Carolina home), but the few bumps along the way aren’t really very compelling and are not especially dramatically staged or shot. The accents of the cast are all over the place with very few sounding legitimately Texan and with some of the actors not even attempting a Southern dialect of any kind. The film’s moral: that a person’s legacy is his family, not his wealth is rather obvious and simplistic: one can have a legacy, leave his mark on the world without producing progeny or leaving a vast estate, but the movie’s single-minded focus on its own theme would preclude any other variations being considered.
The performances are mostly decent enough given the seriously underdeveloped characters in the script, and professionals like Bill Cobbs as the elderly family solicitor or Peter Fonda as a cattle baron who is Red’s early role model do much with very little. Drew Waters as the adult Red makes the most lasting impression of the younger members of the cast with Austin James as the go-getting teenaged Red and Abigail Mavity as the teen Hannah also earning audience empathy and a rooting desire for them to make it as a couple.
The film has been framed for Blu-ray at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is only average to slightly above average throughout with contrast sometimes a bit milky even in scenes which aren’t flashbacks. Color can be vivid, but flesh tones are often overly rosy and somewhat unrealistic on occasion. Black levels are only average as well. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses Mark McKenzie’s music as the most impressive component of the surround soundfield. Split ambient sounds are only sometimes evident in the fronts and rears with much of the sound directed to the front soundstage only. Dialogue is always easy to discern and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Heart of The Ultimate Life (8:06, HD): the EPK for the film which features sound bites from the original novel’s author Jim Stovall, producer Rick Eldridge, and five members of the cast, all of whom give utmost praise to director Michael Landon, Jr. (who curiously is not interviewed for any comments in these bonus features).
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
Cast Interviews (44:16, HD): ten members of the production team are given about four minutes to describe their characters or describe their work on the film. These sound bites may be watched together or separately. The participants are: Abigail Mavity, Ali Hillis, Austin James, Bill Cobbs, David Mann, Drew Waters, Jim Stovall, Logan Bartholomew, Peter Fonda, and Rick Eldridge.
Deleted Scenes (5:21, HD): five deleted scenes are presented in montage form.
“One Life” Music Video (3:40, HD): sung over the closing credits, the song is performed for the music video by Tamela Mann.
Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
Promo Trailers (HD): Romeo and Juliet and Heart of the Country
A modestly pleasant but unremarkable and unmemorable stab at domestic drama, The Ultimate Life really isn’t much of a stretch for viewers or the team who put this rather lackluster feature film together.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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