‘The Ultimate Legacy’ Does Little For The Legacy Of ReelWorks’ “Ultimate” Franchise

Courtesy: Cinedigm/ReelWorks Studios

Courtesy: Cinedigm/ReelWorks Studios

Evangelical movie studio ReelWorks Studios will release the latest installment in its ongoing “Ultimate” franchise on Tuesday when it releases The Ultimate Legacy.  The franchise’s third installment, it is enjoyable, but hardly perfect.  That is not to say that it is a total loss, but this critic would be lying to say that it is one of the year’s best new cinematic offerings independent or otherwise.  One of the key elements that keeps this latest installment in the “Ultimate” franchise afloat is the work of the movie’s cast.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the cast’s work is laudable, its story is sadly not so laudable.  That is hugely important to note, and will be discussed later.  Of course whereas the movie takes a big hit due to its story, the movie’s cinematography makes up for that hit if only slightly.  When the cinematography is coupled with the cast’s work on camera, they luckily do just enough to make up for the movie’s story, which is anything but original.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, The Ultimate Gift proves to be anything but the ultimate cinematic triumph.

ReelWorks’ latest installment in its “Ultimate” movie franchise is enjoyable, but is hardly an ultimate cinematic offering.  Luckily for its parent studio though, it is not a total loss.  It does have some saving graces, one of which is its cinematography.  The movie, shot at least partially in La Grange, Kentucky, will impress audiences if only for the work of its cast.  Viewers will be surprised to learn that the supporting cast is more deserving of credit than the lead cast in this movie.  The most notable of the support cast are Torry Martin and Doug Jones.  The pair plays two of Anderson House’s staff, and while they are not on camera at all times, their time on camera is successful.

Audiences will love watching Martin (The Matchbreaker, The Errs of Birdie Hollow, Adrift) as the innocent, nerdy housekeeper Oscar.  Martin makes Oscar such a loveable character through his portrayal.  His comic timing is spot on as he stumbles over what to call Joey, and as he runs to save the day after Joey accidentally hits a water line while developing the memorial garden.  Even in a more serious moment such as when Oscar and Hawthorne (Jones) reveal a long-held secret to Joey, Martin impresses.  As enjoyable as he is to watch, one can only hope that he will get more opportunities to shine in bigger movies and sooner rather than later at that.

Jones’ (Star Trek Discovery, Hellboy, Hellboy II) portrayal as Hawthorne is just as enjoyable Martin’s take on Oscar.  Just like with Martin, Jones’ time on screen is limited.  But he shines just as much.  Those who are familiar with Disney Junior’s animated series Sofia The First will be able to instantly compare Jones’ portrayal to Tim Gunn’s portrayal of Sofia’s butler Baileywick.  The difference is that Hawthorne barely has any speaking lines in this movie.  Even with that being the case, Jones still impresses when he does speak.  He impresses just as much when his acting is done more through emoting than speaking.  Jones gets even those moments right, and whether those moments come when he’s alone or he is alongside Martin, he shows exactly why he is deserving of credit.  When Jones and Martin work alongside, the pair shows fully that they are the real stars of this movie and collectively one of the only shining stars in this otherwise forgettable evangelical flick.

While Jones’ and Martin’s work is a laudable piece of The Ultimate Legacy’s overall presentation, the movie is anything but perfect.  The movie’s story weighs it down and while it has some funny moments, it is otherwise unoriginal and forgettable.  The movie’s story is a blatant rehashing of the “Ultimate” franchise’s first two movies and just as much of a ripoff of Fireproof.  That is right down to the book that holds Sally Mae’s original will and the 12 Gifts that Joey has to work on in order to earn his inheritance.  Just as with the franchise’s first two films and with Fireproof, the story’s main character has to go through a certain process in order to obtain enlightenment (so to speak) and his ultimate reward.  That process includes self sacrifice (again just like with the aforementioned movies) and tithing in a manner of speaking.  What’s more, Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any major transformation in the story.  The fact that he gave charity early on in the movie made him little more than the bad boy with a heart of gold.  That in itself is hardly original in the bigger picture of the entertainment world.  Considering the fact that he never really went through any major transformation, it almost completely negates any reason to watch the movie.  Luckily, these issues with the movie’s story (it’s writing in the bigger picture) aren’t enough to make the movie completely unwatchable.  Its cinematography does its share to make it worth at least one watch, just as with the work of the movie’s cast.

The story at the center of The Ultimate Legacy does more of a disservice to the movie than a service.  Joey doesn’t necessarily go through any earthshaking transformation when one truly examines the story closely.  The process that Joey has to go through is nothing new both to the movie’s franchise, and is also a reworking of the story presented in Fireproof.  For all of the problems that the story poses, those problems are offset by the movie’s cinematography.  Viewers will be especially impressed by the soaring aerial shots of Hamilton House’s vast property and the countryside shots as Joey helps an elderly woman on her way to his grandmother’s funeral.

The movie’s various interior shots offer audiences just as much to applaud as its exterior shots.  One case comes as Sally’s lawyers watch Joey at work on the memorial garden from inside the mansion’s dining room.  The wide shot of the room and the contrast of the grounds from the inside exquisitely captures the details not just of the room but of the setting in whole.  The shots captured in the mansion’s library and barn are just as impressive in their own right, and are hardly the only footage worth noting.  Between the various impressive interior shots and exterior shots presented throughout the movie’s 99-minute run time, its cinematography paints quite a laudable picture; a picture that makes the movie worth at least one watch if only for that one factor. That is made clearer when one takes into consideration the work of supporting cast members Doug Jones and Torry Martin.  When their work is joined with the work of the movie’s camera crew, the end result is a movie that is worth at least one watch even though it is anything but ultimate.

The Ultimate Legacy is a work that is anything but ultimate.  Its story does little more than rehash the story used in the franchise’s previous installments.  It also uses a very similar story presented in Sherwood Films’ movie Fireproof.  That in itself does more harm than good to the movie.  Even as much damage as it does to the movie’s value, the work of the movie’s support cast and its camera crew does just enough to make it worth at least one watch.  Considering all of this, The Ultimate Legacy does little for the legacy of ReelWorks’ “Ultimate” franchise.  It still remains a movie that while anything but ultimate, is worth at least one watch.  It will be available Tuesday in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from ReelWorks Studios is available online at http://www.reelworks.net.

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.

‘The Great Gilly Hopkins’ Is A “Great” Family Flick

Courtesy: Lionsgate Premium

Courtesy: Lionsgate Premium

Every year during the holiday season it seems that audiences are stuck watching the same fare both on television and in theaters.  Sure, tradition’s a good thing.  But how much tradition can people handle before it just becomes trite?  Thankfully, next month Lionsgate Premium will release a new offering to break that monotony.  It is the studio’s small screen adaptation of author Katherine Paterson’s children’s book The Great Gilly Hopkins.  The movie, which runs 99 minutes, is an interesting new holiday offering and an equally entertaining first-time adaptation of the book.  That is due in no small part to the story at the movie’s center.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as its central story.  It will be discussed later.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette rounds out its most important elements.  Each element plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation.  All things considered, The Great Gilly Hopkins proves to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 holiday movie season.

Lionsgate Premium’s small screen adaptation of The Great Gilly Hopkins is one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 holiday movie season.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story.  For the most part, this adaptation strives to stay loyal to its source material.  That’s a rarity both for big screen and small screen literary adaptations.  The fact that Paterson’s son David directly handled the adaptation of his mother’s book is likely why it stayed true to its source material.  Kudos are definitely in order considering this.  The story follows its pre-teen protagonist as she comes of age and learns to let love in again after being hurt so many times by being tossed around in the foster system.  She learns to let love in as she learns that a family doesn’t have to be a biological family.  What makes the story work is its ability to make audiences suspend their disbelief. It is so believable because it was presented in a realistic fashion instead of just being another run-of-the-mill saccharine sweet drama about family.  Considering that the movie centers on family and is so faithfully adapted, it is interesting that the story was adapted by a mother and son team.  It’s a parallel of sorts, and an interesting one that will generate its own share of discussion.  This is just one way in which the story stands out in this year’s field of holiday fare.  The fact that it only uses the holidays as a backdrop makes it stand out even more.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins stands out in the movie’s presentation because of its faithful adaptation from its source material.  That is just one way in which it stands out.  It also stands out in the fact that its holiday material remains in the story’s  background rather than being at the story’s center.  There are scenes that take place on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But for the most part, the story’s holiday material is little more than background.  Considering that, the movie could be considered a holiday movie and a general family drama that just uses the holidays as a backdrop.  It is a respectable balance, and when set alongside the story’s central story, adds even more depth and enjoyment to the movie’s overall presentation.  Keeping all of this in mind, this movie’s story proves an integral part of its presentation.  It isn’t the movie’s only important element, either.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to its presentation as its story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins is a key piece of the movie’s presentation.  It stays as true as possible to its source material.  That is rare for any literary work adapted to the big screen and small.  The fact that it keeps its holiday elements more in a supporting role than primary makes it even more enjoyable.  Considering all of this, the movie’s story proves to be a key piece of the movie’s presentation.  It is not the movie’s only key element.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story.  The work of the movie’s cast is so important to note because it is just as believable as the story.  Kathy Bates (The Blindside, Misery, Titanic) leads the cast in her role as Maime Trotter. She absolutely nails down Maime right down to the southern accent.  There are so many actors and actresses who try to get that accent but fail miserably because they try too hard.  In Bates’ case, she gets it just right.  Maime’s determination to make a difference in Gilly’s life despite Gilly’s behavior is just as powerful.  She had plenty of chances throughout the movie to really ham it up, but never took that opportunity.  Instead, she showed her years of experience.  In turn, she makes audiences absolutely love her as that surrogate mother figure.  Hers is just one of the performances that stands out here.  Fellow lead star Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief, Endorphine, Pawn Sacrifice) is just as impressive as Bates.

Kathy Bates’ performance as Maime Trotter is one of the most enjoyable performances by this movie’s cast.  That is because she exhibits her years of experience here just as much as she has in her more well-known performances.  She makes Maime such a loveable and believable character.  Hers is just one of the performances that stands out in this movie.  Fellow cast mate Sophie Nelisse is just as enjoyable to watch as the movie’s title character.  Nelisse is just as believable as Bates as she portrays Hopkins’ naivety and emotional turmoil in her youth.  Just as in the case of Bates, it would have been so easy for Nelisse to overact as she brought Gilly to life.  But even at the tender age of 16, Nelisse handles her role with the expertise of a seasoned veteran.  Considering that, she again proves just as enjoyable to watch as Bates and the rest of the movie’s star-studded cast.  That cast includes the likes of Glenn Close (Damages, 101 Dalmations, The Shield), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Zootopia, Being John Malkovich), Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum, The Bodyguard, The Color of Money) and Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You, Silver Linings Playbook, Dexter).  The work of the movie’s cast works in partner with its story directly to make the movie even more enjoyable than considering the elements alone.  They are not its only key elements.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is just as important to note in examining the movie’s overall presentation as its story and the cast’s ability to carry the story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins and the cast’s ability to carry the movie are both key to the movie’s overall presentation.  The story is key to the movie’s presentation because it stays true to its source material and expertly balances its story with its holiday elements.  The cast’s work as it carried the story is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story.  That is because the cast’s work is so believable all the way around.  While both elements are key to the movie’s presentation, they are not its only key elements.  The movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is just as important to the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast in interpreting the story.

The story at the center of The Great Gilly Hopkins and the cast’s work throughout that story are both critical to the movie’s overall presentation.  The story is critical to the movie’s presentation because of how closely it follows its source material.  The cast’s work is just as important to note due to the ease with which they make viewers suspend their disbelief.  While both elements are clearly pivotal to the movie’s presentation, they are not its only important elements.  The movie’s bonus making of featurette is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast.  The movie’s bonus “making of’ featurette isn’t necessarily long.  It averages about 15 minutes, if that.  But in that short time, audiences get to hear from the movie’s cast as well as its writer and director.  The discussions are on the characters themselves as well as the importance of the story.  Julia Stiles only appears for a couple of minutes near the movie’s end—not to give away too much—but she makes an important statement in her bonus interview.  She points out that she was drawn to the movie because it wasn’t too saccharine or too dark and moody.  That is something that this critic already pointed out, too.  Kathy Bates discusses her role as Maime and the role that she plays in the movie’s grand scheme.  Audiences even get to hear from Katherine Paterson and her son in this extra material.  The elder Paterson discusses the real life influence on the book that would become The Great Gilly Hopkins while son David discusses the story’s adaptation from printed page to small screen.  These discussions and so much more add yet another layer of depth to the movie’s presentation.  When the whole of the movie’s bonus “making of” featurette is set alongside the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast, all three elements join together to make The Great Gilly Hopkins a “great” family flick.

The Great Gilly Hopkins is a great family flick and one of the biggest surprises of the genre so far this year.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story and the work of its superstar cast.  The movie’s bonus material adds just as much depth and enjoyment to the movie as those previously noted elements.  All things considered, this movie proves to be one of the most surprising of this year’s family offerings and one of the genre’s best offerings, too.  It will be available in stores and online Tuesday, December 6.  It can be pre-ordered online now via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/product.asp?Id=34393&TitleParentId=10502.  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lionsgate

 

 

 

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.