Hallmark Review: The Good Witch’s Gift (2010, dir. Craig Pryce)


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I haven’t done a Hallmark movie in awhile. It’s been even longer since I did one that I watched on DVD. I only mention it because once again it is difficult to get it to start in VLC, and the close captioning is a little wonky. That leads to some humorous captions. I bring them up in case you go to watch it using VLC, or need to use the close captioning for more than just convenience. This is also the last of the Good Witch movies I have left to review. Let’s dig in.

The movie begins and we immediately join Jake Russell (Chris Potter) as he is doing some window shopping to decide what to get Cassie (Catherine Bell) for Christmas. He’s also doing a bit of foreshadowing.

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He spots a guy that he clearly knows, but then Cassie pops up like she always does to say “hi.”

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This is as good a time as any to mention that she uses her powers a little more explicitly this time around. It’s not like in a later one where she teleports right in front of a camera. However, she does pop around more, and she makes the doors to her shop open right in front of Jack to the point where he asks her if she installed automatic doors. At least that’s what they say if you can hear. If you can’t, then this is what shows up onscreen.

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The next important thing is to find out who that guy was that Jack saw while window shopping. It’s a guy named Leon Deeks (Graham Abbey) who was part of a bank robbery and was recently released after having served his time. The issue is that not only was the money never recovered, but Jack’s son is going out with Deeks’ daughter played by former Degrassi: TNG star Jordan Todosey. It’s interesting that with this film it means that actor Matthew Knight was in a movie with one of the late stage Degrassi: TNG actors, and one of the early ones in Jake Epstein who was in an episode of Matthew Knight’s short-lived TV Show called My Babysitter’s A Vampire.

Deeks of course stops by Cassie’s place, and as usual with new people, she nearly gives him a heart attack by suddenly showing up behind him. He remembers the place when it used to be rundown and is impressed with what she has done. There is an ulterior motive to him looking around the place. It will turn out the unrecovered money from the robbery is under her floor.

Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas) makes a return, but really won’t play too much of a role in the film. Mainly when Cassie’s ring goes missing, she runs around looking for it. However, good old quintessential small town busybody Martha Tinsdale (Catherine Disher) is sure around for her plot line.

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At the start she is being annoying, making people angry, and really getting into hitting that gavel. She is rejecting a local business’ request to put up a sign to advertise for their business. Her plot line is like the rest in that it will revolve around family, and will resolve with family. It’s what the “Gift” in the title means. The formation or maintenance of family is the central theme around which the plot lines revolve. I do love how at this meeting, which is where we first see her, she manages to piss off everyone at the table. Then she leaves only to be confronted by her husband the mayor who tells her they lost a lot of money, and she needs to get a job as a result.

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Catherine Disher really does have that Jim Carrey facial expression thing about her. I love it.

Then we meet Brandon (Matthew Knight) and Jodi Deeks played by Jordan Todosey.

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So, we have Cassie and Jack who need to end up getting married to each other. We have Jodi and her father who need to be reunited despite Jodi’s mother fighting against it. It’s understandable because the time he served was ten years on top of committing the crime. We also have Martha who needs survive this bump in the road with her husband. However, we have one last piece of setup.

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What do we do with grandpa (Peter MacNeill)? He actually has one of the more subtle ways of having family in his plot line. The woman he met last time at the orchard departs. Since Cassie is going to go and live with Jack in the end, what is going to happen to Grey House?

That’s your setup. The movie is on autopilot now as the plot lines run their course to their happy conclusions. Let’s talk about how these different plot lines all resolve.

The reason for the marriage being rushed is that Jack is getting frustrated that it keeps getting pushed back, so come hell or high water, he’s going to make it happen before Christmas. The marriage runs into a few small speed bumps with finding a preacher at the last minute, getting the wedding together at the last minute, and getting the marriage license also at the last minute. It’s the standard stuff you’d expect. Martha’s husband marries them since he is the mayor. They get the marriage license since Cassie has been around long enough legally that the government says that’s enough to establish an identity. I’m not sure it really works that way, but it’s a movie, and a very minor point that is just there to stall the film a bit.

Martha goes around trying to sell herself as a prospective employee, but she’s pissed off too many people for that to be an easy task.

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In the end, she’ll become a party planner. Cassie is the one who suggests this to Martha. In this one, more than others, she seems to be more conscious of these actions to help people. I swear I remember in the past that she treaded the line between some sort of an all knowing being, and a regular human better.

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As for grandpa, that’s actually easy. He moves in to take care of Grey House and the B&B with Cassie.

The hard one is getting Jodi and her father back together. That’s really what Cassie puts her mind too. In the end, that works out too, but she has to attack that problem from several angles. Turning the money in is the major step he takes to turn things around for him and his family.

It really has been awhile since I watched other Good Witch movies, but this one felt a little different. I recall the others having a main plot, and several micro-plots around it that really didn’t have any reason to be there. This time around we have the Deeks plot line that has some more importance, but they are all treated rather equally, tie together, and have a central theme. Kind of like a Good Witch version of Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From The Heart (2016) except that it doesn’t have so many plots that it gets overwhelming. This is average, but recommendable as far as Good Witch movies go.

Hallmark Review: The Good Witch’s Garden (2009, dir. Craig Pryce)


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This is actually the first Hallmark movie I’ve watched on DVD. I only mention that for others who might watch it on their computer using VLC like I did because it makes taking screenshots easy. This movie’s particular DVD really gave me trouble and I had to force it to bypass the menu in order to get it to play. Sadly, the captions on the DVD were not very good so if that’s important to you then I’m sorry. They drop out at times and get wonky. At least that was my experience.

This now means there is only one more Good Witch film for me to see. That would be The Good Witch’s Gift (2010). If I didn’t notice it before, then I definitely did this time after recently watching Garage Sale Mystery: Guilty Until Proven Innocent. That one introduced Good Witch style subplots to it that I really didn’t like and should be taken out from future installments. I remember them being in, I believe, all of these Good Witch films. I have never watched the TV Show, but I get the strong feeling that this works far better as a TV Show than it did as a yearly series of films. The main plots and subplots are fine for a TV Show and even if they are completely self-contained to a single episode almost always would add to a character in some way. However, when I watch these Good Witch movies I just wanna scream: “Please have a single self-contained plot that all of the characters are involved in and which moves them all forward to a state that we will pick up in the next film.” The Signed, Sealed, Delivered movies do just that. I’m theorizing here, but that’s probably why that went from a show to a series of movies and the Good Witch franchise did the opposite. Let’s talk about the movie now.

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The movie starts off and we have Martha Tinsdale (Catherine Disher) once again in full busybody mode. Luckily, she starts to come around by the end of this installment. She is joined by her friend Gwen (Elizabeth Lennie). I love the drastic difference in their faces here. Gwen is certainly interested in Grey House, but she acts like a reasonable person. Martha actually has some priceless nonsense that she comes up with here to say. First off though, yes, just like For The Love Of Grace, this one also prominently features a Nikon camera. The only other product I ever recall showing up in a bunch of Hallmark movies was the Wii and once the Wii U.

Anyways, they are there to scout out a location for the bicentennial of their town called Middleton. They decide to take a look at Cassie’s (Catherine Bell) house since it is 200 years old. Martha bumps into a creeper plant on the ground, freaks out, and runs to Jake Russell (Chris Potter) who is the top cop in town. He also happens to be dating Cassie.

There is a brief little period here where they quickly reintroduce us to Cassie, George (Peter MacNeill), and Lori (Hannah Endicott-Douglas). This time they tone down the she’s a little girl, get it, she’s a little girl, can we remind you one more time she’s a little girl stuff, but without changing the character. It’s just the way they present her. She fits in better this time around than she did in the first film.

Now we get probably the best part of this movie. Martha shows up at Jake’s office and among other stupid things, she actually alludes that Cassie is growing pot. She says she suspects some of her plants are “illegal”.

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Can’t think of something else reasonable that she could be referring to in talking to a police officer and using that particular word. She also talks about this vine on the ground that she bumped into like she just saw the movie The Crawlers (1993). She seems to really believe that Cassie may have plants that are like the roots in that movie which will reach out to kill you. I think Chris Potter’s face gets across how hilariously ridiculous these lines are.

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Disher does a great job delivering them. I just love her line that Cassie may be growing illegal plants. I can’t get over that.

Now we kick off the main plot and the subplots. Let’s do the subplots first.

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That’s George meeting Gwen. I’m sorry, does that need an explanation?

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That’s Lori on the right who has been assigned to do a paper with Jess (Jordy Benattar). However, you can see that Jess has gotten up to flee. For an adult audience the reason is immediately understood. Jess can’t read. Lori doesn’t find this out till a little later. Up till then she thinks Jess is just trying to get her to do all the work, which is understandable. People do that.

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That’s Brandon (Matthew Knight) on the right and his two new “friends”. His subplot is these two guys are pushing him around to do something stupid to I guess be initiated into the stupid kids society. It’s similar to the one in the most recent Garage Sale Mystery movie except this time it’s not filled with humorous goofs, lines, and a resolution that had his friends looking like Bill Pullman from Ruthless People (1986). This time Cassie does almost the same thing she did in the first film. She gives him a mirror and just before they do their stupid thing, she shows up causing the item she gave him to come into play.

With the subplots going, this guy shows up to be our main attraction.

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He’s Nick Chasen (Rob Stewart) and he has his eyes set on Grey House. He presents himself as the true heir to the house.

Again, Catherine Bell does the Jadzia Dax thing here. She always comes across as wise and with years of experience, but never appearing in some super state of nirvana above us mere mortals. She definitely has her suspicions, but still needs help and has to work through the situation with Jake and his family. She doesn’t just foresee it all and play along. That would make for a rather bland film in my opinion.

As you know from the later films, he does propose at the end of the movie.

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There are a couple of little goofs, but nothing worth mentioning. Most of it seems to have been shot around Hamilton, Ontario. That’s really it in that department. I did not see the goof listed on IMDb about Martha’s shoes. Apparently the opening shot shows them as black, but after she goes in the gate of Grey House they are leopard print. Here’s the two shots. I didn’t see it.

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With these Good Witch movies there really isn’t much else to talk about except to lay out the plots for you. That’s how these films work.

It’s not as good as the first film. That one felt like it could have been self-contained. This feels like what it is really: the second episode of a TV Show rather than a new film that continues a saga. The acting is good all around as usual. I actually forgot that Matthew Knight was on My Babysitter’s A Vampire. I liked that show.

I recommend this one, but I could tell it was already starting to drop off in quality from the first one more than I would have liked. I want to hear from anyone who has seen the show to tell me if it does seem to work better that way than as an annual TV Movie.

Footnote: Since I brought it up in a past review of a Good Witch movie, let me put it to rest. I did track down the relevant scenes from the one episode Catherine Bell did of Hot Line back in the 1990’s. It’s just really generic 90’s late night erotica. Nothing special or interesting at all. I thought there might be something, but there isn’t. Often when you come across an entry in someone’s filmography that is so different from their usual, then it turns out to be worth seeing if you are a fan of their work. Not here. I would only recommend this for Catherine Bell completionists who must see everything she has ever done. It certainly wasn’t even worth the couple of minutes it took me to find it. The clip I saw from an episode of Dream On that she was on looked like a much more interesting example of her really early work if that’s what you want to see. Just wanted to bring that to a close.

Shattered Politics #86: Casino Jack (dir by George Hickenlooper)


Casino_JackI had two reactions to the 2010 film Casino Jack.

My first reaction was to think, “Wow, Kevin Spacey really can act!”  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I knew that, especially when working with a director who is strong enough to curb his natural tendency to go overboard, Kevin Spacey was capable of giving a great performance.  However, Spacey is one of those actors who has such a unique look and style about him that I think sometimes we forget that he’s capable of doing more than just playing variations on Kevin Spacey.*

And it is true that, in the role of real-life Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Kevin Spacey gave a performance that was full of the usual Spacey tricks.  By that, I mean we got the Spacey voice going from a purr to a roar in just a manner of seconds.  We got the Spacey glare, where he narrows his eyes and stares at whoever has offended him with an intensity that lets you know that something bad is about to happen.  We got that somewhat strained Kevin Spacey smile, the way facial expression that lets us know that we don’t want to know what’s going on behind that friendly facade.

But, even though Spacey was up to his usual tricks, all of those tricks still came together to create a unique character.  As I watched the film, I forgot that I was watching Kevin Spacey.  Instead, I really felt that I was watching and listening to one of the most powerful lobbyists in American history.

And, when Abramoff was eventually arrested and prosecuted for defrauding his clients, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of sympathy for him.  Spacey plays the character with such a combination of hyperactive charm and righteous fury that you can’t help but be a little bit enthralled by him.  That’s not to say that Kevin Spacey turns Jack Abramoff into a sympathetic character.  (Indeed, as good as Spacey is, there are a few moments when his contempt for Abramoff comes through and his performance suddenly turns into a one-dimensional caricature.)  But what Spacey does do is show that Jack Abramoff was less an inhuman monster and more the logical product of Washington culture.  The only difference between Abramoff and everyone else in Washington is that Abramoff got caught.

But, at the same time, the move itself is never quite as interesting as Spacey’s lead performance. The movie’s main theme appears to be that Washington is corrupt and we’d do better if we curtailed the power of lobbyists but … well, do you really need a movie to tell you this?  I mean I’m pretty much apolitical and I knew that long before I saw Casino Jack!

Casino Jack: Good performance.  Boring message.  Bleh movie.

* This is better known as the Christopher Walken syndrome.