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Reviews June 19, 2009

Posted by mattlee in Uncategorized.
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Every now and then I get to review some of the the merchandise from Ning’s online shop, ‘Magic Boutique’. I am always happy to do so, because then I can actually pretend to have an opinion about something that matters.

Anyway, here are the last 3 reviews which I wrote. I sincerely hope you find it useful:

Avenue by Dorian Rhodell, from dananddave.com:
This DVD promises a ‘modern take on classic magic’ from a ‘student of Larry Jennings’. Let’s find out if it delivers shall we?

First off, like all other Dan and Dave products, the production values of this DVD go through the roof. This is good. Honestly however, I did not like the DVD, but this is due to my personal tastes in card magic. First off, almost all the effects require a table – which I don’t really like, as I perform stand up most of the time. But more importantly, I found the effects too convoluted to perform for the average spectator.

What makes this even worse is that the effects were not clearly presented. This is because the effects were demonstrated in the studio with Dorian facing the cameraman and imaginary spectators. There are no live audience demonstrations of the tricks contained inside. Having seen the trailer which DOES contain live footage, this travesty is inexcusable. I feel that in order to truly appreciate the effects contained inside, we will need to see them performed live to an audience.

What saves this DVD from being dismissed as another lousy magic product is that it does contain some very decent sleights and they are explained in detail – for example many people confuse the Pughe’s Pass and the Ego Change, but there are some subtle differences in the handling (Pughe’s Pass has better angles, Ego Change is more visual). Mr Rhodell is a pretty decent teacher and I did not have any problems following along with his explanations. His explanation of George Pugue’s One Card Shift (now known as the Pugue’s Pass) is flawless and will properly direct the keen student on the path to mastery of the move. He also explains the Mexican monte move which is a very good way to show 4 cards as 3. It is natural and looks beautiful. Again, Mr Rhodell’s explanation is excellent. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other little gems in the DVD. For example, fan’s of sandwich routines will find a lot of ammunition contained in the explanation for one particular trick.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Rhodell is a student of the late Larry Jennings. He is a technician, and an excellent instructor. However I find his creations overly complex. Not all of course, but enough that it is an issue.

If you buy this DVD, buy it for the sleights and the explanations, but I would not recommend the tricks.

Panic by Aaron Fisher, from Theory11:
I’ve always loved Aaron Fisher’s material – stunningly visual yet without going over the top and confusing the spectator. ‘Panic’, is no exception. A deck of cards visibly melts away leaving the four kings behind. That’s the effect. No more, no less. The wonderful part is that the spectator actually sees the deck slowly reduce (for lack of a better term) between your fingers.

Like any good piece of magic, there are some considerations to performing this. First off, although the standard version is technically angle-proof and low on sleight of hand, it is still very hard to perform. I can’t say more without giving the secret away, but suffice to say, your acting skills have to be really, really good.

Aaron includes another version in the DVD with ‘advanced handling’ which he calls ‘Widespread Panic’ where he incorporates the effect into a full ‘Cards to pocket’ type routine. Those of you who have read Aaron’s book ‘The Paper Engine’ will find this handling rather familiar, and it is essentially a variation of his ‘Here, There, And Everywhere’, which is the last trick in the book.

Ironically, I find the advanced handling easier to sell than the standard version, but that might be just me. However what I don’t like about the effect is the inventory management involved – introducing the gaffs and remembering which pocket has what… a working pro probably won’t have the occasion to use the trick, especially if he’s table hopping.

In short, ‘Panic”s strength is that the trick is extremely visual, and if you are looking for an act to fit into a parlor show, you can’t go wrong with this one. In fact, if that’s the case, it comes highly recommended.

Bicycle Karnival Midnight from Big Blind Media:
I have to confess, I can’t see the point of using novelty cards. All the standard arguments notwithstanding, I’ve always felt they seem too gimmicky to the average spectator. I know magicians who have used novelty cards with varying degrees of success, however my belief is that such things are best left in the hands of flourishers. (Pun intended)

Still, they look pretty damm good. And if the whole point of custom/novelty cards is to be eye candy, then these cards fulfill the job very, very well.

They are literally the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen.

Add them to your collection if you have one, but please, don’t use them. They deserve better.


Card Plots and Coin Magic July 17, 2008

Posted by mattlee in Ramblings.
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Erlandish, of “Ye Olde Magick Blogge” fame has compiled a list of almost every card plot known to man. You can find it about 1/4 way down the page on this thread on everyone’s favourite magic forum, the magic cafe. He’ll probably blog about it soon enough, so keep your eyes peeled.

If you look carefully, the sheer variety is staggering. I guess that’s why I don’t really fancy coins – Indeed, I share Derren Brown’s view (mentioned in Devil’s Picturebook DVD) that for coins all the coins do is”appear, disappear, pass from one side to the other, and suddenly for fun, grow very big.” I’m too lazy to pop the DVD in and check, so I’m parapharsing of course, but you get the idea.

However, I think that every aspiring student of magic needs to seriously study coin magic. First of all, its not easy, and teaches patience and practice. Secondly, all the foundation sleights learned in coin magic may be applied to any magic involving small objects – so the practice is never wasted. And lastly, the entire body language of closeup magic may be learned by studying coin magic.

I just came back from 2 big shows (I’m a stagehand) so I am tired. I’ll post again soon, this time I’ll speak more about me and what it is I do. And maybe a little rant about stage magic.