Monday, June 29, 2009

Nothing DVD Set by Max Maven

The premise is simple: Max Maven spends a few minutes in the supermarket and comes out with a complete act. And believe it or not, that's exactly what happened.

If you're into mentalism, then you've heard of Max Maven. Actually, even if you aren't, you've probably heard of him. Max is somewhat famous for his sinister-looking appearance, which actually covers an incredibly intelligent man with a passion for magic. This DVD set shows you exactly what can be done when you have to come up with something quickly and can only use the items on hand.

There are several effects taught here, and the amazing thing is that the teaching DVD (the second in this 2-DVD set) is so in-depth you'll know every nuance of Max's routine and why he chose every particular action. This isn't just "here's how it's done", but is more like "here's why it's done"--which helps you as a magician to create your own effects later.

Most everything here can be done within a few minutes of watching it. While you probably won't do his complete routine, you'll probably find parts that immediately resonate with you. He does a sort of book test with magazines that I particularly liked.

This is an expensive set, but worth it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boris Wild Marked Deck

If you're looking for a marked deck that you can use for mental effects or the casual card trick, Wild's deck is a good choice. It is a Bicycle deck that looks and feels like the real thing. You can use the deck for several effects before going into the marked deck trick and you might be safe. The marking system is relatively easy to learn (about 10 minutes to get really good at reading the card backs without looking like you're doing so), which makes this perfect for hobbyists or someone just needing a marked deck for a new effect they're working on that has almost a zero chance of failure.

Unfortunately, the ease of reading the marks is the major weakness of the deck. While you can spread the cards and have the spectator choose one for any number of effects beforehand, it will only take them a few seconds to find the mark and even if they can't figure out what it means they'll know the deck is marked. To be fair, Wild includes 3 unmarked Jokers in the pack, so if you're slick enough you can pass these off to the spectator who wants to examine the cards. Still, it won't fool everyone every time.

That being said, if you've always wanted a marked deck but didn't want to spend hours learning the markings, you'll love this. Likewise, if you want a marked deck that you almost can't miss the reading on, this is for you. Most everyone else, however, will probably want to move to a more professional marking system that's worth the effort to learn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I am a huge fan of mostly everything coming out of lately, though there are a few effects here and there that aren't as good as the others. Fortunately, Ringtone is one of the good ones.

In essence, you are changing the spectator's ringtone on their cell phone to a new song--preferably one they didn't already have on their phone. The spectator believes they are the ones who came up with the song randomly, which adds to the strength of the effect.

Here is the key: you must have a combination of guts and technical skill to pull this off. The dream setting for this is to find someone who uses either the iPhone or the exact same cell phone you do. Both are ideal, but not necessary. You just might have to spend a little time in Best Buy playing around with their cell phone displays to learn the key factor you need to know about each phone to make this work. Once you have that one move nailed, the rest is performance.

The "gimmick" that makes this work is nice. I've only had mine about three months but it's held up well and was easy to set up. Even though the demo video shows them going with "The Star Spangled Banner" as their song choice (and the teaching video does the same), you can actually use any song you choose. Set it up once and you are ready to go from that point on. You can't change the song on the fly, but you aren't locked in to anything. You can change it before you go out so you're using a different song every day if you so choose.

Handling is good, and the angles are fairly safe (though you can't perform this surrounded or even for a group that's getting too close). Adam Grace does a great job of teaching you how to handle everything and set it all up. There are several ways to help the spectator to choose the right song, and they are explained in detail. Clean up is safe as well. The best part is that you don't damage or even do anything to their phone that could cause it to get messed up. You're safe.

Pretty close to perfect once you spend time learning the moves you need. It's just that element of possible failure that makes it lose a star. Grace gives you ideas of how to get the information about the phone from the spectator themselves, but it's still a little chancy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ghost Vision

I've been brutal to Andrew Mayne in the past, but as I've said before when he's made something good, it's really good. "Ghost Vision" is that "really good" effect. You borrow someone's cellphone and ask them to put it in video mode. With them watching with you, suddenly they see a ghostly form move across the screen. The beauty is that they have recorded it so they can show it to friends and others to prove what a supernatural time they had with you.

As you expect, this is an effect that will require a good deal of showmanship on your part. If you just say, "Hey, watch this!" it's going to be useless to you. If you incorporate it into a mysterious evening or spooky environment, you're going to do some serious damage to the spectator's sense of reality. This effect is easy to perform and it leaves the spectator with a lasting souvenir of the performance. It uses something perfectly normal--the spectator's cell phone--and gives them a moment of the surreal. There is only about 2 seconds of set-up you have to do, and it can be done while you're talking about the ghostly experiences you've had or heard of or whatever.

The effect also comes with ways to make a chosen card show up, and just a ghostly face if you want to go that direction. Whichever way you choose, this is definitely something that will set you apart from any other magicians your spectators may have seen before.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pyro Perception

While the "make a blister on your finger" trick may be a little old, this effect puts a new twist in it. The spectator chooses a card, you bring out a lighter and proceed to light it up, "grab" the flame, and then show your fingertips to show them their chosen card.

The nice thing about this trick is that you can repeat it four times with different results. In truth, if the setup is right you can actually switch around the pips to get more combinations, but that will require a little more wiggle room when the spectator isn't watching you closely.

The gimmick is very well made and fits reasonably well in your pocket. You're better off putting this in your jacket pocket as it gives you more room to "do the magic", but if you wear loose pants you can make it work in your pants pocket as well. There is something special about the gimmick that allows you to pick the right card to blister simply by touch.

You need to be able to force a card, and above everything else you need to be able to sell what you're doing. Performance is key here. You're trying to push some supernatural event, so this needs to be a bit mysterious.

For the price, this is a nice effect that offers something different than the usual card trick.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Plot Thickens

I call this book a "firestarter". That's not because it should be burned; on the contrary, I think this is a fabulous investment. This is the kind of book that gets you thinking outside the box in a lot of ways. Once you see how some of the effects are done, it's very easy to take those principles and move them to other effects or create your own. Meech has come up with some very interesting ideas, and it's fairly safe to say you'll find at least a couple of things in here you can add to your set.

There are mentalism effects, card tricks, coin tricks, and other various goodies that will make you fly through this rather thin book quickly. There is an effect where you cause a fish drawn on one side of a quarter to jump into the fishbowl drawn on the other side as the coin is spinning on the table. Another effect has you making the spectator believe they must be invisible since another spectator can see the card they chose even though they are holding it close to their chest.

There are several things to enjoy here. Some of them you'll perform immediately, while others might just sit on the back burner for just the right occasion. And then, of course, there are those that will just be read over and forgotten. Meech is currently working on a second book to follow this one, and if it's as promising as this was I'll be buying it as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Andrew Mayne is one of those magicians that either gives you a brilliant effect, or gives you one so bad it makes you cringe. Unfortunately, "Shrinker" is the latter. To say that this effect is not "real world" would be an understatement.

Let me put it this way: there is no way on Earth to do this effect in any environment other than stage, and it would have to be the only effect you did before walking off. I'm not saying it's your closer, I'm saying this effect can't be preceded or followed by anything.

I can't reveal why without giving away the secret behind it, but suffice it to say the things you wear are crucial to making this work. Unfortunately, the things you are wearing will look as unnatural as humanly possible. Even rappers don't have that much slack in their droopy pants. Add to that the "thing" that makes the effect possible and you now lose the ability to bend forward more than a few inches. This is not something you'd keep on for your whole act.

The only nice part of this effect is a part where he comes out of a small cardboard box and proceeds to grow. That looks good. Everything else in here is great in theory, but pretty much useless in practice. The angles are so wide on this you almost have to be dead-on to the person you're performing it for. He puts together a routine where you use an umbrella to cover the angles and says you can do it surrounded. You can't. People behind the umbrella wouldn't know what they were seeing, and it's not hard to figure out what's going on.

For the price, this is a horrible effect. I could see possibly $50 (and even then it's overpriced), but $149 is far too much for what you end up with. Even though he's throwing in an "impromptu" shrinking you can do as you walk away from a person (it wouldn't fool a first-grader, by the way), it's over-priced.

Andrew puts together some great stuff, and I'll be reviewing a lot of it in the future, but this is just not a good effect.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wild Poker Trick

With the recent surge in popularity of poker, there's no shortage of poker packet tricks out there. If you're willing to take the time to learn the moves you can amaze some folks and make them think you're a master gambler.

WPT--for "Wild Poker Trick" from Boris Wild--is a packet trick that fits that description. You show the spectator five indifferent cards that would make you an automatic loser in a poker game. Bringing the cards together, you spread them out again and you are holding a royal flush.

There's no difficult sleight of hand here. It can be done with minimal practice. While this is a very visual card trick, you do not end clean and the spectators can't touch the cards when you finish.

For the price, this is a decent effect if you're wanting some sort of poker miracle in your bag of tricks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Director's Cut

This is my favorite mentalism effect out there right now. It uses something familiar to just about everyone (popular classic and modern films), literally packs small and plays big. To top it all off, it's dead easy to master which leaves you free to concentrate on performance more than anything else.

You get 26 laminated cards, each with a movie poster printed on it along with the movie's main stars and year of release. These should all be familiar to your spectators--I had seen 24 of the 26 movies already--and even if it's not you can choose to describe the movie poster or even name the stars and year of release if you have to.

The DVD teaches you five different methods for revealing the chosen movie. The beauty of it is that you can use them all on the same group of spectators and they'll never catch on to the secret. This is one of those effects that grows even more powerful as you repeat it. And they can examine the cards all they want to because they aren't marked, stripped, transparent, or even color-coded! One of the revelations even has the spectator choosing the card under the table, turning it over in the deck, and then bringing the deck to the table and covering it. This means that neither the spectator nor the magician should have a clue as to which movie was chosen...but you'll get it right every time.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with some of the movies, the DVD includes a PDF file that gives you a brief synopsis of each film and things you can mention as you reveal it. There is a small amount of memory work involved here as you'll have to memorize the 26 movie cards you have there so you can remember which films you're working with, but this shouldn't take long. Once you learn the secret of the effect, you should be able to perform this confidentally in about 20 minutes.

My only complaint is the lack of any form of case for the cards. You're basically holding half of a bridge-sized deck of playing cards, and it doesn't seem too much to ask for at least some small plastic packet case for this since it'll be pretty hard to find something that will hold them. You don't want these cards just sitting in your pocket.

This one is highly recommended. It uses familiar objects, can be examined, plays to a crowd or to just one person, and is easy to learn.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mental Yarn

This effect is about the size of 10 or so Poker-sized playing cards, and it comes with it's own small plastic case to keep the cards in. Basically, you have a spectator choose a characteristic of an item from a list on one card (fuzzy, golden colored, child's toy, etc), then choose an item from a list on another card that they feel matches that characteristic. This is something that's subjective, as it's how the spectator feels the characteristic matches one of the items, and it's not necessarily something obvious. But in the end, the magician can easily tell the spectator what item they are thinking of, even though they never told him the characteristic or even the characteristic number they were thinking of.

You can perform this trick within five minutes of reading the instructions, as there are only about six things you have to memorize. After that, it's all presentation. You can perform this either one-on-one in a close up situation, or on stage with a spectator (or even two at the same time), and yet it packs so small you can carry with you at any time. While they say you can perform this over the phone, I wouldn't suggest it. The spectator will have to write down the lists you give them, and if they keep them and study them long enough, they'll discover the secret. However, someone casually doing this trick at normal speed will never figure it out.

The effect can be repeated for the same spectator six times without them thinking of the same items again, making this one of those rare effects that actually gets stronger with each repeat performance while still remaining impossible for the spectator to figure out. I have performed this close-up and in group settings and always find it plays big to the crowd, especially if you choose to draw the item they are thinking of rather than just say it out loud.

Some people might think it would be cool to actually have the item on hand and pull it out of a bag or something, but to me that just makes the trick go from a mind-reading effect to something different. The spectator will know they were fooled because you had to have the item ahead of time, rather than just going with the moment and drawing. But I guess that's all a matter of personal taste.

At any rate, if you're looking for a powerful, fun effect that takes little practice yet looks like real magic, you can't beat this for the price.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The M5 System

Here's what you need to know: you must own this product. Ellusionist has done a stellar job of setting up a PK magic system that is easy to use, practical, simple to set up, and will work absolute miracles in your presence. If you want something that will set you apart from every other magician your friends know, this is the item.

There are two different ways to go with this, and I highly recommend the "Bundle Combo Deal". While the M5 comes ready to go with several effects (stopping the spectator's watch, making a needle stand up in the spectator's hand, etc), you'll find the most fun comes from the extras you can use. You can even fix up your own items with the supplies they include.

My favorite effect of this system is an extra you'll have to purchase separately for about $25. You put a 50 cent piece in the spectator's hand (fully examinable) and then--without ever touching them in any way--that coin flips over in their hand. It provides screams of astonishment every time.

There is some initial preparation you'll have to do when it first arrives (just a little sewing), but after that you are golden. Practice is obviously important, and performance is key. If you just go up and say, "Hey, watch this!", you'll be crippling the potential for this effect. You can do so many amazing things with it you owe it to yourself to spend some time alone working things out and creating a routine or persona before trying it.

So what makes this different from less-expensive alternatives like The Bat or The Raven? It's simply the power of the gimmick. You are given a lot more distance between yourself and the spectator (never even touching them sometimes) which makes the obvious answer to them completely impossible to be true. Understand: this is an investment on your part (I consider any effect over $50 an investment, but topping $100 is a commitment to me), but the miracles open to you and the looks on the astonished spectator's faces make it worth it all.

There are a few warnings to keep in mind that they mention, and you should take them seriously. Nothing life-threatening, but you can do permanent damage to some electronics if you aren't careful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Precognition Deck

If you put a little bit of your own touch on this, you might make a decent trick out of it. However, if you're going to go strictly by the directions you're heading into dangerous territory. For one thing, handing these to the spectator to count out will make you sick to your stomach the whole time they have them. One wrong move on their part (such as turning the deck to the side to see the backs) and you're busted.

Second, the kicker isn't a kicker at all. You're supposed to have done this amazing effect and you end with a very weak laugh at best. There's no way this makes sense.

If you want to salvage this effect, then YOU handle the cards and skip the countdown. Instead, do an instant ribbon spread and have them search for their card quickly. They won't find it, you scoop up the deck and slip it into your pocket or the case (and switch it out at the end for a normal deck if you want it examinable). The trick can end there (it's just a full-deck Princess Trick at that point). As an alternative, pull out the envelope and do that horrible "52 on 1" ending, but finish by pulling the card out of your wallet, shoe, pocket, or whatever. The unique build of the PD allows you to only have to carry a few cards on your person at a time. When they tell you the card they thought of, you just have to remember where you're holding that particular card.

Just come up with something on your own. Don't let the limitations of this deck keep you from performing some small miracle or another.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coin Flux 2

This is powerful close up magic. If you watch the demo video, you're probably thinking it couldn't be that simple, but it is. This is done slowly with no strange out of the way moves, and it will impress even you while you're doing it. This is an excellent close up trick for magicians of all skills, and it is one of the few that you can actually repeat a few seconds later and still fool them. As a matter of fact, that actually builds the strength of the routine!

I had to take off one star simply because you don't end as clean as I'd like to. This is a "look but don't touch" type of effect, which can cause problems in the wrong crowd. But on the plus side, it sets up quickly and takes very little practice to master.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I love this effect. Have the spectator choose a card and sign it if you wish. Then the card is "lost in the deck" before the magician spreads them all over the floor (or in a ribbon spread if you prefer the neat look). The magician passes his hand over the deck and one card begins to move. When it's collected and turned over, it's the signed card. Thinking invisible thread? Think again. This effect can be performed with the cards poured into a sealed Zip-loc bag and it will still work. And they get to keep their signed card to examine forever...because they'll never find anything wrong with it since it's just a normal, signed card.

While I like the handling Jeremy uses for the gimmick, you'll probably come up with the same idea I did when you watch the video. There's something else you might already own if you're into PK magic that will do the same thing and allow this trick to be almost completely impromptu (provided the right color deck is being used and you have your gimmick on you).

For a wonderfully spooky effect that will blow your spectator's minds, this is great. And you end fairly clean with the ability to repeat the effect immediately if you so desire.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


If you are looking for an incredibly powerful closer to your ambitious card routine, here it is. This is amazing visual magic that will literally take the breath away of your audience. In the video this is presented as a sort of stand-alone trick, but I've found it plays much better as part of a routine like ambitious card. A signed card lost in the deck, the deck put back into the case, the case is dropped onto the table or a spectator's hands, and the signed card is on the outside of the case in a rubber gets them every time.

You will need to practice the clean up move just a little, but it's not that hard to do. I have yet to see a spectator who reaches for the case after I extract the card. They always want to examine the card itself, which is perfect because it allows me to clean up without their knowledge.

The prop will eventually wear out and you probably aren't going to be able to make one yourself, but you'll get a lot of magic out of it before it dies.

Very visual and fairly easy to work with.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dynamite Book Test

I have to say this for the trick: the description is true...for the most part. There are no prearranged stooges or confederates, but if you pick the wrong person to do this with you, you're in trouble. You're actually setting up for an instant stooge, which is enough to steer most folks away. This is an effect that will amaze everyone else, but not the person you are doing it with, and that's what I don't like. While I'm the first to admit there's a time and place for this sort of thing, the Hoy Book Test is a much better choice and it allows the books to be examined at the end. Understand that this is a parlor or stage effect, and not an intimate piece of mind reading for one person.

There is a separate routine to be used with the "San Francisco Travel Guide" book by itself, but it's equally unimpressive. You can still allow the volunteer/stooge to choose any word from the page and it's what was written beforehand in a sealed envelope onstage. It doesn't change the fact that this is a lame effect.

For the price, this is far too expensive. If this was $25, I could see it being a great first book test for a beginner or comedy magician. But if you're going to spend this much money on a book test, go with the Dracula or War of the Worlds book tests.