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The International Brotherhood of Magicians

10 Dec

Hocus in Focus Product Reviews

Category: Article   Posted by: I.B.M. Website Editor

Hocus in Pocus Reviews

Online Edition – January 2013




Kieron Johnson. RSVP Magic. 2 hours, 30 minutes. YFD. Dealers contact $31.13.

Kieron Johnson is a skilled magician who offers a beautiful variety of ten close-up and cabaret effects in Chaotic. Some of the methods might surprise you with their simplicity, while some require a bit more ability. For example, Transcend is a very cool rising card effect with a clever method. A deck of cards is placed in its case and is then further isolated within two inverted glasses. The card then rises within these confines to the delight of the audience! C.I.O. is a Card In Orange effect that comes from a very old principle. It is so old that people new to magic will not guess the method! Some of the other effects include a fork-bending effect, a trick using a video on a cell phone, and a nice Triumph effect with a kicker. Kieron also provides The Four Rules of Magic, which is a snappy opener that is not so much magic as it is comedy. Most of the effects are clever and quite varied, but I was not impressed with his “BIGGER” sponge ball routine as it was a little confusing; that routine would have been more impressive by being more deliberate.

Overall, the DVD is very entertaining and offers a nice variety of performable magic for intermediate to advanced magicians.. Kieron is a skilled performer, and one of the nicest ideas on his video is his interaction with the audience. Kieron’s explanations are thorough and very easy to understand.

Recommended.            Paul A. Lelekis


Fat Brothers 2

Dani DaOrtiz, Christian Englom, and Miguel A. Gea. Grupo Kaps Production. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 111 minutes. $60.

As one might suspect from the title, this is a very different magic DVD. This will be no surprise to owners of the first Fat Brothers DVD who are very likely to immediately purchase this continuation of the video presentation of the magic and antics of three of magic’s greatest (in both talent and size) close up magicians: Finland’s Christian Engblom, Spain’s Dani DaOrtiz and Miguel Angel Gea. The DVD jacket proclaims “400 kg of Good Magic!” That’s 881 pounds, 13.59 ounces to non-metric folks; and while this may represent the combined weight of this talented trio, I would question the use of the adjective “good” rather than a more accurate superlative such as “great” or “fantastic.” These three magicians are at the forefront of close-up magic’s cutting edge. Dani DaOrtiz specializes in unbelievable card magic, Miguel Angel Gea is best known for his coin magic, while Christian Engblom is more broadly acclaimed as a close-up magician than an expert in a particular genre.

Disc One of the two DVD set contains the performances, while explanations appear on Disc Two. In addition to the twelve effects shown by the three headliners, there are appearances by guest performers Juan Tamariz (who performs an effect and introduces the DVD with the assistance of Consuelo Lorgia), Howard Hamburg, Javier Benitez, Pit Hartling, Dennis Behr, David Williamson, Michael Weber, and R. Paul Wilson. While most of the guest magicians either perform an effect or assist one of the trio, only Paul Wilson explains his routine, an improved cleaner handling of Marlo’s “Rise – Rise – Rise.” The enhancement can be used to produce the four aces as well as to ring in the gaffs to perform McDonald’s Aces.

Eight of the effects performed and explained by the three Fat Brothers involve cards. Dani DaOrtiz reprises his brilliant Open Triumph from the first Fat Brothers DVD and includes a small but important addition to the original routine. Open Triumph is also available as an instant download from Dan & Dave for $11.95 and also appears on DaOrtiz’s Utopia. Dani also presents a very direct Triumph variation entitled Quick Triumph, a selected card from box effect, and a very clever selected card revelation with a red and black separation of the deck. As usual, his card effects are masterpieces of efficient construction and maximum effect.

Miguel Angel Gea offers the three coin effects on the DVD. “Entertainment of a Coin” is a series of single coin appearances, vanishes, and penetrations with a change to a jumbo coin. The same routine is entitled “Naked Production” on Disc Two of his Essence release. Another routine, “Flexible Coin,” is a silver to copper, size change to small coin, and coin to half-coin and back to three silver coins effect; it also appears as “Wild Coin” in the Essence set and as “Spanish Wild Coin” on the European Coin Symposium DVDs. “Felt Coin,” a three coin and purse routine in which the hands do not touch the coins as they are placed in a purse and vanish to reappear under a card, can also be found in the Essence set under the title of “Purse.” Miguel’s final routine is an excellent “Collectors” routine with two selected cards; this is a brilliantly structured effect inspired by Larry Jennings.

Christian Engblom exposes much more than just the secrets of his routines on this DVD. These include a "Haunted Deck" routine performed in a hot tub, a very direct bill change effect, a "Cards Through Table" routine with the signed card being caught beneath the table by the spectator, and the third "Triumph" routine on the DVD appropriately named “Cheeky Triumph.” All are well thought out and mystifying. A bonus segment is also offered with Christian and Michael Weber discussing the Anti Faro, a move which Christian previously published in Genii.

The DVD is a virtual world tour having been shot in Hollywood, Helsinki, Madrid, and Las Vegas. It was also shot in multiple venues, including not only the hot tub, but also a sauna, bars, restaurants, and a gym. In addition to some excellent magic, the outstanding feature of the DVD is that it is enjoyable and funny to watch. Not only will you be “mooned,” you will also see more of the performers than is usually the case, and with the three Fat Brothers in a Finnish sauna, that is a lot of skin!

If you are a follower of these three close-up geniuses, you may already have some of the material that appears on this DVD set. If not, then there will be a wealth of new material for you and almost two hours of pure enjoyment watching these three characters enjoy themselves and their livelihoods. The price tag puts this item at the top of the scale, but then the contents are also at the top of the scale.

Highly recommended.             Bill Wells


The Grumble Glim

Nathan Kranzo. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 40 minutes. $35.

In this DVD, Nathan Kranzo offers some excellent material melding gambling techniques with close-up magic for the magic community. Some of the methods are new and some are old, but I can assure you they are very, very effective! However, these gimmicks and techniques should not be used for the gaming table. I know how dangerous this can be, since I “worked” an underground circuit years ago.

Gamblers have used the gimmick known as the glim for hundreds of years, and with good reason. It is easy to use, even with a borrowed deck, and empowers the person wielding it with potent information that doesn’t seem possible. After using the glim, you can show your hands completely empty.

Nathan Kranzo has included some very clever gimmicks that will fly under the radar of your audiences. They will last forever and allow you to glimpse any card in less than a second. The included DVD explains everything in complete detail, and the uses for the shared gambling demonstrations are limited only by your magical imagination. Kranzo offers excellent instructions and very deceptive methods for using the glim. He has also included several nice routines that will showcase your amazing abilities. His explanations are simple and easy to understand. That said, the material is probably best suited for intermediate to advanced card workers.

If I sound excited about this product, you would be right! The price may seem a little high, but when you see what is included, you will understand its value.

Highly recommended.             Paul A. Lelekis


Lennart Green and Dani DaOrtiz

Lennart Green and Dani DaOrtiz. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. Two DVDs. $40.

Here is your chance to see what happens when two master card manipulators and top rated entertainers get together for a session of good-natured one-upsmanship. I was entertained, amazed, and motivated to learn the things they were teaching.

The DVD set runs a little over two hours and includes eight tricks, nine false shuffles, two controls on a full suit production, a chaotic card control that gives the appearance of a complete mess, eleven card dealing techniques and cuts, and a lot of entertainment.

Green teaches his signature Snap Deal. The actual mechanics are pretty simple, but you have to work to make it look as smooth and second nature as Green does. The Snap Change is really audio magic that reinforces a retention of vision move with cards. One moment you see several cards and then you hear and see them vanish. I got the mechanics down, but I was just too self-conscious to actually perform it. I keep thinking my hands are too small for cards to be effectively hidden. Looking in the mirror, the cards can’t be seen, but convincing myself that they are not obvious is an entirely different matter.

The Magic Square concept has always baffled me. Not anymore. Green’s explanation of the Magic Square combined with his Red and Black prediction makes for an impossible looking piece of magic in an easy-to-understand concept. I used it the next day with no problem. Now Magic Squares are part of two routines I perform.

DaOrtiz’s version of Any Card at Any Number is so simple, yet I have seen magicians shaking their heads after he performs it for them. His Poker Deal effect is equally easy and impactful.

Let’s be honest, I’m not even in the same universe as Green and DaOrtiz when it comes to card manipulation (or anything else for that matter), yet somehow they make it all seem obtainable. I am using what I learned within days of practicing. (Well, except for the Snap Change.)

Highly recommended.             Rolando H. Santos


Live…In Your Living Room!

Bob Solari. Click Studio Production and The Trickery, L.L.C. YFD or Dealers contact Two DVDs. 3 hours, 35 minutes. $34.95.

I loved this double DVD set. The twenty effects plus two bonuses are all winners. Bob Solari performs each effect before a live studio audience. The DVDs offer a large variety of magical gems using cards and other items such as bills, boxes, rings, business cards, and money. He also incorporates spectator involvement. Solari has made these deceptive effects easy to perform so that you can concentrate on performance and the humorous scripts he has provided.

The first DVD includes the trick Metamorphosis Bills, which alone is worth the cost of the set. Two borrowed bills, a $1 and a $5, are folded and placed in the spectator’s hands. The performer takes one of the bills (in this example, the $5 bill), displays it, and then makes it instantly change into the $1 bill. When the other bill in her hand is removed, it is the $5 bill. Both bills are handed back to the spectator. No switches are made. This wonderful item is a real fooler! Other effects include Ring’s Rapture, which is a visible linking of a borrowed ring onto a small chain; and Match It is a very funny effect in which the magician demonstrates a “new” trick he is learning.

The second DVD includes routines such as Visible Half Through Table, an unusual approach to Coin Through Table. A small transparent plastic case with no top is displayed and placed on the table. A half dollar is placed under the table and visibly pops into the small plastic case. Brainwave for Dummies is easy to do, yet completely fooled me; a freely chosen card that is reversed in the deck not only matches the performer’s prediction, but is also the only red-backed card in the blue-backed deck.

All of the effects will thrill your audiences with a large variety of excellent effects and very clever patter. The necessary props are easy to make. Each item is very strong, easy to do, and totally deceptive. It features a fantastic array of original effects and is a steal for the price.

Highly recommended.             Paul Lelekis



Kevin Schaller. Balcony Productions. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. 74 minutes. $29.99.

If Kevin Schaller is an example of the next generation of magicians, we are going to be in good hands. Variance has six well thought out, high impact routines that are drop dead easy to perform. Granted, they all use gimmicks, but don’t let that put you off. They are not hard to make, and the audience reaction is worth it.

Edgy is a gimmick that fits in your pocket and lets you do two color changes, back to back. Both the front and the back of the card change before you give the card to the spectator as a souvenir. In Break, a crease in a signed card is moved around before the card is given away. Drunken Sandwich is the best of the effects. In it, the selected card appears between two cards in the magician’s hand. It looks beautiful, yet the mechanics are easy to learn; and the load is something you will use for other effects. In PWP, a gimmick allows you to change whatever is written on the bottom of a card box. It is a three phase routine where one card is revealed on the bottom of a deck of cards, the next one is inside, and the final card is revealed on the bottom where the previous card has been identified. There is some very clever thinking on this one.

Schaller is clever, has a knack for routining, and his magic is as fun to do as it is to watch. We need a few more like him to break out of the crowd.

Recommended.            Rolando H. Santos



Celebrity Presage

Mike Maione. Available from Glossy front, 130 pages. $70 per book or $180 for 3 books with different “forced” celebrities.

This is a clever book test and comedy routine that borrows from several well-known principles like the Svengali deck, except the concept is used in book form. A built-in classic “Baby Photo Routine” is also included. It’s easy to do with lots of potential for laughs and groans. Celebrity Presage would work in a number of venues and for sarcastic comedy or the bizzarist with an axe-to-grind persona.

To perform, you bring out the book (or force one of the three books) and read a few of the ridiculous things that celebrities say. As you thumb through the book, the spectator calls the names he sees out loud. The spectator calls out a page number between 1 and 130, looks at the name on that page, and remembers it. The mage shows the prediction envelope, opens it to reveal a baby picture, and finally opens the full prediction to reveal a photo of the celebrity. Although it was not sent in for review, the reveal can also be done on Facebook. To get that version, you have to buy the three-book set. The version I reviewed came with Tom Cruise as the force celebrity, but apparently you can purchase custom books to force any name. Information about the cost for the custom made books is on the website.

There is no question that Celebrity Presage can be introduced into your act immediately and that it is a good effect for professionals and full time amateurs. However, I am not sure I would recommend buying it if you are going to use it once or twice and then make it part of your collection. Celebrity status comes and goes quickly. Tom Cruise works today, but may not work in six months. If I am going to spend between $70 and $180, I want to be able to use it as much as possible or not buy it at all. That’s your call. The bottom line is that Celebrity Presage is easy to learn, easy to carry, and easy entertainment.

Recommended.            Rolando Santos


First Hand (aka Freedom Change)

Justin Miller and Paul Harris. Paul Harris Presents. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $35.

            First Hand is a different way to do a bill change. Maybe it’s just me, but a money trick where you can see a dollar bill transform into a hundred dollar bill has always had that “Wow!” factor. You only need a wallet, a few bills (the denomination does not matter), and a “special something” (included) to perform this effect. You are supplied with several items to make the gimmick. $100 bills are okay to use, as you will only destroy a $1 bill in the process of making the trick. You will need a black wallet to perform it. It takes only a matter of minutes to make and can be done while following along with the video. I felt that the camera angle was not the best, and had the sense of being stuck in a corner. A better angle would have been over the shoulder or centered. That said, I was still able to get the full explanation of how to make the gimmick. The lighting was good, the audio was clear, and the explanation is thorough.

The effect has a lot of pros and cons to it. I thought the handling was a little strange. The performance on the DVD shows the bills in an “in your face” kind of way. If you are showing me money, you do not have to convince me that it’s actually money unless you are trying to hide the fact that there is something different about what you are holding in your hand. As the axiom goes, “Why run when you are not being chased?” On the plus side, you can place a set of bills in someone’s hand, do a total change, and end clean. There are a few angle issues, but they are worth the risk. I stood there, just like in the video and, Pow!, it was cool to see the change.

If you want to be good at this, you’ll need to practice the handling. In addition to currency, the DVD includes a section for people who like to use cards. Several variations of the effect are also offered, some of which allow presentations with other objects besides paper. Credits are also given to others who have inspired this effect.

Recommended.            Kevin McGuire


Portable Ink

Takel. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $35.

Have a spectator sign the front of a playing card. You then draw a black dot on the card’s back. Holding the card in hand, you slowly wave it right in front of the spectator, and the black dot moves from the bottom of the card toward the other end.

The description does not do justice to the reaction that you will get from your audience. The dot easily moves up and down the back of the card. You can make as much of a mystery as you want out of it. It works for walk around, very close-up conditions, and bizarre magick. I used two plot concepts, one involving optical illusions and another with hypnosis. If you own one of those rings that appears to grow bigger and then smaller as you twist it on your finger, you have a perfect pair of effects for a hypnosis set. However, Portable Ink works perfectly as a standalone effect.

The gimmick is well made and seems to be durable. It fit in my wallet, so I added it to the deck whenever it was convenient. At the end of the routine, the spectator’s card can be handed out as a souvenir. The effect resets instantly, and since the selected card is a completely free choice, you can perform this various times at the same event. There are no angle issues to speak of, although there is a “wrist kill” that needs to be done. The attention is all on the card so the “wrist kill” is not a big deal.

Highly recommended.             Rolando Santos


Titan Deck

José Morales. Available from Your Favorite Dealer. Wholesale from Murphy’s Magic Supplies. $10.

This is a limited edition, custom designed card deck with an elegant silver, gold, and black motif reminiscent of Greek and Roman script and columns. José Morales, the creator, is one of the three magicians responsible for a great DVD about card flourishes, sleights, and cuts called 21 (Shim Lim and Donald Caruso are the other cardicians on that work). The Titan Deck is made with high quality card stock. Although the deck initially felt odd, a little stiff, and “plasticky” when I first took the cards out of box, fans were instantaneous and perfectly spaced. The more I used the deck, the more I forgot about the feel.

I am the first to admit that I am clumsy when it comes to flourishes. I tend to apply too much pressure and cards go flying. The Titan Deck seems to spread effortlessly. I didn’t cure my clumsiness, but the flourishes and cuts worked more times than not since a minimum of pressure is needed. One of the true tests of a deck is the Faro Shuffle. If I were teaching someone to do Faros, this is the deck that I would recommend using.

The card faces are standard Bicycle faces, which at first was a little disappointing. Given that this is a customized deck, I was expecting something a little bit more exotic. However, it turns out that because the faces are standard, you can easily use them in other decks to do "Stranger Card" routines. I did find once or twice that the Titan Deck background was a shade whiter than some decks, but I applied that difference by using the card as a key card instead of as a selected card. The jokers are made up of Greek or Roman lettering that read, “Joker,” against a background with Roman columns. The only difference in the court cards is that the Ace of Spades is a beautiful winged horse or Pegasus. The deck comes with a double backer and a blank card.

I found that the deck has more of an urban magic feel because there’s just something cool about the cards. The gold and silver plays off the backs and the light makes the cards look really beautiful. The cards are just exotic enough without being overly steampunk, and the Pegasus Ace could lend itself to spirituality or spiritualism storylines. The jokers add to this sense of antiquity.

The deck would work for corporate clients or high-end party shows. According to the distributor, they will not be reprinted.

Highly recommended.             Rolando Santos



Pinky Swear - DVD

Doug Conn. Rich Aviles. Available from YFD,, and YFD. Dealers contact 45 minutes. $15.

    The DVD’s jacket says that Pinky Swear is “a collection of miracles utilizing the Pinky Count and Pass.” There is little material elsewhere that explains the Pinky Count, its many uses, and the technique required. Doug Conn explains everything in detail as well as the riffle, dribble and classic Passes developed by Derek Dingle. The Pinky Count and Pass are explained with multiple-angle videos so that you can learn every aspect of these valuable techniques, making the learning process much easier.

     With these techniques in mind, Doug performs seven miracle-class effects that will thrill your spectators! For example, in Magic Spell, Doug starts with a flashy ace production, shuffles the aces back into the deck, and then spells to each ace. An Artistic Application is a strange trick where two selected cards combine themselves onto one card, and the color changes into a third color; the card can be handed out as a souvenir. Work on the Open Index requires a little bit more effort, but the system allows miracles with a stack of any kind.

The video is high quality and offers a very good deal for learning the real work.

Highly recommended.             Paul A. Lelekis


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