A topic that received lots of negative notices from readers in late 2008, early in the year, I finally reviewed "Criss Angel Believe." I found the show to be far less than anything one would expect from the likes of Criss Angel and Cirque de Soleil. The show is currently being retooled and I'm hoping for the best.
The best televised magic routine of the year was presented on "America's Dance Crew." With the guidance of Franz Harary, a dance team called the "Beat Freaks" hit one out of the park with a routine featuring a floating ball. As you can see in this grainy video, the results were stunning.
In March, at a benefit for the Ruvo Institute, Siegfried & Roy performed one last time - a moving return to the stage for the magic legends. The performance was recorded for a segment that ran on ABC's 20/20 and may be viewed online.
"Women in Boxes," a new documentary, successfully told the story of magic assistants who are cut into pieces, levitated, impaled and more, all to make the magician look good. It's a mesmerizing and entertaining film with interesting revelations. You can watch this one free online.
A movie about a mentalist (loosely based on Kreskin) starring John Malkovich, "The Great Buck Howard" offered a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of an over-the-hill entertainer who refuses to admit that he's beyond the crest.
The mediocre "Masters of Illusion" series debuted on television and the show, while featuring top flight magicians, failed to generate any excitement. The biggest negative was that the show acted as the lead to the newest episodes of "The Masked Magician." There were instances where audiences could watch an effect on "Masters of Illusion" and learn the secret during the next hour.
The successful career of Doug Henning was brought to life in John Harrison's excellent and enthralling "Spellbound: The Wonder-filled Life of Doug Henning." I found it to be a fascinating read covering Henning's ascent in the magic world, rise to Broadway and his role as an entertainment celebrity.
While FISM reigned in China, there was magic on television. In "Sweden's Got Talent," magician Charlie Caper took home the top prize. In the States, Jay Mattioli and Drew Thomas competed on "America's Got Talent." Thomas almost made the finals with his brand of illusion while Mattioli was eliminated and prompted a discussion as to why he chose to perform with handkerchiefs on national television.
In yet another new movie about a magician, "Is Anybody There?" starred Sir Michael Caine as a bitter and aging retired magician who is stuck in a retirement home. Caine's character becomes friends with a young man who is intrigued by the deaths that he witnesses in the facility.
Houdini's Magic Shop breathed new life into the Disneyland Main Street Magic Shop that was in danger of closing. The theme park's magic shop is now a full fledged Houdini's. I like the haunted hanks in the front window.
Steve Shufton and David Regal created a new magic close-up prop with their innovative "http://magic.about.com/b/2009/05/13/review-shuftons-portal-by-steve-shufton-and-david-regal.htm." Something of a cross between a chop cup and Jerry Andrus' well known "Zone Zero," the prop offers lots of new possibilities.
While I struggled to make the trick my own, I was intrigued by Daryl's "The (W)hole Thing," a packet trick of jumbo-sized cards that featured lots of fun, built-in wordplay and a crazy progression of events. A cool new ending to a rubber band routine, with "SLR," you permanently link together two rubber bands and hand it to a spectator as a souvenir.
A stunning prediction or an effect where writing mysteriously appears, in "Deep 3," a spectator freely names a pair of letters that ultimately appear on the backs of two jokers. There's lots of possibilities: a person's first crush, first kiss...etc. Peter Eggink's "Ghost Tag" (MSRP: $ 49.95) combined a fun playing card revelation with an old portrait. The gimmick is brilliant and at the end, you're clean. Rather pricey, but there's lots to like.
Other notables for 2009 included Wayne Houchin's "Art of Magic" where he taught five great close-up effects. The card transposition is strong and I liked the penetration effect with a borrowed finger ring. Paul Romhany, a worker who's best known for his Charles Chaplin magic routine, taught some strong close-up on "Lunch Date" and a great stage effect in his "$20 Bill Trick." And if you'd like to learn about illusions, Andrew Mayne offered some strong titles with his "Levitator" and "Illusion EFX."