Monthly archives for March, 2012

Sean Bogunia’s Manual Ultimate Sketch Pad

Hey everybody,

I’m in Nebraska getting ready for a gig, but I’m committed to getting this review out as it’s been over a week since my last post.

The item I’m reviewing has been out for quite a while, but I LOVE it and besides, some of the newer items I plan on reviewing will take a little while to get to me.

This week’s review is The Manual Ultimate Sketch Pad by Sean Bogunia. It’s available for $159.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the add copy:

This is it: the drawing pad that you have been waiting for!

Many customers have asked us over the years to make a MANUAL version of our Ultimate Sketch Pad. Well, here it is! This MANUAL version is a great option for those who want to perform this great effect, without the electronics. We have also included our improved mouth movement which really adds to the illusion!

Effect:

Pick up an artist sketch pad any time during your performance and draw a face. Unexpectedly the Drawing suddenly becomes animated with eyes and mouth moving! After a conversation with your newly drawn friend, comes the killer ending…You lift up the single sheet of paper you drew the face on and tear it from the sketch pad in full view of the audience! NO SWITCHES! NO TRICKY MOVES! You tear out the actual drawing and can hand it to a spectator for a souvenir they will never forget!

Remember…DON’T ERASE THE MAGIC – - HAND IT OUT!

Pad size is 11″ wide and 14″ tall, perfect for stage performances! Also, since this uses a real paper artist’s pad, there is NO GLARE! Comes complete with everything you need for dozens of performances. Easily refillable with same size pad from any art supply store or from us! Also includes DVD instructions that include bonus tips for your pad!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get the gimmick itself, attached to a sketch pad, all set to go. You also receive some replacement “eyes” and “mouth” in case you lose anything. Finally, you receive a DVD which explains it all.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Sean teaches his effects very well and this DVD is no exception. You get some ways to alter the basic movements of the eyes and mouth, presentational ideas and most importantly, how to change the gimmick from one pad of paper to another once you’ve run out. Finally, you also learn how to remove and handout the SAME paper that was just animating!! This is stunning and kills.

Sean also gives users an alternate to handing out the same paper by making use of a switch…personally, I found this technique to be a little harder so I never do it. Handing out the SAME paper that was just seen animating is stunning! It makes for a terrific souvenir, too.

I personally LOVE the Axtel drawing boards but feel Sean’s creation edges it out because of the fact you can leave audiences with such a memorable momento.

DIFFICULTY: Surprisingly, this is dead easy, a 1 or 2 on the technical scale, allowing you to really concentrate on presentation. And most happily, changing the gimmick from one pad to another is simple, too. It only takes a couple of minutes, as the pad of paper itself is NOT altered in any way, but Sean’s gimmick is simply attached to the pad.

MY THOUGHTS: I bought this several years ago when I was looking for a ‘character’ to interact with onstage. I had been using Rocky Raccoon, and for repeat audiences I will still use Rocky, but I decided on this based mostly from past experiences with Sean’s products and the reaction, from the very first time I used it was unbelievable! Much of the time there is a learning curve once I put an effect into a show, an adjustment not so much of the physical skill to pull it off but more from a presentation standpoint.

For instance, the first few times I performed the Losander Floating Table, the response was rather tepid, forcing me to tweak my presentation (regardless of technique), but the Sketchpad killed right from the first show.

Angles are quite good, as once you have the techniques down, hiding the gaffus is quite easy as the sketch pad itself does much of this for you.

Additionally, I have done this in people’s living rooms before, so distance to audience is more than acceptable.

Replacement sketch pads are available from Sean himself or from local art supply stores – they are readily available.

I’ve performed this somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 times or so over the last four years and it’s been a highlight of my school shows constantly, with teachers raving about it and asking me how in the heck I did it. If I had to list my top five purchases EVER in the world of magic, THIS effect would be on it. This receives my highest recommendations. The ONLY reason I did not review it sooner is because I don’t want every one and their uncle doing this.

10/10.

Thanks for reading – it looks like I’ll get this posted just in time before my battery on my laptop dies. (I forgot to pack my power cord!!)

Until next week…

Best,

Cris

REVIEW: Gypsy Balloon by Tony Clark

Hey everyone….

This blog will be shorter than most. I’m fighting a screaming headache and general exhaustion. Traveling kicks my butt so much lately. I don’t know how my buddy Paul Romhany travels internationally like he does. His constitution must be amazing!!

Speaking of Paul, I have to say I was unbelievably flattered when he approached me to collaborate on his Headline Prediction – Pro Series book. My contribution for the headline prediction has a unique twist on it – you can, if you choose, allow audience members to choose WHICH headlines or even passages will be predicted!! It’s a novel twist using my spin on a classic in mentalism.

Personally, I can’t wait to read Paul’s solutions to this plot as his thinking is always outside the box!

On to this week’s review…Gypsy Balloon by Tony Clark. It’s available for $24.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:
Tony Clark has taken the classic Gypsy Thread routine to a whole new level and we’re very excited to be able to offer it to you.!

Tony Clark says, “this is one of the strongest pieces I’ve ever created. I just used it to close my hit show “Masters of Magic” in the 1200 seat Montbleu theater in Lake Tahoe!”

“After seeing Tony do his Gypsy Balloon Routine, I was blown away. Tony has found a way to motivate and elevate the classic and powerful Gypsy Thread trick into a truly powerful piece of magic and theater. His routine is actually too good to release and I wish I had the exclusive rights to it. This is something I would put into my show immediately and I predict a lot of people will do just that.”
-Danny Cole

“The Gypsy Thread is a classic routine that needed a face-lift and Tony did it! It has such a visual impact for all audiences, both young and old. If you are looking for a NEW exciting routine, this is it! Silent or with music – the Gypsy Balloon is the way to go”
-Brent Geris

** Includes 30 feet of thread – (Balloons not included)

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A very nicely produced (short) DVD and 30 feet of the string used for the effect.

QUALIITY OF INSTRUCTION: Even though the DVD is short, Tony teaches the effect very well. There’s a reason why this guy has been a top name in magic for all these years. Tony tips a cheap, easy to find source for the helium for the effect, or if you’re performing locally and you know where to grab a hellium balloon from a grocery store or party store, you may be able to use one of those.

I say “may” because a tad bit of care must be done when filling & tying off the balloon. This may preclude using a store bought, already filled balloon. I can’t go into it more without risking exposure, but honestly, the helium Tony recommends is readily available and at $20 or so, quite a modest investment for the working pro.

DIFFICULTY: If you’re familiar with the basic handling for Gypsy Thread, then you are already 3/4 of the way there for this effect. Tony’s modifications to the handling by using the balloon actually makes the handling easier and of course the use of the balloon is inspired and a perfect way to do this effect on stage. It truly is an advance for a classical plot.

Also, I read a lot of talk on the Cafe (Yeck….) about how tough it was to break Tony’s supplied string for the effect. All I can say is I had ZERO problems right out of the box. Nevertheless, if you don’t care for Tony’s string, options are available at your local craft store.

PRESENTATION: Tony provides two live videos of live performances. The performances are slightly different from each other and there is a cute laugh line in the presentation I really liked…and one I didn’t like. The line is one I’ve heard a zillion magicians use and it always makes me roll my eyes…but then again, maybe Tony invented it and I’ve been hearing magicians rip him off for years, who knows?

MY THOUGHTS: Right away this goes on the short list for the best releases of 2012. (I didn’t notice if this actually came out in 2011 or if that was a pre-release, so I’m counting it for 2012!)

I’ve been entranced with the effect ever since I first saw Eugene Burger’s classic take on the effect with his powerful presentation that infused a lot of Eastern theology. Great stuff, but no way I was going to touch it! My own experience performing the effect was by using dental floss, an idea taught to me by kid magician guru Dave Risley. It was part of a dental hygiene show I did briefly and I’ve been looking for a presentation for large audiences for years and this totally fits the bill.

I can’t wait to add this to my family shows. I highly recommend this! 10/10.

Here’s a sneak peek of upcoming reviews (stuff I’ve bought). Not all are new releases but I’m really looking forward to exploring my ‘dark side’ with this stuff!

- Jitters by Peter Loughran
- The Black Box by John Kennedy
- Butchers Blade by Tim Wisseman
- Beware of Anvil by Anton Corradin

The Aorkwesome-ness of Trade-In Days and REVIEW: Night of Monster Mentalism

Hey everyone,

First off, a HUGE plug for the Hocus Pocus Trade In Days! Each year I go through my stuff and find effects and props that for whatever reason just do not ‘click’ with my act. Maybe they don’t fit in my new car (which I discovered to my horror with a large prop that, while cool, just did not fit into my new 2012 car) or maybe it’s just the evolution of the act, but the Trade In Days concept is a great one – send Paul your unwanted magic in the form of a list along with what you’re looking to get in store credit in return.

Paul will look it over and let you know whether he can take any of it. In my own experience, most of the time he has and the amount of store credit he gives is very generous indeed.

I just turned in some stuff and picked up a very nice chunk of store credit that I’m still figuring out how to spend.

A few months ago, I was able to pick up the John Kennedy Voodoo Doll – a pricey stage prop that’s almost impossible to find – in near-new condition.

So, if you’ve got stuff you’re not using, send your list of goodies to Paul. Rather than letting it collect dust, you can turn it in and get some stuff that may fit into your act…I have several times and it’s always worked out very well for me.

On to this week’s review: It’s the final DVD of Monster Mentalism by Docc Hilford. It’s Night of Monster Mentalism, available for $34.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:

Volume 4 – Night of Monster Mentalism

It’s a dark night when audiences scratch at your door . . . demanding actual entertainment. A single taste of your new mentalism isn’t enough. They need more! Following you on the street, reaching through the hallways of restaurants or even breaking thewindows of your own home, what will you do when they cry for MONSTER MENTALISM?

Impossible Choice — What’s crazier than a mad street performer who sneaks off to a deserted coffee shop, transforms himself into a mutant half-mentalist, half-jellyfish and attacks college kids with his razor-sharp deck of death? Not much!

The Great Magazine Test — Like the pounding of your heart . . . book tests . . . book tests. . . BOOK TESTS! A far as a man can run, he can’t escape the unremitting beating of ubiquitous book tests. There’s only two ways out — either a razor to the wrists or the gentle love of a magazine. In this test, two people share more than mere words; they share a night of insanity.

Number of the Beast — The ancient Egyptians knew the accurate, undying vibrations of numbers. The teachings of the adepts, long hidden in the dusty tombs of the past, are now revealed in a demonstration so direct, it’s impossible to understand.

It’s Personal — Meeting new people is simple. But be careful. The night is filled with strange people. When one unsuspecting woman reads a personal ad, she finds that someone knows more than her selected card, he knows everything about her! A chilling example of depraved psychic phenomena ripped from the pages of your local newspaper.

Killer on Tiber Street — A relentless, psychotic killer is pursuing innocent prey. The police are entirely bewildered because the slayer randomly selects his unsuspecting victims from a telephone book. Only you can use psychic abilities to discover the victim, decipher the address and prevent the murder; but will you be too late?

Invisible Dice — In the world of fast gamblers and loose women, there’s a secret tool that everyone desires. Rare and beautiful, when possessed they ensure wealth, power and all the luxuries that come along for the ride. Maybe you’ll find the… INVISIBLE DICE!

————————

What I like about this DVD more than the others was the focus of the DVD was street mentalism, so most of the stuff here was designed for real-world ‘stand up’ conditions. A lot of great gems here.

Let’s examine each in turn…

Impossible Choice – This is a mind reading card effect that looks completely fair with a couple of spectators. This was yet another card effect that did not thrill me. As I said, I’m not fundamentally opposed to card effects in mentalism but they really have to blow me away to get my attention. That being said, this was solid and an acceptable card effect in which the physical work involved is minimal in terms of effect.

Good effect. 5/10.

The Great Magazine Test – This really is strong! Two spectators are involved and the idea here is that the mentalist and one of the spectators each pick the same word in a magazine. This is incredibly clean looking and can be done with a wide range of readily available magazines.

Docc goes into which magazines to avoid and why (has to do with page numbers) incredible psychology, audience management to keep one of the spectators from blowing the ending too soon (great lesson in audience management and pacing).

This is REALLY strong and workable for the real world, and certainly not just limited to street work. This will kill from stage and if your cost-conscious of the price of book tests (or just want to make a book test type trick on the fly if the airline loses your stuff) I highly recommend this.

10/10.

Number of the Beast – Essentially, the spectator thinks of a three digit number and writes it down. You never handle the pad, there are no billets, no switches, no nail writers, and no impression devices. They write it down, you close your eyes and concentrate…eventually naming the number.

The method is really quite cool, something out of a James Bond movie in certain ways. It’s also direct – my description is very accurate. Docc also gives you some great ways to ‘stretch’ the routine and get more meat of it rather than just naming the three digit number.

This is really strong and really easy. 8/10.

It’s Personal – Essentially this is a card effect where the selected card appears in your local paper. Obviously this cannot be a spur of the moment effect, but this is a great version of the idea of using a newspaper to reveal a forced choice. This is another ‘worker,’ and if you’re going to use cards in your mentalism show, this effect is worth your consideration.

Physically, the work is quite easy and most of the ‘work’ is presentation and build up.

8/10.

Killer on Tiber Street – This is essentially a telephone book test with an incredibly commercial and goofy presentation. I LOVED the presentation and felt it was brilliant.

Unfortunately, I felt the overall method to be convoluted and difficult to get to. The BEST phone book tests (or any book test) has what appears to be a wide open and fair and natural selection process, like Bob Kohler’s Human Phone Number.

Docc’s method, which he says hails from Anneman (I haven’t read it) felt unbelievably clunky and full of procedure. I cannot stress enough how much the procedure dragged down Docc’s terrific premise. If this truly is Anneman’s method, I feel it’s one of Anneman’s worst.

Buy the DVD, then you’ll ethically have Docc’s delightful premise…then find another phone book test method, like the incredible Bob Kohler one I mentioned.

10/10 for the premise, 2/10 for the method.

Invisible Dice – Essentially, this premise involves ‘invisible dice’ that are rolled and called out by the spectator…and shown to be the only two cards reversed in a deck of cards. In other words, if the spectator says his two dice rolled up with a 2 and 3, then the two reversed cards in the deck are two and three.

This blew me away when I saw it. Docc’s gambling premise and explanation of where the word ‘mark’ came from in the trick’s presentation was simply fabulous and the workings of the trick itself are so simple. It’s actually based on a classic gimmicked card deck method but with some nice modifications and psychology thrown in.

THIS is a STELLAR card effect to add to a mentalism set and is highly recommended. I’ve used this and it really plays strong.

10/10.

So this final entry has a LOT of great stuff in it and in terms of the number of effects I loved is easily the best DVD in the set, so I’m giving this DVD a 9.5/10. No duds and mostly really commercial stuff.

In terms of the entire set, while every DVD had its share of turkeys, overall I would qualify this as a must-have set so my overal rating for the entire set would be 8/10.

Until next time…

Best,

Cris