Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

REF4M by Blake Vogt :: Review

Blake Vogt hits the ground running with his debut release at Theory11, REF4M. REF4M is an impromptu, ungimmicked, signed torn and restored effect. The vast amount of thinking, time, and effort Blake put into this effect is evident in both the construction and execution of the trick. There is one downside; the fact that it’s absolutely necessary to tear the card back up at the conclusion of the trick. I don’t think this should stop anyone from performing REF4M though as there are ways to routine it in or otherwise make it seem natural. I’ll get more into that towards the end of this review, but for now let’s start at the beginning.

Method: One word comes to mind… creative. The way the effect is set-up just shows Blake’s creativity. For those of you who know Benjamin Ear’s Thought of Card to Pocket this is the same type of method. Not in sleights or moves but in thinking. This isn’t a magician fooler or some crazy, of-the-wall gimmick. It’s a real, audience tested, worker. REF4M is built from the ground up with the spectator in mind. What really sets it apart from other Torn and Restored effects is it’s simplicity. You can do this on the spot, with any card, anytime. No set up whatsoever. After practicing this and getting the moves to be second-nature, think about how powerful of a trick you have ready to go at any second.

Angles: Blake says this can be performed completely surrounded, which is 100% true. They even shoot footage from behind during the trailer. So no complaints here.

Teaching: I don’t think Theory11 has sold a video with sub-par teaching. Blake explains each fold, tear, restoration, and move thoroughly and clearly. And from multiple angles. At the end of the teaching portion there is an over-the-shoulder walk through, followed by a another walk through from the front. This makes it easy to know what both you and your spectators should be seeing at any given point during REF4M.

Difficulty: The method behind this effect is unique and fresh. As such, you (most likely) haven’t been practicing anything like this. REF4M isn’t inherently difficult or complex but learning a totally different type of method takes time. After a bit of practice it becomes more and more natural. So REF4M isn’t hard, just different.

Overall: I’ve never been a fan of most torn and restored plots for one reason, the extras: gimmicks, duplicates, and the like. Why have something incriminating right where all the heat is at? REF4M, for me, takes torn and restored to the next level. It’s a cleaned up, practical version. This is an effect that will work and will play big out in the real world. Not only that, but each piece of the effect is motivated. There aren’t any suspicious moves or switches. This is how it would look if you really did tear a card up and restore it. Also, being impromptu, it’s ready to go at any time. This is huge for me. If you’re at a friends who has an old deck of cards then you’re ready to go. It’s organic magic.

As I mentioned before, the only downside is the fact that you have to tear the restored card up in the end. The spectators don’t get a chance to examine the card in full at the end. But, you can always routine this into your act and make it an asset rather than a liability. Blake suggests explaining to the spectators that this situation is impossible, so it must be torn back up. Some users over on the Theory11 forums have come up with some great ideas as well. One other hook I was tossing around is treating the whole effect like a story. Explain how you once saw a great magaician tear a card up, restore each piece one-bye-one, and put the whole thing back together. You go through the corresponding sections of the trick while saying your patter, and at the end give a line like “But, he never told me how it works.” or “To this day, I’m still not quite as good as he was.” and tear the card up.

Images taken from video.

Posted: May 10th, 2011
at 9:37pm by Robin Carey

Categories: Cards,Downloads,Reviews

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The Double Lift by Jason England :: Review

This review is the next installment in my Foundations v2 series. One of the reasons I’m such a fan of this project is that it teaches such basic moves, but to a degree it’s hard to find elsewhere. I have learned parts of all these techniques scattered about in various books, videos, and other people but Foundations is the first place I’ve seen that has all the necessary information in one place.

As with all of his videos, Jason England starts off with a brief history of the move. He says the Double Lift dates back for hundreds of years, all the way back to the 1700s. Our “modern era” of double lifts came about in the late 1800s, early 1900s. This 1-on-1 covers doubles that are much more modern and appeared in the latter half of the 1900s. Throughout the video Jason explains 4 double lifts which are all useful and practical in different situations. Each double has a brief overview, then an in-depth section, and lastly a slow-motion over-the-shoulder follow along.

The 1-on-1 begins promptly with Doctor Daley’s “Instantaneous Double Lift”. Jason England explains that the double lift is the shell principle for cards. That is, the top card acts as a placeholder for the spectators card. He also talks about the versatility of the move but anyone who has been in to magic for more than a few months knows how invaluable this utility is. This was the first double that Jason England learned and this style is from The Secrets of Brother John Hammon and, also, Stars of Magic. The Instantaneous Double doesn’t require a break and looks pretty smooth. Definitely worth the time it takes to practice.

Now here’s one of the reasons I like Theory11′s downloads so much. This video doesn’t just teach the 4 doubles and then bam, done. Jason goes through some tips and helpful pointers that you can apply to any double lift you work with. He teaches a tip about turning that card over that’s extremely useful, and I’ve been using it for years. The other doubles taught here require a break so instead of just saying “get a break”, Jason goes into three methods of obtaining a break and even further, refinements for those moves. He does explain that the best method would be The Pinky Count but, as we know, that requires more extensive teaching. After this he goes into how to recover a break if you should happen to lose it. This little technique has been a lifesaver for me before. Jason England leaves no stone unturned.

Next on the agenda is the Vernon Style double. This type of double lift was published in both Stars of Magic and the Magic of Francis Carlyle. It has a much more elegant, stylistic look without overdoing it. Just like the other ones theres a run down of the technique and a slowmo follow along. The cool thing about this double is at lets you pick the cards back up easily after they’ve been replaced. Also it’s got a nice built-in convincer that makes the card look singular to the audience.

After the Vernon double comes the Stuart Gordon Double Lift. Jason England explains that, in his expert opinion, this move was actually originated by Ken Simmons. England refers to it as the Ken Simmons double throughout the video. Regardless of the name, it’s a great looking move. This is by far my most used double lift. It’s a bit knacky compared to the other lifts taught here but it has a very unique look. I remember seeing it when I first started out and thinking “that’s definitely just one card”. It can be difficult if you have particularly sweaty hands but Jason teaches a fix for this as well.

The fourth double lift on this video is the Soft Double. Jason England talks about how it comes from book In Concert by Roger Klaus. England also says he came up with the same type of move independently but Roger had published it years before that. The Soft Double requires a break. It’s a fluid move and really sells the idea that you’re only handling one card. I’ve never been a fan of this move myself but when done well it looks great.

Just when you think it’s over, there’s a bonus! Jason England throws in one last double, the Knockout Double Lift. He explains that this was a creation by his late friend Martin Nash, printed in Martin’s first book Ever so Sleightly. Jason and Martin had talks of doing a video project about this move, but Martin’s passing prevented that from happening. This is very very close to the kind of double Wayne Houchin frequently uses, and teaches on his Art of Magic DVDs. One nice thing is there’s no get ready or break so you can just go right into it. As such, it takes a little more practice than the others but it’s a good investment.

Overall: If you’re looking for a strong, cohesive source to learn some new double lifts then look no further. There are 5 in total on this video, as well as other tips and subtleties that can be used with any double. As with the other 1-on-1s by Jason England, the teaching is superb. The multiple angles and explanations make it easy to pick up the technique, as well as the slow-motion follow along. You can pick this video up by itself or, if you want to save some money and get the other moves along with it, in Foundations v2.

Images taken from the video.

Posted: May 6th, 2011
at 12:32pm by Robin Carey

Categories: Downloads,DVDs,Foundations v2,Reviews

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The Pinky Count by Jason England :: Review

This is the first review I’m doing for Foundations v2 by Jason England. There are eight 1-on-1s all together, so I’ll be posting one or two a day throughout the week. If there’s a particular one you’re looking for it’ll be up very soon.

The Pinky Count is a move with a wide-range of uses in all aspects of magic. It’s one I wish I would have learned early on, as it makes most effects 100 times easier. Jason England starts out the video with the history of the Pinky count. The move was first published by Fred Braue in volume two of The Braue Notebooks back in 1937. So it’s by no means a new move but has gained popularity and use in more recent years. This section is great if you’re looking for other references (which after watching Jason, you won’t need) or applications of the Pinky Count.

After talking briefly about the history, Jason England goes into the grip for the Pinky Count. All of the nuances Jason has from years and years of practice make it extremely easy to pick up on the the move. This section is shot from an over-the-shoulder angle, allowing you to see what the move will look like when you perform it. Once he’s done showing where each finger goes and what each one does, he goes in-depth on how to execute the move. Jason’s teaching is clear, concise and paced just right. I could follow along without that dragging-on feeling that a lot of “in-depth” videos have. While he’s going over the little details and formalities of the pinky count he’s explaining why he doing it. For me, this is huge. When you know the purpose of a move, the learning process is exponentially faster. You know what your end goal is so it’s easier to make the changes to get there. This whole section is shot from a spectators point of view, adding to your perception of how the move should look when done well.

After going through the move extensively, Jason England talks about various covers for the pinky count. This section is worth the entire price of the download. I’ve seen countless magicians utilize a pinky count in a perfect spot during an effect, but the move looks so awkward and different that it catches everyone’s eye. The spectators know something happened and at that point you’ve already lost them. Jason shows quite a few ways to naturally cover the move and make it look invisible. I originally bought this download last summer and just now picked up a few new ideas from re-watching it.

The very last section is devoted to hand strength. Jason talks about how the Pinky Count requires fairly strong hands, especially if you plan on counting more than a few cards in. He goes over some tools called grippers, which you can buy at sporting good stores to help increase overall hand strength and has personally used them. He also talks about the next kind of set you can buy once you outgrow the “regular” grippers. It’s interesting to hear how much Jason believes hand strength has played a role in his card magic. The 1-on-1 ends with a list of references if you wish to further research the pinky count.

If you haven’t learned the pinky count then this is a great source to do so. Jason England teaches the move in detail, explains the pros and cons, gives you various covering actions, and even more. If you have never “formally” learned the pinky count but think you get the gist of it, you can still learn an immeasurable amount from England’s expertise. If you’ve learned themove from other sources, such as the one’s referenced in the video, I can’t say there’s a whole lot of “new” information here. It’s still just the pinky count. This video is recommended for people who are new to the move or have just started learning it, it’s a very thorough and great place to start.

Posted: May 3rd, 2011
at 10:47pm by Robin Carey

Categories: Downloads,DVDs,Foundations v2,Reviews

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Theory11 Sentinels :: Review Part 2

This is the second piece to my review for Sentinels by Theory11. The point of the second part of my reviews is to talk about how the deck is once it’s broken in and used in live performances. I’ve been working, using, and performing with these playing cards since Theory 11 released them, so if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask.

The Sentinels break in quickly and then have a nice, soft feel to them. Springs and shuffles are great after the deck has been worked with. But, at the same time, the cards still have a little pop to them. They’re not too flimsy, but just soft enough. Being durable, soft and great for all kinds of spreads and cascades are what make this deck a great investment. However, if handled for extended periods of time they tend to clump up. This issue increases the more often they are used. If you let them sit & breathe over night they feel much better. This clumping issue isn’t any better or worse than any other used deck though.

Sentinels have a great back and face design, but in performances I’ve noticed that these interesting shapes can distract the spectator. Some laymen have accused them of being “trick cards” while others have focused more on the cards then the actual performance. This may not be a problem for you guys, depending on how you present your magic. Incorporating the shapes and symbols of the design creatively in a performance could greatly enhance the effect, so it’s up to you how to use them.

Overall: The Sentinels held up great. Both the box and the cards are in surprisingly good condition after months of frequent use and handling. If you still haven’t tried them yourself or don’t buy custom cards often, they’re a good investment. After performing with them I’ve found they don’t really suit my style but I can definitely see the potential to make use of the symbolism in the deck. It’d be interesting to see a performance with this. So, Sentinels are a high-quality deck with staying power.

Posted: April 30th, 2011
at 11:07am by Robin Carey

Categories: Cards,Reviews

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Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review

This is my review for the new Bicycle Artist’s Edition deck of cards, the Bicycle Gargoyles. These were designed by Lance T. Miller in conjunction with Diavoli.

NOTE: When you purchase these from Lance’s site you can have him sign the deck free of charge. Also Lance has an independent project in the works that will see life after enough of the Gargoyles have been sold so be sure to pick some up! He’s a very talented artist and I’m excited to see what he has next for us. One other thing I want to mention is that this is not Diavoli’s art work. Diavoli had a lot to do with bringing the deck to market but the artwork itself is hand drawn by Lance, not Steve Rooks (who designed the Bicycle Tattoo, Alchemist, and Phoenix decks).

Feel: The Gargoyles are a breath of fresh air. They handle great, at the level of Smoke and Mirrors. There’s no clumpy feeling after an hour or two of extensive use like most decks. The Gargoyles are nice and smooth but still have enough of a grip to perform sleights with ease.

The reason they feel like this is their new finish. A lot of people out there just assume it’s regular ol’ air cushion finish; this is not the case. This deck sports whats the USPCC is calling the “Magic Finish.” This finish was designed specifically for magicians and cardists. It’s meant to help the deck fan smoother and last longer. The higher quality level has been noticeable in the short time I’ve handled them. The Gargoyles are also printed on a Q1 sheet fed press. Q1 is the highest possible quality when printing playing cards and the only way to (currently) utilize the “Magic Finish” is on a sheet fed press.

Design: The Gargoyles have a look that you would only see in an Artist’s deck. The back design is laden with Gothic themed artwork and two large, impressive gargoyles. The entire back is colored in a gray scale except for the piercing red eyes of said gargoyles. This was a great addition as they’re eye-catching sitting in the midst of blacks and grays. There’s also a skull in each corner with smoke drifting out of the mouth blending into the rest of the design.

These cards definitely have a unique appearance; you can tell Lance put a lot of time and effort into this deck. Furthermore, there’s a sort of story behind the deck’s theme that’s explained on one of the cards included with the deck. I’ve already got some cool presentation ideas with these. This back design, the Jokers, and the Ace of Spades are all hand drawn works.

Court Cards: The court cards are my favorite part of this deck. They only use three colors: white, black, and metallic silver. When I say metallic I mean metallic, these cards shine. You don’t have to try and get the right lighting for these, they’re extremely reflective. The bright silver ink and solid black ink contrast beautifully. When I first read about the design I was curious to see if the red cards were noticeably different. The small pip on the index of each card is the standard Bicycle Red, making them easy to tell apart from the black cards. I do wonder how a deep red would look added in the court card design though.

Spot Cards: All of the cards use the same silver metallic ink, making them very eye-catching. Like I said, this metallic is extremely reflective and bright. I’ve actually had multiple family members say “Oh I like that metallic better than the other ones, it’s a lot easier to see.” in reference to the Bicycle Titaniums. You can look at this from either perspective though, as some people would say the showy faces are too distracting. That’s up to you guys to decide, but I love the look.

Ace of Spades: The Spade in the middle of the Ace is Lance’s logo (which you can see at the top of his site). Instead of the Spade itself being the focus of the artwork it is a part of the artwork. The fine details are surrounding the spade making it a small piece of the whole. This is a fairly unseen idea and I like how it came out.

Jokers: The Jokers follow the theme of the Gargoyles with shiny metallic ink and sharp red eyes. Again these are hand drawn artwork by Lance. I like the small touch of putting the word Joker at the long side of the J. I’m not so sure about the “style” of these Jokers though… compared to the back design these Gargoyles look like a more child-friendly version, or almost cartoonish.

Box: The Box has the Gargoyle back design on the back like usual, but there’s a new feature that looks amazing. The front has a wrap-around design that flows over on to the sides, top, and bottom of the card box. This is the first deck I’ve seen extend the artwork onto different sides, and I hope we see it more often. It gives the box style and definition. There’s also silver metallic accents in various places adding to the overall look. One other new thing they did with this deck is the QR code. There’s one on the bottom of the box that, when you read it with a barcode scanner app, takes you directly to a page on Lance’s website explaining the story behind the deck.

So here are the ratings:
Feel- 9.5/10
Design- 9/10
Overall- 9.25/10

Lance made a great debut into the world of custom playing cards. The Bicycle Gargoyle deck has all of the things a great pack of cards needs. They handle better than most other custom cards out there, they have a truly one-of-a-kind design, and a host of performance possibilities. But don’t just take my word for it, get your hands on a few. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Posted: April 17th, 2011
at 1:11am by Robin Carey

Categories: Cards,Reviews

Comments: 2 comments


2 Responses to 'Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review'

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  1. Great review of a great deck. I bought two! Both are autographed, and one is to remain unopened. They are everything you described, and any art lover, gamer, magician, or collector would be proud to have this deck. I would, however, add that my opinion of the jovial joker is more accepting. I appreciate the fact that the joker’s persona takes on a more light-hearted contrast to an otherwise dark (yet shiny, as you mentioned, lol) and intense theme, such as one who might be considered a “joker” would have. Perhaps it was included as a reminder as to the importance of looking on the bright side especially when surrounded by darkness. Who knows? The story could certainly take on a life of its own and grow into something very cool. Personally, I’d like to see this turn into a series.

    Bryan Lewis

    17 Apr 11 at 1:17 pm


  2. Hey there Bryan,
    I never thought of it like that. The Joker would have a sort of playful, light-hearted feel to it. That’s definitely a neat way of looking at things. It just caught me off guard when I saw the foreboding gargoyles on the backs and then comical jokers. It does give nice contrast though…

    Robin Carey

    Robin Carey

    18 Apr 11 at 6:44 am



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