June 5, 2011 |
The text message was from Smoothini, the Ghetto Houdini. "Abracadabra," it said. Presumably, this was code for "I'm awake, and I'm ready for the interview. " That was the case. But as Las Vegas illusionist-magician-trickster Tomas de la Cruz (a.k.a. "Smoothini") said on the phone a few minutes later, "I have to use that word some time. I don't use it on stage, so I find ways to make 'abracadabra' cool. " He chuckles, but it's clear he's also serious about making abracadabra - or magic - cool.
June 1, 2011 |
To say that Ricky Jay does card tricks is, as Mark Singer once noted in the New Yorker, somewhat akin to suggesting that "Sonny Rollins plays tenor saxophone. " Jay is one of the greatest sleight-of-hand artists ever to fool and wow an audience. A few years back, at a theater in Westwood, I saw him quote a ballad by the French poet/thief François Villon, as translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, while simultaneously performing the famous party piece of his stage act, piercing the skin of a watermelon, or, as Jay puts it, the "thicker pachydermatous outer-melon layer," with a single playing card flicked at 90 mph from between his fingers.
April 10, 2011 |
The Last Greatest Magician in the World Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards Jim Steinmeyer Tarcher/Penguin: 377 pp., $26.95 It takes some courage to write the biography of a man the reading public has mostly forgotten. Yet that's exactly what Jim Steinmeyer does in "The Last Greatest Magician in the World," a biography of the now-obscure Howard Thurston, the illusionist who held the title by acclaim in the 1920s and '30s. It's a clever marketing trick, and a necessary one, to include Houdini's name in the lumbering subtitle, but it's a piece of misdirection that, like many events in this telling of Thurston's life, doesn't play out quite the way it's supposed to. That's a shame because Thurston's life is fascinating.
February 5, 2011 |
Magician James Randi, who has devoted the latter part of his career to exposing fraud, scams and charlatans, and a network of skeptics known as the 10:23 Campaign launched a major campaign Saturday against the manufacturers of so-called homeopathic drugs, charging that the companies that sell the drugs are packaging worthless products that are cheating customers out of their money. In an online video , Randi consumed an overdose of homeopathic sleeping pills to demonstrate that they have no effect, and skeptics elsewhere consumed large overdoses of other homeopathic drugs in similar demonstrations.
January 8, 2011 |
The magic man is in his element. He's working a crowd in the back room of a Philadelphia sports bar, his baseball cap turned backward and the sleeves of his sweat shirt pushed up over his thick forearms. A dozen men are huddled around him, transfixed. That's not because he's Jon Dorenbos, long snapper for the Philadelphia Eagles. It's that he's holding a deck of playing cards, effortlessly riffling them with one hand, sometimes shooting them to the other in a graceful arch. Fanning the cards, Dorenbos has one of the men select one, sign it with a felt-tip marker, then put it back in the deck.
December 26, 2010 |
Nearly three decades after his death, French comic actor Jacques Tati has returned to the silver screen ? starring in a movie he wrote that was never produced. If this sounds like sleight-of-hand, it is, in a way: The film is aptly titled "The Illusionist," and it has been brought to life by the imagination and sensitivity of French animator Sylvain Chomet, who is best known for 2003's "The Triplets of Belleville. " The hand-drawn, 2-D "Illusionist" opened Saturday and may give Pixar's "Toy Story 3" a run for its money this awards season.
December 25, 2010 |
Bittersweet and melancholy are not the words usually associated with animation, but they are the ones that best fit "The Illusionist," the new feature by French director Sylvain Chomet. As those who know and love his last film, the sprightly "The Triplets of Belleville," understand, Chomet is a completely idiosyncratic filmmaker, someone whose eccentric animation does not resemble anyone else's. In "The Illusionist," Chomet has teamed with another singular talent, the late French comic master Jacques Tati.
October 29, 2010 |
Kicking off a triple bill from Regent Releasing is "The Magician," in which a hit man improbably allows himself to be filmed in action. That's the cream of the jest in writer-director-star Scott Ryan's darkly comic faux documentary, a gritty, shot-off-the cuff gem and a top prize winner in its native Australia. Ryan's wiry, cocky Ray joins forces with his former neighbor and film student pal Max (Massimiliano Andrighetto, who actually shot this film) to document his exploits. The picture unspools like a disarmingly amusing shaggy dog story with Ray, who sees himself as a vintage Clint Eastwood antihero, sounding off on various subjects only to bring us up short, reminding us that Ray is the real deal.
August 29, 2010 |
Harrah's magician Mac King unexpectedly had the evening free — his wife was at the movies with friends and a babysitter already installed at home. He then realized the night, Aug. 19, was the third Thursday of the month: "I thought, 'Isn't tonight Wonderground?,' I could go and not subject my wife to anything magic. " So King headed to Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant and hookah lounge not too far from Wayne Newton's house, part of a nondescript suburban strip mall. Once a month, Olive is transformed, starting in the early afternoon and finishing just before opening to the public around 7, into Wonderground.
June 23, 2010 |
At Malibu High School, Krystyn Lambert looked like many of the girls you'd expect to see on the sunny campus: blond, thin, pretty. Still, she always had the sense that she was profoundly different from her peers — a feeling that stemmed mostly from her love of magic. "I was that smart, nice, kind of weird magician girl," said Lambert, 19, last week during an interview in Hollywood near the Magic Castle, where she often performs. "With magic, no one has any idea what you're doing, so it really removes you from not so much acceptance, but just knowledge.