Each year we miss the Sundance Festival and kick ourselves for it. There, wonderful films seeking distributors are offered, promoted and awarded with prizes. For instance, we first heard about La La Land through Variety’s review of the film at the Sundance Festival. We knew that if and when it was picked up by a major studio, it would be a must see.
But, because we didn’t go to the festival, we missed it.
This year we missed the Amazing Johnathan documentary. It is currently untitled but we’re guessing the words “Amazing” and “Johnathan” will be in or very near the final title.
As readers of this award winning magic news site know, we have never actually won an award and we never let the truth get in the way of a good headline or story. Readers will also know that we love the Amazing Johnathan and one of our greatest disappointments – other than our failure to play for the Chicago Cubs or even be a batboy for goodness sakes – was missing the performance of this great entertainer at the Magic Castle in what was billed as his last performance ever, anywhere.
Johnathan has a fatal heart issue and literally any show could be his last.
Nonetheless, he continues to work and provide entertainment for thousands. We saw his show in Las Vegas and laughed so hard we split our shirt collar – we always keep it buttoned to prevent body lice from either entering or escaping, depending on the season or our access to showers.
Inside Magic prides itself in bringing the very latest magic news to magicians around the globe. Our tens of readers depend on us for such news and we hope to never disappoint with filler or advertisements cloaked as magic news. We obviously had some stumbles in both departments over the past 20 years we’ve been publishing.
Who can forget (unfortunately none of our readers) our filler contributions:
In our effort to learn as much as we can about Billy Topit: Master Magician — Lance Burton’s recently wrapped film — we found a site established last year with some behind the scenes shots that may be of interest to like-minded magic lovers.
We will keep you apprised on anything else we find as we obsessively dig through the internet for clues on release date and plot details.
Inside Magic Favorite Lance Burton just put the finishing touches on his new film, Billy Topit: Master Magician and we cannot wait to see it.
It is a comedy about a magical love affair written by Mr. Burton and the incredibly funny and talented Michael Goudeau. Mr. Goudeau performed his juggling act as a part of Mr. Burton’s long-running Las Vegas magic show and can be heard each week as part of Penn Jillette’s Penn’s Sunday School.
The plot seems straightforward and full of possibilities: Master Magician Billy Topit (inside joke for us magical types) is being pursued by unsavory organized crime members while he tries to convince his dream girl to be his assistant.
Turner Classic Movies will air its restoration of the previously considered lost Houdini film The Grim Game at its TCM Classic Film Festival in March.
Like all magic enthusiasts, we have seen the movie poster for The Grim Game and perhaps some stills or clips but never the entire film.
In fact, we were speaking with Magic Castle Librarian Lisa Cousins just a couple of weeks ago and she shared a rumor that the only remaining print might become available in the near future. She, like the Oracle at Delphi, offered nothing more; indicating but not revealing.
We are loyal TCM watchers and love learning about movies – and surprisingly do not miss the constant commercial interruptions that accompany films shown on other networks – and cannot wait to learn more about TCM’s involvement in this project.
Houdini produced this film in 1919 and stars as Harvey Hanford (see how the character’s initials are HH just like Houdini’s — we don’t think that is a coincidence), a young man framed for murder. Houdini was apparently not afraid of being type-cast as an athletic escape artist as the movie shows him escaping, leaping, fighting and other daring do. TCM relates that the film captures a mid-air collision between two airplanes that was a real accident caught on film. The filmmakers used the amazing footage in the story. We read somewhere that Houdini claimed to have been on one of the two planes even though he was safely on the ground at the time of the incident.
Surprisingly, there was only one surviving complete copy of the film, owned by Larry Weeks, a 95-year-old retired juggler. Mr. Weeks got the film from the Houdini estate in 1947 and was never willing to sell it.
“Harry Houdini is an compelling cultural icon, but most people don’t know about his movie career,” said Charles Tabesh, SVP Programming at TCM. “He made several films, but The Grim Game was his first feature, considered his best. It’s fascinating to see Houdini as an actor. It’s really fun to watch [the film] that even the most hardcore fans haven’t had a chance to see.”
TCM will screen the film in Hollywood and has booked composer Brane Zivkovic to conduct a live performance of his new score written just for the movie. TCM will air the restored classic on its channel later this year.
We knew we liked Jennifer Lawrence for some reason. Yes, she is a big star and in that movie about hungry kids fighting each other and watching TV or something.
But more importantly, she was outed yesterday as a lover of close-up magic.
According to ABC News Elizabeth Banks spilled the beans in an MTV interview:
“She loves close-up magic,” Banks told MTV. “That’s just a thing about her. She’s like obsessed with David Blaine.”
The reporter asked Banks if Lawrence, 24, could perform magic, and once again, her response was classic.
“She can’t do any magic,” Banks said of Lawrence. “Except entrancing nations to fall in love with her. But she really enjoys magic tricks.”
We’re not making this up. You check it for yourself and see here.
Punctuation marks, like psychics and documentary film producers, can be powerful.
It can protect authors from ridicule and add to legends. For instance: “Inside Magic wins Nobel Prize!” contains the same words as “Inside Magic wins Nobel Prize?” but says something entirely different. The first statement would be considered false (at least so far) but the second phrase is merely a question.
We have not seen the documentary yet but have doubts about the premise. Those doubts spring from our doubts about Mr. Geller’s psychic ability.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, the film “offers compelling evidence of his involvement in the shadowy world of espionage.
“Uri has a controversial reputation. A lot of people think he is a fraud, a lot of people think he is a trickster and makes things up but at the same time he has a huge following and a history of doing things that nobody can explain,” Mr. Jayanti told reporters.
Speaking to The Independent, Geller acknowledged alarm when he first saw Jayanti’s documentary.
Mr. Geller said he is “happy that the doc is showing ‘a serious side’ to him.” Mr. Geller claims he used his psychic skills to accomplish positive things, nothing negative. For instance, he refused a request to kill a pig by stopping its heart via telepathy. He was concerned his spy handlers would next ask him to kill a human with the same unexplained powers. Presumably he saw this dangerous slippery slope thanks to his ability to foretell the future or maybe it was just a hunch. Continue reading “Documentary Asks, Uri Geller – Psychic Spy?”→
We heard the news from Kristina Ellery one of the project’s producers and star actress — and she has yet to lead us astray.
One of our rules of thumb is: it takes a metal bender to play a metal bender. And Mr. Strebler is nothing if not a metal bender.
In fact, his tagline is “The Man Who Bends Steel“; his outstanding web site includes a credit to Molten Media, he has effects named after various metal components or states of transition from liquid to solid; his site boasts images of horribly misshapen pieces of flatware; and he is a known expert on the subject of PK (“Psycho Kinetic”) effects.
And if that was not enough to establish his street cred as a metal bender — he set a record for the youngest person to successfully perform the notorious bullet catching trick.
We understand Mr. Strebler has completed construction of “a revolutionary, multimillion dollar show, which ranks as one of the largest in existence.”
How large? We have read it will require a cast of more than 20 dancers and crew. That’s big.
And so it is big news that he has signed on to perform in Fallen Cards. If you have not yet visited their Kickstarter page to contribute to the project, you should head there promptly.
We will keep you up-to-date on developments as we learn of them.
Fallen Cards is the title of an amazing magic-related film project on Kickstarter worthy of your consideration and funding.
Unlike most films with putative ties to our art, the folks behind the project are either magicians or magic enthusiasts. The plot is great, the actors are all accomplished and some big names from the world of magic are promoting the project.
We have some familiarity with the way movies are made. The movie Michael starring John Travolta went from completed script by Inside Magic Favorites Jim Quinlan and Pete Dexter to its theater debut pretty quickly by Hollywood standards – about 12 years. Film production is apparently a costly, time-consuming and complex process – who knew?
The magic on screen requires the combined talents of writers, directors, actors, set designers, special effects experts, high-priced lawyers, best boys, grips, riggers, wranglers and caterers.
(We do not know what best boys or grips do but they always appear in credits so it must be important and apparently only the really good ones make it to the top of their profession. We worry about their self-esteem issues, however).
While Fallen Cards is a smaller production than Michael, it faces its own costs and logistical hurdles. That’s where you come in. By being a producer of the film, you share in the process and will hopefully bask in the glory.
The team behind Fallen Cards want the magic to be performed rather than generated by computers and special effects folks. That was the key for us.
The film sprung from a comment made during a card session. “What if we created a superhero, but he was a martial arts magician!” That was four years ago. After drafting, revisions, auditions, site scouting and planning, Fallen Cards is ready to go from concept to concrete expression.
While there is more to the movie than a magician performing tricks – apparently non-magicians insist on some sort of plot or structure in their magic movies – the magic will be authentic.
Rich Manley, the project’s creator said he wanted to showcase all types of magic. “There have been many films about magic with actors portraying magicians, but poorly performing the art. We wanted to change that and make sure that our actors were also professional magicians.”
Mr. Manley is joined by his producing partners: the beautiful Kristina Ellery and richly-talented Zachary Kamen. The trio have enlisted the talents of magicians Dan and Dave Buck and Rob Zabrecky to keep the magic real – if that makes sense. We understand Ms. Ellery will also appear in the film as the lovely and beguiling Minx.
Magician and movie consultant David Kwong founded The Misdirectors’ Guild as “an elite group of magicians who specialize in illusion and deception for film and television.” He and his colleagues have been busy of late with Hollywood films like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Now You See Me and Red Lights starring Robert De Niro as a mind-reader and mentalist. (It apparently had a limited release in the United States but we heard the first thirty minutes featured the debunking of spiritualism tricks).
The Misdirectors Guild site lists several other Mr. Kwong and his group helped. It is a pretty impressive list.
“Magic is all storytelling,” says Mr. Kwong told FastCoCreate.com. “It has an arc that’s introduced, then played out for the big reveal. There’s a foreshadowing along the way. I like the idea of putting clues out there is plain sight–introducing the simplest of magic tricks, then making their concept play out in a big way.”
He would know. Mr. Kwong is not only a real-life magician, but he has also worked with some of the true big names in our business; like Ricky Jay and David Copperfield. For Now You See Me, Mr. Kwong worked with the director and screenwriters to “make the illusions in the film as plausible as possible, while furthering the plot.” That is a tough job. There has to be a temptation to save the time and money necessary to teach actors sleight of hand with a few well-placed computer-generated imagery (“CGI”).
Mr. Kwong was on the Now You See Me set for about eight months teaching card sleights to the cast. He claims the film tried to keep the magic real. “All the illusions in the film are based on real practical effects,” Mr. Kwong told FastCoCreate.com. “Even a 3-D projection done on the side of a building is now used as a marketing tool. The actors employed a fair amount of real sleight of hand.” Continue reading “David Kwong’s Misdirectors Guild Makes Movie Magic”→
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