Skip to main content

The Curse of La Llorona Teaser Trailer

Movie Review: Magicians: Life in the Impossible

Magic doc has some tricks up its sleeve.

Review by Brandon Wolfe

Magic is one of those areas of entertainment that can either make audiences cheer or wince. A good magic trick can always elicit a solid “wow,” but a commonly held perception of magic is that it’s often corny. As with anything, the difference comes down to skill and presentation. What can truly great magicians do to strike awe into the masses? What’s the trick behind the tricks?

Magicians: Life in the Impossible is a documentary that delves deep into the world of magicians and their craft, chronicling four different subjects over the span of four years to see how they each approach the timeless art of illusion. There’s Jon Armstrong, a self-proclaimed nerd who has conquered the art of the card trick; Brian Gillis, an erstwhile Tonight Show regular who now teaches magic at conferences; Jan Rouven, a German magician quickly rising up the ranks in Las Vegas; and David Minkin, an illusionist developing a television series.

All of these magicians take their work intensely seriously, and one of the best aspects of the film is the way its subjects span the spectrum of their industry. While Rouven and Minkin are rising stars, Armstrong is content to teach rather than occupy a spotlight, and Gillis’ fame is largely behind him, harder times having befallen him during the Great Recession. By showing us magicians on different rungs of the ladder, the film deftly offers a wide-ranging look at the commonalities of the field in a variety of different contexts.

The film is at its most engaging, perhaps not surprisingly, when it trains its cameras on the magic itself. Armstrong’s card tricks, Gillis’ tactic of stealing participants’ watches right off their wrists without detection and, especially, Minkin’s ability to levitate a fork in the air right in front of him are all stunning to witness. You watch these tricks unfold transfixed with wonderment, baffled by how they are being pulled off. These are all very talented men, each intently proficient in astonishing a crowd.

Also intriguing are the few hints we get of how the strings are being pulled, such as a Zapruder-esque examination of a Tonight Show card trick’s sleight-of-hand. Also compelling is the care each magician displays in the cultivation of their bits and the protectiveness they evince in ensuring that their work isn’t plundered by rivals. The film makes clear that magicians are not dissimilar to stand-up comedians in terms of developing and safeguarding their originality.

Magicians: Life in the Impossible falters a bit in the width of its focus. It takes several personal digressions into the lives of each of its subjects. For instance, because of the long duration of the production, we witness not only Armstrong’s wedding, but also his depression after the marriage in question has ended. We also get to see Mirkin deal with his ailing dog as well as Gillis being forced to downsize his living arrangements to reflect a new economic reality. These elements successfully humanize its participants and are each undeniably moving, but they often don’t serve the film’s thesis. They occasionally feel more suited to a protracted reality-television series rather than a documentary film with a specific focus.

Magicians isn’t the most dynamic documentary you’ll ever see, but in its presentation of a world most people probably don’t give a thought to, it is illuminating. It does a solid job of conveying the white-hot passion that burns within those who practice the art form. Put it this way, it doesn’t make your interest disappear.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.


Popular posts from this blog

Giveaway: @SwissArmyMan Prize Pack

In celebration of Swiss Army Man opening this Friday, we were provided with an Awesome giveaway for our fans out there.

See how to enter after the Jump...

Prize pack will include a large Manny beach towel and a tote bag

Email us at
Subject-Swiss Army Man
Name & mailing address

Outrageously fun and deeply affecting, Swiss Army Man is a gonzo buddy comedy that is the feature film debut of acclaimed music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (collectively known as DANIELS, and responsible for the visionary “Turn Down For What” video, among many others). Bursting with limitless creativity in both form and content, Swiss Army Man goes from the absurd to the emotional to the whimsical to the profound and back again.

Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore; the two become fast friends…

New Poster For NOBODY'S FOOL Starring Tiffany Haddish

Trying to get back on her feet, wild child Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) looks to her buttoned-up, by the book sister Danica (Tika Sumpter) to help her get back on track. As these polar opposites collide — with hilarious and sometimes disastrous results — Tanya discovers that Danica’s picture-perfect life — including her mysterious boyfriend — may not be what it seems.

Discuss this with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms Please Leave A Comment-

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See BEAUTIFUL BOY In San Francisco

Enter For A Chance To Win Pass To See BEAUTIFUL BOY on October 17th at 7:30 PM in San Francisco.

BEAUTIFUL BOY is a deeply moving portrait of a family’s unwavering love and commitment to each other in the face of their son’s addiction and his attempts at recovery. The cast included Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan. Based on two memoirs, one from acclaimed journalist David Sheff and one from his son, Nic Sheff. As Nic repeatedly relapses, the Sheffs are faced with the harsh reality that addiction is a disease that does not discriminate and can hit any family at any time.





This screening will be monitored for unauthorized recording. By attending, you agree not to bring any audio and/or visual recording device including laptop computers into the theater and you consent to physical search of your belongings and person have agains…