Skip to main content

Robin's 'F**k Batman' Titans 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.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Movie Review: #MissSloane

The political drama Miss Sloane fails to lobby us into Oscar territory.
Review by Matt Cummings
In a time when women were supposed to be leading our country, Miss Sloane arrives to remind us of what could have been. Unfortunately, this message about a headstrong female Washington lobbyist loses us early with an unappealing director, a paper-thin plot, and suffers from a ton of convenient realism. If the good (but not impressive) performances weren't there to buffer these and many other gaps, we might have found ourselves voting for impeachment.

For Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), life is about getting her clients what they want from the halls of Congress. Her boss Dupont (Sam Waterston) will sleep with NRA types, fudge travel records, and bully smaller firms into submission if it means a hearty paycheck at day's end. But when Sloane leaves the company to push Gun Control legislation with one of those smaller firms, Dupont turns to his bulldog Co…

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See WARCRAFT In Dallas

Enter for a chance to see WARCRAFT on June 7th at 7:00 PM in Dallas.

From Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures comes Warcraft, an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment's global phenomenon.


The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home.

So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.


Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and written by Charles Leavitt and Jones, the film starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky and Daniel Wu is a Legendary Pic…

Bethany Ashton Wolf¹s FOREVER MY GIRL ACQUIRED BY @roadsidetweets

Forever My Girl tells the story of country music super-star Liam Page (Alex Roe) who left his bride, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar choosing fame and fortune instead. However, Liam never got over Josie, his one true love, nor did he ever forget his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. When he unexpectedly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his high school best friend, Liam is suddenly faced with the consequences of all that he left behind.

Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment partner for their 7th collaboration with Roadside’s domestic distribution acquisition of Bethany Ashton Wolf’s uplifting family romance Forever My Girl, it was jointly announced today by Roadside Attractions co-founders Howard Cohen & Eric d’Arbeloff, and Mickey Liddell of LD Entertainment. Forever My Girl will be released wide in theaters on October 27, 2017.

The two companies previously collaborated on numerous films including multiple Academy Award® nominee …