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21 Review

Official Review

August 6th, 2014 8:30am
Reviewed by Jeff Stone

There's a lot to love and a lot to hate about this DVD. Let's start with the annoying stuff first.

Bonus Section

Most of what I greatly disliked about this DVD was the bonus section. There are three parts to the so called "bonus" section. Part one is a bunch of live performances from some pretty big names (e.g., Woody Aragon, Ray Kosby, Tom Stone and others). The footage was ok and there were some very visual magical moments (non of which are taught). But the camera work was extremely shaky and the background noise was so loud that the footage (of un-mic'd performers) was almost impossible to watch.

The second section of the "bonus" section was the blooper reel. Booooooooooring . . . those are supposed to be funny and clever and witty, but this was unwatchable. In fact, I couldn't even finish it. Speaking of not finishing, the third part of the "bonus" section was the "making of 21" section. Seriously? It was ridiculous. It was a bunch of random uncut horribly shaky footage of nothing . . . looking at a spider they found on its web . . . and other really long, boring and unedited stuff. All in all, the bonus section was a waste of time, disk space and use of the alphabet.

However, it will not hurt the final star rating too much simply because it was listed as "extra" or "bonus."

Production Quality

This next thing that I greatly disliked will, however, impact the final score. The DVD menu was ridiculous. Every time you wanted to go to the main menu, you had to go through a long drawn out animation and video footage before the links would appear on the screen. Then, heaven forbid if you get two levels deep in the navigation . . . it'll take you 42 weeks to get back to the main menu. Also, related to the bonus footage, finding the bonus footage was almost impossible to find. I didn't even know it existed until I happened to see it on the DVD cover a week after I watched the DVD.

After seeing that the cover claimed it existed, I went back to the DVD and tried to find it. Eventually, I stumbled up on the lucky/magical combinations of hover over stuff and clicking on stuff causing a random white square to show up on the menu. I clicked on that, and then bonus section appears. annoying. One last menu annoyance was that watching this on a computer was very tricky. It was very hard to hover over the exact correct place to activated the menu item that you wanted to click. You had to hover just right so that an underline would appear. But then you wouldn't be able to click. You then had to hover perfectly over the underline . . . then cross your fingers, hang a horseshoe over your door, throw some salt over your shoulder and say a little prayer . . . then and maybe then, you could click the item and it just might bring up the section of the DVD you're trying to watch.

Ad Copy Integrity

Well . . . the first thing the ad copy claims is that there are 21 effects and routines. That's not even close to true. I'm pretty good at math, and I'm pretty sure that 5 + 4 + 6 equals 15. I could be wrong, but I think I'm not. Morales offers 5 effects; Carlson, 4 and Shin Lim 6. If you add in the so called bonus performances mentioned above, that's 6 more which does equal 21, but you can hardly count those for several reasons. A) None of them are explained, B) the sound quality atrocious, C) we don't even see the full performance of Woody Aragon's effect, etc., etc., etc.

Further, in between each of the effects by Shin Lim, the following text pops up on the screen: "Welcome to the bonus section, where Shin will teach you his current ideas he's working on at the moment." I'm not sure why they put that between each of Lim's effects, and I'm not sure why they refer to it as the bonus section. It's on the main menu. Plus the bonus section was that piece of crap I mentioned earlier. On top of all that, during each section Shim Lin says that none of the stuff he's showing is an effect or a routine, but rather an idea or a concept that he's "playing around with." So the claim that there are 21 effects and routines is looking weaker by the moment.

Then toward the end of the ad copy the statement that "Shin Lim has included 9 visual routines as bonus effects to compliment this DVD" is totally false. He only contributed 6, so I'm not sure where the heck they came up with the number 21. If they thought Lim contributed 9 and the other two guys contributed 9 (5 and 4) that's 18. If you add the six crappy "bonus" performances that aren't taught, that's 25. My brain is ready to explode. I need clarity to properly function, and this DVD construction is anything but clear.

The rest of the ad copy is actually accurate. The effects are very visual, amazing and new, so "bonus" points there. On the video trailer, however, there is at least one effect/scene that I could not find on the DVD. It was a very cool looking pantomime-looking thing with a single playing card. I couldn't find it on the DVD, so I'm not sure what's up with that.


Ultimately, I will be recommending this DVD. However, be prepared to be annoyed at all of the above stuff. If it weren't for that, this DVD would be a 4.5 or maybe even a 5 star. So let's look at the good stuff. Of the actual 15 "things" taught, they're all very good, taught well, very clear and will require a lot of commitment on your part to learn them. That's all good. The only complaint I have about the teaching is in regards to Morales's beautiful Tetris move. You'll see it in the trailer where it appears that his two thumbs stick to a center card and the hands sort of move around it while the card stays in place. It looks very cool and very impossible.

Part of the method is that the card sticks to your thumb, yet no technique for sticking the card to your thumb is taught. Maybe it's normal for most people to have cards automatically stick to them, but that's not been my experience. Other than that, however, the effects are very well taught and are all very innovative and beautiful to watch. I spend a few minutes on a few of them, and I was actually able to get pretty close to successfully doing a couple of the not-exactly-easy moves in just a few minutes. So the stuff is doable with practice.

The bottom line is that there is likely stuff on here that will appeal to you card folk out there, both "traditional" card people and "XCM" card people. If you look at the material that is actually taught on there, it's very well done and the cinematography, footage, lighting, etc. is very good. It's all stuff you can do with a borrowed deck (assuming it's in decent condition) and it's all doable with practice.

Having said all that, remember that my mission as a reviewer is to review ad copy integrity, production quality and method do-ability. On Ad copy and production quality we've got some pretty big hits, But the stuff that is there is good. This would've been 4.5 or 5 if it weren't for all the production problems and ad copy issues. When you throw in the $30 price tag for something so poorly put together, however, it's really hard to give it much more than I 2.5 stars.

Final Verdict:
2.5 Stars with a Stone Status of gem

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for 21

Author: Lim, Shin; Carlson, Donald; Morales, Jose;
Publisher: Shin Lim
Average Rating:  (3)
Retail Price: $29.95
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Manufacturer's Description:

21 is a DVD unlike any other. Produced by Shin Lim, this collaboration between Jose Morales, Donald Carlson, and Shin Lim features 21 fantastic effects and routines that can be done with no gimmicks and are totally impromptu. It's a unique collection of effects with 3 artists which have different styles and approaches to card magic.

Jose Morales combines flourishes and card sleights that make up extraordinarily visual routines never before seen. Clam Catch is an effect where a random selection is thrown into the air and lands in a fan of cards with no moves what so ever, he cleanly hands the deck to the spectator to spread the deck, showing that selected card to be sandwiched between 2 jokers (or two previously selected cards). This can also be used as the perfect out! This is only just 1 of 5 fantastic effects that Jose teaches on the powerful DVD.

Donald Carlson practices a more classical style of magic. Not so much eye candy, but rather stealth-like moves that occur without the spectator even knowing. The Pad Spread Switch is a prime example of the super clean type of handling that looks like a camera trick: imagine trapping the 6 of Diamonds in between 2 jokers and openly setting them on the table. You then show the King of Clubs and use it to flip over the jokers. With no apparent moves, the King and the 6 have switched places! The Pad Spread requires no gimmicks, no gaffs and it's completely impromptu. This is just 1 of 4 routines from Donald Carlson. As a bonus, Donald teach 4 variations of the pad spread which can be used as effects on their own.

Shin Lim has included 9 visual routines as bonus effects to compliment this DVD. The one handed Pad Spread Switch was something Shin thought of while practicing the original pad spread switch. However, this requires no table, and you can perform the exact routine all in the hands. All of these effects have never been released, so get this DVD today!

Bonus Section included in the DVD are never before seen performances from Woody Aragon, Tom Stone, Christian Engblom, Ray Kosby, and Scott Robinson - as well as a blooper reel and the making of the project: 21.

Running Time Approximately: 2hr 10min

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