Showing posts with label movie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie. Show all posts

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Houdini Wonder Show

With the recent rediscovery and release of The Grim Game, I became intrigued with Houdini's movie career. While reading the Silverman bio on Houdini I came across a curious passage about something called The Houdini Wonder Show. I searched through other biographies and online sources and came up pretty much empty, with one exception, Joe Notaro's great blog called had a short piece on an escape artist who appeared in one of the shows.  At that point I decided to take on the task of tracking down more information on this rarely covered Wonder Show.

By 1922, Houdini had already made movies for Octagon and Paramount but he decided to go out on his own and create his own movies. The Man From Beyond was apparently written by Houdini in ten days. Houdini also produced, cut and edited the movie. And because he didn't have the backing of a big studio, he had to create his own publicity for the movie.

Houdini put together a rather unique publicity campaign. Any theater showing the movie, also got Houdini's Wonder Show. The movie debuted April 1922 at the Time Square Theatre and was a huge success.

When Houdini first started the Wonder Show he presented a straight jacket escape and the Vanishing Elephant. Then 'The Man From Beyond' was shown to the audience. The entire program of show and movie made a great night of entertainment. This concept proved to be so popular Houdini created 4 different units of his Wonder Show.

Heading up Unit #1 of the Houdini Wonder Show was Frederick Eugene Powell and mentalist Virginia Carr. Powell presented very classic magic. His effects included: The DeKolta Giant Flower Production, A multitude of handkerchief tricks with borrowed kerchiefs, The production of numerous silk cloths which transformed into a giant American Flag, and he finished with the Crystal Coin Ladder.  Virginia Carr presented a mind reading act which by all accounts was a big hit.

Unit #2 of the Houdini Wonder Show featured Genesta the Escape Artist presenting his death defying Barrel Mystery. Also in the show was manipulator Ericson and Mlle. Amelia. Ericson presented a classic card manipulation act similar to Cardini.

Heading up Unit # 3 of the Houdini Wonder Show was Prof. Demont who presented magic, the Indian Box Mystery and crystal gazing. He also added an escape from a large mahogany box.

Finally, the #4 Unit of the Houdini Wonder Show was presented by Mystic Clayton who did a mind reading act.

At some point in time Frederick Melville was also added to the tour, though I find conflicting accounts of which show he was on. He may have been with Unit #2 and he presented his 'radio operated automaton/mechanical man' that he called 'Radiac'. And I have found mention of yet another performer by the name of Benton who appeared in one of the shows.

Houdini continued to make appearances at some of the showings of The Man From Beyond but he scaled back his portion of the show. No longer was he doing the mammoth Elephant Vanish and straight jacket escape. Instead he replaced the magic altogether with a talk and exposure of fake spirit phenomenon.

All of the units presented an hour of magic and mystery along with the showing of Houdini's movie The Man From Beyond.

Who was Frederick Eugene Powell? Frederick Eugene Powell was born March 1st 1856 in Philadelphia PA. His interest in magic began when he saw the great magicians of his day, Robert Heller, Signor Blitz and Wyman the Wizard. Powell was one of the true 'old timers' in magic, having lived through the late Victorian era right into the early 20th Century. He became the 2nd Dean of the Society of American Magicians, a title bestowed upon him by the then Illustrious President Houdini.
He had a very interesting career as a full time performer that was interupted at one point when he took a position as chair of mathematics at Pennsylvania Military Academy. This regular job only last a few years before he was back on the road doing magic.

In 1899, Powell joined forces with Servais LeRoy and Imro Fox to build a show called 'The Triple Alliance'. This was the precursor to Servais LeRoy's Monarchs of Magic. Fox only remained with The Triple Alliance Show for a year.

Powell was one of the first to resurrect the Second Sight Act made popular by Robert Heller. He also presented illusions including a cremation illusion and the Noah's Ark illusion. In 1915, a fire in the Powell's home in Chester PA destroyed his entire show. He rebuilt the show and in 1921 that new larger show was destroyed by a flood in San Antonio Texas. His next stint in show business would be the Houdini Wonder Show.

Frederick Eugene Powell died in a Nursing Home just a few days short of his 82nd birthday. He was born 20 years before Houdini and lived beyond Houdini's years.

Who was Virginia Carr? Virginia Carr was a crystal gazer/mentalist. She was apparently quite the sensational performer as many of the reviews made mention of her beauty and her incredible act. She was blonde and she was married to James Colerton in 1912 and had been married once prior to that and had a son by her first marriage.

In Vaudeville, she performed as Princess Zuleka the Mystic Mindreader. It would appear that her stint with the Houdini Wonder Show helped to propel her career as she went out on the road with the Virginia Carr Extravaganza Show in 1923 produced by George MacDonald. The tour was to begin June 25 at the Strand Theatre in Newark, but the show closed the following day. The initial reason for closing down the show was bad business due to very hot weather but soon the truth came out that marital infidelity was the true reason.

Earlier in the year, Carr had been performing with the W.I. Swain Show in New Orleans. There she met a young 23 year old music director by the name of Andrew Paoli. They soon became romantically involved and before long she became engaged to Paoli. Carr claimed that her husband, Mr. Colerton, had died and the two lovers married on June 6th in NY at the Little Church Around The Corner. Mr. Colerton, who was very much alive,  had lost touch with his wife and had been searching for her. At some point he heard that she remarried and was able to track down the church records that listed her as being 23 years old and widowed. Though I don't know her actual age, I'm gathering she was much older than 23 given that her son from her first marriage was 18 at the time.

Mr. Colerton tracked down his wife and confronted her. She begged forgiveness and left Paoli to return to life with James Colerton. All of this happened prior to the June 25th Strand Theatre event. Following the closing of the show, Miss Carr vanished into the night and apparently so did Mr. Paoli leaving Mr. Colerton, the jilted husband and Mr. MacDonald, the jilted producer in the dust. This time she stayed with Paoli as I was able to find an article she penned for Billboard in 1926 under the name 'Virginia Carr Paoli'. She continued to perform as a mindreader as late as 1948, but at some point she went back to using the name Princess Zuleka.

Who was Genesta? His real name was Royden Joseph Gilbert Raison de la Genesta. He was born March 29th 1878 in Ashland Kentucky. Genesta billed himself as The Wizard of Wonders and he began his career as a hypnotist performing under the name De la Genesta, but eventually settled up being an escape artist. In 1922, he was hand picked by Houdini to head up the #2 Unit of the Houdini Wonder Show. For his appearances, he presented his death-defying escape from a barrel of water. Basically, this was an effect like Houdini's Milk Can escape, a locked container filled with water in which he would escape. One benefit of having Genesta was his car. Yes, his car. Genesta traveled around in a Ford Motor Home which helped to defer hotel costs. He also carried his own scenery which was a backdrop curtain painted with diamond eyes.

According to Billboard Magazine, April 1926, Genesta had purchased a ranch and retired to in Georgia. However, Genesta continued to grace the vaudeville stages as he appears in a news report just two years later doing his act. Genesta actually took a page from the Houdini book and used his Water Barrel Escape for challenges. In 1928 Genesta was 'challenged' by the Charlotte Coca Cola Company to escape from a 60 gallon syrup barrel. No doubt, Genesta's barrel was used for the effect, though it was still filled with water, not Coca Cola. Two years later, Genesta would actually go down in magic history for a tragedy with the Milk Can.

According to Houdini's Fabulous Magic by Walter Gibson, Genesta was to present the Milk Can escape in Frankfort KY on Nov 8th, 1930. The stage crew apparently dropped the can while loading it into the theatre. That drop caused the can to be damaged and later during the show made it impossible for Genesta to escape. He had to be cut out of the can and was rushed to the hospital. He died the next day. One note however, the Linking Ring from Nov 1930 has his obit and it says that he was doing his Water Barrel Escape rather than the Milk Can. Genesta was known for his Barrel Escape so I have a feeling that indeed it was the Barrel that he got trapped in but it got reported as the Milk Can because the can was a better known escape overall. Both the Water Barrel Escape and Milk Can are basically the same sort of escape just with different devices. The outcome is the same regardless, Genesta died tragically.

Who was Ericson? That's a good question. I believe Ericson was from England and he was a manipulator in the style of Cardini. He was known for a very classy card manipulation act and he also became famous in his time for a cups and balls routine which ended with three small glasses of wine underneath. I'm afraid I don't know much else about Ericson and his wife Mlle. Amelia.

Who was Demont? He was an Italian named Charles Demont who lived in Brooklyn. A very versatile performer who was equally good at Punch and Judy Shows, straight magic, crystal gazing and even escapes. He was known to present Shooting Thru a Woman as well as Chinese Rings and exceptional billiard ball manipulations. He headed the #3 unit of the Houdini Wonder show. In later years, he changed his stage name to Dagmar.

Who was Mystic Clayton? He was born Henri Clayton Wilbur and by all accounts was a charismatic crystal gazer/mind reader. He wore elaborate costumes which included a silk cape and jewel encrusted turban ala Alexander. He performed from 1917 to the mid 1930s. In 1919, he collaborated on a show with The Great Leon called 'The Famous Oriental Miracle Show.' In 1922 he became Unit #4 of the Houdini Wonder Show. Following the successful run of shows and movies he hired Frederick Eugene Powell to open for him. That would end up being Powell's last full time gig as a magician.  In 1923 Mystic Clayton wrote a book 30 pg book How To Converse With The Spirit World. Henri Wilbur died in 1945.
How to Converse with the Spirit World
How to Converse with the Spirit World

Who was Frederick Melville? He was known for an illusion called 'Moto-girl'.  In 1915, he presented a lecture/talk called 'The Diplodicus' which I believe was a talk about the dinosaur of the same name. In the Houdini Wonder Show he presented some sort of radio controlled automaton. The Motogirl illusion actually was played by a female, so I'm guessing the radio controlled automaton was also what is termed a false-automaton (it looks like a mechanical device but it controlled by a hidden accomplice).

Who was Benton? There is only one brief mention of Benton in all the articles I found on the Houdini Wonder Show. I have a feeling he was a quick fill in for someone who might have been ill. But I did track down Benton who was Professor Thomas Benton. In 1922 he was already past the age of 60 with a full head of gray hair and he had been in the magic business for 40 years. He presented magic as a master magician and could also present a marionette act as well as being and accomplished ventriloquist.

Over at there is a picture of an item that Houdini gave away during one of the Wonder Shows. Check it out here.

To wrap things up, in all the research to uncover the details of The Houdini Wonder Show, I came across one little article that was about the movie The Man From Beyond that I found very interesting. The article basically said that Houdini filmed a second ending to the movie in the event that one of his stunts went bad and he died during production. Now this could just be hype, or it could be real. As Houdini survived the filming of the movie, he no doubt left the extra footage on the cutting room floor (if it existed at all). It's a fun fact about the movie, well fun trivia. Whether or not it's true we will probably never know.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ricky Jay and Houdini on DVD!

This is exciting. In November you will be able to get the Ricky Jay documentary titled, Ricky Jay Deceptive Practices. It will be releases November 5th via Amazon.  AND also on the DVD front, the 1998 movie HOUDINI starring Jonathan Schaech which was movie made for the TNT cable channel. It has some good moments, and like many Houdini bio movies, some not so good ones. But I always enjoyed it. Now you can get it on DVD through

And speaking of DVDs, one of my favorite movies of the Summer, Now You See Me, is also available on DVD and Blue Ray.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Houdini TNT movie on DVD

The HOUDINI movie that was made for TNT back in 1998 is finally on DVD. It's being offered on the WB website. This is the movie that starred Johnathon Schaech, Stacy Edwards, Paul Sorvino, Rhea Perlman and Mark Ruffalo as Hardeen. Like many Houdini movies this was has it's flaws, but it also has some fine moments as well. I love the opening sequence where Schaech/Houdini is escaping from the Jail Cell, great way to open a movie.

There are also a fair amount of flaws to the movie as well, but for me at least, I enjoyed the movie. The link to the site is It's selling for $18.95 and is available only in the U.S. at the moment.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Great Henley Reeves!

It's not often that I brag about a fictional magician, but in this case I have to brag about the portrayal of Henley Reeves by Isla Fisher in the movie Now You See Me. I should begin by stating that I have some issues when it comes to female magicians. I also have issues with kid show magicians and illusionists and escape artists and comedy magicians. It's probably more a matter of taste for me, what I like and don't like.

Alana Moehlemann
My number one favorite female magician working today is Alana Moehlemann. Alana is a real artist who does a fantastic job with her magic. When she performs the magic looks 100% natural for her and totally believable not to mention incredibly original. That is not always the case with some magicians, both male and female.

Another female magician I like is Angela Funovits. She also looks 100% natural and believable and it's a joy to watch her perform. I'm pretty sure Angela is also a genius because she just became a Doctor, as well as a fashion model, photographer and who knows what else. Everything she does, she does exceptionally well.

But there are some female magicians who I just don't connect with. And please don't think it's because I dislike female magicians, that is not the case. I wish there were a whole lot more and I'm encouraged to see more and more women getting into magic and establishing themselves as true artists in the field. But to me some people 'get it' and some people 'don't get it' no matter how hard they try. One of the things that bothers me are the performers who 'overdo the sexy' aspect. This goes just as much for women who are assistants as those who are the magicians. Sexy is ok, dressing like a pornstar is not.  It's not just female magicians either. Comedy magicians drive me insane because many don't get it. Many of the comedy magicians I've seen ruin the magic by exposing it for a cheap laugh. But then you see a Michael Finney, John Archer, Nick Lewin, Mac King and/or Kyle Eschen and you say, WOW now THEY GET IT! They do strong magic, totally believable and are exceptionally entertaining.

When I saw the movie Now You See Me, I did not think for one second that Henley Reeves was a 'magician's assistant'. She struck me as the archetype for female magicians. Her character was confident, in control, engaging, smart and totally believable. Isla Fisher played her perfectly. And she apparently had a pretty good coach. She studied with a real professional female magician Dorothy Dietrich. I was not aware of this when I saw the movie. But I'm certain that studying with someone who has done magic and escapes for a living made all the difference in her portrayal, as frankly, the most magical of the four magicians in the movie. According to Isla, she also studied all the video footage available on Houdini.

I can't help but wonder if there might be a Now You See Me 2 down the road.  IF there is a NYSM2, I hope Henley gets a bigger part in the movie!!! She is awesome. I can tell you that the first time I saw the movie, I went with a buddy of mine and we thought we were in the wrong theatre because it was us and 90 females! And thankfully they stayed for the whole movie and really enjoyed it. Now they might have been there for the young male stars in the movie, but I can't help think they got a charge out of Isla Fisher's role as Henley. And perhaps, Henley will inspire a new generation of females to explore the world of magic in the same way that magic movies and TV specials inspired so many of us!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Deceptive Practice /Documentary - Review

I was very fortunate to see the new documentary about the life and mentors of Ricky Jay. I have a lot of admiration for Ricky Jay so I was looking forward to this documentary. The full title is Deceptive Practice The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. The documentary is just as much about the history of magic as it is about Ricky. There is archival footage of Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller, Al Flosso, Tony Slydini, Cardini, Francis Carlyle and more. Portions are narrated by Dick Cavett, long time magic enthusiast and former talk show host. But mostly we hear Ricky telling his own story.

I thought it was very well done. It was interesting watching the movie as a magic insider and also enjoying the reactions of those in the viewing audience who were witnessing much of this magic for the first time. There were bouts of laughter as Slydini presented his Paper Balls O.T.H. routine (from the Dick Cavett Show). And gasps during some of Ricky Jays demonstrations that were caught on film from this stage show Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants. Oh, and Dai Vernon steals the show several times sharing stories which are quite hilarious and told as only Vernon could tell them.

You'll also get to see a very young Ricky doing magic as he apparently began performing at a very young age. He even took lessons from Slydini and wore one of those incredible costumes that were hand made my Tony. In fact, you see a pretty decent progression from young Ricky Potash to a young long haired Ricky Jay. He mentions his first TV appearance was on the Tonight Show but they did not show that footage. They do however show footage of Ricky from The Alan Thicke Show, DINAH, Mike Douglas, the HBO Special and numerous other TV spots.

You also gain some insight on Ricky through interviews with Michael Weber, who is a friend and business associate of Ricky's. And you get to hear from Ricky's Manager and also from his long time film and stage collaborator David Mamet. One of my favorite stories from the documentary comes from a reporter with the Guardian Newspaper who shared a story of going to lunch with Ricky and having such a profoundly magical experience that it caused her to cry. I don't want to tell you what she said, but for those of us who do magic, pay attention. She tries her best to explain why she was moved so much by the experience. It's worth taking the time to contemplate everything she says because she expresses well, something we often take for granted.

All in all, it was an enjoyable journey through magic history and the life of Ricky Jay. You can see how Ricky is a direct link to magic's past. He learned from Vernon, Charlie Miller and others and even saw Cardini live. Performers who are legends today were personal friends of Ricky Jay. The documentary treats magic respectfully and as a serious performing artform. Do yourself a favor and go see it if it's playing anywhere near you, you'll be glad you did.

It's playing in Washington D.C. at the E St Theatre from now until July 4th. The website lists other locations across the country where it is playing.
And be sure to go over and LIKE

Thursday, June 27, 2013


The new documentary about Ricky Jay titled "Deceptive Practice -The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" starts tomorrow June 28 in Washington D.C. and runs until July 4th. The movie will be at the Landmark E Street Cinema. The address is 555 11th Street NW, Washington, DC - (202) 783-9494. The website for the theater is
Co-Directors Molly Bernstein & Alan Edelstein will be there In Person Friday, June 28 at 7:15pm & Saturday, June 29 at 4:45pm. If you're coming to town to attend the SAM National Convention, you might want to give yourself time to go see this movie, I would suggest arriving a day early.

The following description of the movie comes directly from the theatre website.
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay is a mesmerizing journey into the world of modern magic and the small circle of eccentric geniuses who mastered it. At its center is the multitalented Ricky Jay, a best-selling author and historian, an acclaimed actor (House of Games), a leading collector of antiquarian books and artifacts, but above all a conjurer capable of creating a profound sense of wonder and disbelief. Deceptive Practice traces the story of Ricky's achievement, from his precocious apprenticeship in Brooklyn, beginning at age 4, with his grandfather Max Katz, as well as Al Flosso, Slydini, and Cardini (all among the best magicians of the 20th century), to his extraordinary one-man shows on Broadway. Friends and collaborators appear, such as David Mamet and Steve Martin (who joins Jay in a hilarious turn on a vintage '70s "Dinah Shore" TV show). Throughout, Jay demonstrates live on camera his mastery of sleight of hand. Viewers will gain not only a deep appreciation for the arduous and arcane demands of the magician's craft, but also for the colorful use of language and storytelling central to the art.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Now You See Me - Review

I finally got to see the movie NOW YOU SEE ME today. I think in a previous blog I mentioned it looked like it had potential from watching the trailer. Well, I'm happy to say that it more than delivers.

The movie has quite a cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michale Caine, Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, and the drop dead beautiful Isla Fisher. I frankly could have watched the movie with ONLY Isla Fisher and I would have been happy, but that's just me. The story is basically about a group of magicians who are known as the Four Horsemen, who put on a show together and the big trick is robbing a bank in the middle of the show and giving all the money to the audience. That is the premise, but the story is much more involved and there are twists and turns and pieces of misdirection that are worthy of the best magic show. In fact, the opening scene is a magic effect not only in the movie but it also is subtly done to the theater audience, brilliant!

My thoughts on the movie after it was over was that the must have scene David Copperfield's PORTAL Illusion and created this elaborate story around that trick. David is one of the consultant's on the movie, as well as Keith Barry and Jonathon Levit and Dan and Dave Buck. The magic in the movie is exceptionally well executed and frankly inspiring.

One thing I found interesting is the connection to magic that many of the stars have. Jesse Eisenberg is from NJ and his earliest exposure to magic was from a very popular NJ kidshow magician named Bruce Bray. I knew Bruce, he was a great guy and sadly he passed away not long ago from complications due to an accident.  Mark Ruffalo actually co-starred as Theo Hardeen in the TNT HOUDINI movie that came out a few years back with Jonathan Schech in the lead role. Michael Caine of course was in The Prestige and another movie called Is Anybody There in which he plays a retired magician. Then there is Dan Franco, who is the brother of James Franco, better known now as the Wizard from The Great & Powerful OZ. That's as close of a connection as I could put together for Dan Franco, but he does do a great job in the movie. I'm not really sure what the others stars connections to magic are, but I can say that Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher both did pretty decent tricks on TV Talk Shows promoting the movie.

Now I have to tell you about the strangest thing that happened when I saw this movie today. I walked into the theatre with a buddy of mine, a fellow entertainer. As we sat down we noticed the theatre was fairly packed, pretty unique for a weekday showing. But the odd thing was that the movie was packed with all women. We actually thought that we might have gone into the wrong theatre, so I got up and walked out to make sure we were indeed in the correct theatre. We were. So next we figured THEY were all in the wrong theatre and the moment the movie started there would be a grand exodus. But that didn't happen. My conclusion, "chicks love magic!" That was the line I said to my buddy who cracked up. They were probably there for the young stars like Franco and Eisenberg, but still, they were there and the movie was so well done that it was clear everyone enjoyed it.

As a magician I would encourage you to see this movie because there are moments in the movie that are frankly inspiring. The water torture cell by Isla Fisher is superb. The way the magic show is shot in the round with big video screens around the theatre is honestly, something we should all look into.
Five out of five stars for me!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Magic Movies

There are a flood of 'magic-themed' movies coming out or have come out. I will state for the record that I did see Burt Wonderstone. I saw it in a movie theatre with a total of three other people.  I kind of liked the movie, but kind of not. There were parts of it that I enjoyed and I appreciate how the producers did their best not to make fun of magic, but instead make fun of the characters. In fact, I'm grateful that they did that. But overall, it wasn't a great movie. It seemed more of an 'insider' movie, because there were plenty of funny things for magicians but lay people wouldn't understand.

I'm sorry to say I will not be going to see Desperate Acts of Magic. I'm judging it by the trailer and I just can't see it. It looks like it makes fun of both magic and magicians and I'm not into that. Magic frankly has enough problems without a movie making fun of it. I could be wrong, and the movie might be quite different, but the poster alone is enough to keep me away. It's hard for me to say that too, because there are many fine people who are in this movie and I know they put their hearts into it. I'm not suggesting that you skip it. If you like comedies and this type of movie, then by all means go see. But for me, I won't be going. I know they are showing the movie before the big SAM National Convention.

A movie not directly about magic, but with many magic elements in it and many magic references as well is OZ-The Great & Powerful. I've seen OZ 4 times now at the theater. It is a sequel to the original movie The Wizard of Oz and the cast and director did an amazing job. The movie begins with a carnival magician named Oz who just so happens to gets caught in a tornado and swept away to the land of Oz. The opening shows a number of magic effects as well as a scene of actor James Franco presenting a magic show. Lance Burton was the magic consultant on this movie. When the wizard arrives in Oz the people are all thrilled because there is a prophecy that states a great wizard will come and help the people of Oz free them from the witch. Franco, as the wizard, thinks something is wrong because he knows he is a fake wizard, not the real thing. Here in lies the conflict and the resolution will only make you smile. It's now out on DVD and on iTunes, so please check it out.

The next magic movie is a documentary, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. This movie I will see and hopefully see more than once. Ricky Jay is serious about magic and about treating magic as an art form. He still puts comedy and humor into his performances but the magic is not demeaned in doing so but rather it is enhanced by it. I have the utmost respect for him and look forward to this movie.

The final movie is called Now You See Me and it's a crime drama of sorts with illusionists as the thieves. I'll probably go see that just because it looks cool in the trailers. It seems to treat magic on a level above the 'party clown' stereotype and that is refreshing. And the movie has Isla Fisher doing magic and escapes....SOLD! Where do I buy my ticket?

With so many wonderful stories and characters in the world of magic, we've got plenty of material to have great movies, and often even funny movies about magic without making fun of it. I have a feeling that the audience for Now You See Me will dwarf Burt Wonderstone, only because in one the movie looks cool and in the other the movie looked dorky. Plus, Now You See Me has Isla Fisher as a magician and that to me is GOLD!

For the record, I loved The Illusionist with Edward Norton, The Prestige with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and I also really liked The Great Buck Howard with John Malkovich and Colin Hanks. There are some really good movies about magic out there and let's hope they keep coming.
The History Channel just announced a Houdini movie of sorts, I can't tell you how excited I am about that!

UPDATE: To read my review of Deceptive Practice click HERE. To read my review of Now You See Me, click HERE.