SUMMARY: A speedy and surprising asymmetrical transposition
Robert Ramirez is hilarious. His performance style immediately won me over, with a very brash, bold, and energetic approach. This magician from Mexico has a style that is very natural, spontaneous, and enormous fun, and that makes watching his videos entertaining as well as educational. You might have heard of him before, because he has appeared on Penn & Teller's "Fool Us", where did a great routine involving a puppy and the successful predication of a game of Tic-Tac-Toe on his boxers.
Four Ahead is the third of three digital downloads available from Vanishing Inc, each featuring a fun routine from Robert. They're available separately, but also together as a bundle here. Four Ahead is probably my favourite of the three, with an absolutely stunning and sudden transposition that will leave you in shock. In this review I'll tell you what the effect is, and what you get for your money if you pick up this digital download.
Here's what happens: Four queens are removed from a deck and displayed. Then two cards are chosen by spectators, one face up and its identity known to everyone, while the other is a face down mystery card. The face-up card is placed in between the queens, and is shown to have vanished. But that's just the start of the magic, because now a real miracle happens! The mystery card is turned face up - and it turns out to actually be the four queens. And what about the pile with the four queens? They're gone, and all that's there instead is the spectator's initially chosen card which has previously vanished! Wow, a double surprise!
What you get for around $10 is an instant digital download of the video, which demonstrates and teaches the effect. You can play the video via streaming, or download it in *.mov format to view on your computer with any video program. The entire video is just under 20 minutes long, and is filmed in high quality, and the downloaded file is about 823MB in total size.
The video production is excellent all round, with great visuals and sound. The first two minutes features Robert Ramirez doing the fun performance for a couple of his friends, while the remaining 15 minutes feature him talking to the camera, explaining how to perform the effect. The majority of the explanation runs through the routine, while in the last few minutes Robert explains a variation that he uses on occasion, which is especially fun to perform as a magician fooler. Where necessary, there are camera close-ups for specific moves, and different angles are used on occasion as well. As far as the video goes, this gets top marks.
I figured that Robert's energetic style was just his peforming persona, and wouldn't carry over to his explanation. I was glad to be proven wrong. The explanation section of the video is just as energy driven and entertaining as the performance itself, which makes this very fun to watch.
Robert's explanation is clear, and I had no issues following anything along the way. I especially enjoyed his discussion about the variation he uses, no so much because of the practical use of this variation, but the principles he emphasized, which have an application beyond this particular trick. His variation is especially fun because it incorporates fake sleights, and that makes it ideal for using when performing with magicians. I love Robert's concept here: do sleightless sleights to make it look normal. What he means, is that even when you're not doing a sleight, do the handling in exactly the same way as you would if you were doing a sleight (e.g. a double lift, or a break). Not only does this become a total magician fooler, but it also means that when you actually do a sleight it becomes less obvious. There's some very thoughtful content that Robert brings forward as part of his discussion on this, and even if you never perform Four Ahead, you'll find his insights thought-provoking, and it may even impact your magic.
While it is not a complicated routine, it's also not an one to perform, and at a minimum you need to have an intermediate to advanced ability in card magic. Moves like ascanio spreads, false counts, elmsley counts, palms, and more are mentioned very quickly, and it's assumed that you can work with sleights like these and more. There's even a move or two that Robert has come up with himself. So most magicians will find themselves needing to work on one or two aspects of the routine, although those experienced with card magic should not have too much difficulty in mastering this.
The routine itself is terrific. I love the idea of an asymmetrical transposition, especially when it is produced so suddenly and unexpectedly as it is with Four Ahead. Robert has the spectator thinking he is one ahead of the magician, in anticipating that the mystery card has become the selected card, so it is a real surprise when instead it proves to be not just one card, but the four queens. Moments like this have been very carefully planned and set-up by Robert, and he's not only a skilful manipulator with cards, but also a creative thinker. His insights about false sleights are also provacative and thoughtful, and giving this careful thought could change aspects of your own approach to magic.
If you're experienced with card magic, and are looking for a very fun and visual routine that will surprise your spectators, this is a good value digital download. And even if you decide after viewing the video that it's not for you, you'll have found yourself tremendously entertained, and having received some good food for thought. Great job Robert Ramirez!
- BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame