A&E // 2008 // 462 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 21st, 2009
"Tricks are something whores do for money...or candy!"
Hugely popular illusionist Criss Angel unloads another season's worth of episodes, featuring death-defying stunts, mindf-ing tricks, C-list celebrities, and roughly four metric tons of self-adulation.
From his stronghold in the Luxor in Las Vegas, Criss Angel unfurls 18 shows in this latest season of his popular A&E series. Past seasons have found him suspended by hooks in his back during a helicopter ride, making sports cars disappear, vanishing in mid-jump on a dirt-bike, walking on pool water, cutting himself in half in plain view of spectators, and hanging out with Carrot Top. What can he do to top himself this go-round?
Plenty. Setting aside whatever you may think of Criss Angel the Celebrity or Criss Angel the Playboy Bunny Fornicator. It's impossible to deny that Criss Angel the Musician has the goods. I've reviewed a handful of these sets and am frequently impressed by the man's showmanship. It's not rare for my wife and I to look at each other, dumbfounded, asking "How'd he do that?" (Yes, GOB, we are, in the Johnson household, a bunch of Howdaydodats.) Confederates, camera trickery, post-production malfeasance, I'm sure some of that may play a role in the craziness Criss Angel pulls off, but who wants to spend hours toiling in a study with algorithms trying to figure out the gags? Just hand yourself over for a good time, and the guy will blow your mind.
A sampling of what he does this season: Beam himself into a taxi cab, make a live prediction with billionaire Richard Branson, walk on a lake, impale himself on a forklift, become a living toy action figure, throw a playing card into a phone book (it's a lot cooler when you see it), vanish out of a trash can, embed a playing card in a plane of glass, split a woman in half and stick his head in her torso void, and a multitude of some of the greatest card tricks I've ever seen. In fact, my favorite shows are the two Angel devotes to "up front and close magic." The stuff he pulls there -- even more so than the giant stunt scenarios -- are absolutely befuddling.
The same problems still haunt the series, though. As awesome as the actual illusions are, the in between filler remains excruciating. Episodes have one primary thread, be it a major illusion that happens at the end or a special theme. Buttressing the "demonstrations" (a.k.a. illusions) are interviews with Criss' family members and consultants, a "celebrity" or two, and Criss himself. They all pretty much regurgitate the same warmed-over talking points, which more often than not is about how awesome Criss Angel is. I highly recommend fast-forwarding through these moments to get to the good stuff.
Then there's Criss himself. For all his mind-melting skill, the guy can be sort of cheesy. His jokes typically fall flat and his faux-surprise at seeing a large crowd of people waiting for an illusion that has surely been planned well in advance fails to convince. To compensate, he seems to swear a whole lot more (covered by bleeps of course).
This eighteen episode set (full frame, 2.0 stereo), spread over three discs, features behind-the-scenes and additional footage, most of which is about how awesome Criss Angel is.
The magic is still a sight to behold. Everything else is disposable.
Are you ready? Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 462 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated