Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. Click the Book to read the players telling their stories in their own words. This is the book that UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan tried to ban.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information.

Charlie Wilsonís War (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Director Mike Nichols hit home runs his first two times at bat with Whoís Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Graduate (1967). However, since then heís been like Julie Andrews, who also started out with two great winners and then faded with inferior product. Mike did a poor job converting Joseph Hellerís masterpiece, Catch-22 to the screen in 1970. He followed that up with a lot of mediocre work until he directed Closer in 2004, which showed that he still had some talent. After sitting through this thing, though, maybe Closer was just an aberration.

To give Mike credit, thereís really not much of a story here to tell. In 1980 nobody in Washington wants to do much to finance the Afghani resistance to the Soviet invasion, so Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a morally profligate flake who employs only shapely bimbos (ďCharlie says he can teach us to type but he canít teach us to grow titsĒ), sees the light and gets financing to provide Stinger missiles to the Mujahedin so they can shoot down Soviet helicopters and fighters. He does, they do, Afghanistan wins, end of story.

But it takes 97 long minutes for Nichols to tell the story.  I canít ever remember seeing a movie intended to deal with a serious subject that treats it with such little respect and so superficially. Nichols and Sorkin disgrace what Wilson did. There had to be a lot more to the story of getting this funding through committees than what we see here.

Itís intended as a comedy, I guess, so Hanks talks as if heís got mush in his mouth and doesnít want to spit any of it out. Julia Roberts, who plays socialite Joanne Herring, is starting to show her age and itís not pretty. Maybe she was intended to look 45-years old. If so, they succeeded.

The movie credits Wilson with winning the Cold War. Thereís not a mention of the guy who actually did win the Cold War, Ronald Reagan, although there is a picture of him on a wall.

But, forget politics, this is just a very slow movie. There are lots of shots of Herring putting on her makeup and a real long shot of Wilson driving in to a refugee camp. Charlie soaks in several hot tubs and bath tubs. There are lots of lines intended to be humorous, I guess. When I heard them it brought to mind what sportswriter Red Smith said when asked how he writes, ďI open a vein,Ē he solemnly intoned. The lines produced by screenwriter Alan Sorkin seem to come straight from an artery, so labored are they.

The only things in it that are worth watching are the performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays disgruntled CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, and Amy Adams, who plays Wilsonís Administrative Assistant Bonnie Bach. Hoffman has all the best of the script and he does it well. Adams makes the most out of a role that could have been forgettable.

Despite all the fawning reviews youíre going to read, this one is a real yawner.

December 13, 2007