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."

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The Kingdom(10/10)

by Tony Medley

Finally, a Hollywood movie about American military involvement in the Middle Eastern War on Terror that shows America in a positive light. Director Peter Berg has taken a good script by Matthew Michael Carnahan about a terrorist attack on Americans in Saudi Arabia, based on a real 2003 incident, and produced an action-packed, high tension film with exceptional special effects that put the viewer in the middle of the mayhem.

Especially effective are the cinéma vérité-like camera work by Mauro Fiore and the music by Danny Elfman.

Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) is an FBI agent who takes matters into his own hands when his superiors are reluctant to allow him to go to Saudi Arabia and get involved in the horrible attack. He takes his partners, Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) with him for a quick trip to Saudi Arabia to try to find those responsible. Once there, he finds himself under the tether of Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom).

Berg captures the horror of terror attacks several times during the film. One of the more memorable occurs when a suicide bomber blows himself up when we least expect it and it feels as if we are standing right next to him. Although the actors are good, this is a director’s movie. Berg keeps the interest and tension at a high level throughout.

Berg says that he wasn’t “looking to make a jingoistic all-American film about a group of Americans that come and kick ass in an Arab culture. We’re politically neutral in the film. If we go after anyone, it’s violent extremism. This movie is about Americans and Arabs working together in a very decent and human way.”

Maybe so, but it came across to me in a very positive light. Maybe there are some Arabs who are like Colonel Al Ghazi, but there are certainly lots of Americans like Fleury, Sykes, Mayes, and Leavitt, and it’s rewarding to see a World War II-type film lauding Americans finally come out of this war on terror.

I didn’t really detect any message in the film until the end, and the message I got from the end of the film certainly captures the realistic outlook for the world. Regardless of whether or not Berg & Co. were sending a message, or the message someone might get out of it, in the end a film should be entertaining, and this one is, in spades. There is not a second of slowness or frivolous talk.

September 27, 2007