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. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 107 minutes.

Not for children.

This film was a real disappointment to me because it was written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who were responsible for 2011’s Horrible Bosses which was one of the surprise delights of that year. They have strayed far off the comedic road here, however, despite the presence of the brilliant Alan Arkin in the cast.

Directed by Don Scardino, who is better known as a TV director of shows like 30 Rock, The West Wing, and Law & Order, and also directed Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men on Broadway, it’s about two magicians, the titular Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and his partner, Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) who have apparently reigned as the kings of the Las Vegas Strip in a hotel owned by Doug Munny (James Galdofini). As you can see, this film has a wonderful cast which also includes Olivia Wilde and Jim Carrey. Alas, it is a film that leaves one asking how anyone could make a movie more annoying than this.

Carrey plays a guerrilla street magician named Steve Gray whose stunts get continually more disgusting as the movie progresses, so bad that people in my screening were averting their eyes rather than watch. But these aren’t stunts. This movie really isn’t about “magic,” the definition of which is “the seeming manipulation and control of the natural world for the amusement and entertainment of the audience.” The problem with this film is that the stunts that Gray performs are not “seeming manipulation” at all, but disgusting things that he really does and survives like, for example, spending all night sleeping on burning coals, which is probably the least disgusting thing he does in the film. All the things Gray does are just stupidities that actually happen as shown, not manipulation of the audiences. In fact, one of the few stunts in the movie that is really presented as a magic “stunt” is the last one and it is explained in the last scenes of the movie. The explanation is worse than ridiculous, nothing short of irresponsible, in fact.

There is nothing in this movie that is funny. Burt Wonderstone is a stupid, egotistical jackass who is so over-the-top unrealistic that his arrogance is just silly. This is probably intended as satire. But satire to be effective must be clever. This nonsensical tomfoolery just punches you in the nose.

This movie is such an insult to magicians that it is astonishing to discover that David Copperfield, who is described in the production notes as “the world’s most successful magician,” served as a special consultant and even appears in the film as himself. Why would a magician contribute to a film that demeans his profession? Well, I guess the answers to that are pretty simple: money and exposure. Copperfield exhibits a lack of integrity by participating in this thing.

Don’t go to this film thinking that you’re going to see some fantastic magic tricks because you don’t. Most of what they do, they do as shown; there is virtually no trickery involved. The only magic in this movie is that it actually got made and distributed.

March 13, 2013