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.


Eastern Promises (9/10)

by Tony Medley

I deplore graphic violence in movies. I think it desensitizes viewers and is somewhat responsible for some of the terrible crime in our society. When a horrific act is seen on the big screen, it can make actually performing the act less loathsome to those depraved enough to consider trying. Thereís no reason why we have to actually see a personís throat cut with the blood spurting out, or something thrust into his eye. Revolting as these are, they are the types of visuals in which director David Cronenberg delights. His graphic violence mars what is otherwise a wonderful entertainment.

This is the story, from a script by Steve Knight, of the Vory V Zakone real-life criminal brotherhood, run in London by Russian thugs. Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) is a driver for Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who runs the brotherhood. Nikolai is also the apparent lackey of Semyonís volatile son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel). One of their functions is to enslave young Russian women, drug them up, and force them into prostitution. Not a pretty picture, but one that is all too true to life. It happens in America, too (see Trade, a movie to be released shortly).

Enter Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), a midwife who helps a 14-year-old Russian girl who dies in childbirth but leaves behind her diary and her daughter. Anna asks her irascible Russian-born uncle Stepan (Jerzy Skolimowski) to translate the diary, and what he finds is frightening. Meanwhile, because of Stepanís apparent intransigence, Anna also asks Semyon to translate, which puts her and her family in dire danger.

Watts gives a truly remarkable performance. The way her face expresses her thoughts with just the most minuscule of twitches is captivating to watch. The acting throughout is a joy to watch. The performances of Watts, Mortensen, and Mueller-Stahl, are Oscarģ-quality. Cassel is equally adept.

Mortensen did a lot of research for his role. In addition to spending a substantial amount of time in Russia, reading Russian literature and watching Russian films, he learned to speak Russian, which made his Russian accent authentic. But there is more. Nikolaiís body is covered with tattoos, 43 in all. Criminals in Russian jails say that your tattoo is your life; they tell the crimes youíve committed and what jail time youíve served, and more. Nikolaiís tattoos comprise a major plot point of the film. Mortensenís tattoos were so authentic that when he visited a Russian restaurant, the other diners fell silent, thinking that a top Vory had entered.

Somewhat lost in the thriller aspect of the film is the horror of the young girls who find themselves modern-day slaves in a major city of the world with no hope. There are only a few scenes of these young girls, and the terror they must endure is minimized by a failure to make any of them a major character. The movie would have been much better had it had a B story devoted to saving them from their terrible predicament. But we are left to view the few scenes and then move on to the story of Anna and Nikolai, never again to see the enslaved girls. The physical brutality that Cronenberg gleefully displays isnít nearly as horrible as the fate of young, innocent enslaved women. Itís to his discredit that he chose to emphasize and sensationalize the visual mayhem while sublimating the psychological terror of these innocent victims.

That said, this is a brilliantly acted and directed film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, marred only by the graphic violence and a Hollywood twist that strained my credulity.

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