Oliver Stone is known for many, many things…his contribution of films to the American (Worldwide) public is among the most notable; while his constant “conspiracy” theories may be something other. Among Stone’s accolades are such gems as “Platoon”, “Born on the Fourth of July” and “JFK”. And while his latest offerings haven’t offered near as much spice as the old ones, they still manage to appeal to the senses when they come out. Movies like “Natural Born Killers”, “Nixon” and “U-Turn” I feel are made more to create a controversy than to make an actual film. But what do I know? It’s with this latest offering from Stone that he has returned to his true form. Always a voyeur in the filming of his movies, Stone pulls out the stops in his latest effort, endowing us with about every film trick in the book. His constant use of grainy and stock film is always put to good use and it’s never been better than with “Any Given Sunday”.
The film’s title, obviously, pays homage to the sport of football. Long thought to be sacrilegious for being played on this day (and it’s addressed in the film as well), it’s become more of an American pastime than baseball. We meet Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) as the “been there done that” coach of the fictitious Miami Sharks. As a coach who has been through it all with the former owner and general manger of the team, he is given tremendous latitude with his control of it. The only problem is that he has now passed on and has left the team to his daughter (Cameron Diaz). The team is in the midst of a losing streak when their best player and leader, “Cap” (Dennis Quaid) is sidelined for a month and must undergo yet another surgery. So it begins. After losing two quarterbacks in two plays (the second string QB goes down on one play), the burden falls on Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) to carry the team onto victory. While not being the best team player, it makes a point that Willie has a lot of natural talent, and is among the new breed of professional player. Hes also not the type of player that Cap (a 38-year old veteran) is. After the team gets on a winning streak again, Willie becomes the object of everyone’s affection and has the ego to prove it. He wastes no time in practically isolating himself from his friends, family and loved ones and we see that this story is more about relationships between players and coaches than anything else.
Sporting an all-star cast (as do most of Stone’s films), we see and learn that this is no ordinary football movie. Not only is it time for some of the players to bow out and retire, we see the relationships crumble and see more fake personalities than we can handle. While bearing that logo of being “an Oliver Stone film” which Stone plays a more noticeable (and convincing) role than in most of his movies, it’s also a good movie about football. A good football movie is something that we didn’t really have before this, as most of the other sports have been made into movies that are comedies or dramas. Overall, the cutting edge photography and extra long running time make it a movie that passes by in what seems like minutes. Football fans take note, this ones a must see.
Video: How does it look?
“Any Given Sunday” looked good when it first came out on standard DVD back in 2000 and time has been good to the film. With this new Blu-ray offering, Warner has encoded the HD transfer in a VC-1 codec which looks pretty darn good. The game shots are amazing with a level of detail that far surpasses the original DVD. The green of the grass and the fabric in the players jerseys look great and, again, look superior to the DVD. I remember looking back at my review for the standard DVD but that was done on a 32″ SDTV and this is now being done on a 58″ 1080P Plasma TV. Size does matter and “Any Given Sunday” looks like it was just released yesterday. You football fans take note, in the off season if you want to see top notch football in HD fire up this movie for your fix.
Audio: How does it sound?
Theres something about a football movie that really energizes the speakers and brings the viewer into the film. “Any Given Sunday” has that in spades and has one of the more active LFE channels Ive heard. The “thuds” and “crunches” heard during the game sound extremely lifelike and it adds to the general ambiance of a movie about football. Dialogue, of course, is clean and clear as wed expect. Of note, I will say that the music videos sound amazing and I cant get that “Willie Beamen” tune out of my head.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The supplements on this Blu-ray are identical to the ones put out in their “Oliver Stone Collection” standard DVD back in 2001. The only supplement of note is the addition of a Digital Copy of the movie which is housed on the second disc. The DVD is the “Director’s cut” which offers 6 additional minutes that wasn’t in theaters. In this edition we are treated to not one, but two commentary tracks. The first is with Oliver Stone who once again delivers another great commentary. It seems the guy knows everything. Though not quite as informative as the other tracks in his collection, this is still one to listen to and especially if you’re a fan of the movie. The second track has members of the cast and crew, which was just a bit too much for me. I think having more than one person on the track is good, which keeps the dialogue moving, but this just didn’t seem to work. l like the movie, but would rather listen to Stone’s track again than that of the cast and crew. Also included is a nice little feature called “Instant Replay” where it jumps to the scenes listed on the screen and you can witness them again (the hit on Cap, Beamen running for a touchdown, etc.). Interesting, and a feature that’s usually used for music, but this is a good implementation of it. Also included is a music only soundtrack which absolutely and almost literally…rocks! The soundtrack of this movie is the heart and soul of it, and it give the movie that “hard rock” edge that keeps the adrenaline flowing.
The documentary that was included (and mentioned above) is still there, along with the music video. However, in addition to the LL Cool J video, there are two by Jamie Foxx (as Willie Beamen) that appeared in the movie. The extras are cleverly arranged into “Pregame”, “Halftime” and “Postgame” sections. There are some screen tests of Jamie Foxx playing football and telling us that he has to “keep the spiral tight”. Two more screen tests are included, “The Lunch” and “Willie and Vanessa at the Cordoza Hotel”. The Postgame section features some extended and deleted scenes, but it’s clear why they were taken out, also included are some outtakes and a gag reel, which are always fun to look at. A feature I have yet to get is the Landscapes and Outtakes montage; this is essentially scenes from the movie set to some sort of “folk music” song. Oh well…The Art of Selling shows us abut 40 different posters that were used and some not used, to promote the movie. I have seen this feature before and every time I’m amazed at how many different posters are used and made.