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ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margaret, Aaron Eckhart, John C. McGinley
Director: Oliver Stone
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 157 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 163 Minutes (Theatrical Version)
Release Date: September 9, 2014

That's what a leader's about: sacrifice. The times he's gotta sacrifice because he's gotta lead by example. Not by fear and not by self-pity.”

Film ****

Give Oliver Stone something to talk about, and believe me, he will deliver with a very real and open mind. I instantly developed this opinion of one of our greatest filmmakers after seeing his raw football saga, Any Given Sunday. Stone’s films have covered everything from war, politics, the media, Wall Street, and The Doors. I must admit, though, the last subject I would’ve ever expected a filmmaker like Stone to cover would be that of professional sports.

Stone’s movie sacks you quicker and harder than the nearest on-coming defensive tackle. I very much consider it to be THE best football movie to ever grace the screen but one of the best sports movies ever made, because unlike so many formulaic sports movies, Any Given Sunday really takes you inside the game, literally. Watching the movie, you truly feel as if you are attending a real game surrounded by the roar of a thousand fans. This is also the first football movie that I’ve seen that deals with pain and suffering that goes along with being a professional athlete, both on and off the field.

The team chronicled in the movie is the fictitious Miami Sharks, coached by veteran football coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), but controlled in the corporate office by Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), daughter of the team’s founder. Pagniacci is a no-nonsense businesswoman with not a care in the world for the game. Her goal is to get funding to build a stadium in Los Angeles, where she hopes to relocate the team.

She is also a thorn in D’Amato’s side, as she tells him to get his act together and make his team win, no matter what it takes. In addition, she threatens D’Amato’s pride with the possibility of trading two star players in the off-season. In its own way, the day-to-day business of pro sports is a gridiron battle itself, with owners clashing with the coaches.

The Sharks are experiencing a truly bad losing streak, and are only a few games away from the playoffs. As the movie opens, the team loses it’s first two quarterbacks due to serious injuries, including it’s veteran star quarterback, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), leaving the door opened for rookie third stringer Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), which turns up some unexpected results for the team. Eventually, a star is born in Beamen, who brings the Sharks back to victory for the next few games.

Beamen is soon quickly seduced by the fame, attention, money, and all the other elements that come with stardom. And with the increase of fame, his views on the entire game proceed to change. Meanwhile, numerous teammates do not approve of Beamen manipulating the spotlight, most notably fellow Sharks Julian “J-Man” Washington (LL Cool J) and “Shark” Lava (Lawrence Taylor).

Apart from being a striking look into the world of football, Any Given Sunday is also a technical masterpiece. Just about every other football movie pales in comparison to the individual game sequences in this film. Watching the movie, you feel every tackle as if you are the one who got sacked. It is loud and furious to the senses.

Stone has recently been known for giving his movies a much-needed shot of adrenaline in the editing and cinematography department, resulting in enhancing a jolt-like effect to the viewer. This time around, he has energized his movie into a blazingly, brilliantly frenetic, high-speed rocket like of a movie, much in the spirit of Natural Born Killers.

One scene, in particular, blows me away every time I see it. D’Amato invites Beamen over for dinner at his house, and they get into a heated debate on Beamen’s future in the team, which is intercut with scenes from the classic film Ben Hur. It is a moment of true and perfect symbolism in cinema, symbolizing that gladiators in their time are no different from the present-day gladiators who fight their battles on the football field.

There’s also some interesting surprises in the movie, such as Foxx’s character chewing up the scenery in a music video for a song aptly titled “My Name is Willie”. It’s part of a brilliantly put together montage of scenes illustrating that Willie has become the ultimate sell-out athlete, gracing endless covers of sports magazines, and appearing in numerous commercials.

Of all of Stone’s films, this is by far the most star-studded a cast he’s ever assembled. Also featured are James Woods as the team orthopedist with slippery tactics, Matthew Modine as the more ethical team doctor, Aaron Eckhart as the team’s offensive coordinator, John C. McGinley as a sports journalist very much in the vein of Jim Rome, Ann-Margaret as Pagniacci’s mother whose emotionally rocked mother, and to top it all off, Charlton Heston as the football commissioner. No matter how small the role, each of the big named actors shine tremendously.

This is a movie for true football fans, as well as fans of hard-edged movie-making. It also makes a terrific substitute for Sunday afternoon if your favorite team happens to be losing drastically, or if there’s not a single exciting game on. If you can’t find the rock ‘em sock ‘em quality the next time you watch pro football, let Oliver Stone deliver it for you with one of his greatest achievements to date.

Video ****

This marks the movie’s second go around on Blu-ray, and the video presentation from Warner remains absolutely tremendous. With many game sequences, the movie is heavy on outdoor daylight, which is displayed beautifully in the 1080p. Image detail is also at a super high rate, and colors appear in ultra fantastic form.

Audio ****

The previous Blu-ray carried a Dolby TrueHD mix, but Warner has wisely upgraded to a rockin’, bone crunchin’ DTS HD mix for this new release. And as a result, this is the absolute best the movie has ever sounded since I saw it in theaters. From the opening the moment, the level of sound and fury is assaulting and non stop (in the best way possible) and doesn’t let up for a second. Between the intense football action, music playback and sounds resulting from Stone’s filmmaking approach, this is one Blu-ray sound experience you aren’t going to forget any time soon!

Features ****

For this 15th Anniversary Blu-ray release, Warner has tossed in a nice new addition among the extras, and even managed to include a bonus DVD containing the original Theatrical cut of the movie, which until now hasn’t been available on the format!

The new feature is a terrific thirty minute piece called “Anything Can Happen”, which features real life football personalities such as Marshall Faulk, Jerry Rice, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones discussing just how authentic the movie really is as far as depicting the world of pro football. It’s very in-depth, and serves as a big treat for football fans!

All of the extras from the previous Blu-ray release are included here as well, starting with two commentaries; the first with Oliver Stone and the second with Jamie Foxx. We also get the HBO documentary, “Full Contact: The Making of Any Given Sunday”, deleted and extended scenes, some outtakes from Jamie Foxx’s audition/screen tests, a gag reel, a production still and ad material photo galleries, a football outtake and landscape outtake montage, a Theatrical Trailer and three music videos; “Shut Em Down” by LL Cool J, “My Name is Willie” by Jamie Foxx, and “Any Given Sunday” by Jamie Foxx.

Summary:

With football season already in high gear, there’s no better time than now to rediscover the best film to ever depict the game itself. The new 15th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Any Given Sunday delivers the best all around presentation of the movie to date. This is a must have occasion for die hard fans of this movie and the game itself!

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