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Any Given Sunday: 15th Anniversary

Warner Bros. // R // September 9, 2014
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted September 15, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

In light of recent events surrounding Ray Rice, one would have to grind their teeth down to the roots when giving begrudging respect to the National Football League (NFL). Consider that for the thousands of hours writing and reporting on it, the millions of fans it has and the billions of dollars it makes, you see little written (comparatively speaking) about the NFL in a consistently derogatory manner, and you certainly do not see much in the way of cinema devoted to the life of a professional football player. Is it because as aspiring filmmaker fears the chilling effect the NFL may have when it comes to tamping down a film, cheapening its production value or killing it altogether? Is it the many television personalities and vested interests in getting face time that results in besmirching a well-intentioned and perhaps even accurate source? There certainly is something to be said in that for a book and movie that are more than 35 years old that North Dallas Forty opened so many eyes and perhaps covered the ground that it needed to?

So kudos to Oliver Stone for at least putting the highest creative presence so far to devote mainstream attention to what the NFL does. Writer and director of JFK, Stone created the fictitious Miami Sharks of the AFFA, where longtime head coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino, Righteous Kill) is trying to deal with the struggling form of his team. His veteran quarterback Cap Tony D'Amato (Dennis Quaid, Playing For Keeps) is dealing with a rash of injuries and Tony is forced to put Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx, Law Abiding Citizen) into the starting role. Willie is a modest bench player bordering on a journeyman, but the success of the team when he is under center gets to his head and he clashes with Tony. Complicating matters is the team owner, who inherited the team for her dying father, plays an amalgam of Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder or any other meddling owner. The owner is played by Cameron Diaz, (The Green Hornet). We watch the Sharks try and make the playoffs while not simultaneously imploding.

In the case of an Oliver Stone movie, he tries to capture any and every facet of the topic that he can, and that is the case with Any Given Sunday. You have the clash of cultures between Willie, Cap and Tony. You have Willie's clash with established players like his running back Julian (L.L. Cool J, Deep Blue Sea) and the leader of the defensive unit in Shark, played by Hall of Fame Linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Those subplots are good, however, there are others that tend to get slightly pear-shaped and over the course of the film are somewhat ineffective. The story with Crozier (Aaron Eckhart, Battle Los Angeles), a rising star in coaching who aspires for Tony's job, falls into that arena. Then you have the plots that seem simply unnecessary, such as the team doctors' clash of philosophies. The older one (James Woods, Videodrome) is a part of the system and knows the score, while the young newer one (Matthew Modine, Memphis Belle) is more of an idealist. Both actors seem wasted for what they do. There are a bevy of other familiar faces in the movie, but their appearances are brief and/or not worth mentioning.

But what of the film itself? Well, it is slightly complicated. Stone tends to wave the gratuitous nature of the sex, drugs and violence in the face of the viewer to the point when it becomes a cheapened experience. By the time that Julian snorts cocaine off of a prostitute's (I think she was) breast, it is almost predictable. Stone manages to do stuff like this as much for his entertainment as for the viewer, the shame is he does not seem to realize that it is all that shocking when most of the film already has been doing that for an hour, much less the two and a half of the film.

In addition, the film is long in part because they want to try and squeeze in all of the actors in this star-studded ensemble, and nobody has a real shining moment, particularly the actors that are part of telling the story of the film. Pacino seems to coast more on his reputation than anything, and Foxx has a moment or two, but hardly anything that could be considered mind-blowing. He certainly has evolved into a good actor and worthy of the praise he gets these days, but as Willie Beamen he held his own and not much of anyone else's. Sure, Diaz possesses more depth in the character she plays than one you are accustomed, but otherwise? Feh.

However, while the main goal of Any Given Sunday is an attempt to show the public the trials, tribulations and temptations of the professional football athlete, what it does manage to do far more effectively and in an understated manner is tries to explain the mentality of these warriors that have to get up to battle every week, and their attempts to break away from that. It is something that I would imagine would be problematic for a number of players today, much as it would have been a couple of decades before Any Given Sunday came out as well. A good portion of the small amount of dialogue Woods has is delivered with an attempt to illustrate this, and that combined with the examples on screen helped convey this to me.

If there is a common thread between the news of the day and what goes on with the characters of Any Given Sunday, it would appear to be that people are shocked that this occurs in real life. But once the public gets past the Captain Renault nature of their reactions, there are glimpses of what Oliver Stone talks about that seem to still exist in football players' lives. That this got lost in the film is somewhat depressing, because Oliver Stone basically went all Oliver Stone in Any Given Sunday. A more controlled and focused director could possibly have made a film that far more effective than what we have had to experience in the news and police blotters over the last few weeks.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

I have not seen the first release of the Blu-ray to definitively know, but I would presume the VC-1 encode which graces the transfer for this is the same one on said release. Which is fine because the transfer is solid. Colors and fresh tones are reproduced nicely, image detail is solid through the film, and black levels are solid, though tend to fluctuate in darker moments on occasion. There may have been moments where some post-image processing occurred, but I do not think it is pervasive enough that it detracts from the quality. It is good viewing for sure.

The Sound:

The TrueHD track on the first release has been traded out for a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround one. Not having that disc I do not know what the comparison is like, but this track is good and shows off the huge variety of music that comes with the track. Dialogue is consistent throughout and the football action includes public address announcements that come from the rear channels nicely and crowd noise helps sell the immersive effect of the soundtrack. There is very little qualms to have over this audio track.


Compared to the 2009 release, Warner has dropped the digital copy and put in a new bonus segment, but hardly anything memorable. "Anything Can Happen" (30:01) is a retrospective documentary with a new interview with Stone but also includes interviews with former players and coaches and some writers as they talk about why it was so good and was it was a precursor for in many minds. It is an interesting doc but did not hold my attention. Stone's commentary takes care of this, as he gets into detail on what the NFL did to try and delay the production, and talks about the game, its changes through the years, its influence from television, but gets into the specifics of the production, of which he has the usual level of excellent recall. He gets into shot breakdown, recalls the various versions and deleted scenes, and while he does watch the movie occasionally, his memory on the film is outstanding. In other words, your normal Oliver Stone commentary. The commentary with Foxx is not entirely revelatory, in fact, it probably would have been better if he had recorded this commentary with someone else because there are a lot of moments where he is watching the film, and other moments when he jokes to no one in particular, which is awkward for me since I do not find him entirely funny. It does not add much of value to the film and can be skipped.

The other extras are decent. "Full Contact" (27:07) is an HBO-produced piece on the making of the film at the time of production, where the cast and crew talk about the material and working with one another, and the challenge for the actors to play in the film as players. The technical advisors discuss what they need to do for this and the attempts to place cameras on and in the middle of the action. Fourteen deleted and extended scenes (32:39) are decent but there is a smaller Bill Bellamy subplot that was excised, along with a scene where Tony sees his grown son (played by Jim Caviezel) for the film time in a while. Otherwise, the scenes are forgettable. The audition and test footage of Foxx as QB is included (6:40), followed by "Instant Replay" (15:42), a montage of various scenes/plays from the games in the film. A gag reel (4:11) has a laugh or two, and montages of various football scenes (8:28) and city landscapes (3:26) are next. Two stills galleries follow, one with production stills and the other with various one-sheets, posters and signs promoting the film. Three music videos (8:50) from Foxx and LL are next in the lineup, and the trailer (2:26) puts a bow on the package.

The package includes the 163-minute theatrical version (on a separate disc) and a 157-minute Director's Cut where the extras are housed.

Final Thoughts:

In Any Given Sunday, like a few of his other films, Oliver Stone throws everything at the wall seemingly without a lack of focus. If he reined himself in on say, every third shot or plot arc, the film would be superb, perhaps a Network for professional football. As it stands it is decent but not earth shattering. Technically it is good and the slight bump up to DTS-HD was nice, and the only new supplement to speak of is the "Anything Can Happen" doc. If you have the disc already you are not missing out on much, but if you need a chance to upgrade from the standard definition discs, here you go.

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