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Any Given Sunday(1999)
At the 50-yard line of this gridiron cosmos is Al Pacino as Tony D'Amato, the embattled Sharks coach facing a full-on blitz of team strife plus a new, marketing-savvy sharks owner (Cameron Diaz) who's sure Tony is way too old school. An injured quarterback (Dennis Quaid), a flashy, bull-headed backup QB (Jamie Foxx), a slithery team doctor (James Woods) and a running back with an incentive-laden contract (LL Cool J) also provide some of the stories that zigzag like diagrams in a playbook. and throughout, there's the awesome spectacle of motion, sound and action orchestrated by Stone.
For more about Any Given Sunday and the Any Given Sunday Blu-ray release, see Any Given Sunday Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 22, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Oliver Stone, John Logan
Starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods (I), Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J
» See full cast & crew
Any Given Sunday Blu-ray Review
An oft-criticized Oliver Stone film arrives on Blu-ray...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 22, 2009
As the Steelers and Cardinals head off to Tampa this week for Superbowl XLIII, I thought it only fitting to revisit some of my favorite football flicks of all time. Problem is, there are just so many to choose from. My shelves are packed with gritty dramas (Friday Night Lights), sentimental family films (Remember the Titans), nostalgic classics (Brian's Song), inspirational stories (Rudy), lighthearted comedies (The Replacements), overlooked television gems (Playmakers), and even memorable romantic comedies (Jerry Maguire). Luckily, Warner Brothers made my first choice an easy one by releasing the tragically underrated and misunderstood Any Given Sunday, a hard-hitting, love-it-or-hate-it ensemble piece from controversial director Oliver Stone.
After a debilitating injury leaves legendary quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) on the bench, aging coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) is forced to pass the ball to a third-string player named Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). But when the young upstart unexpectedly give the team a legitimate chance to reach the playoffs, D'Amato has to contend with his quarterback's raging ego and blatant disregard for other players. Making matters worse, a feisty new owner (Cameron Diaz) threatens to fire D'Amato if he doesn't deliver miraculous results. As the weathered coach exhaustively tries to navigate unfamiliar career territory, he has to make tough calls, keep one of his key players motivated (LL Cool J), deal with a parasitic physician (James Woods), and manage his own personal affairs.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people absolutely despise Any Given Sunday. Drop by Rotten Tomatoes, pay a visit to applicable message board threads, or read any online or print article about the film and you're sure to find an endless stream of criticism. Many cite the film's lack of NFL-support (as evidenced by the fictionalized team names, uniforms, and leagues), Stone's portrayal of the sport as a business brimming with cons and crooks, his hyperkinetic edits and visual style, the story's slow-burn pacing, its selective character development, its runtime, and its murky message. But almost every complaint I've ever read has brought the same question to my mind: did we watch the same movie? Perhaps critics are merely disappointed with the film's focus or biased by the director's tarnished reputation, but it seems to me that many viewers have missed the point entirely. Stone isn't concerned with the familiar themes that have been mined by other genre filmmakers over the decades, in revealing the questionable ethics and practices of sports management and personnel, or even in portraying the lengths to which professional athletes are willing to sacrifice their own principles or well being. Sure, each of these elements are addressed in the film and the sport itself is given plenty of attention, but Stone's message isn't so simple.
In actuality, Any Given Sunday is a multi-faceted allegory about the heated generational clashes that have plagued our ever-changing culture, the ease with which modern corporations dehumanize their employees, and the soul-sapping nature of overindulgence and entitlement. It's a logical extension of the prolific director's Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July; a two-pronged study of a battered generation faced with extinction and a younger generation blinded by their own desires and perceived invincibility. We watch D'Amato and Beaman struggle with their unique personal demons as Stone uses their friction and distaste for one another to reinforce his central themes. The supporting cast is in place to react to or serve as a catalyst for these two reluctant protagonists. By the end, the stoic veteran and the rebellious youth have to meld their wisdom and passion together before they're able to accomplish anything. D'Amato's climactic speech (hands down one of the greatest halftime speeches committed to film) is a clear-cut call to arms that reminds Beamen and the team exactly what their lives and their profession should mean to each of them. They have to take hold of his challenge, apply it to their circumstances, and offer themselves up to become something more than a group of individuals. It's a well-developed metaphor that simultaneously comments on WWII era idealism, the horrors of Vietnam, the rise of corporate America, and the choice every boy faces as he becomes a man. In short, Stone's sprawling genre pic is about a lot more than football.
I'm not about to guarantee everyone will find Any Given Sunday to be as engaging or intellectually stimulating as I did. I'll be the first to acknowledge it can be a tough film to sit through -- after all, its characters are fairly unlikeable, its on-field sequences are purposefully confusing and chaotic, and its story is often cryptic and vague. Regardless, anyone looking for a football flick that has more layers and subtleties to offer than the same old tired genre tale will be intrigued and entertained to no end.
Any Given Sunday Blu-ray, Video Quality
Any Given Sunday features a solid, often strong 1080p/VC-1 transfer that looks considerably better than its DVD counterpart. Primaries and skintones have received a noticeable boost in stability, strength, and saturation, the actors are more lifelike than before, and the palette (while still overcast with image-flattening yellows and browns) is more vibrant. Contrast has also been improved (despite some inherent inconsistencies). On-screen shadows are more natural, bright skies more comfortable to look at, and delineation more revealing than ever. Detail is quite erratic and soft shots make regular appearances (typically smack dab in the middle of more refined scenes), but textures are generally crisper and background elements have nicely defined edges. As far as I can tell, any reduction in clarity is attributable to the photography rather than the encode. I'm sure Any Given Sunday fans will be more than satisfied with the high-def upgrade since this is, without a doubt, the best the film has ever looked.
Any Given Sunday Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Any Given Sunday's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track improves the film's overall AV presentation. For the most part, dialogue is crisp and clear throughout the film, allowing voices to be placed across the entire soundfield to great effect. Even so, a few muddled lines are overwhelmed by heavier effects in the soundscape. While some of these prioritization mishaps can be attributed to the director (Stone intentionally allows crowd noise and on-field chaos to drown out his actors during football sequences), there are a handful of quieter conversations that mysteriously suffer the same fate. Likewise, low-end extension is strong and aggressive during livelier shots and heated character exchanges, but all but disappears during less intense scenes. The rear speakers follow suit, providing convincing acoustics and busy environmental ambience one moment, and little to no support the next. Needless to say, the somewhat uneven results produce an inconsistent experience that bobbles between average and spectacular. To its credit, directionality is precise (especially for a catalog title), pans are quick and smooth, tackles and shouts are weighty and resonant, and several standout scenes prove the TrueHD track at least has some serious muscle behind it. It may not deliver the most reliable sonics from beginning to end, but it still handles the film's occasionally uninspiring sound design without succumbing to any glaring technical problems.
Any Given Sunday Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Any Given Sunday arrives on Blu-ray with all of the special features that appeared on its previously-released standard DVD editions. There are a few dud tucked into the package, but the vast majority of the supplemental material is sure to please fans of the film. If only the video content was presented in high definition...
Any Given Sunday Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Any Given Sunday isn't a typical genre pic. Controversial director Oliver Stone continually follows unexpected paths, populates his film with unlikeable characters, and is far more interested in the human condition than football. Even so, a series of powerful performances, a compelling study of several characters, and quite a few envelope-pushing developments make this one of the filmmaker's best. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition of the film has a few problems. Its video transfer looks better than its DVD counterpart but has some glaring flaws, its TrueHD track is strong but inconsistent, and its supplemental materials are lengthy but rather shallow. Ultimately, if you haven't seen Any Given Sunday, you should definitely rent it first. However, if you appreciate the film as much as I do, you'll probably shrug your shoulders at the disc's technical shortcomings and pick it up anyway.
Any Given Sunday: Other Editions
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Any Given Sunday Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Any Given Sunday: 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (Updated) - May 27, 2014
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has detailed the 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday, which includes new supplemental content. The sports drama stars Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Cameron Diaz, LL Cool ...
• Warner Brings Any Given Sunday to Blu-ray (UPDATED) - October 20, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Oliver Stone football film 'Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut' to Blu-ray on January 27th. Starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, and Jamie Foxx, this film will be presented in 1080p VC-1 video. Technical specs ...
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