Plot: What’s it about?
Oliver Stone is known for many, many things…his contribution of films to the American (Worldwide) public is among the most noteable; while his constant “conspiracy” therories 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 stil manage to appetize 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, endowoing us with about every film trick in the book. His constant use of grainy and stock film are always put to good use and it’s never been better than with “Any Given Sunday”.
The film’s title, obviously, is an homage to the sport of football. Long thought to be sacreligous 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 ficticious 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 latitute with what to do with the team. The olny 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 suregery. 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, and 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. If you have the means…I would watch it again and again.
Video: How does it look?
I can really find no fault in this 2.35:1 presentation. The image is as clear as day, there are no signs of digital artifacting or elements in the least. There are several scenes in which a majority of the picture is completely black and the image looks just as good. The presentation seems to have a very “film” like quality to it which gives it all the more sheen. Edge enhancement is non-existent and I really don’t know how an image could get better. Supposedly for this “new edition” Oliver Stone was supposed to go back and rework the video presentation, something about the red tones in it. I compared the two discs side by side and could really tell no difference in the presentation. Maybe it’s just me, but it looks great either way you slice it. It does seem odd, however, that apparently one man’s job was to sit at the camera and shake it! Not really, of course, but at times the camera motion is so handheld, that it looks like The Blair Witch Project. Even the second time around, Warner sees that there is no use in messing with perfection.
Audio: How does it sound?
If there is something that Any Given Sunday has a lot of, it’s sound. Nearly every scene in this movie has some crunching of bones or a thumping beat of music. The sounds on the football field (which come to about 45 minutes of the movie) are awesome. You can hear and feel every hit, sack and throw of the ball which only adds to the natural tension of the film. Dialogue is very clean and free of any distortion errors. Some reference quality audio in addition to the video makes it all the better.
Supplements: What are the extras?
While not a full-blown special editon, Any Given Sunday has it’s share of extras. I think that due to it’s length, the amount of supplemental material that could be offered was affected. Still, Warner has managed to include the cast bios, original trailer a music video by LL Cool J and a 25 minute documentary making of the film. It’s quite enough to keep you entertained, as there is well over three hours in this disc. In addition, the DVD is the “director’s cut” which offers 6 additional minutes that wasn’t in theaters. In this editon 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. Politics, music and football of all things. 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 (and you must be if you have this disc, as the only way you can get it, is if you purchase the entire box set). 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 soundtracks which absoutely, 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.
Onto the second disc, which is also tucked away in a paper holder inside the gatefold cover. 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 on DVD’s and every time I’m amazed at how many different posters are used and made. Lastly, a stills gallery of the stars and scenes from the movie is included. Overall, this has the most supplements out of the box set, but a fairly good special edition of this movie is already available. What you’re paying for is the two commentary tracks and some other assorted extras. Kind of sly of Warner to include this in thier set as an “exclusive”, but I figure it’s more of a reward to those who buy it rather than as a punishment to those who didn’t buy the original. But I could be wrong. Still, this disc rocks and is the one to have if you’re a fan of this movie.