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(Director’s Cut)

While I am not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, I was enthralled by ANY GIVEN SUNDAY ($29), director Oliver Stone's view of the modern day gladiatorial sport. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is an ensemble piece that tells a multi-layered story, which is set around a fictitious professional football team known as the Miami Sharks. Al Pacino portrays Tony D'Amato, the team’s coach who hails from the old school and finds himself butting heads with Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), the team’s young owner, who wants to bring the franchise 21st century. During a losing streak, the Sharks’ star quarterback Jack Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is seriously injured, which thrusts the team’s untried third string quarterback, Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), into the spotlight. Willie sees some initial success on the field of scrimmage, which immediately goes to his head, causing conflicts with both Coach D’Amato and the rest of the team. Sure, some aspects of the plot are pure soap opera, but Oliver Stone’s stylish storytelling keeps one riveted to their seat for the film’s entire 157 minute running time. Heck, if televised football were one tenth as engrossing as what Oliver Stone has staged in ANY GIVEN SUNDAY with a first person perspective, I’d be watching the game every week.

In addition to the film’s technical brilliance, every role in ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is played to perfection. Pacino is great as the driven football coach, yet he never takes the role over-the-top (something he seems to have been doing ever since SCENT OF A WOMAN). Cameron Diaz shows that she has the acting chops to handle a role with some meat on it. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY marked the first time Jamie Foxx made a real impression as an actor; with this film he showed could do a whole lot more than just make people laugh. The cast of ANY GIVEN SUNDAY also features James Woods, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Aaron Eckhart, John C. McGinley, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Bill Bellamy, Andrew Bryniarski, Lela Rochon, Lauren Holly, Elizabeth Berkley and James Karen.

Warner Home Video has made ANY GIVEN SUNDAY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. In general, the 1080p presentation is really quite good, but director Oliver Stone’s visual approach is inconsistent, which makes the presentation seem inconsistent. I will say that ANY GIVEN SUNDAY has a more consistent look than some of Stone’s other films, but the director still plays around with elements such as focus, handheld cameras and color rendition. For my money, the Blu-ray release of ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is leaps and bounds beyond what was offered on the near decade old DVD release. Much of the time, image clarity, sharpness and detail are excellent. Other times, things can appear a little soft, especially when the image is in less than perfect focus. Fine details, such as textures, individual hairs; the lines in Al Pacino’s face, and imperfections in the other performers’ skin are easily discernable. Dimensionality and image depth can be rather impressive. Colors are usually warm and vibrant, but there are moments when the colors come across a little subdued. Blacks are inky, whites are crisp, plus the picture sports pretty smooth contrast and very good shadow detail. The elements from which ANY GIVEN SUNDAY has been transferred are in very good shape, displaying only some minor blemishes. There is usually a mild veneer of grain throughout the course of the presentation, which helps maintain a film-like quality.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Much of ANY GIVEN SUNDAY plays in talky drama mode, but for the football game sequences, the track springs to life- making excellent use of all the outlying channels. During the games, there are plenty of sonic assaults, in which, sound effects leap out at the viewer from all sides. Additionally, crowd noises at the games, as well as in other public venues sound pretty realistic. Fidelity is quite strong thanks to the lossless encode, with convincing sound effects and a strong musical presence. As for the bass channel, it adds a full measure of weight to the sound and percussive impact. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is generally easy to understand, but there were a couple of quieter instances where I needed to adjust the volume. English, French Spanish, German and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off are two running Audio Commentaries included on the Blu-ray Disc; the first is with co-writer/director Oliver Stone, while the second features actor Jamie Foxx. Next is the thirty-minute HBO Fist Look documentary Full Contact: The Making of Any Given Sunday. Part promotion piece, part look behind-the-scenes, the documentary includes short interviews with all the principals. Other supplements include: Jamie Foxx Audition Tape (plus two Screen Tests), Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary from director Oliver Stone), Music Only Track (featuring song cues) and Instant Replay: Revisit The Film's Hard-Hitting Football Plays (self explanetory). Three Music Videos are also provided: Shut Em Down by LL Cool J, plus My Name Is Willie and Any Given Sunday by Jamie Foxx. A Stills Gallery of photos & promotional materials, plus a Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplements.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY remains a powerful piece of filmmaking about a sport that is an obsession with millions of Americans. Football fans and/or Oliver Stone fans will want to own ANY GIVEN SUNDAY on Blu-ray. Recommended.



Any Given Sunday [Blu-ray] (1999)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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