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Any Given Sunday: 15th Anniversary Director's Cut Blu-ray + Theatrical Cut DVD Review

Any Given Sunday (1999) movie poster Any Given Sunday

Theatrical Release: December 22, 1999 / Running Time: 157 Minutes (Director's Cut), 163 Minutes (Theatrical Cut) / Rating: R

Director: Oliver Stone / Writers: John Logan (screen story & screenplay), Oliver Stone (screenplay), Daniel Pyne (screen story)

Cast: Al Pacino (Tony D'Amato), Cameron Diaz (Christina Pagniacci), Dennis Quaid (Jack "Cap" Rooney), James Woods (Dr. Harvey Mandrake), Jamie Foxx ("Steamin'" Willie Beamen), LL Cool J (Julian Washington), Matthew Modine (Dr. Ollie Powers), Jim Brown (Montezuma Monroe), Charlton Heston (AFFA Football Commissioner), Ann-Margret (Margaret Pagniacci), Aaron Eckhart (Nick Crozier), John C. McGinley (Jack Rose), Lauren Holly (Cindy Rooney), Lela Rochon (Vanessa Struthers), Lawrence Taylor (Luther "Shark" Lavay), Bill Bellamy (Jimmy Sanderson), James Karen (Christina's Advisor), Elizabeth Berkley (Mandy Murphy), Andrew Bryniarski (Patrick "Madman" Kelly), Duane Martin (Willie's Agent), Clifton Davis (Mayor Tyrone Smalls), John Daniel (Suitor in Christina's Box), Oliver Stone (Tug Kowalski: TV Announcer #1)

Buy Any Given Sunday from Amazon.com:
Director's Cut Blu-ray + Theatrical Cut DVD / Director's Cut only: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Films directed by Oliver Stone get revisited on home video far more often than your typical movies.
Stone himself seems to be the leading cause of that. Without his involvement and encouragement, who could see Warner Home Video collaborating with the likes of Fox, Sony, Disney, and Lionsgate to make 2001's 10-film, 10-disc, multi-studio Oliver Stone Collection available on DVD? Without Stone's continued pride and interest in his filmography, who would have imagined that set expanding to 12 films and 14 discs, with new input from MGM, in 2004's The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection? Whether included in one of those collections or not, Stone's films have also individually been subjected to different edits, typically a Director's Cut and sometimes more than that.

Any Given Sunday perhaps turned a mild profit for Warner Bros. Pictures back in 1999-2000. Reviews were mixed down the middle and public opinion was only slightly more favorable. From any other director, it'd be a one-and-done release for its studio on each medium. As an Oliver Stone film, though, produced by the studio that has distributed a quarter of his films, this football drama can't seem to go more than a few years without getting a new edition.

The latest, issued this week, is a two-disc 15th Anniversary release that contains both Stone's 157-minute Director's Cut on Blu-ray and the scarce, original 162-minute theatrical cut on DVD. That's right, this is the rare director's cut to shorten a film. It's tough to imagine any other filmmaker having both the clout and passion to fret over a mid-level sports film and get it released in two different forms. That's Stone, a perfectionist who won two Academy Awards for directing (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) and one for adapted screenplay (Midnight Express), but hasn't commanded much respect or public admiration since 1995's Nixon.

Stone's films continue to tackle big issues, from 9/11 and the presidency of George W. Bush to Mexican drug cartels and the 2008 financial crisis. And yet, no matter how much press such topicality earns him, the movies seem to be met with middling returns and general ambivalence, which are at least preferable to the critical scorn and downright disinterest that befell his ambitious 2004 epic flop Alexander (which he has since recut a staggering three times).

In "Any Given Sunday", injuries promote third string quarterback Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) into the starting line-up of Coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) and the Miami Sharks.

About as commercial as Stone gets (its domestic returns stand as the second highest of his career behind Platoon), Any Given Sunday opened three days before Christmas and nine before the end of the 1900s. The film begins with a quote about giving it your all on the battlefield, which it reveals to be the words of legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi. After a minimum of credits set to shots of lightning striking, we're thrown into a professional football game on which we'll spend the next twenty minutes.

Living up to the title, which is repeatedly uttered in a bit of wisdom espoused by Miami Sharks coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), this could be any meaningless regular season game. But the crowd is excited and there is much to see both on and off the field. The Sharks' accomplished 38-year-old quarterback "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) goes down with an injury. So too does his back-up. That leaves D'Amato to call upon Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), a third-stringer who has seen little action. Beamen vomits in the huddle to audible reaction from those watching in person and at home. That display of nerves will become the substitute QB's signature move, but he steps up on the field and would have led the Sharks to victory if not for a last minute fumble return.

The loss is the Sharks' fourth in a row during this 2001-02 season (perhaps the film was set in the future to give Stone more time to edit than needed?). D'Amato's job appears to be on the line, according to Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), the team's young, wealthy general manager who filled the vacancy left by her revered late father, D'Amato's longtime boss.

Not yet specializing in vapid romcoms, Cameron Diaz plays Christina Pagniacci, the young, wealthy, educated woman who becomes the Sharks' GM after her father dies. "Steamin'" Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) enjoys an incredibly fast, meteoric rise to superstardom in all its forms.

With Rooney sidelined until at least the playoffs and the second stringer barely defined, Beamen becomes the Sharks' starter and turns things around for the team. He wins fans, grows an ego, and makes enemies among his teammates like a stats-obsessed running back (LL Cool J) and a marginalized defensive lineman (Lawrence Taylor).

The film has its credibility undermined by a lack of NFL trademarks. This league is called the AFFA (Associated Football Franchises of America). Besides the Sharks, other teams include the Minnesota Americans, the Chicago Rhinos, and the Dallas Knights. Instead of a Super Bowl, there is a Pantheon Cup (which D'Amato won four seasons earlier).
It's understandable that the NFL wouldn't approve of this less than flattering portrait of their league. To do so undoubtedly would have compromised Stone's vision. And, despite the invented nicknames and logos, no viewer should be confused as to the world being dramatized.

That world is effectively dramatized by Stone and his co-writer John Logan, who with this would graduate from B-movies (Bats) and TV movies (Tornado!) to the big leagues and scripts like Gladiator, The Aviator, Rango, Hugo, and Skyfall. The script (drawn from three different ones and thus assigning screen story credits to Logan and veteran Daniel Pyne) is big. It comments on race issues, commercialism, and health risks of professional football. Though it most comes alive in game sequences, which are depicted with many layers of sound and perspective and set to short clips of hip hop, hard rock and at one point Bill Withers, the film also depicts parties, publicity, and the filming of a rap music video.

The players are foul-mouthed and big-headed. They are less a team than a collection of individuals motivated by stat-specific bonuses and endorsement opportunities. Stone presents this world as a circus, applying the same trippy style he developed five years earlier on Natural Born Killers (and to a lesser degree employed on 1991's JFK). It is heavily edited into the form of a fever dream. Some of it is simply juggling the different layers of the game, but at times Stone is reaching to add weight. Random slow-motion and cutaways to lightning strikes and scenes from Ben-Hur are a bit awkward, but Stone is clearly finding epic qualities in what is one of America's most popular (and savage) pastimes. Our first look at the Sharks' locker room resembles a war zone medical tent.

Dr. Ollie Powers (Matthew Modine) has his principles tested when linebacker Luther "Shark" Lavay (Lawrence Taylor) pleads for another cortisone shot. Charlton Heston appears twice in the film, once in clips from "Ben-Hur" and here in basically a glorified cameo as the commissioner of the AFFA.

The film boasts a huge cast of talented and recognizable actors. Minor roles are filled by such accomplished folk as Matthew Modine, Stone fixture John C. McGinley as an obnoxious sportscaster, a young Aaron Eckhart as an underutilized offensive coordinator, and Stone himself as a game commentator.
The billing doesn't perfectly correspond to screentime; James Woods takes fourth but is barely seen as a team doctor whose diagnoses are willfully manipulated by management. Charlton Heston crashes the billing block with little more than a cameo as the league commissioner (he's almost onscreen more from the cross-cut Ben-Hur clips).

Secured in the wake of the successful There's Something About Mary, Diaz's pre-title billing (second overall) seems a tad hasty. You might credit her with branching out, but this was before she had found her calling of dumb romantic comedies (she was seen in Being John Malkovich just a couple of months earlier).

There can be no disputing that Pacino, reuniting with his Scarface screenwriter, is the film's lead. Unsurprisingly, the actor is in the explosive mode that he has spent most of the past twenty-five years. He yells almost every line, though one isn't likely to rely on hushed tones on the sidelines. If you're going to have any actor yelling, why not have it be Pacino? He has the right age and temperament for the role. And he absolutely hits out of the park (or the football equivalent of that) with a big locker room speech, the rare one to resonate out of all the team sports movies that try.

Foxx gives a command performance too as the film's deuteragonist. Coming from television comedy ("In Living Color" and his self-titled WB sitcom), Foxx was then being relegated to such lowbrow big screen fare as Booty Call and The Players Club. His first real dramatic role is something of a star-making one. While he would stay on "The Jamie Foxx Show" through early 2001, his film career was taking off and his Oscar-winning turn in Ray (something that would have been tough to imagine without an Any Given Sunday under his belt) was just around the corner.

The film builds real suspense at its end, dragging out the final seconds of a playoff (but not championship) game.

Though Stone's director's cut runs six minutes and seven seconds shorter than the theatrical cut, the case claims that it has six minutes of content unseen in the theatrical edit, meaning that twelve minutes were deleted and six minutes of previous cuts reinserted. That is reflected in the different MPAA R-rating descriptions, which only mention drug content in the director's cut (players snort cocaine off of women's breasts). With the Blu-ray only holding the director's cut and the theatrical cut remaining exclusive to DVD, there is little question as to which edit of the film is preferred by both Stone and the studio that can't be gaining much by continually allowing him to re-edit his work.
 

Any Given Sunday: 15th Anniversary Director's Cut Blu-ray + Theatrical Cut DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, French Quebec, German, Italian, Spanish)
BD Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, German, Italian, Italian SDH, Castilian, Dutch, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) / DVD Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled in Most Languages
Release Date: September 9, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Director's Cut still available on Blu-ray ($14.97 SRP; January 27, 2009), DVD ($5.97 SRP; November 3, 2009), in Football Triple Feature Blu-ray ($24.98 SRP; November 26, 2013), 4 Film Favorites: Football DVD ($14.99 SRP; May 28, 2013), and Instant Video
Previously released in Oliver Stone Triple Feature Blu-ray (June 5, 2012), Oliver Stone Collection Blu-ray (October 26, 2010), 4 Film Favorites: Oliver Stone DVD (September 7, 2010), The Ultimate Oliver Stone Collection DVD (October 19, 2004), and as 2-Disc Special Edition DVD (August 7, 2001), Oliver Stone Collection DVD (January 16, 2001), and Special Edition DVD (September 1, 2000)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Any Given Sunday sports a very filmic look on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture regularly features light grain. Colors are vibrant, at times almost too vibrant. The element does contain a few more imperfections than you'd expect of such a relatively young major studio film. Occasional small white specks do not greatly diminish the viewing experience, but it is surprising to see them at all nowadays. At its worst, the transfer resembles standard definition. There's definitely some room for improvement that Warner hasn't sought to fill with this presentation seemingly recycled from the 2009 Blu-ray.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is better, consistently engaging with high impact game noises and crowd sounds. It's a very enveloping mix, especially for a '90s movie, with all channels being adequately employed to put you right in the middle of the action. If there is a sports film that does more with sound design than this, I haven't seen it. The volume levels fluctuate some, but that seems appropriate given the content. With its origins as a relatively early Blu-ray, the disc boasts a bounty of foreign dubs and subtitles.

Jerry Rice is the most accomplished of the numerous former NFL players interviewed for the new documentary "Any Given Sunday: Anything Can Happen." Dennis Quaid bores the small gathering of extras playing fans in the HBO First Look special "Full Contact."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray here is largely unaltered from the one released on its own in early 2009, right before Super Bowl XLIII.

The abundance of extras begin with two separate solo audio commentaries. The first comes from director/co-writer Oliver Stone. The second and less expected track is provided by Jamie Foxx.

The video extras, all standard definition unless otherwise noted, begin with the set's one exclusive addition. "Any Given Sunday: Anything Can Happen" is a brand new, 30-minute HD documentary. As a result of its interview pool, it deals more with the life of a professional football player than simply reflecting on the film. Stone, the only one interviewed from the movie, gives us some of the latter,
revealing how he drew from personal experience in some of the depictions and how the NFL actively discouraged anyone from associating with the production. The other interview subjects are NFL experts, former players (including Jerry Rice), and a coach. They comment on what the film got right, but speak more to their own careers, from the highs of winning to the lows of losing to the painful topic of retirement (a subject that brings one former player to tears). While a retrospective on the film with insights from other cast and crew would have been nice, this suitable piece still compliments the film nicely.

"Full Contact: The Making of Any Given Sunday" (27:07) is a standard, promotional HBO First Look program. Narrated by Ambrose Smith, it serves up a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and cast/crew comments, while celebrating Stone as a genius and admiring the push for realism.

Jamie Foxx demonstrates he can talk a good game and also throw a football in his self-made screen test submission. Playing Tony D'Amato's estranged son, Jim Caviezel winds up on the cutting room floor. Cameron Diaz has a laugh in the Any Given Gag Reel.

Three Jamie Foxx screen tests (6:40) helped him land the role. The first is a creative video of him throwing passes in a park wearing a Deion Sanders jersey and an autographed Cowboys helmet and coming up with a song for Willie Beamen. The shorter other two clips are standard auditions, one seated on his own and the other moving around Stone's office across from Lela Rochon.

Fourteen deleted and extended scenes run 32 minutes and 39 seconds. They include the pre-game ritual of Madman (Andrew Bryniarski), more of the games, multiple post-game press conferences, more of James Woods and Matthew Modine's team physician and trainer working and clashing, Taylor's character fingering a woman while in polite conversation at a lavish party, a strained meeting between Tony and his estranged son (played by an otherwise absent Jim Caviezel), Bill Bellamy's character begging for some pharmaceutical assistance, and some post-game closure of Tony meeting with Cap and Christina. These are supposed to be presented with optional Stone commentary, but I couldn't get them to play with it.

"Any Given Gag Reel" (4:11) shows us goofs including some apparent Pacino and James Woods ad libs.

Rainy football features in the Miscellaneous Landscapes and Outtakes reel. Four dozen believable mock-up posters are seen in The Art of Selling gallery under the heading "Design Explorations."

"Football Outtakes" (8:28) collects unused bits of footage from practices and games, not just on the gridiron but on the sidelines as well. These are tautly edited and scored, suggesting this was another unnecessary exercise in editing for Stone.

"Miscellaneous Landscapes and Outtakes" (3:26) raises another "Why?" This artful montage blends shots of games, cheerleaders, and skylines. If this is Stone's work, you get the sense he had a lot of free time at the time he put this together.

For some reason, a section called Instant Replay gives you the option to watch ten of the film's game scenes (15:42, HD) on their own. With the "Play All" option, this becomes something of a highlights reel.

The first of two still galleries, "The Art of Selling" showcases poster designs used and considered for promoting the film at home and abroad. Five posters and 48 believable "design explorations" are presented over 21 quickly-navigated HD pages.

Director Oliver Stone consults his playbook while Dennis Quaid, Al Pacino, and James Woods await instruction in this gallery still. LL Cool J gets down at a fifty-yard line bearing his name in his "Shut 'Em Down" music video.

The second gallery is actually a 16-minute, 16-second slideshow. It displays a lot of publicity-friendly film stills and scattered behind-the-scenes images to three plays of the end credits song "Any Given Sunday" and game/post-game sounds in between them.

Three music videos from the soundtrack (a facet important enough to crash the film's billing block) are presented. LL Cool J's "Shut 'Em Down" (3:38) sees the actor-rapper performing on an empty football field, at a bar, in a barbershop, driving through a tunnel, and surrounded by honeys on a club's dance floor. Clips from the film are interwoven through this video, which is bookended with ESPN's Stuart Scott briefly interviewing the former "In the House" star. In character as Willie Beamen, Jamie Foxx sings "My Name Is Willie" (1:42) by the pool surrounded by bikini-clad girls,
though film clips with sound frequently pre-empt him. Finally, an unseen Foxx performs the titular song "Any Given Sunday" (3:25) entirely over the footage used in the films' end credits, some of it featuring the cast and others of environments and former players.

Last but not least, Any Given Sunday's stylish, voiceover-driven theatrical trailer (2:26) is gladly preserved and in high definition.

The newly-authored DVD includes nothing but the theatrical cut of the film.

Barely updated from a relatively early Warner Blu-ray, the main disc here begins playback of the film right away and doesn't so much feature a traditional menu as a screen-sized list of bonus features (placed in front of a static Pacino shot) that pops up after the film is completed. The BD does not support bookmarks, but does resume unfinished playback of the film like a DVD, a most welcome feature on a film as this long as this. Per their current standards, the DVD features the simplest of menus, all of them static and silent.

The two discs take opposite sides of an insert-less, unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

In the second half of a big playoff game, Coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) puts his faith in Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Oliver Stone's long but substantial Any Given Sunday is better than expected. Though it lacks the NFL's trademarks and blessing, this 1999 drama nonetheless manages to offer the most compelling and realistic look at pro football on film to date. Well-told with style and well-acted by a huge, distinguished cast, this film holds up well fifteen years later.

If you already own the movie's initial Blu-ray, there is little reason to consider picking up this edition, which adds a new half-hour documentary that's more about footballers' lives than the movie plus the long-unavailable theatrical cut on DVD (which probably isn't going to get much play from Blu-ray households). The Blu-ray is once again loaded with extras (some of them good, others a bit pointless) but slightly lacking in picture quality. Overall, it's a fine set that's easy to recommend to fans of the movie who would like to own it in high definition, but with the way Stone is, it seems inevitable the film will be revisited again down the line, either on its own or with the director's other movies.

Buy Any Given Sunday from Amazon.com:
Director's Cut Blu-ray + Theatrical Cut DVD / Director's Cut only: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Directed by Oliver Stone: Platoon Nixon Wall Street | Written by Oliver Stone: Scarface Evita
Al Pacino: The Insider The Godfather Trilogy The Godfather Part III Dick Tracy
Cameron Diaz: Being John Malkovich The Counselor | Jamie Foxx: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Dennis Quaid: Soul Surfer The Parent Trap Smart People The Rookie | Jim Brown: He Got Game
John C. McGinley: 42 | James Woods: Hercules | Matthew Modine: Full Metal Jacket
Sports: Varsity Blues Draft Day Remember the Titans Invincible Moneyball Gus Million Dollar Baby
Written by John Logan: Hugo Rango Coriolanus Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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Reviewed September 10, 2014.



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