Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday" isn't perfect, but the majority of it is successful and entertaining enough so that I'd consider it the director's best recent effort. The film does a stunning job at getting right into the middle of the football games, depicting every move, every plan and every bone-crushing smack as players hit one another. When it leaves the field though, it begins to feel a little bit lengthy now and then.
The story revolves around an aging coach named Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino, whose performance manages to hold the whole nearly three hour thing together) and his similarly aging quarterback (Dennis Quaid - nice performance, but not much of a character) fighting against the new school - mainly one Christina Pagniacci(Cameron Diaz, in a fun, nasty, sassy performance) who now owns the team and a quarterback who suddenly finds himself in the spotlight and enjoying fame a little too much, Willie Beaman(Jamie Foxx).
There's many little sub-plots that are strung together throughout the film, such as a side story about the sleazy team doctor(James Woods, always excellent) and an annoying reporter, but there's no denying that Pacino holds all of these strings together. An angry Pacino is an entertaining Pacino and he's presented with the perfect role here, yelling at the team, giving dramatic speeches, facing Diaz's team owner and doing it all with intensity.
I liked the fact that the film tries to balance off-the-field actions with the decisions that have to be made on-the-field, but there are some things that seem like a little much. Some of the relationship elements feel a bit excessive, but when these events say something about football and the nature of celebrity, they're interesting and entertaining. Stone also has quite the group of actors to make for an involving bunch. Diaz turns in one of her best and most intense performances as Christina, and Jamie Foxx provides a good dramatic performance that differs from his comic work. Pacino is well...Pacino. He's perfect to play a football coach and here, he takes the role and runs with it.
The film contains many great scenes and a solid, smart script. A little bit more editing could have made this a tighter film, though. The football scenes are perfect; off-the-field, the film is sometimes hit-and-miss. On the whole though, "Any Given Sunday" is a solid picture.
The DVD includes about 6 minutes of scenes not in theaters in this "director's cut". The inside of the case has a chapter listing that highlights chapters where extra footage appears.
VIDEO: How much can you say about perfection, other than it's simply stunning? Warner Brothers has done their best work ever for "Any Given Sunday" and the result is possibly one of the best looking transfers I've ever seen out of all of the titles I've reviewed.
The film's sharpness is absolutely nothing short of perfect, adding a remarkable smoothness and glossy look to the image. Detail is phenomenal as well, and clarity is definitely never lacking. Colors are nothing short of unbelivable, and pop off the screen in almost every single scene. A wide variety of colors are on display, deep reds; clear blues; every color is very well-saturated, but never showing any flaws or problems whatsoever.
Flaws? There aren't any. Not even a trace of pixelation, no flaws on the print used and absolutely no instances of shimmering or anything else, for that matter. The picture is consistent throughout, and flaws never creep up. Black level is very strong and flesh tones are accurate without fail. Cinematography by Salvatore Totino is really remarkable, considering this is his first major film.
Warner Brothers has always provided good image quality, but seriously, this is an improvement even over their most highly regarded works. Heck, I'm not sure if this film even looked this good when I saw it in the theater. Perfect; just totally perfect. That's all there is to say here, other than that this is excellent work.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is an absolute assult, and I found it to be one when I saw it in the theater as well. The audio is extremely engaging and uses sound to its fullest potential.
The music is extremely powerful and dynamic; all of the rock and rap songs are marvelously punchy and deep, coming from all speakers. The football sequences also sound amazing; crowd noise can distinctly be heard from the surrounds, creating the illusion of being in the stands. On the field, the sound is equally impressive - the tackles are powerful enough to practically be felt and the action envelops the viewer from all sides.
Surrounds get agressive and intense use here, both with effects and action as well as the music. If you've never seen the film before in the theater, expect a very active and powerful soundtrack that will wake the neighbors. Last, but not least, dialogue is clear and easily understood. This is a pounding soundtrack that really takes advantage of sound to put the viewer right in the middle of the action.
MENUS:: Very nicely animated main menu, with film-themed images and music in the background.
Theatrical Trailer: Letterboxed at 2.35:1, the theatrical trailer is presented in Dolby 2.0
Music Video: The music video for LL Cool J's "Shut Em Down".
Full Contact: The Making Of Any Given Sunday: This is a 20 minute HBO "making-of" special, and I enjoyed this more than I usually enjoy these "HBO" specials. It's quite informative and I also enjoyed the behind-the-scenes shots of the production at work. I'd wondered how cameras were able to get so close to the action, and how that was achieved is shown here in a couple of shots.
There are quite a few interviews as well, and I found them to be informative. Everyone from the actors to the director to even the football consultant is covered here, and their comments illustrate not only characters and story, but what had to be done during filming to make the story and scenes accurate as possible.
This documentary serves to be informative rather than purely promotional, and I liked it quite a bit. We learn a lot about "Any Given Sunday", Stone and football in general. Well-produced and lasting about 20 minutes or so, it's recommended viewing.
Also: Cast/Crew bios and DVD-Rom material, including sampler trailers, theatrical website and more.
Final Thoughts: "Any Given Sunday" is a good movie, and it gets a truly outstanding presentation here, with both first-rate audio and especially image quality. Recommended.
The Film B
Video 100/A+ = (400/400 possible points)
Audio: 97/A = (388/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: B
DVD GRADE: A