Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Ray

Reviewed by: Glen Bucher and Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles
Kerry Washington as Della Bea Robinson
Regina King as Margie Hendricks
Clifton Powell as Jeff Brown
Harry J. Lennix as Joe Adams
Bokeem Woodbine as Fathead Newman
Aunjanue Ellis as Mary Ann Fisher
Sharon Warren as Aretha Robinson
C.J. Sanders as Young Ray Robinson
Curtis Armstrong as Ahmet Ertegun
Richard Schiff as Jerry Wexler
Larenz Tate as Quincy Jones
Terrence Dashon Howard as Gossie McKee
David Krumholtz as Milt Shaw
Wendell Pierce as Wilbur Brassfield

Special Features:
Original theatrical version and extended version of film with 14 deleted scenes not shown in theaters

Walking in his Shoes Featurette

Ray Remembered Featurette

Theatrical Trailer

2 additional complete and uncut musical performances

Feature Commentary with Director Taylor Hackford

Other Info:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 153 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

"Jamie Foxx (Collateral) stars as the one-of-a-kind innovator of soul who overcame impossible odds to become a music legend. Ray is the triumphant and remarkable story of one of America's true musical geniuses, Ray Charles. From his humble beginnings in the South through his meteoric rise to the top of American music charts, Rays inspirational journey is a tale of hope, redemption and the power of the human spirit. "Ray is Electrifying" hails Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. Witness the incredible true story of a musician who fought harder and went further than anyone could imagine."

Ray is rated PG-13 for depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements.

The Movie:
Jamie Foxx had a great year in 2004. Starring opposite Tom Cruise in Collateral, the first movie of his to gross over $100 million, and then to follow it up with arguably the best performance of the year in Ray. When Jamie Foxx is on screen, you do not see Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, you see Ray Charles. The transformation is made complete by the way Jamie Foxx was able to emulate not only the look but also the mannerisms, diction, and style of Ray Charles.

Fortunately, Foxx's acting is not wasted on the rest of the movie. Ray Charles had a very interesting life and had to overcome many hardships that translate well to film. Ray's life touched many people and the resulting large cast of supporting actors all give good performances.

As with Ray's life, the movie is filled with music. The majority of the singing done in the movie is archival recordings of Ray Charles. Jamie Foxx does sing however, and it is impossible to tell where. The soundtrack is an impressive list of Ray Charles' hits that flow seamlessly through the narrative of his life.

If there is any complaint about the movie, it is that even with a two and a half hour running time, the film seems to rush at the end. There are few movies of that length that you wish are even longer, but it felt as if Ray could have used a few extra minutes to flesh the later years.

Who should see this movie? Anyone that loves to see a great performance by an actor should see Jamie Foxx's total transformation into Ray Charles. Jamie can play the piano and it gave the director (Taylor Hackford) a greater degree of freedom with camera angles and scene lengths that leads to a more realistic overall feel. Fans of Ray's music will enjoy to see the story behind some of the songs. There is a love story, more than one, but it is not a fairy tale one. The action is limited to a truncated fist fight, so if all you are looking for is explosions you need to be someplace else. Ray's life, while full, was often not very funny, so people looking for a quick laugh also need to seek it elsewhere. If you are looking to see a character study of a real life musical legend, then you would be hard pressed to find a better one.

The Extras:
The bonus features on this DVD are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand you have 25 minutes of extra footage. On the other hand the featurettes are extremely brief and leave you wanting more. If you want additional bonus features, then you're going to have to buy the Limited Edition 2 Disc set which additionally includes 9 complete and uncut musical performances, the "Soul Mates" featurette, "A Filmmakers Journey", "Academy Special", "The Women of Ray", "The Filmakers' Journey", and "Ray: An American Story". Despite feeling slightly shortchanged with this particular edition, the features that are included are still worth checking out:

Extended Version of the Film You have the option of watching the movie in its original theatrical version or with 14 deleted scenes integrated in. Most of them are towards the beginning of the film and early in Ray's life. One features him having a sing along with some soldiers in the back of a bus. There are also extra flashbacks to his past. A fair number of the scenes are extended musical numbers that are well worth watching. In short, this is 25 minutes of extra footage that is not to be missed. The scenes expand on Ray's life and also feature more of the excellent music that is a highlight of the film. The one drawback is that the movie does a big jump when it transitions to these scenes and at least one of them features something more like a series of alternate takes that rip you out of the movie. You also have the option of watching the deleted scenes completely separately on the second disc.

Walking in his Shoes Featurette This featurette details how Jamie Foxx prepared for the role. They show footage of him auditioning with the real Ray Charles. They show him basically having his eyes glued shut for the part. There are also comments from Ray Charles Robinson, Jr. and Quincy Jones about how convincing Foxx's performance is. Unfortunately, this is a very brief feature that runs around 5 minutes.

Ray Remembered Featurette This 3 minute feature contains comments from Reba McEntire, Al Green, Quincy Jones, and the cast and crew of the film singing praises about Ray Charles. There are also a few text quotes from Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Tony Bennett about Charles. It's a bit brief, but it's still a nice tribute.

Feature Commentary with Director Taylor Hackford This is a really interesting and informative commentary. Hackford lets you know more about Ray's life, how they fictionalized parts of the story for the movie, and more. He comments on the deleted scenes, his own experiences working with Ray Charles, and things about Jamie Foxx's performance. Overall it's a really great commentary. Take note that it doesn't work on the Extended Edition.

The Bottom Line:
Ray is a great film featuring an interesting story, fantastic music, and a strong performance by Jamie Foxx. It is well worth checking out and one of the highlights of 2004.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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