Universal follows up their Blu-Ray release of A Beautiful Mind with yet another one of their great titles, Ray. Taylor Hackford’s 2004 biopic on the famed musician Ray Charles is one of my favorite films. Awarded with two Academy Awards, including a Best Actor statue for Jamie Foxx, the film is one that desperately needed a Blu-Ray release. Being a film that would benefit greatly from a nice high-def transfer, fans had high hopes that this one would deliver. Does it? Read on to find out.
Throughout the film, we are taken through a large chunk of Ray Charles Robinson’s life. From his early childhood where he witnessed the tragic death of his brother and started to go blind, to becoming a Grammy winning artist. As the film progresses, it takes us through a ride know as the life of Mr. Ray Charles. We join him as he goes through the humble beginnings of his career and we watch as he rises to stardom. Along the way there are relationships, marriages, affairs, births, drugs, addiction, scandals etc. Nothing is held back and Ray is portrayed in both positive and negative lights.
What always ends up coming up when the film is discussed is the performance of Mr. Jamie Foxx, in the lead role as Ray Charles. It’s a career defining performance and a true tour de force. Foxx literally transforms into Ray and does wonders with the role. He disappears into the character and gets completely lost. The acting here is mesmerizing. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in the past decade and he truly deserved every award he won. It was his breakout role and I’m still amazed that to this day, he hasn’t had a role that’s even come close to what he did here.
Hackford does a great job directing also, as he takes us through the highs and lows of Ray’s life. Sure, the obvious biopic cliches rear their ugly heads every so often but Hackford’s direction ensures that it never becomes an issue. James L. White provides the writing here and despite the average screenplay, the cast, mixed with Hackford’s direction and legendary editor Paul Hirsch’s editing, bring the film to life wonderfully. The only real weakness here is with the ending. It’s very abrupt and unfitting. With a 2 and a half hour runtime I realize things couldn’t have gone on for much longer but the ending is really out of place and feels so rushed.
Brushing aside the unsatisfactory ending and biopic cliches that plague the film, Ray is a solid film on all fronts. Jamie Foxx’s performance alone is worth the price of admission (or in this case, the Blu-Ray), and some great music throughout makes this one a memorable viewing. Hackford does a commendable job and I think Ray Charles fans everywhere will be pleased with this film.
On Blu-Ray, the film looks and sounds fantastic. The striking picture offers rich colours and satisfying black levels. Textures are great and the picture is crisp and sharp. Close ups exhibit great detail and film grain never becomes an issue. As for the audio, it’s tremendous. Every song in the film punches through your speakers as they fill the room with fantastic sound. Everything sounds superb. From the dialogue to the crowds and of course the effects, it all comes through wonderfully. It’s an engaging soundtrack and one that provides some great musical moments.
Special features include:
- Audio Commentary
- Picture-in-Picture Scene Companion
- The Music of Ray
- Uncut Music Performances
- Ray: An American Story
- Stepping Into the Part
- The Women of Ray
- The Filmmakers’ Journey
- Ray Remembered
- Deleted Scenes
- Director’s Introduction
- A Look Inside Ray
- BD-Live Functionality and News Ticker
- My Scenes Bookmarking
Pretty much everything here is straight from the DVD, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. We do get two new features though, and those are The Music Of Ray and the Picture-In-Picture Scene Comparison. The Music Of Ray feature displays textual based information on the various songs that play throughout. It also has some nifty iTunes integration built into it. The PIP Scene Comparison is a picture in picture track that provides some nice footage throughout. The rest of the special features are mediocre featurettes that were from the DVD. Nothing really stands out but they’re still worth shifting through if you enjoyed the film.
In conclusion, Ray is a great film and the Blu-Ray complements the film quite nicely. It looks and sounds great and it can finally be watched the way it should. I highly recommend the film as I’m sure that both fans and non-fans will find something to enjoy here. The film itself boasts one of the strongest performances of the past decade and it looks great on Blu-Ray. The special features are ample, yet mediocre, but they still offer some nice insight. Go out and pick this one up, you won’t regret it!
Ray is an all around solid biopic that features an absolutely remarkable performance from Jamie Foxx.