PictureSince Ray is distributed as Universal, and has done well award wise, it is surprising to note that it is an independent movie. Now, this isn't a bad thing, quite often the opposite. But there are some sections to Ray that seem to be of a lesser quality. Apparently certain scenes, to save money, used previously shot footage of the times. All fine and well, but the change in quality is noticeable and jarring. In other scenes colour is overly saturated in order to exaggerate the few years of sight Ray Charles had. This works well and offers good contrast well with the dulled colours of other timeframes. Generally, Ray does have a softer, less detailed picture than most, something that doesn't help the darker, more murky scenes in the movie.
SoundA fundamental part of Ray Charles as a person is his music. Therefore, sound is of more importance than usual. I am sorry to say that as far as audio is concerned Ray is unremarkable. I cannot really point to a single section of the movie when I thought “Yeah! That's it, that's the sound I want to hear,” Musical passages do have good content, but are delivered in a slightly muted, flat manner. There was no snap, no pace, and no dynamism. If there was ever a soundtrack that needs a full bitrate DTS track to elevate the undoubtedly very good soundtrack from mediocrity it is Ray.
ExtrasDeleted Scenes are as usual something of a waste, offering little to the movie. After all, scenes are deleted for a reason... Extended Musical Performances are presented in Dolby 5.1, fleshing out certain scenes of the movie. This would be a boon if it weren't for a rather flat overall balance. Still, the content is enjoyable, the skill going into making the various tracks an order of magnitude more than the risible Fame Academy et al. Walking In His Shoes examines the Jamie Foxx performance and how he studies Ray Charles in both his mannerisms and music. It is good to see Jamie Fox elect the kind of ecstatic reaction he does, from Ray Charles, after Foxx nails a particularly difficult piano set piece. In fact, the director admits that he didn't have any idea Jamie Foxx could play the piano; it was just plain co-incidence. I also didn't realise that Jamie Foxx was effectively blind during the filming of Ray, something that must have caused some considerable discomfort.
is as dry as sticks and just about impenetrable. There is certainly a lot of information, there, and the director is evidently enthusiastic about the project. Its just the whole presentation is a one speed continuous barrage of the same voice. The best commentaries, like Re-Animator, The thing or Hellboy are all groups of people, or people that get along really well. They can play off each other and the discussions quite often add more to the movie as a result. As soon as you have just one person, like Ray, in a commentary, the whole thing deflates, loosing atmosphere and audience retention.
One word of caution. There is an extended version of the movie on this disc, using seamless branching. This option didn't work for me and at least one other person (Panasonic 85 recorder and Marantz 4300)
VerdictThe movie does have its fair share of high points, but to me Ray runs along in neutral, never hitting the higher gears. Again, I don't deny the effect Ray Charles has had with his music, but this movie lacks a certain spark, a vitality that, ironically enough, was ever present in Charles' music.
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