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GeoReview: Ray
By Clayton Ruley

Ray Charles is a music legend and probably the second blind person I ever saw (Stevie Wonder was the first).   He is an icon because he did more with his disability than some do with everything working.   He died in 2004 and the loss was felt every time most thought of songs like "Georgia On My Mind" and his memorable rendition of "America The Beautiful". Fortunately his impact on the lives of many was being made into a movie before he was dead (unlike most people who don't get any credit till they past) and Ray hit the theatres in mid 2004 with Jamie Foxx (of Collateral , Any Given Sunday fame) getting the role.  

Foxx, most would say a comedic actor by nature jumped into this role that let him also use his singing skills (Remember the chorus he sung on Kanye West's "Slow Jamz" with Twista?) to his best advantage. The film produced by Taylor Hackford ( La Bamba, Proof Of Life, The Devils Advocate ) and received rave reviews for the individual acting and the movie itself. Many people believe Jamie Foxx can win only the second lead Grammy award for a black actor (Denzel Washington was first for Training Day ).


The story starts in Georgia with Ray as a boy living with his mother and younger brother and takes you up to he returns to Georgia to accept an award from the state. Remember that ray grew up in the Deep South where you could shake a body off a tree faster than you could shake a white southerners' hand. Ray Charles throughout his life face three tremendous odds (black, blind, man) and made music history crossing genres from blues, country, gospel and pop all with the help of his trusty piano.  


The movie shows his rise to stardom but also the falls and the situations like his addiction to heroin, his adultery and his relationships with his mother, brother, wife, kids and all the people he met on the road.


The cast features names like Kerry Washington ( She Hate Me ), Regina King ( Jerry Maguire ), Terrence Howard ( Big Mamma's House ), Curtis Armstrong ( Revenge Of The Nerds ), Harry Lennix ( The Five Heartbeats ), Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") Clifton Powell (Menace II Society), Bokeem Woodbine ( Dead Presidents ) and Larenz Tate ( Love Jones ) and they all play significant roles.  


In particular Powell and Washington's roles throughout the movie were stellar and showed the ups and downs of Ray Charles Robinson's speeding life. This is Foxx best performance by far and it does merit an Oscar nomination. His mannerisms and language make him seem to envelope the role.   There comes a point where you do think of him as Ray and not Jamie, something rare when talking about biographies.


The DVD comes with an extended version containing 25 minutes of footage not shown in theatres, 14 deleted scenes, complete uncut performances from the movie, "Ray Remembered", a remembrance piece done with the help of friends and fellow musicians, feature commentary by Hackford and "Walking In His Shoes" a look at Foxx's transformation into Ray Charles including a jam session between Foxx and Charles himself.


Overall this movie was very good doing an exceptional job of using music as a good bridge between scenes.   The acting was very good and the scenes where detailed. You could watch this film and get something new out of it the second and third times around.  


I'll give the DVD 4.5 globes.


Suggestions, comments, questions feel free to drop me a line at One!


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