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Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

A 'Ray' That Sings

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2005;

"Ray" (Rated PG-13; List price: $29.98)
Release date: Feb. 1

Last week it received six Academy Award nominations. This week it lands on DVD.

Jamie Foxx makes "Ray" a must-see. (Nicola Goode - Universal Studios)

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"Ray," in contention for both Best Picture and Best Director, comes to home video less than a month before the Oscars, making it particularly easy for Academy members to give it their consideration. Not that anyone's forgotten about the acclaimed Ray Charles biopic. Jamie Foxx, who stars as the legendary musician, remains the favorite to take the statuette for Best Actor, a prize he already won at last month's Golden Globes. Foxx also stands in the spotlight on this DVD, which includes bonus features that explore the actor's approach to the role that may very well define his career.

In addition to "Stepping Into the Part," a documentary about how Foxx became Ray Charles, the two-sided disc includes 14 deleted and extended scenes, two extended musical scenes, a tribute to Charles entitled "Ray Remembered," the behind-the-scenes featurette "A Look Inside 'Ray'" and a commentary track by director Taylor Hackford. With few exceptions, it's all worthwhile, so much that one wishes there were additional features to watch.

Those hungering for more can find it on the two-disc special edition, also released today (list price: $44.99). That version contains all of the same extras, plus additional featurettes and more uncut musical performances. But for those primarily interested in seeing the film before Oscar time, the more basic edition will suffice. With its slate of respectable extras, this DVD should leave most with an enhanced appreciation of both Charles and Foxx, two men that, thanks to this compelling film, will be associated with one another for a long, long time.

Most Impressive Bonus Point: On any other DVD, a feature devoted to praising an actor's performance would induce fits of nausea. Here, it seems absolutely appropriate. In "Stepping Into the Part," viewers are treated to footage of Foxx and Charles playing the piano together, as well as more insight into how Foxx prepared for the role. (In addition to wearing prosthetics over his eyes, he based his vocal pattern on old interviews with Charles, including one from "The Dinah Shore Show.") At one point, longtime Charles friend Quincy Jones notes, "Sometimes I couldn't tell the difference between Ray and Jamie." He's not the only one.

Pointless Bonus Point: "A Look Inside 'Ray'" is barely worth a look. The three-minute doc repeats footage from "Stepping Into the Part" and does more to market the film than enlighten its fans.

Surprisingly Compelling Bonus Point: Hackford's commentary track is worth a listen. The director has so much to say -- including which stories and characters were real and which were invented for dramatic purposes -- that there's scarcely a moment of silence.

Also on DVD This Week: "Vanity Fair" and a special edition of Oscar winner "Chariots of Fire."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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