4 stars

City Island Blu-ray Review


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Produced and starring Andy Garcia, City Island is another entry in a long list of films about dysfunctional families.  Call it America’s contribution to the fairly static genre.  Written and directed by jazz pianist Raymond De Felitta, the film builds its dark comedy from the amount of secrets one family keeps from each other and the mistrust that hilariously breeds as a result.

Unable to speak six words of truth in a sentence, Vince Rizzo (Garcia) finds himself at odds with his own family.  He desperately wants to be an actor, but has zero support at home: his wife (Julianna Margulies) only wants the passion back in their marriage, his daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) does more stripping than studying, and his teenage son (Ezra Miller), simply wants to be left alone to feed tasty donuts to fat women all day.  Yeah, so the set-up is a little hard to swallow, the “trendy” dysfunction that is, not the donuts.

Much like Little Miss Sunshine before it, City Island delivers a lot of family awkwardness with its tough-as-nails script.  Still, the family situation of lies and deceit gets worse.  Rizzo’s long-lost illegitimate son, Tony (Steven Strait), enters the dynamic to bring forth -- wait for it -- the much-needed therapy the family needs as each and every secret gets uncovered.

While the film’s situation feels a tad too forced at times, Garcia’s acting throughout De Felitta’s movie is reason enough to watch.  Certainly, I haven’t seen this much energy from Garcia since, well, let’s just say it’s been a long, long, long time; like, Godfather III long, long time.  In spite of the years, Garcia pulls off a perfectly captured genuine mood of disenchantment with his family and a believable revived vigor in his acting class – chewing the scenery alongside a highly enjoyable Alan Arkin and the always engaging Emily Mortimer.

But let’s be fair, all of the actors – especially Margulies as her character starts to stare longingly at shirtless Tony (whom she has no idea is her stepson) - are working with some interesting (and, ironically enough, very, very honest) material -- even if the plot does slip through the cracks in a couple of spots -- and they deliver some memorable scenes of dysfunction against the interesting backdrop of a little-known fishing village in the Bronx.

Highly relatable due to its family issues, City Island delivers an engaging comedy that falls a little in tone with a predictable conclusion that seems to defy its own intelligence.  You know it is coming, but hope there’s more to it.  There isn’t.  Satisfying?  Yes.  Predictable as hell?  Maybe too much so.  Still, this is an amiable film that will appeal to the emotional adult in all of us.  It’s a genuinely funny movie that resonates more with its audience because it, in spite of its serious subject matter, isn’t a downer.

Component Grades
4 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 24, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
: English SDH, Spanish
English: LPCM 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc)

City Island boasts a 1080p transfer in a VC-1 code.  For such a quiet film, this transfer supplies nice detail to the reality of the picture.  This is a low budget film, so to expect the moon from its transfer is a bit unrealistic.  It has some grainy specks, some white blips, and the black tones aren’t as deep as they could be.  The Blu-ray supports a pretty active dialogue soundtrack flawlessly rendered through a Dolby 5.1 PCM audio presentation.  While it won’t be as immersive as a surround sound experience can be, the audio is serviceable, filling most of its track through the center channel.



  • Writer/ director De Felitta and its star Garcia provide fans of the feature a full-length commentary that is natural and easy-going.  Both are loose and relaxed as they talk about the making of the film and what it took to get the film off the ground.


  • Dinner with the Rizzos (16 min):  Part of the cast, alongside with De Felitta, have dinner together and talk about the movie, their characters, and a few memories about its filming.

Deleted Scenes (15 min.)

  • Eight deleted scenes are included; most of them are pretty worthless, too.

The trailer is also included.