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City Island DVD Review

City Island movie poster City Island

Theatrical Release: March 19, 2010 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Writer/Director: Raymond De Felitta

Cast: Andy Garcia (Vince Rizzo), Julianna Margulies (Joyce Rizzo), Steven Strait (Tony Nardella), Emily Mortimer (Molly Charlesworth), Ezra Miller (Vince Rizzo Jr.), Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Vivian Rizzo), Carrie Baker Reynolds (Denise), Hope Glendon-Ross (Cheryl Pinoff), Alan Arkin (Michael Malakov), Louis Mustillo (Bruno), Jee Young Han (Casting Assistant), Sarah Saltzberg (Casting Director), Curtiss Cook (Matt Cruniff)

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The independent film City Island centers on the Rizzos, an Italian-American family hailing from that small fishing district of the Bronx. The four family members -- two parents and two adolescent children -- all smoke cigarettes, covertly. And that is the most harmless secret being harbored by the lot, who are also leading double lives while holding unspoken fears and dreams.

The patriarch, prison guard (that's "corrections officer" to you) Vince (Andy Garcia), keeps inventing reasons for sneaking out on certain nights of the week.
"Poker night" is, in fact, his old standby for the acting class he's stealthily taking in Manhattan. Of course, his wife, irritable secretary Joyce (Julianna Margulies), assumes he's spending time with another woman. Meanwhile, collegiate daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Garcia's daughter) is actually stripping while her higher education is on hold, and smartass slacker son Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is nourishing his fat fetish by becoming a member of his morbidly obese neighbor's homemade personal adult website.

Into this house of duplicity enters a fifth party: paroled young prisoner Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), who Vince takes in as a friend of Tony's late mother. He doesn't reveal how close a friend; Vince believes that he's actually the young man's father, having stepped out of that picture prior to Tony's birth and years before meeting Joyce.

Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) lays down some ground rules for his new houseguest, his illegitimate son Tony (Steven Strait). Joyce (Julianna Margulies) scoffs at Vince's suggestion for a big home-cooked dinner to celebrate daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) being home on spring break.

Like so many independent movies, City Island is equal parts comedy and drama. It is as effective on both fronts. Though it regularly entertains with the awkwardness that's born out of tricky, compoundable lies, it never treats the material as mere funny bone fodder. There is a severity and sadness to the rampant undisclosure. With this being a low-budget human film, you realize there is dangerous tragedy potential to the situation, not to mention two formidable incest possibilities.

The sixth writing and sixth directing credit of Raymond De Felitta (five of those overlap), City Island clearly strikes the viewer as a movie shaped by personal experience. It is little surprise that De Felitta is from New York City or that his filmmaking debut was called Bronx Cheers (that 1990 short, his student thesis at the American Film Institute, received an Academy Award nomination). City Island is De Felitta's largest film to date, but its $6 million budget hardly pushes the director out of his comfort zone of intimacy.

Having grown up less than fifteen miles from the titular neighborhood, which I know from its seafood restaurants, I can vouch for the film's authenticity, which no viewer should have reason to question. City Island captures the look, the loudness, and the language (at least the PG-13 version) of many a working class family from the outskirts of metropolitan New York. The casting is mostly spot-on, especially in the Rizzo kids, and the performances add to the flavor with minimal fakery. (Mr. Garcia's accent seems to waver everywhere and, though believable, Margulies' airs always feel put-on.)

Acting class partner and confidante Molly Charlesworth (Emily Mortimer) harbors a head-scratcher of a secret throughout the film. Teenaged smartass Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) proudly presents Tony's mug shots to his sister.

The film comes remarkably close to getting things just right, but it hits enough false notes comedically and dramatically to keep it at enjoyability rather than excellence. For instance, a climactic catharsis aiming for a wallop of poignancy falls a bit short, with some of its emotions narrowly landing outside a human strike zone. Other aspects -- Vincent getting noticed at a block-circling open casting call, the secret being wrestled by his platonic acting class partner (Emily Mortimer) -- also don't connect quite as well as intended, the former partly because an essential Martin Scorsese cameo opportunity goes unrealized.

Still, City Island does enough right not to mind the few things it does wrong. It's very funny in places and also very comforting in its depictions of familial dysfunction. And despite the specificity of its setting, it boasts an accessible spirit, a trait that has pushed it towards a box office performance above nearly all of its 2010 limited release kin.

Buy City Island on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc with Digital Copy ($34.98 SRP)


Six million dollars must have been ample technically, because City Island looks and sounds great on DVD. The film is nicely shot with plenty of bright coastal photography. You won't find anything close to a shortcoming in this sharp, lush, spotless, vibrant 1.78:1 transfer. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack also serves the movie well, distributing sampled music (full list) and atmosphere tactfully.

From left to right, Julianna Margulies, writer/director Raymond De Felitta, Andy Garcia, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, and Steven Strait dine and reflect in "Dinner with the Rizzos." Pause-loathing acting professor Michael Malakov (Alan Arkin) calls Vince for an extended version of his monologue. The trailer for "City Island" sells the film with the textual version of a "not" joke.


Extras begin with the Set Up menu's audio commentary by writer/producer/director Raymond De Felitta and producer/actor Andy Garcia. That the movie isn't a typical Hollywood production lends itself to an initially more interesting conversation, touching on topics like Garcia's second unit directing, his daughter's casting, and filming in City Island. Like most tracks, though, this one dries up. Even then some worthwhile nuggets emerge, like Garcia's impression of Alan Arkin's laugh, a defense of Scorsese's absence, and a backstory developed for Emily Mortimer's character.

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The first half-hour or so provides most of what the track has to offer, but the whole commentary remains a little better than average.

"Dinner with the Rizzos" (16:08) gathers director Raymond De Felitta and four cast members (Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, and Dominik Garcνa-Lorido) around a table with real food (the same conditions where the shoot started). In between bites, they discuss their experience, from the titular location and characters' motivations to filming demands and aiming for a PG-13 rating. A refreshing and appropriate alternative to the standard making-of featurette, it adds real value to the disc.

A larger than usual supply of Deleted Scenes (15:35) is offered. Among these eight cut moments are a "Roseanne"-type dining room table rotation, glimpses of the acting classmates' confessional monologues, and Vince calling in sick to work. Nothing is major or truly missed in the final film, but they're fun to see nonetheless.

Finally, we get City Island's fine if revealing theatrical trailer (2:29).

"Also on DVD" holds the auto-played Solitary Man trailer plus previews for Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema, After.Life, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and Sunshine Cleaning.

The routine main menu plays a 25-second loop of antics

Things come to a head for Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia) in this emotional climax scene. A frustrated Joyce (Julianna Margulies) and Tony (Steven Strait) leave the red car in which they went "shopping."


It's always nice to find a movie that values human emotion and relationships above all else, even if it's typically up to you to find such a movie. City Island is a little contrived and cute, but it is also funny and flavorful enough to forgive its few follies. This feel-good dramedy deserves a look and Anchor Bay's DVD can't be faulted for its first-rate feature presentation and utterly satisfying collection of extras.

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Everybody's Fine • Adventureland • Juno • Smart People • Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete First Season

The Cast of City Island:
Andy Garcia: New York, I Love You • The Godfather, Part III • Ocean's Thirteen • Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Julianna Margulies: Dinosaur • Scrubs: Season 4 | Emily Mortimer: Dear Frankie • Howl's Moving Castle
Alan Arkin: Marley & Me • Get Smart • The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause • The Rocketeer
Steven Strait: Sky High • Stop-Loss

City Island Songs List (in order of use): Charles Wright & Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band - "One Lie Leads to Another", John Lusitana - "Lethargy", John Lusitana - "Weathering", Vic Thrill - "Living in the Love Life After", Heidi Shink & Caitlin Stansbury - "Yeah Boy", Heidi Shink & Caitlin Stansbury - "Lord Emperor Justice", The Staples Singers - "Heavy Makes You Happy", Raymond De Felitta - "Wooster Swing", Philharmonia Cassovia - "Carmen Habanera", Raymond De Felitta - "Bossa di Lorenzo", Tony Bennett - "One Lie Leads to Another", The Ramsey Lewis Trio - "Carmen Habanera", The Staples Singers - "Be What You Are"

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Reviewed August 24, 2010.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Anchor Bay Films, CineSon Productions, Medici Entertainment, Lucky Money Pictures, Gremi Film Production, Filmsmith,
and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.