City Island

City Island (2009)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Andy Garcia, Julianna Marguiles, Emily Mortimer
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes

Dysfunctional families have been inviting themselves into homes for years. With the golden ticket of DVD and Blu-ray, The Tenenbaums, Hoods ('The Ice Storm'), and Grapes ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape') have given viewers a diverse look at how families can unravel. The Rizzos can now be added to that list. These "Clam Diggers" reside just outside the Bronx and all seem to come with a quick fuse and pocketful of lies. The head of the household is Vince (Andy Garcia), a correctional officer who unintentionally uncovers a dark secret from his past – his illegitimate son Tony (Steven Strait) who finishing a prison term for grand theft auto. Rather than going the honest route, Vince brings Tony home under the ruse that he will be assisting with a household project. Vince's wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) seems to have more than a passing interest in Tony and also feels neglected by her husband. Vince has been telling her that he plays poker, but he is actually attending acting classes and develops a plutonic bond with his classmate Molly (Emily Mortimer). With a son (Vince Jr., played by Ezra Miller) who has an odd fetish and a daughter (Vivian, played by Andy Garcia's real life daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido) who strips to pay for college; The Rizzos are full of secrets just waiting to be exposed.

While not as quirky as 'The Royal Tenenbaums' and not as dark as the Weiner family from 'Welcome To The Dollhouse', The Rizzos seem to find an interesting middle ground between the two. 'City Island' falls more in line with 'Little Miss Sunshine' in regards to tone and a title that says a lot about the family. As cities and families both consist of a community of people, islands are set apart and secluded. The Rizzos are less of a family and more of a group of individuals with very different aspirations. Each member of the family feels trapped in their own way and use lies as their primary form of life support. There is no doubt that The Rizzos are a broken family. Rather than face problems and foster open, honest communication they continually add to the problem. This seems to be the only thing they do in accord. As viewers, we have a bird's eye view at everything going on which may be the most understated message in the film. If we took the same approach with our personal frustrations by stepping back and looking at the picture as a whole, it may surprise how much progress can be made.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is certainly not dysfunctional. Anchor Bay presents 'City Island' with a clean 1.78:1 aspect ratio that has very few problems. For every scene with vibrant colors and great facial detail, we may come across an instance of minor grain or some lower quality nighttime shots. Flesh tones are a bit inconsistent, but black levels are typically deep. For a drama, most of these issues are minor. They may disrupt the movie a bit, but 'City Island' has enough going on to keep your attention.

Dramas rarely utilize all that an uncompressed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has to offer. They typically are dialogue heavy, utilizing rear speakers for music and ambient sound. Anchor Bay smartly focused on the front field, as dialogue levels are great and very audible throughout the film. The score does find its way throughout the channels, but there is very little ambient sound. Hearing background sounds while characters are outside certainly helps to immerse viewers in the film, but are not 100% necessary to enjoy this drama.

Anchor Bay is typically good in the extra features department and 'City Island' is no exception. With this release, it seems that quantity took a backseat to quality. The feature length commentary with Actor/Producer Andy Garcia and Writer/Director/Producer Raymond De Felitta is full of information. The two banter about the amount of time it took for 'City Island' to get legs under it and information about the real City Island. They even take time to poke fun and have a good time with one another during the commentary. Dinner With The Rizzos' (16:09) is a standard definition sit-down with the primary cast and Raymond De Felitta. I appreciate the way this glorified interview session is given a facelift. The family dinner setting fits like a glove and is a great addition to the disc. There are also eight standard definition deleted scenes (15:36) which are highlighted by some additional footage of The Rizzos around the breakfast table and more footage of Vince in acting class. Topping things off are high definition trailers for 'City Island', 'Solitary Man', 'After.Life', 'Sunshine Cleaning', and 'Beyond A Reasonable Doubt'. Anchor Bay has even included a second disc that has a digital copy of the film.

What is the last good film Andy Garcia was in? Some may say 'Ocean's Eleven', others may say 'The Air I Breathe'. After duds like 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' and 'Pink Panther 2', it is nice to see Mr. Garcia in a role that really hits his style. 'City Island' was a surprisingly good flick that hasn't made it to the radar of many film buffs. It won't blow you away, but it will earn your respect. The film is a must rent and possible purchase if you decide to be a Muscle Sucker and move to 'City Island'.