HTF REVIEW: "City by the Sea" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 3, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    City By The Sea

    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Year: 2002
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 108 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: English and Spanish

    When you're searching for a killer...
    the last suspect you want to see is your son.

    For the past few years I have really felt bad
    for Robert DeNiro. Considered one of the greatest
    actors of our time, the man has been spreading
    himself a little too thin lately by taking on films
    that really don't fare well for his image. Either
    he's forcing a cry in Analyze This/That or
    getting involved in an Eddie Murphy flop like
    Showtime, the actor seems to be making some
    rash judgements lately about his film projects.

    I was a little excited about seeing DeNiro in
    City By The Sea. The actor has finally
    returned to a role that has meat to it. The film
    also features Frances McDormand (Fargo), who I just
    absolutely adore. Together, their top-notch
    performances are the only thing that holds this
    mixed-bag of a film together.


    Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro) is a New York City
    cop who left his young son and wife when his marriage
    went bad. Now, years later, we find his boy, Joey
    Nova (James Franco) a strung-out junkie scratching
    around the crumbling Long Island boardwalk trying to
    score some drugs. During a drug deal that goes bad,
    Joey ends up killing a dealer from whom a pal was
    trying to steal dope. When Joey is identified as
    the main suspect, LeMarca has to face not only his
    son but also his entire past, his distraught ex-wife
    and his new girlfriend, Michelle (Frances McDormand).


    LeMarca doesn't have a lot of time to help his son.
    A dangerous biker kingpin named Spyder (William Forsyth)
    is hunting down Vincent's son for killing the dope
    dealer and allegedly stealing $4,000 in the process.
    With time running out as other police and Spyder close
    in on Tony, Vincent does what he can to find, protect
    and reestablish contact with his long-lost son.

    It may interest you that City By The Sea is
    based on a true story that appeared in a 1997
    issue of Esquire Magazine. You would think
    such a story would make a terrific screen thriller.
    Unfortunately, the film suffers from sloppy
    direction and slow pacing to the point where it
    becomes as dreary as its run-down surroundings.
    It also bothered me greatly that this film was
    supposed to take place out on Long Island, but was
    obviously filmed in Asbury Park (which is a mere 10
    minutes from my home). Anyone that notices the old
    Casino and picture of "Tillie" on a passing building
    is going to start crying "foul."

    How is the transfer?

    As you would expect from most any "A" title release
    from Warner Bros., the transfer is first-rate.
    Images have a very smooth, sharp and detailed
    appearance with excellent overall color saturation
    and solid black levels. There is not a speck of
    background grain or noise. Night scenes (and there
    are many here) remain well detailed.


    The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is very active here
    with a good amount of LFE activity that underlines
    the film's energetic score that jumps back and forth
    across the two front channels. The rears do a
    superb job of supporting the film's ambient effects
    that include Manhattan city life, various weather
    elements and the sounds of a wave-pounding beach front.
    Generally an excellent soundtrack that provides the
    viewer with an enveloping experience.

    Special Features


    First up is a feature-length commentary by
    writer Ken Nixon and Producer Matthew Baer. Matthew
    talks about the original Esquire story that
    the film is based upon and some of the changes that
    were made to DeNiro's character. Nixon talks about
    first meeting with Michael Canton-Jones and being
    pleased with the fact that the director wanted to
    to bring a certain amount of honesty to his characters.
    Since this film features shots of the World Trade
    Center, you can imagine that there was discussion
    about having the shots removed. In the end, however,
    everyone felt strongly about letting them stay.
    Since I grew up around Asbury Park as a child, I
    was particularly interested in hearing Nixon and Baer
    talk about the once-thriving town and why the
    director used this locale to portray Long Beach.
    It seems that the location was perfect for the fact
    that it was empty, serving more like a studio back lot.
    The nice thing about having a writer and producer
    do a commentary is that it adds a very different
    angle to the discussion. Instead of hearing about
    different camera shots and lighting techniques, we
    actually learn more about the characters and intent
    of the filmmakers. It's a rather nice low-key
    commentary to listen to.

    Six words about filmaking with Michael Canton-Jones
    is just a terrific "unordinary" type of featurette in
    that it never becomes flashy nor promotional. It's
    just a single shot of the director talking about
    what it takes to put together a film like City By
    The Sea
    . We begin with the director talking
    about wanting to bring a universal message of emotion
    to his films. He also admits being terrified about
    working with someone like Robert DeNiro, but was
    very pleased that he was very easy to work with.
    Michael then takes us through his process of
    shooting and editing a film, comparing it to a piece
    of sculpture that you wittle away at hoping you
    come out with a masterpiece. This is quite a pleasant
    featurette to watch as it really gives you a personal
    look at what filmmaking is all about from the eyes
    of the director. Do watch this!
    (length: approx. 8 minutes)

    In addition to a cast and crew page, you
    get the film's original theatrical trailer.

    Final Thoughts


    It's so nice to see DeNiro back in a role that
    best suits his abilities. Unfortunately, those
    looking for a fast-paced thriller are going to be
    somewhat disappointed in City By The Sea. If
    you are looking for something more character-driven,
    then don't hesitate to pick this up for a view.

    Release Date: February 18, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

    Feb 4, 2002
    Likes Received:

    What a fabulous screenshot choice this is! Great shot!

    It's hard to believe the actual on-screen image is better
    than this screen-capture (based on Ron's disclaimer ...
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality.
  3. Robert_eb

    Robert_eb Supporting Actor

    Sep 14, 2001
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    I missed this during it's theatrical run but I'm definitely going to give this a rent.
  4. rhett

    rhett Supporting Actor

    May 11, 2001
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    I agree 100% with Ron's review of the film. The pacing lags, but the performances are top-notch. I thought mention should also be given to James Franco on the excellent performance as De Niro's son. Considering how many comedies De Niro has done of late, it is nice that he has shown with City by the Sea that he's still got it!
  5. Dean Kousoulas

    Dean Kousoulas Second Unit

    Jul 15, 2002
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    I loved this film at the theater and will be there on the 18th to buy mine.

    Thanks for the review,
  6. Ron Kaye

    Ron Kaye Agent

    Nov 21, 2002
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    Why couldnt they just say that its Asbury Park in the film.

    I know that its based on a true story, but liberties are always taken in converting material to film.

    Yes, I 'adore' Frances Mcdormand as well.

    Gosh, I hate the word 'adore'. [​IMG]

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