Video Verdict: New DVDs for Aug. 5

It’s a slow week for videos, as only a handful of major titles hit stores. The good news is that the most noteworthy entries are well made, well acted and well worth watching. 

Nim’s Island
3 stars
Rated PG for mild adventure action and brief language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

To properly enjoy “Nim’s Island,” one must suspend disbelief, but that’s not hard, particularly for a family adventure so utterly charming.

Abigail Breslin stars as Nim, a young girl living on a remote South Pacific island with her oceanographer father, Jack (Gerard Butler). Because Jack wants to keep their island home a secret, they live a primitive life, reading, playing and working out of their Robison Crusoe-style home. Their lives are not, however, devoid of technology. Thanks to a couple solar panels and the wonders of satellites, they do have a computer and e-mail.

That’s a good thing because Nim finds herself in need of help when Jack gets caught in a storm and stranded at sea. Worried about her father and unsure what to do, Nim sends a message to Alex Rover, the rugged, star of her favorite adventure novels.

Alas, Alex turns out to be the pen name for Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster), an agoraphobic San Francisco novelist who has a hard time going outside to pick up her mail, let alone rescuing stranded children. Nevertheless, her concern for Nim — and the subconscious urging of the fictional hero she created — takes her on a wild adventure that will change everyone’s lives.

“Nim’s Island” is based on a book by Wendy Orr, and the husband-and-wife directing team of Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin have done a fine job adapting it to the screen. They cut back and forth between the struggles of Nim, Jack and Alexandra, allowing viewers to invest in each character and overlook the movie’s more outlandish moments.

A lot of ridiculous things do take place. For instance, it’s hard to believe that anyone — let alone a scientist — would leave a pre-teen girl to fend for herself on a deserted island for even a short time. Also, Alexandra makes unbelievable strides in overcoming her agoraphobia in a matter of days … with no treatment. These things are hard to swallow, but folks who make the effort will be rewarded with a fanciful adventure tale that’s far more enjoyable and well-acted than the average family film.

The DVD is available in widescreen and full screen versions. Extra features include two commentary tracks, deleted scenes and several short features on the making of the film.

 
The Counterfeiters
3 1/2 stars
Rated R for some strong violence, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Sony Picture Classics
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray

The 2007 Academy Award winner for best foreign language film, this wonderful drama takes a fictionalized look at Operation Bernhard, a German plan to destabilize Britain during World War II. The idea was to flood England with perfectly forged bank notes, throwing the nation’s economy into ruin.

At the center of the action is Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) a Jewish hustler capable of forging any document. When he is placed in a concentration camp, he and other printers are given the opportunity to live more comfortable lives if they agree to forge money for the Nazis. The catch, of course, is that he will be helping fund the German war effort, thus abetting the widespread extermination of his people.

Markovics turns in a powerful performance, and writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzky paints a startling portrait of the dilemma that some Jewish prisoners actually found themselves in. Were they to do as they were told and live or sabotage the counterfeiting operation and die?

Although the story is fictionalized, Ruzowitzky spends a great deal of time with his characters, letting viewers come to know and care about them. The result is a movie that sheds light on an underreported World War II operation, while delivering a fine drama that would be compelling even if it weren’t based on a true story.

“The Counterfeiters” won the foreign language Oscar for Austria, and it is presented in German with English subtitles. Extra features include deleted scenes, a making-of feature, interviews with the real-life counterfeiter who inspired the film, and a commentary by Ruzowitzky.

 
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

Starship Troopers 3 — Marauder: Direct-to-DVD sequel to the first two “Starship Troopers” films. This time, Col. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) must lead an elite group of soldiers on a rescue mission into hostile territory.

Get Smart — Season One: If comedian Steve Carell’s theatrical update of the “Get Smart” franchise made you nostalgic, this is the boxed set you’ve been looking for. Don Adams stars as secret agent Maxwell Smart circa 1965.

Pete Seeger — The Power of Song: Documentary film looking at the life of popular and controversial folk musician Pete Seeger.

Garfield’s FunFest: Direct-to-DVD animated feature in which Garfield the cat competes in a talent show in hopes of being named the funniest comic strip in Cartoon World.

Camp Out: Documentary film that follows Midwestern youth attending a Bible camp for gay Christians. These youngsters find themselves at the heart of a political and religious battle, and the film dares to ask, “Can you be gay and Christian?”

Star Trek the Original Series — The Complete Second Season: The classic television series is presented with remastered sound and visuals as well as a host of new special effects. The improved effects make the show consistent with later “Star Trek” entries, like “The Next Generation,” but purists may be bothered. After all, part of the fun of watching a 1960s science fiction effort is seeing how far we’ve come.

Lonesome Dove: Digitally remastered version of the classic television miniseries about two former Texas rangers who embark on a dangerous cattle drive. Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Angelica Huston, Diane Lane and Danny Glover star. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Jimmy Dore — Citizen Jimmy: DVD featuring comedian Jimmy Dore’s one-hour Comedy Central special focused on our government.

The Executioner’s Song: Director’s cut of the 1982 television miniseries about convicted murderer Gary Gilmore (Tommy Lee Jones) who demanded that his death sentence be carried out. Rosanna Arquette and Christine Lahti also star.

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