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Deliver Us From Evil, Music and Lyrics, Pan's Labyrinth

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2006). A film with the power to affect even the most jaded of moviegoers, this Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary centers on Oliver O'Grady, a priest who over the course of three decades sexually molested countless children throughout the state of California. In a perfect world, a bullet would have been put in his brain a long time ago; instead, he served seven years in prison and is now leading a peaceful life in Ireland. This is where director Amy Berg (a former CNN journalist) caught up with him, and one of the strengths of the picture is the complete access she had in being able to interview her subject at length. Yet Berg also moves past the pedophile priest and indicts the other, equally culpable villains of the story: the Catholic Church superiors who knew of O'Grady's crimes yet did nothing to stop his rampage. For all of Berg's research, the most powerful sequences are the unscripted ones, the moments when O'Grady's now-grown victims and their families express their rage at the Catholic hierarchy that repeatedly placed the institution's image over the welfare of the children. As we witness how people's lives have been shattered by men who profess to work for the glory of God, we come to realize that even eternal damnation isn't punishment enough for some people. DVD extras include audio commentary by Berg and producer-editor Matthew Cooke, deleted scenes, and discussions of "Bible vs. Church." (For a chance to win a DVD of Deliver Us From Evil, go to the Creative Loafing blog site at http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/theclog/.)

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***

MUSIC AND LYRICS (2007). Assembly line romantic comedies often rise or fall based on the stars at their center, and Music and Lyrics is lucky to have both Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant (as opposed to, say, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey) offering their services to the soggy premise. The perpetually perky (but rarely tiresome) Barrymore is a constant beam of sunshine in practically all her film appearances (God forbid she ever gets cast as Joan of Arc), while Grant is more entertaining playing charming rakes (About a Boy) rather than out-and-out rotters (American Dreamz). Here, they're both allowed to cater to their strengths, and even if they never quite click as a romantic couple, their individual personalities make up enormous stretches of terrain. Grant stars as Alex Fletcher, a former 80s pop star (for a band called PoP!) who's commissioned by current music diva Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) to write a new hit song for her. Alex's forte is in the melody, not the lyrics, so he ends up asking quirky Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), the woman who waters his plants, to help him on that end. Writer-director Marc Lawrence doesn't deviate much from the expected template (boy and girl meet cute, love cute, break up ugly and reconcile cute), but he includes a surprisingly generous number of laugh-out-loud lines, something I never expected from the guy who penned (among other chuckle-free affairs) Miss Congeniality and Two Weeks Notice. DVD extras include 11 minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, a making-of featurette, and the music video for "PoP! Goes My Heart."

Movie: **1/2

Extras: **1/2

PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006). Like Deliver Us From Evil, this was one of the 10 best films of 2006. But let's make this clear from the start: Pan's Labyrinth is not one for the kiddies. Even with that inviting title, even with fairy tale trappings full of faunas and faux-Tinkerbells, even with memories of the family-friendly Jim Henson-David Bowie concoction Labyrinth, Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro's R-rated adventure is packed with disturbing images, political subtext and gory interludes. In short, when was the last time a fantasy flick brought to mind Schindler's List? It's as if del Toro had uncovered the darker aspects of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland adventures and found a home for them in his own fractured fairy tale. Set in 1944 Spain, the story centers on young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who along with her pregnant mother (Aridna Gil) has journeyed to a remote outpost to join her mom's new husband, a brutal Fascist officer (Sergi Lopez) in Franco's army who's assigned to wipe out the resistance fighters in his midst. Steering clear of her stepdad, Ofelia stumbles upon a magical world lorded over by a faun (Doug Jones). But this fantasy realm isn't a peaceful retreat from the horrors of the everyday world; rather, it's a manifestation of the fears and pains that define one's daily existence. Full of wondrous and disturbing images (The Pale Man is one of the great monsters in recent cinema), this is a rich viewing experience that demands additional viewings. Nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Foreign-Language Film), this box office hit earned three, for Cinematography, Art Direction and Makeup. Extras in the two-disc Platinum Series DVD (a single-disc edition is also available, sans most extras) include audio commentary by del Toro, four making-of featurettes totaling one hour, a look at del Toro's original notes and sketches, and an episode of The Charlie Rose Show featuring a roundtable discussion with Mexican directors del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel).

Movie: ***1/2

Extras: ***1/2

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