DVD guide: A world away

Reviews of two new releases rife with magical realism: Pan's Labyrinth and The Fountain.

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Pan's Labyrinth (R)

This dark, poignant fantasy – not for children or squeamish adults – follows a young girl's descent into a surreal world in which she encounters fairies, horrid creatures, and one very demanding faun on the way to reclaiming her role as underworld princess. The cause for her escapism is graphically laid out: Guillermo del Toro's film, set in fascist Spain, includes at least two scenes of stark and brutal violence. In the end, though, there is strength and serenity in the choices the girl makes and in the adults who draw closest to her. Full disc of extras includes storyboards, notebooks, and sketches that highlight the film's Oscar-winning makeup and cinematography. Spanish, subtitled. Grade: B+

The Fountain (PG-13)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky's ambitious sci-fi romance drew radically mixed reviews. But viewers who allow themselves to buy into the looping, concurrent plot lines – which jump through time and space – will find this provocative film worthwhile. Be prepared for some trippy visual passages that recall early Peter Gabriel music videos (think "Digging In the Dirt," but with string instruments). Hugh Jackman is compelling whether as questing Spanish conquistador or bug-eyed medical researcher – and whether he's driven to save Spain or his ailing wife (artfully played by Rachel Weisz). Primary extra, on the same disc: a well-built "making of" that delves into locations and the creative process, and demands watching. Grade: B-

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