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THE HOWLING (1981). The best of the three werewolf pictures released in the same year -- the others were An American Werewolf In London and Wolfen -- this is one of those rare horror flicks that manages to integrate some humor into the proceedings without detracting from the terror elements. For that, we can thank director Joe Dante and scripter John Sayles, who both tweak the genre while still maintaining an obvious reverence; Dee Wallace, who delivers an excellent performance as a TV news reporter who unwittingly takes a vacation at a resort populated by a werewolf colony; and makeup artist Rob Bottin, responsible for the astonishing transformation scenes. This was followed by five schlock sequels, none of which had anything to do with this class act. The Special Edition DVD is loaded with enjoyable extras, including a 54-minute retrospective documentary, deleted scenes and outtakes, and a poster gallery. Movie: 1/2 / Extras: 1/2

MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983). This ambitious outing from the Python troupe is strictly a hot-and-cold affair, nowhere near as consistently funny as Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Life of Brian. The unifying theme of the title takes us from birth to the afterlife, with random sketches involving organ donors, an unorthodox sex education class, and (with a nod to Ingmar Bergman) Death himself. The bravura sequence involving the incredibly obese man in the restaurant is now legendary, but the other skits range from smile-inducing to downright tepid. Features on the two-disc DVD include audio commentary by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, deleted scenes, a Python "virtual reunion," and a funny trailer of John Cleese's version of the film. Movie: 1/2 / Extras:

ROGER & ME (1989) / BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002). A double helping of Michael Moore, as Warner releases the debut documentary that took the world by storm while MGM sets loose the movie that ended up surpassing it as the all-time top grossing nonfiction film. Roger & Me finds the schlumpy Everyman trying to land an interview with General Motors chairman Roger Smith on the heels of a massive layoff in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, while Bowling For Columbine isn't (as many assumed) a one-note rant against guns but rather a thoughtful study of this nation's love of violence and the arrogant mindsets that foster this climate. The effects of both films are similar: We laugh at Moore's pitbull approach and the cluelessness of the right-wing corporate climate yet ultimately feel deeply saddened by the hopelessness of it all. The Roger DVD includes only an audio commentary by Moore and the trailer, and there's no reason it couldn't have also featured the 1992 follow-up short Pets Or Meat: The Return to Flint. The two-disc Bowling DVD, on the other hand, contains an array of terrific material, including an exclusive interview with Moore in which he discusses Oscar night, a discussion between Moore and former Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, a film festival scrapbook, a segment from Moore's The Awful Truth II TV series, and much more. Both movies: 1/2 / Roger extras: / Bowling extras:
-- Matt Brunson

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