CATEGORIES DVDs
There's dueling Guy Ritchie Blu-ray releases this week, timed for holiday sales just prior to the big-screen release of Ritchie's 'Sherlock Holmes': 'Snatch' and 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.' And the folks at The Criterion Collection are offering two completely opposite releases: The wild Rolling Stones/Altamont documentary 'Gimme Shelter' and the French melodrama 'A Christmas Tale.' So roll out the Yule log early for some good DVD entertainment. 'Snatch' and 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'
Why the Re-Releases? With director Guy Ritchie's 'Sherlock Holmes,' starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams opening Christmas day, Sony and Universal have seen fit to re-release to Blu-ray two of Ritchie's comedy-crime-thrillers: 'Snatch' (2000) and 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' (1998). 'Snatch' (Sony), starring Dennis Farina, Jason Flemyng, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt and Jason Statham, chronicles a diamond heist gone haywire that launches gangsters, bookies, and a dog on a rollicking ride through the rugged world of bare-knuckle boxing in search of the missing stone; 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' (Universal), starring Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Benicio Del Toro and Jason Statham, follows the misadventures of a streetwise charmer who loses big in the biggest card game of his life and has a week to come up with the money before a host of gangsters come after him.

New Special Features: 'Lock, Stock' duplicates the standard DVD edition; 'Snatch' adds a couple Blu-ray specific features ("Play With movieIQ and ?The Snatch Cutting Room") to its lineup of commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Are They Worth Upgrading? If you're a Ritchie fan and already own standard DVD versions of these films you may want to think twice about popping for the Blu-ray editions despite improved sound and image. If you're new to Ritchie's game, add these to your collection.


'A Christmas Tale'
What's the Deal? This 2008 French film stars Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric and Melvil Poupaud in a beguiling holiday melodrama that has a troubled family coming together at Christmas after their matriarch (Deneuve) learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. The simple family reunion setup, however, can't begin to describe the unpredictable experience of this film, an inventive, magical drama that deals with unrequited childhood loves and blinding grudges, brutal outbursts and sudden slapstick, music, movies, and poetry, all tied together in a marvelously messy package.

Noteworthy Special Features: A documentary and booklet on the making of the film.

Is It Collection Worthy? Any film starring that ageless beauty Deneuve is welcome in our collection. The fact that it's a Criterion Collection edition -- with superb sound and image -- only adds to its appeal.


'Gimme Shelter'
Why the Re-Release? This 1970 film -- called by some the greatest rock film ever made -- is a landmark documentary that follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour that culminated in a free concert at Northern California's Altamont Speedway, where the Love Generation collided with the Hells Angels, resulting in uncharacteristic brutality and murder. On hand were cinema verite pioneers David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, who immortalized on film the bloody clash that transformed a decade's dreams into disillusionment.

New Special Features: Commentary featuring directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin and collaborator Stanley Goldstein; performances by the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in 1969, including 'Little Queenie,' 'Oh Carol' and 'Prodigal Son,' plus backstage outtakes; Altamont stills gallery; a booklet with essays on Altamont.

Is It Worth Upgrading? Originally released in 2000 by The Criterion Collection, this riveting documentary has been ripe for reissue on Blu-ray Disc, which Criterion does here with great results. If you're at all interested in the history of rock, pop culture or the 1960s, this is a no-brainer for your collection.