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NEW ON DVD: ‘Allied’ is a swanky, old-fashioned thriller; and more

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WRITTEN BY AMY LONGSDORF 
For Digital First Media

Who says they don’t make ‘em like they used to?
“Allied” (2016, Paramount, R, $30), the latest from Robert Zemeckis (“Flight”), is a swanky, old-fashioned thriller about a World War II-era intelligence agent (Brad Pitt) who learns that his French spy wife (Marion Cotillard) might, in fact, be a Nazi operative. He has only 72 hours to prove her innocence and save his family.
As the central pair, Pitt and Cotillard deliver nuanced turns while never surrendering their movie-star glamour. Yes, there are vague similarities to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” but the earlier film was glib where “Allied” is rich in feeling and suspense. Extras: featurettes.
Also New To DVD
Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Fox, PG-13, $30): For his first project as a writer/director in nearly 20 years, Warren Beatty turns to the saga of Howard Hughes who, in the late 1950s, was beginning to descend into full-blown mental illness. Hughes’ story would be fascinating in and of itself but Beatty blends in a complicated romance between a church-going starlet (Lily Collins) and one of Hughes’ assistants (Alden Ehrenreich.) “Rules Don’t Apply” is clunky at times, with too many characters vying for your attention. But it’s also a touching, ambitious movie that wrestles with lots of big themes while attempting to capture the sparkling beauty of Hollywood in the 1950s. Extras: none.
***
Sophie And The Rising Sun (2016, Monterey, unrated, $26): Set in a small South Carolina town in the early 1940s, this stirring drama begins when a town matriarch (Margo Martindale) decides to open her doors to a wounded Japanese man (Takashi Yamaguchi.) Love eventually blossoms between the stranger and an impoverished artist (Julianne Nicholson) but what makes “Sophie” so special is that it’s as much about the friendship between Martindale, Nicholson and a third character played by Lorraine Toussaint as it is about romance. Director Maggie Greenwald (“Songcatcher”) tackles an array of topics – intolerance, racism and religious fanaticism – while allowing her actors plenty of room to create fascinating characters, especially Martindale who steals every scene she’s in. Extras: none.
***
Frank and Lola (2016, Universal, R, $28): Michael Shannon is a wildly talented actor but he seems lost playing an everyman chef obsessed with a fledgling fashion designer (Imogen Poots). After a one-night stand in Las Vegas, the pair fall in love, after which he quickly becomes consumed with jealousy. Is she cheating on him with her boss (Justin Long)? And what is the true nature of her relationship with her mother’s (Rosanna Arquette) ex-boyfriend (Michael Nyqvist)? Shannon and Poots have zero chemistry. Worse yet, Shannon exudes a sinister vibe even when he’s supposed to be acting all lovey-dovey. “Frank and Lola” is never boring but it’s never believable either. Extras: none.
***
The Before Trilogy (1995-2013, Criterion, R, $99): Packaged together for the first time are Richard Linklater’s three films about the romance between Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke). The twentysomethings meet as strangers and hang out all night long, bantering away as they stroll around Vienna in “Before Sunrise,” reconnect nine years later in Paris for “Before Sunset;” and are finally glimpsed as a married couple vacationing in Greece for “Before Midnight.” A bruisingly honest look at falling — and staying — in love, the three films are beautifully acted by Delpy and Hawke who nail every nuance of a relationship rife with complications. Extras: commentaries, radio programs and featurettes.
***
Johnny Guitar: Olive Signature Edition (1954, Olive, unrated, $25): One of the strangest westerns of all time, Nicholas Ray’s psychological oater is part Red Scare allegory, part ill-fated romance between the title gunslinger (Sterling Hayden) and a saloon owner named Vienna (Joan Crawford), and part revenge thriller in which the women are much tougher than men. There’s a lot going at Vienna’s watering hole but the heart of the movie is the rivalry between Vienna and a sexually repressed cattle baron named Emma (Mercedes McCambridge). It’s their battle which dominates the action and sheds a light on the passions – some of which are mighty twisted – of two very different women. Extras: featurettes.
***
It’s Always Fair Weather (1955, Warner Archive, unrated, $20): The same team behind “On The Town” and “Singin’ In The Rain” pulls off another winner with this breezy, new-to-Blu delight. Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey star as World War II buddies whose ten-year reunion turns out to be a fizzle, at least until they spend a day apart tangling with romance, gangsters and the TV business. The tunes, with a few exceptions, are weak but the actors make up for the lapse with stunning dance numbers, including a blissfully lovely Kelly tap treat on roller-skates and Cyd Charisse’s routine featuring a gym full of boxers. In the end, this picture is a real knockout. Extras: cartoons, featurettes and deleted scenes.
***
Garden Of Evil (1954, Twilight Time, unrated, $30): While director Henry Hathaway beautifully captures the ruggedness of Big Sky country in this new-to-Blu-ray western, the film feels like a missed opportunity. Susan Hayward stars as a woman who hires prospectors (Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark) to escort her home through Apache country. A mine where her husband is trapped is said to be haunted but not much is made of that. The anti-greed theme also feels strangely tacked-on. Still, “Garden of Evil” redeems itself with a fascinating finale that features a riveting shoot-out on a cliff’s edge between the desperate posse and a number of Native-Americans. Extras: featurettes and commentaries.
***
Quarry: The Complete First Season (2016, HBO, unrated, $25): If you’re a fan of ‘70s thrillers like “Walking Tall” and “Rolling Thunder,” dip your toes into this tale of a former championship swimmer named Mac Conway (Logan Marshall Green) who returns home from Vietnam in 1972 a troubled man. Struggling to come to terms with things he did during combat, Mac is pulled into a network of killing and corruption by the mysterious Broker (Peter Mullan). Based on a series of books by Max Allan Collins (“Road to Perdition”), this Cinemax series delivers a master class in moral rot. Extras: featurettes, commentaries, music videos and deleted scenes.
***
Fuller House: The Complete First Season (2016, Warner, unrated, $25): Get ready for a flood of nostalgia as DJ (Candace Cameron Bure), her younger sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and bestie (Andrea Barber) all wind up back home, under the same roof, in hopes of raising their kids together. It seems like old times as a laugh track punctuates the action and every episode doles out its share of life lessons. The second season is already streaming on Netflix and a third season is in the works. Extras: featurettes.

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