New on Blu-ray
“Downsizing” (Paramount DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.99; 4K, $39.99; also available on VOD)
A major departure for the “Sideways”/“Election” team of director Alexander Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor, the science-fiction comedy “Downsizing” was a flop theatrically, but deserves to find a larger audience — no pun intended. Matt Damon stars as Paul, an ordinary middle American, living in a near-future where scientists have figured out how to miniaturize people, to reduce environmental damage and mitigate scarcity. After undergoing the shrinkage, Paul finds his tiny utopia less than ideal, until he meets a Vietnamese dissident (played by Hong Chau), who guides him toward humanitarian work. Unpredictable and ungainly, “Downsizing” takes chances that don’t always pay off. But it’s thoughtful and heartfelt, with an unique perspective on how to respond to world-threatening crises.
[Special features: A wide-ranging set of featurettes]
“I Kill Giants” (available 3/23)
Based on writer Joe Kelly and artist J. M. Ken Niimura’s beloved graphic novel, “I Kill Giants” stars Madison Wolfe as Barbara, a troubled adolescent who shrugs off the bullies at her school and the pressures of her broken home in order to focus on something more important: protecting her hometown from enormous monsters. Director Anders Walter plays up the comic’s fantasy elements, keeping viewers guessing as to whether Barbara’s really fighting beasties or if she’s just keeping a tough life at bay with the help of a vivid imagination. The film can be a little juvenile at times, but it’s always lovely to look at, and the bond the heroine develops with a new girl in town gives a quirky story a deeper emotional pull.
TV set of the week
“Baal” (Criterion DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)
In 1970, two of the titans of the New German Cinema collaborated on a TV movie that tapped into their country’s rich artistic history. Writer-director Volker Schlöndorff cast his colleague Rainer Werner Fassbinder in an updated adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s 1918 play “Baal,” about an angry poet on a drunken, debauched binge. Mixing a docu-realistic visual style with Fassbinder’s seething performance and Brecht’s over-the-top theatricality, Schlöndorff connected the grittiness of his nation’s then-nascent New Wave to the avant-garde daring of the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic.
[Special features: New and old interviews with the cast, crew, and cultural scholars]
From the archives
“John Alton Film Noir Collection” (Classicflix DVD, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99)
Home video companies have put together DVDs and Blu-rays recognizing a single director, actor or even character, but the “John Alton Film Noir Collection” is the rare set that salutes a cinematographer. In the late 1940s, Alton became closely identified with noir, thanks to a string of strikingly lit black-and-white crime films that used deep shadows and extreme angles to create the impression of a dark, damaged world. Three of the best — all directed or co-directed by Anthony Mann — appear on this single-disc collection. “T-Men” (about government agents busting counterfeiters), “Raw Deal” (about a thug betrayed by his colleagues) and “He Walked by Night” (about L.A. cops trying to track down a mysterious mastermind) are all punchy B-movies, which established a visual template still in use by genre filmmakers today.
[Special features: None]
Three more to see
“Daughter of the Nile” (Cohen DVD, $25.99; Blu-ray, $30.99); “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony DVD, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99; 4K, $45.99; also available on VOD); “Pitch Perfect 3” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD)