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The best new movies streaming on Netflix and other services this week revolve around road trips and robots

Jeffrey M. Anderson | June 16, 2015
We gravitate toward lighter entertainment in summer, movies that complement the easygoing feeling that overtakes on these warmer and longer days. But don't make the mistake of equating lightness with emptiness.

As usual McDonagh's dialogue is a high point, but there's also a genuine affection for the characters. The top-notch cast also includes Abbie Cornish, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Pitt, and Michael Stuhlbarg.

We Own the Night (Crackle)

The American filmmaker James Gray has a strong nostalgia for gritty dramas from the 1970s, yet he usually has trouble getting American viewers interested in his works (his biggest fans are in Europe). Truthfully, his movies have a certain reverence, like looking through museum glass. Nonetheless, We Own the Night (2007) is an intelligent, mature, and emotionally involving rendition of a traditional story.

It's 1988, and two brothers fall on opposite sides of their family. Cop Joseph (Mark Wahlberg) is the responsible one, working with his father (Robert Duvall), while misfit Bobby (Joaquin Phoenix) works in a nightclub, hobnobbing with thugs and gangsters. When the owner's nephew approaches Bobby with an offer to use the club for drug trafficking, he must decide whether to take the easy money, or honor his family. The movie's design is incredibly vivid, with a few truly breathtaking action/chase sequences to shake things up. Eva Mendes co-stars as Bobby's girlfriend.

Chappie (Vudu)

Chappie (2015) is a happy departure from South African director Neill Blomkamp's previous films. His District 9 and Elysium were relentlessly grim, heavy-handed parables, whereas Chappie is funnier, more colorful, and more hopeful, with a stronger sense of empathy. In the film, inventor Deon (Dev Patel) has come up with an artificial intelligence; he steals a broken-down police robot to test it out, but the robot ends up in the hands of a pair of outlaws: Ninja and Yolandi Visser of the South African hip-hop group Die Antwoord, more or less playing themselves.

The pair "raise" Chappie to become a wise-cracking, street-smart goofball (played, in a terrific motion-capture performance, by Sharlto Copley). Sigourney Weaver plays a greedy CEO and Hugh Jackman plays an evil rival inventor who wants his own robots used on the police force. The movie has its share of missteps (notably the Jackman character), and sci-fi nuts far prefer the earlier films, but Chappie's good cheer and wonderfully bizarre touches make it very much worth a look.

You, the Living (Fandor)

Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson has been around since the 1960s, but it was only on his recent films Songs from the Second Floor (2000) and You, the Living (2007) that he found his true calling. Creating blocky, grayish, chilling, deep-space visuals not unlike Terry Gilliam's, he employs a dry comedic style not unlike Jacques Tati's, or Jerry Lewis's The Bellboy, yet all his own.

You, the Living has no real plot, and there are very few cuts within a scene, and even fewer camera movements. But it conjures up bizarre laughs with its deadpan antics, and portraits of ordinary people trying to live their meaningless lives. A hilariously ill-fitting ragtime score and a thunderstorm underline the existential goofiness. (Andersson's new movie, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, is opening in art house theaters this summer.)

 

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