5 shows to stream this week: An unsettling documentary, a cheerful cartoon, more

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Online streaming is bigger than ever, and with so many streaming services adding new shows and movies every week, it can be nearly impossible to sort through the good and the bad. If you need something to watch and don’t want to wade through the digital muck that washes up on the internet’s shores, follow our picks below for the best new shows and movies worth a watch.

Beware the Slenderman

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True crime stories are always disturbing, but few are as shocking — for many different reasons — as this account of the stabbing of a young girl in Wisconsin in 2014. The case was disturbing not only due to the age of the victim, but also the identities of the perpetrators, who were also young girls, and even friends of the victim. Adding another layer of horror, they claimed to be acting at the behest of a figure called “Slender Man,” a figure of urban legend born on internet message boards whose popularity spread through viral videos and video games.

In most true crime stories, the identity of the perpetrator is the driving question. Beware the Slenderman has a different mystery, as it explores the truly bizarre motivations of the attackers. How did a fictional character — who originated as part of a photo-editing challenge on the Something Awful forums — inspire children to commit a nearly fatal attack? The documentary cobbles together interviews with the people near the attack, along with discussions on the power of memetics and the internet in affecting a person’s psychology. The result is an unsettling account of a singular crime.

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What Mel Gibson’s historical epic lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in passion. This is a war movie that dives into the guts of battle, rolling about in the muck and blood. Broadly based on historical events, the film follows William Wallace (Gibson), a Scottish lord who leads an uprising against King Edward I after English soldiers murder his wife. The film begins with Wallace’s childhood, when he sees his father and brother murdered, and traces his life up through marriage, his military career, and eventual execution. It is a straightforward plot, leaving plenty of space for lengthy battle scenes.

And what gruesome battles they are! Gibson does not shy away from the brutality of hand-to-hand combat. Weapons and bodies alike are splattered with blood and soil, the camera never flinching. The filth is not merely visual — blades slice through flesh with a moist hiss. Braveheart is not an evenhanded movie, nor an educational one — in this account, the English are ruthless tyrants, the Scots cheeky yet noble rebels, and Wallace embodies pretty much every cliché of badass action heroes. Despite all this, Braveheart is still a riveting epic, with relentless action scenes and iconic costume design.


The Nice Guys

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Like many a great noir tale, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys has a labyrinthine plot and a cynical outlook on life. Like Black’s greatest works — Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — it also stars a pair of talented actors as mismatched sleuths forced to work together. The Nice Guys centers on two men, private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired thug Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe). After a case involving a missing girl brings the two men into contact, they team up to try and find her. The case takes them all over Los Angeles, and sets them at odds with a number of powerful people.

The Nice Guys’ complex, morally gray storyline is sure to appeal to fans of hard-boiled detective movies. What sets it apart is the relationship between the two leads. Each could easily be the sole protagonist, but forced to work together, they achieve a brilliant and often hilarious synergy. Black’s script is as sharp as anything he’s done in the past, and as a director, he wrings a lot of humor out of visual gags as well. Fast-paced and quick-witted, The Nice Guys is an excellent entry into the annals of noir.


Voltron: Legendary Defender season 2

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Given the deluge of soulless reboots the last few years, fans of the classic animated series Voltron: Defenders of the Universe may have felt some trepidation about Netflix’s revival, Voltron: Legendary Defender. Thankfully, the show is a well-animated, faithful revival of the franchise, welcoming to old and new fans alike. The series follows a group of youths in the distant future. When the intergalactic Galra Empire invades Earth’s solar system, humanity seems doomed, until the protagonists discover a massive robotic lion. They soon learn that the lion is one of five, which combine to form the legendary fighting machine, Voltron.

Working together with the alien princess Allura and a team of trusted allies, the pilots of Voltron, known as paladins, must evade the forces of Emperor Zarkon, who wants the powerful machine to solidify his conquest of the universe. The show examines familiar themes such as friendship, loyalty, and bravery, and the writing, while nothing transcendent, features plenty of amusing moments. Produced by one of the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this new adaptation of Voltron features beautiful character designs and fluid animation.


Y Tu Mamá También

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Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mamá También centers, as many a coming-of-age film does, on a road trip. As the film opens, friends Julio (Gael García Bernal), and Tenoch (Diego Luna), young and thinking mostly of sex, try to convince Luisa (Maribel Verdú), the older wife of Tenoch’s cousin, to accompany them on a trip to a beach called “Heaven’s Mouth.” After she discovers her husband has cheated on her, she accepts. The three make their way across Mexico, and while there is certainly sexual tension in the car, the film is more than a teenage fantasy. Luisa, with the cunning of her years, gets the boys to open up about their shallow relationships with women, and teaches them to see life as the other half sees it.

The film is not merely a discourse on gender relations. As they drive across the countryside, they see towns and peoples from all walks of life — it’s a film as much about the nation as the people traveling through it. The cinematography, provided by longtime Cuaron collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki, delicately captures the beauty of the Mexican landscapes. Y Tu Mamá También is an emotionally honest film about love and life and sex, all of which it handles in a remarkably forward way.

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