Here in the dog days of summer, when it’s 80 degrees every day and after a long day at work or on the beach you want nothing more than to sit in your house, crank up the AC, and watch something good to unwind. Or tense up. Or watch gory horror. I’m not here to judge. What I am here to do, however, is recommend some of the best new content that’s come to streaming services in August 2017. So below are the best new-to-streaming content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Enjoy!
Cloud Atlas: A story that spans centuries and across half a dozen main characters who are all somehow intrinsically connected, from the 18th century to the 20th to the near-future to the end of the world, Cloud Atlas is epic in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, it’s also rather confusing unless you’ve read David Mitchell’s masterpiece novel. But from its eye-popping cinematography to elliptical storytelling to memorable characters, this film is a vision worth taking in. Part of The Wachowski’s never-ending spiral into obscurity, Cloud Atlas aimed to win Oscars but instead became a gigantic box-office bomb. But to hell with its budget: Cloud Atlas is a film worth watching–even if you don’t quite get all of it the first time around.
Funny Games (US): Michael Haneke did a shot-for-shot remake of his original Austrian film, and the US version is just as disturbing. Starring Naomi Watts as a wife on vacation with her family when a sudden polite intrusion from two young men descends into a living nightmare as she and her family are taken hostage by them, who are playing some sort of horrifying game with their lives. Even more unnerving, the intruder Paul (Michael Pitt) directly addresses the audience throughout the film, aware he is in a movie, and often manipulates the conventions of film narrative to suit his purposes. Deeply disturbing and masterfully made, Funny Games is a horror movie that will stick with you–and maybe leave you asking why you watch horror films in the first place.
Innerspace: A Navy pilot (Dennis Quaid) volunteers for an experimental program that would shrink him and a vessel down to microscopic size and then be injected into a rabbit. But when a rival organization storms the experiment, he’s instead injected into a hypochondriac grocery clerk (Martin Short), who must now help the pilot escape from his body and be brought back to normal size before running out of oxygen. This wildly visually inventive film is directed by Joe Dante, who helmed such great movies as Gremlins and The ‘Burbs, and with its high budget and special effects-heavy nature, Innerspace is one of his best films. A huge hit at the box office and the only Dante film ever nominated for an Oscar, this mid-80’s sci-fi comedy is a lot of fun to watch–and it’s safe to watch with the kids, too (well, 80’s-safe).
Jackie Brown: After the huge, influential hit Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino knew that his next movie was going to be scrutinized and criticized beyond measure. When Jackie Brown was released, critics were lukewarm to it, but in the years since its release its stature has grown. Perhaps because it’s the best Elmore Leonard film adaptation to date, or maybe because it sizzles with the tone of a hardboiled noir film, but Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is yet another excellent film from one of the world’s best directors.
Naked (Aug. 3): Mike Leigh is known for his gritty realistic portrayals of the working class in the UK, and Naked is perhaps his grittiest. Following the continual downward spiral of a rough petty crook as he wanders from one filthy hovel to another surrounded by the forgotten remnants of Thatcher’s England, Naked is one of the most searing indictments of how governmental neglect dooms scores of people to the low life. Alternately captivating and depressing.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey: Party on, dudes! The dopey slackers Bill & Ted and their telephone time machine zip through history in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, one of the best comedy time travel movies ever made. But they also followed it up with the expansive Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, wherein they die, go to hell, go to heaven, and then fight robot versions of themselves. Oh, and they become friends with Death. Crazy, funny, and something you fortunately don’t have to think too hard about while watching, these two flicks are the perfect remedy for a long day spent thinking too hard. Be excellent to each other! (Also on Amazon)
The Dead Zone: A schoolteacher (Christopher Walken) lapses into a coma after a car accident and awakens five years later with the ability to see one’s future just by touching them. Reuniting with his old girlfriend, who has since married and had a child, the teacher comes into contact with an up-and-coming politician, from which he envisions a catastrophic end of the world scenario. The schoolteacher then plots the politician’s assassination. Thrilling and stylish, in no small part thanks to David Cronenberg’s direction, with a compelling performance by Walken, The Dead Zone is perhaps the best film adaptation of a Stephen King novel. (Also on Amazon)
Wayne’s World 2: Perhaps even funnier than the original, Wayne’s World 2 arrives on Hulu in the dog days of summer to provide some easy laughs. When slacker and TV host Wayne Campbell (Mike Meyers) receives a vision that he has to put on a rock concert, he and his buddy Garth (Dana Carvey) go on a series of amusing adventures to ensure that it happens. Deliriously silly, Wayne’s World 2 is even more cartoonish than the first film and is much funnier as a result. (Also on Amazon)
Billy on the Street, Season 5 (Aug. 5): The fifth season of Billy Eichner’s literal on-the-street game show, in which he runs up to random people on the streets of New York City and asks them trivia questions both rooted in fact and as subjective opinions, all for low cash prizes. The real fun of the show is Eichner’s spastic energy as he dashes up to unsuspecting people and begins his fast verbal assault, often getting frustrated and walking away from people. It’s wacky and fast-paced, and Eichner’s quick wit will amuse all but the most serious among us.
Saw I-V: When a horror film works, there’s no reason not to run the concept into the ground. And so it is with the Saw franchise, in which a sadistic man sets up elaborate and deadly puzzles for those he has judged immoral to solve. It’s gruesome and gory and horror fans will find a lot of heightened violence and bloodshed to “enjoy” across the five films of the franchise.
High Noon: A small-town sheriff in the Old West is torn between his duty and his new bride as an old outlaw he had sent to jail is returning to town and plotting to exact his revenge. This classic Western has a lot more going for it than most in the genre, with a compelling performance by Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane and the film taking place in real time. Replacing the shoot-outs and horse chases that many Westerns would have placed up-front, instead High Noon spends its time with the characters facing internal conflicts and hesitating on whether or not they should stay and fight or run off. It’s a classic and a Western for people who usually don’t like Westerns.
Superbad (Aug. 4): Maybe the best teen movie of the past decade, Superbad stars Michael Sara and Jonah Hill as Evan and Seth, two high school students and best friends who are facing the changes in their life after going off to separate colleges and securing the booze they promised for a party happening that night. Both outrageous and sensitive at times, Superbad is a teen comedy that actually captures the attitudes and language of high school students. With a surprisingly sweet story underneath its crude humor, Superbad is a great summertime flick for both those graduating high school and for people which that time in life is but a memory.
The Tick, Season 1 (Aug. 25): With a fair amount of buzz surrounding its pilot episode, this live-action adaptation of the comic book-turned-cartoon show-turned live-action show (the first one, on FOX) seeks to bring a little more darkness to the big blue nigh-invincible idiot superhero. With a whole season dropping at once (as things do these days online), The Tick is a highly anticipated adaptation for fans of the comic book and cartoon show. Spoon!