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What to Watch: August Streaming Guide

Courtney B. Vance, Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors in “Lovecraft Country.” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

This guide was originally written for CLTure.org.

As the weeks of quarantine have turned into months, streaming services have become more important than ever to those craving new shows and films to watch. Whether you’re testing out a new series, catching up on movies that have pivoted to home releases, or just revisiting your favorite shows, turning on the TV has proven to be a much-needed escape.

But, in case you’ve already blown through all the latest releases across Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max or Disney+, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with a breakdown of all the new content hitting streaming services in August.

* = Original streaming content

MOVIES

Jurassic Park” Trilogy – Aug. 1 (Netflix)

Looking to settle in for a movie marathon? Netflix has you covered, bringing all three original “Jurassic Park” films back to the platform. The first film is easily the best of the bunch, so feel free to stop after that one, but if you really feel like binging, it’s nice to know “The Lost World” and “Jurassic Park III” are ready to watch. Plus, a marathon can help bring you back up to speed ahead of next year’s “Jurassic World: Dominion.”

Six “Star Trek” Movies – Aug. 1 (Hulu)

Speaking of binging… If dinosaurs aren’t quite your speed, maybe outer space and pointy ears will do the trick. Hulu kicks off August by welcoming six classic “Star Trek” films. There are certainly some highs and lows in the franchise, but luckily the selection here provides you with a bit of both. The six movies include “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989), “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), and “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998).

Top Gun” – Aug. 1 (Hulu)

Tom Cruise. Fighter jets. The 80s. What more could you ask for? “Top Gun” may not have lived up to the critics’ standards, but it’s always been a fan favorite. While the long-awaited sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” may have gotten its release date bumped to next summer, it’s never too early to head back to the danger zone.

“Jojo Rabbit” – Aug. 1 (HBO Max)

In case you missed out on one of last year’s top awards contenders, now’s your chance to catch up. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, who also stars in the film, “Jojo Rabbit” takes a satirical look at Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. It may sound like it’s pushing the boundary – and it is – but the subject matter is handled in a way that never feels insensitive.

Batman” Movies – Aug. 1 (HBO Max)

Keaton? Kilmer? Clooney? Bale? Time for another marathon to figure out which Batman donned the cowl and cape best. Dive into the depths of the DC universe with six Batman movies, including “Batman” (1989), “Batman Returns” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995), “Batman & Robin” (1997), “Batman Begins” (2005) and “The Dark Knight” (2008). 

The Peanut Butter Falcon” – Aug. 6 (Hulu)

Get a taste of North Carolina with this critical darling from 2019. Co-written and co-directed by North Carolinian Tyler Nilson, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows two wanderers as they drift down the Carolina coast. On top of putting North Carolina on the big screen, the film was a huge step forward for on-screen representation, casting Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome, in the leading role. If you didn’t get the chance to check it out last year, it’s definitely worth the watch.

“An American Pickle” – Aug. 6 (HBO Max)

Want to check out the most ridiculous sounding film of the year? Seth Rogen has you covered. In 1920, an immigrant falls into a vat of pickles at his factory job in New York City. Thanks to the brine of the pickles, the man is perfectly preserved for 100 years, now waking up in modern-day Brooklyn. Upon his awakening, Herschel, the immigrant, seeks out his only remaining relative and finds out he has nothing in common with his great grandson. Rogen stars as both Herschel and the grandson, and as absurd as it may sound, the trailer actually looks incredibly charming. At the very least, it seems entertaining.

“Richard Jewell” – Aug. 8 (HBO Max)

Here’s another chance to catch up on an awards contender from last year. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Paul Walter Hauser, this movie tells the true story of Richard Jewell, the man who was vilified as a suspected terrorist after saving people from a bomb in Centennial Park at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Kathy Bates plays Jewell’s mother, and she even earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for the role.

“Nightcrawler” – Aug. 10 (Netflix)

To be honest, not enough people saw this Jake Gyllenhaal thriller back in 2014. So, do yourself a favor and check it out once it hits Netflix. Starring Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler” explores the competitive dark side of Los Angeles crime journalism. Known as nightcrawlers, these freelance photographers prey on fiery car crashes and fatal accidents, but what happens when victims begin to look more like dollar signs?

“Project Power” – Aug. 14 (Netflix)*

Netflix is continuing its summer of action blockbusters with “Project Power,” a new adventure starring Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback. It’s not Marvel or DC, but instead, this superhero-adjacent story takes place in a universe of its own, where the streets of New Orleans have been flooded with a mysterious new drug that gives its users unpredictable superpowers for five minutes. It may not be an Oscar-worthy production, but it looks like a lot of fun, and Foxx has proven himself to be one of the most versatile entertainers in the industry. 

“The One and Only Ivan” – Aug. 14 (Disney+)*

It’s the latest casualty to fall to the shuttered theaters. As a result of the coronavirus, this Disney kids flick was forced to shift its release from the big screen to Disney+. The good news, though, is that it may provide parents with a bit of a break while the kids are set up in front of the TV. But parents, don’t be too quick to write this one off– it’s got an uber-talented voice cast featuring Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren and Danny DeVito, plus Bryan Cranston and Phillipa Soo. 

“Birds of Prey” – Aug. 15 (HBO Max)

Before things at the movie theater grinded to a halt earlier this year, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn gave audiences one of the most fun moviegoing experiences they could want. Returning as her character from 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” “Birds of Prey” sees Harley team up with some of Gotham’s most badass villainesses in order to take down a notorious crime boss. While it may be a superhero/villain story at heart, “Birds of Prey” provides far more character development and artistic flair than your average comic book movie.

“Queen & Slim” – Aug. 22 (HBO Max)

After releasing in the holiday window last year, “Queen & Slim” got lost in the shuffle between some of 2019’s biggest films. Now’s your chance to go back and give it the appreciation it deserves. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, the drama follows a couple on a first date that takes an unexpected turn and leads to a manhunt.

“The Binge” – Aug. 28 (Hulu)*

We were due to get the fifth installment in the “Purge” franchise this summer. That didn’t happen, so instead, we’ll have to make due with this Vince Vaughn parody. Set in a world where all drugs and alcohol are illegal, “The Binge” follows three friends on “Binge Day,” the one day of the year where anything goes and people can actually have fun. At a time when we’re all stuck at home and in desperate need of fun, this movie looks like it will serve as a brief escape.

“Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” – Aug. 31 (Netflix or Hulu)

As of right now, the next James Bond movie is still set to hit theaters in November, so if you’re in need of a refresher on Daniel Craig’s early adventures as 007, tune in. Go back to where it all started in “Casino Royale” and relive Craig’s first stint as the British super spy, then continue to marathon with “Quantum of Solace,” which picks up right where its predecessor ends. Now, all you need to do is find somewhere to check out “Skyfall” and “Spectre” and you’ll be good to go.

DOCUMENTARIES

“Immigration Nation” – Aug. 3 (Netflix)*

If the Trump administration didn’t want this documentary to come out, then it must be must-watch TV. Since 2017, acclaimed filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau have been given unprecedented access to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they have captured the daily struggles of immigrants seeking to enter America. Told from both sides– with stories from immigrants and activists, and access to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents – “Immigration Nation” aims to provide a holistic look at the situation at the border, the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, and what – if anything – can be done to salvage the promise of “the land of the free.”

“The Swamp” – Aug. 4 (HBO Max)*

We’ve all heard Donald Trump’s calls to “drain the swamp” that is Washington, D.C., but what does that really mean? And has he actually made any steps towards accomplishing that goal? Go behind the scenes with three Republican congressmen for a year-long look at how they say they have tried to separate fundraising from politics.

World’s Most Wanted” – Aug. 5 (Netflix)*

For nearly a decade now, true crime has been one of the most popular genres in entertainment, whether it’s TV, film, books or podcasts. Now, Netflix is taking crime to the grandest scale with “World’s Most Wanted.” The new docuseries will examine five of the world’s most notorious and dangerous criminals, from terrorists to drug lords and Mafia bosses. Don’t expect things to get wrapped up in a neat little bow, though. All five are still at large, so no satisfying conclusions will be waiting at the end. 

“Slay the Dragon” – Aug. 6 (Hulu)

Gerrymandering is one of the most pressing issues facing democracy today, but it’s also one of the most complex and formidable subjects for people to understand– hence the comparison between it and a fire-breathing dragon. But in “Slay the Dragon,” the issue of manipulating voting districts is placed at the forefront, in a way that lets audiences comprehend it and become rightfully outraged. “Slay the Dragon” takes viewers to the frontlines, where activists are fighting against gerrymandering, and works to share a solution to the problem.

“This Is Dominic Fike: The Next Big Thing?” – Aug. 7 (Hulu)

In collaboration with The New York Times and FX, Hulu has partnered with the new documentary series “The New York Times Presents.” Each episode serves as its own miniature documentary tackling a subject. The series premiered in July with an episode covering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but now it’s turning its attention to entertainment. After exploding onto the SoundCloud music scene in 2017, alt-rock/rapper Dominic Fike signed a $4 million deal with Columbia Records, and since then the now 24-year-old has been preparing for his debut album. The record, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong,” drops July 31, and the subsequent episode of “The New York Times Presents” will document Fike’s ascension from obscurity, the creation of his album, and preparation for his worldwide tour. After this episode, the series will turn its attention to the murder of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky, exploring her life and examining the circumstances of her death.

“Howard” – Aug. 7 (Disney+)*

You know his music, but do you know Howard Ashman? He’s the man behind some of Disney’s most iconic lyrics, like “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” as well as Broadway hits like “Little Shop of Horrors.” Featuring interviews with Ashman’s family and friends and never-before-seen archival footage, Howard provides an intimate look at the life and work of the late playwright and lyricist.

“Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: Adventure Awaits” – Aug. 7 (Disney+)

Right now may not be the best time to visit Disney World in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead in planning your next trip. Last August the House of Mouse opened a brand new area within the Hollywood Studios park that thrusts guests right into the heart of the Star Wars universe. The two-hour special, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, takes viewers behind the scenes of the park’s creation and explores all the intricacies it has to offer.

SHOWS

Muppets Now” – Weekly beginning July 31 (Disney+)*

Stuck at home with the kids and in need of a break? Turn on “Muppets Now” and you may be able to entertain them long enough to steal a little me time. Starting July 31, Disney+ will air a new episode every Friday of the unscripted series starring all your favorite puppet pals. The series takes a meta approach, as the characters prepare for their “show,” but it turns out that preparation is actually the show itself. Each week Scooter, the Muppet stage manager, finds himself scrambling to meet deadlines and put together segments for the gang’s new show, but the Muppets throw all sorts of obstacles at him. 

“Hard Knocks Los Angeles” – Weekly beginning Aug. 11 (HBO Max)*

Who knows if there will actually be an NFL season this year, but the annual HBO docuseries will at least have a handful of episodes to share. This year the spotlight is on the league’s two Los Angeles teams: the Rams and the Chargers. While it was originally meant to be a few weeks likely highlighted by the debut of the teams’ fancy new stadium, the focus will instead be on COVID testing, social distancing and the challenges of playing a football season amidst a pandemic.

“The Legend of Korra” – Aug. 14 (Netflix)

After “Avatar: The Last Airbender” hit Netflix in May, it didn’t take long for the beloved animated series to peak at No. 1 on the service’s Top 10 list. Now, all four seasons of the sequel series, “The Legend of Korra,” are hitting Netflix, too. While it may not be as universally revered by fans as the original, “Korra” was known for pushing the boundary of what children’s shows could handle, including important messages on race, religion and politics, which makes it worth the watch. 

“Lovecraft Country” – Weekly beginning Aug. 16 (HBO Max)*

If it has Jordan Peele’s name on it, then it must be good. Peele, as well as J.J. Abrams, are executive producers on this new HBO series exploring the terrors of both supernatural monsters and racism in the Jim Crow-era south. Based on the 2016 novel, “Lovecraft Country” stars Jonathan Majors, Courtney B. Vance and Jurnee Smollett, as the trio traverses the country in search of the main character’s missing father. 

“Hoops” – Aug. 21 (Netflix)*

If you’re a fan of “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” or any other adult cartoon, then this one might be for you. Netflix has solidified its footing in the raunchy animation world with hits like “Big Mouth,” but now they’re looking to expand with “Hoops.” Starring Jake Johnson (“New Girl”), “Hoops” tells the story of Coach Ben Hopkins, a hot-headed and foul-mouthed high school basketball coach convinced he’ll have a shot at “the big leagues” if he can just turn around his sucky high school team. The series debuts on Netflix on August 21 with ten 25-minute episodes.

“Lucifer” (Season 5) – Aug. 21 (Netflix)*

Like many shows, “Lucifer” has found its second wind on a streaming service. After Fox pulled the plug in 2018 following three seasons and middle-of-the-pack ratings, Netflix picked it up and breathed new life into the mystery procedural. Fans may be a little disappointed to learn they’ll only be getting “Part 1” of season five on August 21, thanks to halted production due to COVID-19, but the good news is that instead of ending the series this year as planned, Netflix announced they’ve renewed “Lucifer” for one final go-round in season six. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“Last Chance U” – (Netflix)*

It’s become one of Netflix’s signature original series, and Season 5 just hit the service at the end of July. Follow along at Laney College in Oakland as the junior college prepares its football players for another shot at making it big time. Enjoy this final season of football while you can because come 2021 the series is swapping out the gridiron for the basketball court. 

“The Old Guard” – (Netflix)*

Charlize Theron has quietly become one of Hollywood’s most badass action stars, and this Netflix Original proves it. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, “The Old Guard” tells the story of a group of immortal mercenaries – kind of like a blend between Deadpool and Wolverine – as they protect the world through centuries of violence. Come for the thrilling action set pieces and fight choreography, stay for the surprisingly deep character development. 

Palm Springs” – (Hulu)*

It’s a new twist on the classic time-loop subgenre of comedy. The 1993 classic “Groundhog Day” may have laid the foundation, but now Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are here to give it a modern rom-com twist. Set at a wedding in Palm Springs, the two stars find themselves trapped reliving the same day over and over again. But instead of trying to escape, what if they actually like it? “Palm Springs” is an incredibly fresh and entertaining comedy, and in a year with limited new releases, it’s one of the best.

“Black Is King” – (Disney+)*

Thanks to the success of Beyoncé’s “HOMECOMING” film on Netflix last year, Queen B is back with another visual album. This time, she’s once again teaming up with Disney to reimagine the lessons taught in “The Lion King” for young children today. After voicing Nala in Disney’s live-action remake of the film last year, “Black Is King” is meant to serve as a visual companion to her album “The Lion King: The Gift.”

“Hamilton” – (Disney+)*

At this point, you must have been living under a rock if you haven’t checked out “Hamilton.” The Broadway sensation was finally made available to the masses in early July, and since then it’s been dominating the public conversation. Tune in and find out just how deserving it is of all the hype.

Zach Goins View All

Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.

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