August 2018’s Best Streaming Titles: Batman Begins, Voltron, Shaun of the Dead, Jiro Dreams of Sushi & more

Also: Kevin Smith’s debut, Keanu Reeves, Anton Chigurh, The Good Place, Jet Li, High Noon, and the Blair Witch.
Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright
Shaun and his friends try to mix in with zombies in Shaun of the Dead

As Netflix et al. add more content, it’s difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. So at the start of every month, I publish a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.

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Batman Begins (August 1)

The first entry in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy explores the origins of Batman and his training with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows. With a darker, grittier style obviously inspired by Frank Miller and Alan Moore’s takes on the Caped Crusader, Batman Begins handily made up for those terrible Joel Schumacher films of the ’90s. What’s more, Batman Begins, along with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, set the stage for comic book movies to become the box office juggernauts that they are today.

Clerks (August 1)

Filmed in about three weeks for less than $30,000, Kevin Smith’s Clerks is one of the great American indie films. Taking place almost entirely in a New Jersey convenience store, the film follows a couple of bored clerks and the various characters that meander through their shop. Controversial upon its release — it originally received an NC-17 rating for explicit dialog — Clerks went on to receive numerous awards and launched Kevin Smith’s career.

Constantine (August 1)

As an adaptation of the long-running Hellblazer comic, Constantine ticked off fans by casting Keanu Reeves as the cynical British sorcerer/occult expert/con-man John Constantine and transplanting him to California. But once you get past that (not to mention the film’s muddled plot and theology), Constantine can still be a fun Hollywood-level “B” movie. The plot: when Constantine agrees to help a detective (Rachel Weisz) solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, they’re both drawn into the long-running conflict between Heaven and Hell. Cue the special effects, gross demons, and Reeves’ inimitable watchability.

Flavors of Youth (August 4)

I don’t know much about this anime, other than it’s a Japanese/Chinese co-production that consists of three short films depicting life in three different Chinese cities. And based on the trailer above, its emphasis seems to be on slice of life with maybe some romance and melodrama mixed in for good measure. Oh, and it’s from CoMix Wave, the same studio that produced the acclaimed Your Name. That alone is reason enough for me to be interested.

Voltron, Season 7 (August 10)

The second to last season of Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender finds Team Voltron returning to Earth in order to put a stop to the Galra once and for all, and to rebuild the Castle of Lions (which was sacrificed at the end of Season 6 after a huge battle with the turncoat Lotor). As the acclaimed series heads towards a big finish, I suspect that the team’s homecoming will be pretty bittersweet.

No Country for Old Men (August 11)

In this harrowing adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, a hunter discovers a bunch of drug money and decides to keep it — which puts him in the sights of a psychotic hitman (Javier Bardem, in a chilling performance). Meanwhile, the only one who might save him is an aging, world-weary sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones, also giving a fantastic performance). No Country for Old Men may not have the quirky humor that the Coen Brothers are best known for — O Brother, Where Art Thou? this most certainly is not — but its depiction of human evil and darkness is captivating and provocative in its own right (read my review).

The Good Place, Season 2 (August 28)

It’s about forking time… My wife and I were huge fans of The Good Place’s first season, and we’ve been patiently waiting for season two to arrive on Netflix. Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who dies and wakes up in the “Good Place” because she was such a good person. But surprise: Eleanor was actually a terrible person, but now she wants to become a good person so she doesn’t get sent to the “Bad Place.” While the show frequently delves into highbrow ethics discussions, it’s never not hilarious, thanks to the clever dialog, Eleanor’s various machinations, and a really strong cast.

Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Netflix in August 2018.


Babe (August 1)

Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! The Citizen Kane of talking pig pictures, as one critic called it, will start streaming as soon as the new month rolls around. I plan on watching it with my kids, and all the while, I’ll try to wrap my mind around the fact that the man responsible for this charming little film is the same deranged genius who gave us Mad Max.

Black Mask (August 1)

In this martial arts action film, Jet Li is a mild-mannered librarian who was once part of a top secret government program to create super soldiers. But when his former teammates launch a crime spree, he dons a superhero-ish identity as the Black Mask to put a stop to their nefarious deeds. As far as Jet Li movies go, Black Mask is no Fist of Legend or Tai Chi Master, but it’s still pretty fun if you’re up for some wire-fu hijinks.

The Elephant Man (August 1)

Based on the true story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century English man who was severely disfigured, The Elephant Man is a haunting and deeply human film about an outcast from society who turns out to be the noblest one of all. What’s even more surprising than the fact that The Elephant Man was directed by David Lynch is that it was produced by Mel Brooks, who deliberately left his name off the film so that audiences wouldn’t expect a comedy.

High Noon (August 1)

One of the greatest westerns ever made. Gary Cooper’s straight-arrow sheriff is set to retire with his lovely new bride, when he learns that a vicious outlaw gang is about to arrive in town at noon. His attempts to form a posse to meet the gang all fail, and the sheriff finds himself facing the gang all by himself. High Noon is the quintessential “man against the world” film, and features one of the most iconic shots in film history. It was also quite controversial in its day, and seen by many as a response to the Hollywood communist blacklisting that occurred in the ’40s and ’50s.

The Hunt for Red October (August 1)

This is one of those movies that I’ll pull up every now and then just because it’s so solidly made and entertaining. Based on the best-selling Tom Clancy novel about an experimental Russian submarine, and starring Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, The Hunt for Red October is classic Cold War action/intrigue that is eminently watchable. (But what else would you expect from director John McTiernan?)

Shaun of the Dead (August 1)

In this delightful parody/homage to zombie movies, Simon Pegg plays a lovable loser who’s stuck in a dead-end job and having problems with his girlfriend. But when the zombie apocalypse begins, could this be what he needs to stand up and become a hero? Shaun of the Dead is a perfect blend of humor and horror, but as I wrote in my 2004 review, it has some surprisingly affecting character moments and even a wee bit of social commentary mixed in with the gore.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (August 23)

After watching this charming and elegant documentary, you’ll never look at your job the same way again. You’ll certainly never look at sushi the same way again. Jiro Ono is the world’s most celebrated sushi chef, and his constant drive to hone and perfect his craft is inspiring, just as his joy in producing sushi is infectious. And yet, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the personal cost of such devotion. Read my review over at Christ and Pop Culture.

The Terminator (August 31)

One of the all-time great sci-fi action movies, The Terminator stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role he was born to play: an unstoppable killing machine from the future. His mission? Killing the mother of the child who will grow up to lead humanity in the war against the machines. With its ground-breaking special effects and intense storyline, The Terminator has influenced countless films, and has even been added to the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in August 2018.

Amazon Prime

The Blair Witch Project (August 1)

When three student filmmakers venture into a Maryland forest to investigate a local myth, they soon become hopelessly lost while assaulted by strange and frightening phenomena — all of which suggest that the myth is more than just a myth. Its legacy may be tarnished thanks to the countless films that have copied its “found footage” aesthetic, but when The Blair Witch Project debuted in 1999, it was unlike anything seen before. More importantly for a horror film, it was absolutely terrifying.

Watchmen (August 1)

Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) graphic novels of all time, is certainly a work of passion. But Snyder, as is his wont, ups the film’s “kick-ass” quotient whenever he can, which ends up undermining the story’s philosophical quandaries and moral dilemmas. For all of the film’s style (Snyder is certainly a gifted visual filmmaker) and impressive performances (especially Jackie Earle Haley as the sociopathic Rorschach), Watchmen is something of a mixed bag. As I wrote in my review, it could’ve been a trainwreck, but it also could’ve been something much more.

Click here for a complete list of everything arriving on and leaving Amazon in August 2018. As usual, there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Amazon Prime’s offerings.