August 2022’s Best Streaming Titles: Thief, Blazing Saddles, The Sandman, Star Trek

James Caan, Mel Brooks goes West, the Lord of Dreams, a return to the Lower Decks, and more.
Tom Sturridge as Morpheus, holding a strange device against a moody background
Tom Sturridge stars as Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, in Netflix’s The Sandman

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.

If you’d like to receive my streaming recommendations even sooner, become an Opus subscriber today.


Amazon Prime Video

Once (Aug 1)

Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová star in this intoxicating drama about a pair of down-on-their-luck singers in Ireland who meet and form a musical relationship. But when sparks begin to fly between the two, what will become of their friendship? Made on a shoestring budget of $150,000, Once would go on to earn $23.3 million and numerous awards. The film’s theme, “Falling Slowly,” won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Ronin (Aug 1)

When a group of former spies and special operatives are hired to steal a briefcase with unknown contents, it’s bound to go smoothly without any betrayals or doubles-crosses, right? Ronin features a star-studded cast (Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce) and puts them through the wringer, including some of the greatest car chase sequences in movie history.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Aug 1)

When an alien probe threatens Earth, James T. Kirk and the Enterprise crew travel back in time to find the one thing that might save humanity: humpback whales, which are extinct in the 23rd century. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, The Voyage Home is arguably the funnest Star Trek movie, as the Enterprise crew find themselves confronting 20th-century San Francisco.

Thief (Aug 1)

The late James Caan delivered one of his most iconic performances as Frank, a skilled safecracker who prizes his independence and autonomy above all else. But when he falls in love and starts a family, and starts working for a Chicago mob boss, Frank’s finds himself in uncharted territory. Directed by Michael Mann, Thief is filled with style to spare, from the Tangerine Dream soundtrack to the realistic safecracking sequences. (To achieve the latter, Mann hired real-life thieves as technical advisors.)

Undertow (Aug 1)

Jamie Bell stars in this thriller about a young man who must go on the run with his brother after their uncle kills their father. But as they head deeper in the Georgia countryside, the film grows increasingly surreal and dreamlike. Which shouldn’t be too surprising given that it was produced by Terrence Malick, and Malick’s Days of Heaven was a big influence on Undertow and director David Gordon Green. (Read my review from the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.)

Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in August 2022.


Disney+

Father of the Bride (Aug 1)

Steve Martin and Diane Keaton star in this 1991 comedy about a father who discovers that his daughter is engaged, only he’s not quite ready to let her go. What ensues is a comedy of errors as Martin’s pride, ego, and fears land him in all manner of embarrassing and difficult situations, from a flamboyant and over-eager wedding coordinator (Martin Short) to a too-small tuxedo and a kerfuffle over hot dog buns.

Bluey, Season Three (Aug 10)

Confession: I’ve never seen a single episode of Bluey, the Australian animated series about a family of dogs, and the various adventures and mishaps that they experience. However, everyone I know who’s seen it, absolutely raves about it. So much so that I strongly suspect that if our kids were younger, we’d probably be Bluey fans, too.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Season One (Aug 17)

After receiving a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner, Jennifer Walters able to transform into a 6′7″, green-skinned She-Hulk. Which sucks for her, because she just wants to be an attorney living the life of a single woman. The series received quite a bit of hate for the look of the visual effects — a lot of CGI has been used to create She-Hulk — but Tatiana Maslany proved her chops with Orphan Black. The series also stars Jameela Jamil (The Good Place), Tim Roth, Mark Ruffalo, and Benedict Wong.

Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in August 2022. Note: This list originally included Star Wars: Andor on August 31 but that series has now been rescheduled for September 21.


HBO Max

The Devil’s Backbone (Aug 1)

Set during the Spanish Civil War, this haunting ghost story might be filed under “horror,” but its story of innocence lost far more affecting, poignant, and melancholy than that term usually implies. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone would make an excellent double feature with 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

Fantastic Voyage (Aug 1)

When a scientist possessing dangerous Soviet secrets is left in a coma following an assassination attempt, the American military does the only thing they can: shrink a group of scientists down to the size of a microbe and inject them into the scientist’s body to save his life. Released in 1966, the film drew wide acclaim for its special effects and production design.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Aug 1)

“Ghost Dog” (Forest Whitaker) is a hitman for the American Mafia, but he follows the code of the samurai as laid out in an 18th century Japanese text. Unfortunately, Ghost Dog’s code of honor soon comes into conflict with his employer’s interests after he spares the life of a target’s daughter, leading to inevitable betrayal and conflict. The film’s soundtrack and score was produced by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA.

Belle (Aug 3)

Mamoru Hosoda is one of modern anime’s best filmmakers, responsible for a string of excellent and acclaimed films that include The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf Children. His most recent film is a take on the story of Beauty and the Beast, and follows a teenage girl who becomes a popular singer in a virtual world. But she draws the attention of a vicious monster who potentially threatens the safety of the entire virtual world.

Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in August 2022.


Hulu

Blazing Saddles (Aug 1)

Mel Brook’s satire of the Western film is a comedy classic — though its treatment of racism (and flatulence) may be jarring for modern audiences. When a new sheriff rides into the small town of Rock Ridge, its citizens are shocked to learn that he’s black. However, he may just be their best hope when a greedy lawyer wants to destroy their town to make way for a new railroad.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox has a fantastic life, with a loving wife, good friends, and a good job. But what he really wants to do is steal food and play pranks on the nasty farmers living near his home. Needless to say, hilarity and hijinks ensue. Fantastic Mr. Fox’s blending of stop motion animation with Wes Anderson’s trademark aesthetic and dry humor is a match made in heaven. And the star-studded voice cast — which includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson — is the icing on the cake.

Groundhog Day (Aug 1)

In this surprisingly existential comedy, Bill Murray plays an arrogant weatherman who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again in picturesque Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — and forced to confront who he is as a person. This is one of the classic Bill Murray movies, and was even added to the National Film Registry in 2006.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Aug 1)

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.

Source Code (Aug 1)

Colter Stevens has been tasked with preventing a terrorist bombing. To do so, he must relive the last eight minutes before the bombing over and over again. But what begins as a military simulation is slowly revealed to be something much stranger and more disturbing. Directed by Duncan Jones (Mute, Moon) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga, Source Code is a sci-fi thriller with some interesting twists and philosophical ideas.

Prey (Aug 5)

In this latest installment in the long-running Predator franchise, a young Comanche warrior vows to defend her people from an unseen enemy who’s hunting them down on the Great Plains. This looks to be all kinds of intense, thanks in part to the filmmakers’ focus on historical authenticity concerning the Native American protagonists.

Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in August 2022.


Netflix

Constantine (Aug 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 (and the film’s muddled plot and theology), Constantine is still 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 drawn into the long-running conflict between Heaven and Hell. Cue the special effects, gross demons, and Reeves’ inimitable watchability.

Carter (Aug 5)

Joo Won stars in this South Korean action film about an agent who wakes up in the midst of a pandemic with amnesia. And if that weren’t bad enough, he also has a strange device in his head, a bomb in his mouth, and forced into a secret mission with American and North Korean forces on his trail. Carter is directed by Jung Byung-gil, who rocketed to fame with 2017’s The Villainess.

The Sandman, Season One (Aug 5)

A century ago, Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, was captured by a group of occultists. When he finally breaks free of his prison, he discovers that his realm has fallen into disrepair and must be restored. Based on one of the most beloved and acclaimed comic book series of all time — Neil Gaiman’s Sandman — the Netflix original stars Tom Sturridge as Morpheus. The cast also includes Gwendoline Christie, Charles Dance, David Thewlis, Stephen Fry, and Jenna Coleman as well as the voices of Patton Oswalt and Mark Hamill.

The Nice Guys (Aug 9)

A world-weary private eye and a thuggish enforcer become unlikely allies as they investigate the disappearance of a young girl in 1970s Los Angeles. The Nice Guys was written and directed by Shane Black, so you can expect plenty of dark humor and smart dialog à la his previous films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Last Boy Scout.

Dope (Aug 11)

Malcolm is a geek who just wants to hang out, play punk rock, and discuss ’90s hip hop with his friends. Oh, and get into Harvard University. But that’s easier said than done for a kid living in the hood, especially when he gets caught up in a drug deal gone bad. Starring Shameik Moore (who voiced Miles Morales in Into the Spider-Verse), Dope is a truly fresh coming-of-age film filled with solid performances and a killer soundtrack.

Day Shift (Aug 12)

During the day, Jamie Foxx is hard at work cleaning pools in the San Fernando Valley. But that’s just a cover for his real job: hunting vampires. But when he needs some quick cash to help his family, he’s given one last chance — and a new partner. Day Shift is the second collaboration between Foxx and Netflix, following 2020’s Project Power. Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg also star.

Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in August 2022.


Paramount+

Secret Headquarters (Aug 12)

Charlie thinks his dad is just some lame I.T. guy who’s always traveling. But when he stumbles across a secret headquarters in his home, he discovers the truth: his dad is a real, live superhero. But when villains come a-knocking, Charlie and his friends are forced to fight back. This looks pretty silly, to be honest, but the thought of Owen Wilson and Michael Peña squaring off does make me smile. Also, Walker Scobell, who plays Charlie, was arguably the best part about Netflix’s The Adam Project.

Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season Three (Aug 25)

At the end of season two, Captain Freeman was arrested for allegedly blowing up the Pakled homeworld, leaving the crew of the USS Cerritos scrambling to figure out how to rescue their captain. Suffice to say, their plans will result in all kinds of hilarious chaos, and I can’t wait. While Lower Decks pokes fun at Star Trek, it obviously comes from a place of love and affection, especially when it features cameos from the likes of Jonathan Frakes and John de Lancie, aka, William Riker and Q.