You could spend the height of summer grilling burgers and frolicking in the sun … or you could watch a whole lot of TV. If the latter option appeals, look no further than the internet! This month, Netflix drops the fourth season of feel-good favorite Queer Eye along with a (second!) Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan. If horror’s more your style, Amazon Prime will stream the Stephen King adaptation Pet Sematary and the latest entry in the Conjuring franchise: The Curse of La Llorona.
That’s just a few of the choices available this month. Below, check out the rest of The Ringer’s top streaming recommendations in July, along with some random choices from Ringer staffers when you’re in the mood for something a little different.
What’s New to Streaming in July
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
Queer Eye, Season 4 (coming to Netflix on July 19)
Alison Herman: There’s a subtly subversive message at work in all this: that fashion, beauty, design, and food aren’t superfluous luxuries, nor the exclusive province of femme-of-center gay men. By teaching the benefits of a good sauté technique or face scrub, the Five can also impart their wisdom on messier, more intangible issues like emotional labor and vulnerability. There’s nothing unmanly about a hug, and it’s not fair to take your wife’s effort for granted if you’re not making the same effort for her. These epiphanies are what Queer Eye is chasing—the spruced-up wardrobes are mostly a visual aid.
Orange Is the New Black, Season 7 (Netflix, July 26)
Herman: Over its first four seasons, Orange was one of the only Netflix dramas to resist some of the platform’s built-in temptations. Like other streaming hours, Orange ran long, and there was little to differentiate episodes. But Orange stretched out because it needed the room to tell all of the stories in Litchfield: of Amish girls turned meth addicts, or self-righteous martyrs, or foster kids who’ve spent their lives in some kind of system. This was expansion, not bloat.
The Beach Bum (Amazon Prime, July 2)
Tyler Parker: Harmony Korine’s new cosmic stoner comedy The Beach Bum is a neon cocktail of colors, a true margarita of the senses, the answer to the question: What about Matthew McConaughey, but bonkers? I watched this movie at 2:05 on a Monday in the top row of the tranquil Pasadena ArcLight with about seven other people scattered throughout the theater AND BECAME NEW.
Pet Sematary (Amazon Prime, July 9)
Adam Nayman: [Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s] chops are on display from Pet Sematary’s very first shot, which adopts a hovering, predatory perspective to map the boundaries of an overgrown forest before passing over a house on fire. It’s an arresting opening with stylistic echoes of The Shining (the cinematography is by Laurie Rose, the gifted British DOP who shot Ben Wheatley’s jittery genre masterpieces Kill List and A Field in England). There’s a very particular sort of pleasure in starting off a horror movie with the feeling that you’re in good hands, and for about 30 minutes, Pet Sematary gets by purely on those good-bad vibes.
Shazam! (Amazon Prime, July 16)
Miles Surrey: Shazam! is what happens if you remade Big, only instead of just getting older, Tom Hanks’s character also gained the ability to deadlift a bus. After Shazam!, the DCEU’s next offering is Joker, a movie starring Joaquin Phoenix that has overeager bloggers comparing it to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
Serenity (Amazon Prime, July 23)
Surrey: Well, having finally seen Serenity, let me just say: REOPEN ALCATRAZ AND GIVE STEVEN KNIGHT A LIFETIME SENTENCE. Nothing could’ve prepared me for Serenity—its ridiculous dialogue, fish-obsessed characters, and all-time bonkers plot twist. You could’ve offered me a thousand opportunities to guess what the movie’s really about, and I’d never have solved it. If you had told me the plot machinations of Serenity outright, I’d have politely asked to check your kitchen cabinets to ensure nothing was somehow laced with LSD. Serenity is an early and clear front-runner for WTF movie of the year.
The Curse of La Llorona (Amazon Prime, July 30)
Surrey: La Llorona is the CCU film with the most tangential connection to the rest of the franchise. Following widowed social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (played by Linda Cardellini), who is raising two kids in Los Angeles, La Llorona focuses on the Mexican folklore of the “Weeping Woman”: the ghost of a woman who drowned her children in a river, and whose spirit now haunts and kills other kids. When Anna’s children are subjected to La Llorona’s terror, she enlists the help of a priest, Father Perez (Tony Amendola), which is where the Conjuring tie-in comes in. Perez is the same priest who shows up in the first Annabelle movie, and he recalls to Anna his experience with the possessed doll—if that’s not enough of a hint, the screen briefly flashes Annabelle’s haunting face to remind you we’re in a shared universe
Harlots, Season 3 (Hulu, July 10)
Kate Knibbs: The raucous look at Georgian England’s sex trade is both written and directed by women, and it stars a strong lineup of actors. Samantha Morton leads off as Margaret Wells, a “bawd” trying to provide a humane environment for the “harlots” she employs, even though she rarely succeeds. (She auctions off her youngest daughter’s virginity in the first season.) Lesley Manville plays her archrival, Lydia Quigley, a diabolical madame who kidnaps virgins and favors elaborate yak-hair wigs. In its second season, the show introduces Liv Tyler’s Lady Fitzwilliam, who has several secrets and terrific dresses. There’s no “hooker with a heart of gold” cliché here, just scheming, plotting, romance, and scandal. It’s a show that treats sex and gender dynamics with matter-of-fact horror and humor that feels honest but not solemn.
Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed
Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.
Rolling Thunder Revue (on Netflix)
Scott Tobias: The label “documentary” doesn’t comfortably apply to Rolling Thunder Revue, which doesn’t bother to demarcate the line between fact and fiction, but there’s truth in the rambling roadshow that [Bob] Dylan leads through 2,000- to 3,000-seat auditoriums across America. For an act of Dylan’s stature to downsize his venues while welcoming more and more guest performers and musicians to the stage is an insane, money-hemorrhaging undertaking—and that’s before the added strangeness of conceiving it as part old-timey medicine show and part homage to the 1945 French classic Children of Paradise.
Always Be My Maybe (on Netflix)
Herman: If Always Be My Maybe doesn’t immediately succeed at establishing [Ali] Wong as a movie star, however, it does show Netflix as a viable path to becoming one. Social media lit up almost as soon as the movie went live on Friday. The [Keanu] Reeves cameo, as it seems designed to do, has already become a meme. Wong is once again at the center of the cultural conversation; Netflix has once again won the weekend, even one with both an Elton John biopic and an Octavia Spencer slasher at the multiplex, by default.
Black Mirror, Season 5 (on Netflix)
Surrey: The intersection of technology and how people choose to wield it will always provide Black Mirror with new material to work with. The show isn’t impervious to misses—“Smithereens” certainly belongs in that category—but its batting average is high enough that most viewers would concede that the good more often than not outweighs the bad. That’s mostly how this trio of episodes can be characterized. By grounding the scope of its technology—none of which approaches any of the series’ conceptual highs, like the futuristic dystopia of “Fifteen Million Merits”—Season 5 of Black Mirror places its characters front and center. If that isn’t your cup of tea, well, there’s still more than a trillion “Bandersnatch” story combinations available for your perusal.
Good Omens (on Amazon Prime)
Brian Phillips: One of the many delights of Good Omens, in both novel and TV form, is the way the comic conceit at the heart of the story is constructed not from one joke but from several jokes fitted together with masterly exactness. One of these jokes is that Englishness is a force of such stubborn power that it rivals the biblical order of the universe. Aziraphale and Crowley, the angel and demon around whom the story revolves, ostensibly work, over millennia on earth, to convert human souls for their respective sides. But in fact they are themselves gradually converted, to a cozy English life of restaurants and houseplants and Queen records, and they end up working to thwart the Apocalypse not for any grand theological reason, but mostly because the idea of the world ending offends their acquired English good sense.
Too Old to Die Young (on Amazon Prime)
Surrey: Too Old to Die Young—the Amazon Prime miniseries from Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn, which dropped on Friday—is so absurd in its specificity that it borders on parody. Refn is an enigmatic director capable of stunning, neon-lit compositions and visceral ultraviolence; unsurprisingly, his provocative filmography has never made him anything close to resembling a box office draw, sans 2011’s Drive. And yet Refn—along with renowned comics scribe Ed Brubaker, the show’s cocreator—somehow convinced Amazon to give him the reins for a 13-hour, 10-episode TV series. Too Old to Die Young is something that will only appeal to Refn die-hards; the people who believe Only God Forgives is an unheralded triumph instead of a self-indulgent dumpster fire.
Dark, Season 2 (on Netflix)
Micah Peters: Dark is a German drama on Netflix about time travel and confused teenagers. But if you were constructing a course about its themes, Item 1 on the syllabus would be the variable concepts of responsibility and free will; Item 1a would be multigenerational trauma. I guess I no longer need to describe Dark as grim—central to the plot is the unexplainable disappearance of two young boys in the small town of Winden—but the show’s preoccupation is whether or not we’re doomed to repeat past mistakes.
A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path, for when you’re in a certain kind of mood.
What to Watch If You Want to Take a Trip to New Orleans Without Getting on a Plane: Watch Princess and the Frog on Netflix this month. Just do it. If it’s for the first time or the hundredth, you won’t regret it. The classic tale comes to life with a subtle feminist twist: Tiana (Disney’s first black princess, yaaass!) is focused on hustling and earning enough money to open her own restaurant, when—and you know how the story goes—she kisses a talking frog, who happens to be a prince. However! Instead of turning him human again, she too becomes a frog. Through an adventure down the Bayou, they fall in love. My favorite character in the film is the city of New Orleans. It’s bursting with color, culture, and charisma; you can almost taste the beignet powder through the screen. Plus, there’s voodoo magic, a feisty firefly, and a musically-gifted gator along for the ride. It’s a story about perseverance that tells you no dream is ever too big. OK, BRB, booking my flight to NO to sing “Almost There” while hanging out of a moving streetcar. ––Jordan Ligons
What to Watch If You Like the Beach, but You Like Your Air-Conditioned Apartment More: ‘Tis the season to bask in the bluish light of your computer screen while you watch Mischa Barton tan on a picturesque California beach in The O.C. (streaming on Hulu). Having grown up with the show’s East Coast knockoff, Gossip Girl, which boasts slightly fewer manicured lawns and many more nonsensical plot devices, I watch The O.C. with a sort of wonder at its relative innocence. The teens look more or less like teens; people get shot, sure, but in a way that makes a reasonable amount of narrative sense. The O.C. is the televised equivalent of a beach day: fun, wholesome, and a bit of a treat. This is good, since to get to the beach from my apartment I have to take two trains and a bus, and to get to the Cohens’ cliffside mansion I have only to click. ––Charlotte Goddu
What to Watch If You’re Tired of Rom-Com Happy Endings: The Break-Up (streaming on Netflix) is an “ex-rated” 106-minute film about … a breakup. I know, I know, it sounds bad, and you’re probably like, “Why would I want to sit and watch a couple go through what I’ve been through so many times?” But, hey, Vince Vaughn is in it! And he’s funny! Jennifer Aniston, too, sporting peak 2006 fashion! Gary and Brooke are living together in a luxury how-can-they-afford-this Chicago condo, and after two years together, they decide to split––they had their last “I want you to want to do the dishes” fight––but neither of them wants to move out. Diabolical schemes of trying to annoy the other ensue, and they prance their new dates in front of each other to evoke jealousy. But when it all doesn’t work, they … break up. That’s it. Not all movies have that cliché happy ending of reconnection; sometimes it’s just real. But, hey, at least you had some good times along the way. ––Ligons
What to Watch If You Don’t Mind Discomfort and Dread: It feels strange, given [gestures wildly all around] everything going on in the world, to use this space to suggest spending your time watching Chernobyl (on Hulu), which will make you feel worse about it all. The general feeling of existential dread that starts in the reactor room in the opening episode and carries through the show’s final trial is devastating. Craig Mazin’s telling of the worst nuclear disaster in world history is raw, and haunting, especially in moments when viewers are already bracing for the worst. The camera pans to a dog that it knows has to die, and no amount of buckling or squirming on the couch can change the outcome. It moves into a point-of-view perspective of a conscripted worker, forced to shovel radioactive graphite from the roof of the collapsed reactor building, and forces you to wince as you notice a rip in his shoes. It sits idly as its protagonists must choose between what is easy and what is right.
This is not an easy watch, but it is a required one. And the companion podcast is, as well. ––Shaker Samman