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The Ringer Guide to Streaming in August

More sports are set to return this month, but even if they don’t, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max have you covered 

Right when you think you’re going to run out of TV, another streaming service enters the ring—hey, Peacock! But if you’re still feeling overwhelmed with options, we got you. There are plenty of oldies but goodies that you may have forgotten about, an inside look at the training camps of both Los Angeles NFL teams, and an Oscar-winning Nazi comedy (?). Check out everything that’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Peacock, and HBO Max below, as well as a few personal selections from the Ringer staff.

What’s New to Streaming in August

A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.

Top Gun (Hulu and Amazon Prime, August 1)

Rob Harvilla: Listen. I love this movie. You love this movie. Your mom loves this movie. Your kids would love this movie. (Do not show Top Gun to young children; a mid-’80s PG rating is a far different animal than a 2020 PG rating, which is to say that Detective Pikachu does not feature the line “Take me to bed or lose me forever” twice in, like, 90 seconds.) But what is truly impressive, nearly 35 years later, about what Tom Cruise does in Top Gun—the soapy and super-macho dogfighter classic directed by the god Tony Scott and released wide on May 16, 1986—is how little of it he does.

Hard Knocks ’20: Los Angeles (HBO Max, August 11)

Danny Heifetz: But we do know that Hard Knocks is coming back. The show that gives behind-the-scenes views of NFL training camp will follow not one, but two NFL teams for the same preseason for the first time in its history. The show will feature both Los Angeles teams, the Rams and Chargers, who are set to move into the brand-new SoFi Stadium this season. At $5 billion, SoFi Stadium is the most expensive stadium in NFL history and more than double the second-most expensive. Hard Knocks could be one big infomercial for the project. But it will also chronicle the most uncertain preseason in NFL history. The show is scheduled to air on August 11, but like everything else in life now, whether that will happen as planned is TBD.

X-Men (Disney+, August 7)

Miles Surrey: Lost amid all the MCU-related shuffling in Hollywood is the lucrative superhero franchise that preceded it: the X-Men. Since the first X-Men film (simply titled X-Men) made its debut in 2000, there have been 11 movies released—Dark Phoenix will be the 12th. These films were successful before superhero movies were en vogue; they’ve catapulted then-anonymous actors into A-list movie stars; they’ve inspired spinoffs that have garnered legitimate Oscar buzz, or on the other hand total audience derision; they’ve survived reboots, prequels, quasi-prequel-reboots (I’ll explain), and ill-conceived narrative inconsistencies. Now, along with their parent production company, 21st Century Fox, the X-Men are joining the Disney family in a move that’s expected to wipe the current X-Men slate clean (sans Deadpool, who’s too profitable to kill), likely so that mutants can eventually be inserted into the next cinematic “phase” of the MCU.

Inception (Amazon Prime, August 1)

Harvilla: The action scenes—the car chases, the shoot-outs, the snowmobile antics—are a little choppy and dorky, save for JGL’s legit badass low-gravity hotel brawl. (John Wick, this ain’t.) Cotillard is not so much playing DiCaprio’s wife as playing DiCaprio’s tortured-protagonist’s mental projection of his wife, which is a little too on the nose as female characters in cerebral action movies go. (Mad Max: Fury Road, this ain’t.) But we have not gathered here to reassess this movie critically, either. What matters is how this movie felt, and how persistent that feeling remains. The less you knew plot- or theme-wise before the theater lights darkened back in 2010, the better, which gave you all the more to talk about on the internet in 2020.

Jojo Rabbit (HBO Max, August 1)

Adam Nayman: It’s the story of an enthusiastic 10-year-old Hitler youth named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) caught between the anti-Nazi activism of his saintly, seemingly widowed mother (Scarlett Johansson) and the intolerant philosophy of his imaginary friend, who happens to be the führer (played by the director). After discovering that Mom is hiding an orphaned Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in a secret chamber in their home, Jojo is forced to confront both his own prejudices and the racist, genocidal narratives he’s eagerly bought into in the name of feeling included.

Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, Season 1 (HBO Max, August 1)

Alison Herman: Comedy Central’s latest sitcom is still an unusually brazen example, though, because the show it’s modeling itself after is the erstwhile flagship of its own network. Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, hinges on a self-explanatory mouthful of a premise. Comedian and actress Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina, has reached the Insecure-Girls stage of her fame, anchoring a semi-autobiographical half-hour perfectly timed to follow the recent Golden Globe win for her performance in Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. But in practice, Nora From Queens doesn’t feel much like the introductions created by Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, and Awkwafina’s fellow Globe winner Ramy Youssef—total immersions in a specific point of view, designed to familiarize the audience with the persona of its creator-star. Instead, the show seems transparently modeled after Broad City, the groundbreaking, five-season friendship saga that concluded last year.

House Party (HBO Max, August 1)

Julian Kimble: House Party—the first movie [Reginald] Hudlin wrote and directed—isn’t a novel concept. A teen from Anywhere, USA, gets in trouble at school and is forbidden by his strict father from going to a friend’s party, an order he obviously disregards. From there, the kid spends nearly 100 minutes trying to avoid ass-kickings from three muscle-bound tormentors, two racist cops, and one pissed-off father, all while hedging his bet with two girls who have varying degrees of interest in him. But despite the simple formula, House Party stands in stark contrast to many of the teen films that preceded it—because, as Hudlin mentioned, these kids were black.

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.

Indian Matchmaking (Netflix)

Herman: Reality TV tends to turn flesh-and-blood people into stock characters, and Aparna’s archetype is easy to recognize. She’s the quintessential career woman who doesn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to focus on her love life. And now that she’s decided to put more effort into romance, she’s unable to turn off the perfectionism that’s gotten her so far in her professional life. Take the way she describes a typical first date: “I have a place. It’s a wine bar, and we do 55-minute dates there. I sit at the same table—it’s right by the door—and I literally give the person an hour.” Aparna may be on a dating show, but she talks like a Shark Tank judge.

Down to Earth With Zac Efron (Netflix)

Surrey: Efron is essentially traveling the world and reenacting the I Think You Should Leave motorcycle sketch with completely unironic enthusiasm—but to be fair, much of the stuff he encounters is super cool. By pairing Efron with his friend and self-proclaimed “wellness guru” Darin Olien, Down to Earth tries to bridge the gap between earnest explorations of environmentalism, sustainability, and better ways to live with the real selling point of this show: Zac Efron vibing really hard. It’s difficult not to get sucked in, if only because it’s abundantly clear that Efron is approaching all these experiences with a genuine desire to learn, inform, and maybe do some introspection along the way.

The Old Guard (Netflix)

Surrey: Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka, who cocreated the comic book series the film is adapted from, The Old Guard is as interested in what happens to people when they’re trapped in a cycle of violence as it is with the action itself. These immortals have lived through the Crusades, the Civil War, and now are living in our modern world. For a superhero film, The Old Guard is surprisingly thoughtful about the emotional toll of killing nameless henchmen, even as it obliges with several impressively brutal set pieces. The movie also makes good use of its R rating—and as Prince-Bythewood told The Atlantic, they looked to the likes of The Raid, Logan, and Mission: Impossible–Fallout’s epic bathroom fight for inspiration, and it shows.

Fear City: New York vs The Mafia (Netflix)

Justin Sayles: If Fear City has a star beyond the Black Bag Man, it’s director Sam Hobkinson, who captures the grit of ’70s and ’80s New York without sacrificing the highly stylized sheen that makes so many Netflix true-crime docs pop. Drawing on unprecedented access to surveillance tapes and photos, Hobkinson reveals key info through fragments of conversations between the mobsters and reenactments that manage to enhance the story, rather than detract from it. This pulls the viewer in, making them bear witness to the growing mountain of evidence against the bosses and the dramatically expanding scope of the investigation without bogging them down in legalese. “I hope people enjoy the ride but also understand the complexity and daring of putting these cases together,” Liebman says. “I hope people can appreciate the complexity and daring of the people involved.”

Brave New World (Peacock)

Keith Phipps: Developed by Brian Taylor (Crank, Mom and Dad), David Wiener (Homecoming), and comics great Grant Morrison, the series updates Aldous Huxley’s world while somehow making it feel less relevant. In spite of smart touches like a privacy-erasing contact lens that feels like a direct descendant of Instagram and a Savage Lands that caricatures 21st-century working-class life—as well as nice moments like John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich) getting awakened to a richer, wider world by discovering a Radiohead song—it plays less like an adaptation of Huxley’s novel than an extremely watchable dilution, with little of the ambiguity that makes the novel so disturbing. Its New London society is so stuffed with obvious villains that of course it has to come crumbling down (however fun its pansexual dance-floor orgies might look).

The Rental (Amazon Prime Video)

Nayman: Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental, does not try to reinvent the wheel that The Cabin in the Woods imagined as an endlessly reiterative loop. It’s a thriller made inside a certain tradition rather than attempting to exist outside of it; Franco is playing the game, not changing it. The Rental is about a group of attractive, monied 20-somethings decamping to a remote location for a bit of escapist fun: not a cabin in the woods, but a deluxe cottage on the water. Instead of playing with clichés, the film—cowritten by Franco and the prolific lo-fi auteur Joe Swanberg—clings to them with an iron grip. Its title, meanwhile, has a different and less intentional resonance than Whedon’s playfully predictable moniker; releasing a movie called The Rental directly to VOD, even in the context of COVID-19, is all but asking to be written off in online headlines as disposable. The real question is whether Franco’s modest, streamlined exercise can surpass these lowered expectations.

Bonus Watching

A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.

What to watch if you believe that Destiny Is All! Uhtred accumulates several titles and nicknames throughout four seasons of The Last Kingdom, but none hit quite like the original, “My name is Uhtred, son of Uhtred,” spoken in his distinctive sing-song cadence that is one of the true joys of the series. Uhtred was born a Saxon but enslaved and later adopted by Danes. In the ninth century, amid ongoing war between the independent Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and invading Vikings, that dual identity tugs Uhtred in opposite directions. Will the famed warrior fight for his birth country or the people who raised him? And will he ever gain the full trust of either? The Last Kingdom is not the next Game of Thrones (though it often seems to try), but it does have moments of greatness. Uhtred, fearless and magnetic, is fun to root for; the sheer physicality of the battle scenes is shocking and engrossing; and the character arcs have just enough bend to draw you in. Earlier this month, the series was renewed for a fifth season, making now the perfect time to saddle up and join Uhtred and Co. on their journey. Isaac Levy-Rubinett

What to watch if you miss your Friends: I regret to inform you that I really love rewatching Friends. I know, I know, it’s probably more fun to make fun of the show nowadays, but there is something about Joey’s appetite, Chandler’s wittiness, Ross’s divorces, Monica’s obsession with cleaning, Phoebe’s evil twin sister, and Rachel’s ditziness that I really enjoy. The entire series can be streamed via HBO Max. Go ahead and check it out—the episodes are only 20 mins. Plus the theme song is a banger that you cannot NOT CLAP TO. David Lara

What to watch when you can’t get enough of Veep: The political chess match that followed Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 was violent and brutal, much like the man. So it’s jarring that the greatest retelling of what occurred is a comedy. Armando Iannucci’s 2017 film, starring Steve Buscemi as Nikita Kruschev, Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov, Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov, and Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov is as funny as any episode of his previous project, Veep. Political machinations beget conspiracy, which begets chaos, and no one is more prepared to undercut that mania with a sharp joke or perfectly timed laugh than Iannucci. It’ll almost give you a soft spot for Lavrentiy Beria (almost). Shaker Samman