L-R: Eyes Wide Shut (Warner Bros.), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (screenshot), Day Shift (Andrew Cooper/Netflix)
Summertime is in full swing and so is Netflix’s August slate of both original content and well-loved favorites. There are lots of comedies, dramas, a wide range of docs, and even a few new Netflix-produced films hot on the heels of July’s release of The Gray Man. What else does the streaming giant have on tap? Funny you should ask...
The Nice Guys (Available August 9)
The Nice Guys - Main Trailer [HD]
If you have never seen Shane Black’s criminally not-as-popular-as-it-should-be film The Nice Guys, your next chance is via Netflix on August 9. Scripted and directed by Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) the film is a hysterically twisted neo-noir starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as private investigators on the case for a recently deceased pornstar. A layered mystery mixed with a buddy comedy (a subgenre Black helped hone with the Lethal Weapon series), The Nice Guys is at its most hilarious when Crowe’s salty veteran PI clashes with Gosling’s newbie idiocy. The film also features Margaret Qualley in only her second role and Angourie Rice as Gosling’s pre-teen daughter Holly, damn near stealing the show. In his “B”-rated review for The A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said, “The Nice Guys is funny enough when it sticks to its heroes—whether pinned in a tight spot or bickering with each other—that its less-than-compelling intrigues and digressions come as an acceptable trade-off.”
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (Available August 5)
Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie | Official Trailer | Netflix After School
The moving picture saga of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an odd one. There have been so many derivations of the popular franchise of such varied success and failure, one wonders if the masses even care anymore. Perhaps that’s why Netflix has decided to plop a new animated movie down this August that seems to appeal to kids and their geeky parents. The film takes place two years after the end of Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series featuring the defeat of Shredder, thus shifting the focus to The Kraang, another common TMNT villain. The trailer features a sassy, “anime-light” style that looks pretty cool; the fact that this isn’t some crappy looking computer-generated animation is a relief. Ben Schwartz reprises his role as Leonardo, leading his reptilian brethren (Omar Benson Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, and Josh Brenner) into battle alongside erstwhile turtle friend April O’Neill (Kat Graham). Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie looks like good family fun and a nice way to keep the franchise relevant.
8 Mile (Available August 1)
8 Mile Official Trailer #1 - (2002) HD
The year was 2002 and Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. rapper Eminem, was at the tip of everyone’s tongue for his amazing rap skills and problematic lifestyle. There were all sorts of threatening shenanigans afoot, including accusations of homophobia, domestic abuse, and misogyny. While there’s absolutely no excuse for such abhorrent behavior, time—and the Curtis Hanson-directed 8 Mile—has helped humanize Mathers. In a truly great film that’s basically Rocky meets Good Will Hunting but with hip-hop, Mathers stars as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, a trailer park-dwelling white kid with a gift for spitting rhyme. His myriad struggles include an alcoholic mom (an excellent performance from Kim Basinger), a pregnant girlfriend (Taryn Manning), and a nowhere job at a factory. Even if you don’t fall for the classic “poor kid overcomes adversity to chase their dream” tropes, it’s impossible not to get totally fired up by the scene where Eminem’s Oscar-winning song Lose Yourself accompanies him to a showdown. In his positive 2002 review of the film for The New Yorker, David Denby praises Hanson’s steady direction of subtle moments that show more than tell.
The Town (Available August 1)
The Town - Official Trailer [HD]
Ben Affleck was already an Oscar winner in the screenplay category thanks to 1997’s Good Will Hunting, but moviegoers were pleasantly surprised by his 2007 directorial debut Gone Baby Gone starring his brother Casey Affleck. Not one to rest on past successes, Ben Affleck decided to write, direct, and star in The Town in 2010. As much as Affleck haters wanted to hate, The Town proved to be another solid, Boston-based dramatic thriller which satisfied critics, audiences, and box office coffers.
In The Town, Affleck is Doug MacRay, a member of a team of bank robbers that includes Jeremy Renner. Things get tricky when MacRay is sent to follow up with Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), a clerk they recently took hostage during a bank robbery. The two have immediate romantic chemistry, which presents an issue for several reasons. The plot thickens further as MacRay learns Keesey has no clue he was in on the robbery—not such a bad thing, as MacRay is getting tired of the robber life. The film also features great turns from Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, and especially Pete Postlethwaite who was posthumously robbed of an Oscar nomination. In his review of the film for The A.V. Club, Sam Adams wrote the film was a step up from Gone Baby Gone, calling it “a looser and more sprawling affair, more conventional, but also more assured.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Available August 1)
FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies
Sure, it’s still summer break for a few more weeks but that doesn’t make it a bad time to rewatch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, does it? This all-time classic is a rare ’80s film that still has popular movie quotes in the current public vernacular. Written and directed by John Hughes, it stars Matthew Broderick as rapscallion Ferris Bueller who, in the midst of his privileged, idyllic, and free-wheeling life, decides he needs a day off from high school. He enlists uptight BFF Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to join him in a getaway in the lovely nearby city of Chicago. The joyful film bookends Hughes’ streak of directing teen comedies (also, how did he only direct eight films?). Armond White of The National Review calls Ferris Bueller “the most compelling of all John Hughes movies.”
Legends Of The Fall (Available August 1)
Legends of the Fall (1994) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
The most enjoyable advantage to streaming networks is revisiting a movie you haven’t seen for a very long time. Such is the case with 1994’s Ed Zwick film Legends Of The Fall—c’mon, when was the last time you saw it? As a plot refresher: Brad Pitt, in glorious 1994 glow, stars as Tristan, one of three sons to Anthony Hopkins, the other two being truculent Alfred (Aidan Quinn) and beloved little brother Samuel (Henry Thomas) who, let’s just say, you shouldn’t grow attached to. Family drama deepens when Alfred brings his new fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond) to the farm which, dude, bad move. Have you seen Tristan? Things get intense in this gorgeously shot Western drama that, again, may or may not have held up over the years. Let’s find out together, shall we? For a fascinating take on the film via the male gaze and Ormond’s gaze at Pitt, check out this excellent piece by The A.V. Club’s Danette Chavez.
Eyes Wide Shut (Available August 1)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Official Trailer - Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman Movie HD
Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut garnered such dramatic hype upon its release in 1999 that many people really didn’t take time to watch and digest the actual film when it finally hit screens. There was the 400-day shooting schedule, there was Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman starring together for the first time since Far And Away in 1992, there were rumors of all sorts of discontent on set, and then Kubrick died before it was released. It was almost as if the lead-up to the premiere was more of a story than the film itself.
Eyes Wide Shut is a really strange movie that defies easy interpretation and has become more well liked over time. In an enlightening 2009 piece for The A.V. Club, Scott Tobias speaks to the way audiences have come around on the film, saying “at its core, the film is about the bonds of marriage and the challenge of achieving real intimacy.”
She’s Funny That Way (Available August 1)
She’s Funny That Way Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston Movie HD
Peter Bogdanovich’s final narrative film was 2014’s screwball comedy She’s Funny That Way. Even though the film got lumped in with other semi-forgettable rom-coms of that era, that’s an unfair designation for a truly funny throwback screwball comedy in the vein of Ernst Lubitsch, Howard Hawks, or Billy Wilder. The film stars Owen Wilson as a theater director who’s enjoying time with a call girl (Imogen Poots) who’s dating the writer of the play (Will Forte), whose previous relationship was with a therapist (Jennifer Aniston). As is the case with many screwball comedies, all these characters begin to cross paths and the onscreen confusion intensifies. In his A.V. Club review of the film, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky called it “relationship comedy as weightless movement, meaning that something is always happening, but that none of it matters a damn bit.”
Bridget Jones’s Diary (Available August 1)
BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (2001) | Official Trailer | 4K Restoration
With news of a fourth Bridget Jones movie hitting the newswire last month, what a perfect time to revisit the first, and best, of the franchise. Renée Zellweger broke onto the scene is 1996’s Jerry Maguire after a string of memorable parts, and proves a sheer comedic joy as a Brit embarking on a hilarious year of self-improvement and keeping a diary along the way. There are ups, downs, and love interests in Hugh Grant and Colin Firth—impossible to choose between. An Oscar-nominated Zellweger holds it all together with comedic aplomb. In an insightful article penned for The A.V. Club, Caroline Siede calls Bridget Jones’s Diary “a paragon” of the rom-com genre.
Men In Black (Available August 1)
MEN IN BLACK  - Official Trailer (HD)
Barry Sonnenfeld simply knocked it out of the park with this one. Coming in blazing hot off of The Addams Family (1991), Addams Family Values (1993), and Get Shorty (1995), Men In Black is truly a pitch-perfect summer blockbuster. Written by Ed Solomon (the Bill & Ted franchise), the film cast Will Smith opposite a curmudgeonly Tommy Lee Jones in a sci-fi buddy-cop movie about a government agency that keeps an eye on extraterrestrial visitors. The film is fun for the whole family—so much so that getting the Men In Black theme song stuck in your head for a month is a fair trade. Roger Ebert gave the film a solid three stars, praising its laissez-faire approach and excellent creature effects by master Rick Baker.
Running With The Devil: The Wild World Of John McAfee (Available August 24)
Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee | Official Trailer | Netflix
It’s a bit curious that the life of billionaire software designer John McAfee isn’t better known—it’s a doozy. After creating the McAfee virus protection program that we all used back in the day, he sold that company for $7 billion and then went rogue. Ostensibly, Running With The Devil: The Wild World Of John McAfee starts out as a documentary about McAfee being on the run from several powerful agencies, including the CIA and a Mexican drug cartel. But as the documentarians embed further with their whimsical subject, things get stranger and stranger. There are several convoluted elements to McAfee’s life; the fact that he created early spyware means he has some dark, secret information on powerful people. He’s also an accused murderer, which is what set him on the run. But is he being set up by the same powerful people he has dirt on? Or is he a legit criminal? Hopefully this Netflix venture will shed some light on a real-life American psycho.
Love & Basketball (Available August 1)
Love & Basketball (2000) Official Trailer - Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps Basketball Movie HD
Lifelong friends Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are passionate about basketball and both dream of one day playing professionally in the NBA. This, in and of itself, is a great way to lure audiences in before Love & Basketball digs in on topics of race, gender, and social inequity. But of course, it’s also a love story. This low-key masterpiece premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, written and directed by then-newcomer Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Spike Lee. Among its highlights is the way Prince-Bythewood shows the lead characters in childhood, bonding and growing their dreams together. In 2020, ESPN produced an excellent oral history of the film. If you’ve never seen it, it’s time to remedy that.
Flight (Available August 1)
Flight Movie Official Trailer
After a successful career where Robert Zemeckis basically owned the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s (Back To The Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, just to name a few), the director became enthralled with a new animated motion-capture technology that used analog circuits and cathode ray tubes to capture actors’ movements. The results were, well, mixed. While many people loved The Polar Express (2004), many more found the dead-eyed looks onscreen a little unsettling. Yet Zemeckis stuck with it, creating two other mo-cap animated films (Beowulf in 2007 and A Christmas Carol in 2009) before finally getting back to directing actors who weren’t animated. His first film back was 2012’s Flight, starring the great Denzel Washington as airline pilot Whip Whitaker (his parents must’ve known he’d grow up to be an airline pilot) whose skills save a doomed airplane full of passengers. However, this heroic act also reveals Whitaker is a hardcore alcoholic; even though he pulled off a miracle, the alcohol found in his system could send him to prison. Washington embodies his role as a man struggling with, and for, his life. In a review for The A.V. Club, Keith Phipps said, “The film makes it clear that every choice matters.”
Day Shift (Available August 12)
Day Shift | Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, and Snoop Dogg | Official Trailer | Netflix
Stunt-double-turned-actor J.J. Perry makes his directorial debut with Netflix original Day Shift, starring Jamie Foxx as Bud Jablonski (yeah, really), a vampire hunter at night who poses as a pool cleaner by day to nab his nocturnal prey. If Bud doesn’t square his child support by a certain date, he loses his chance to see his daughter; thus, the well-worn trope of “one last, big score.” In order to make the big money, Jablonski enlists the help of fellow vampire hunter Big John Elliott (Snoop Dogg) as well as his newbie partner Seth (Dave Franco). While there are no reviews of the Netflix original yet, the cast appears to be solid, as does the action on display in the trailer.
Inside The Mind Of A Cat (Available August 18)
If there’s one thing the Internet remains thoroughly dedicated to, it’s pets—perhaps cats most of all. They’re odd, individualistic, and frequently aloof, and this all raises the question: What goes on Inside The Mind Of A Cat? Seasoned animal documentarian Andy Mitchell here speaks to several renowned cat experts (how one becomes a cat expert sounds like fodder for another documentary) to help to better understand what motivates cats. This seems like a foray into science and nature that can delight cat lovers everywhere. While we’re at it, perhaps Netflix also needs an investigative doc about social media’s insatiable need to share photos of pets.