Best Movies and TV to Stream in Aug.: ‘Dark Crystal,’ ‘Free Meek,’ ‘Mindhunter’
From a long-awaited fantasy prequel to a new season of Netflix’s gritty serial-killer drama
What to expect when you’re expecting to spend a lot of time indoors in August with the air-conditioning on and your butt on a couch: a long-awaited Dark Crystal prequel; documentaries on a possibly dying magician, a microcosm of global economic change, and social-media superstardom; a fusion of fantasy and hardboiled noir involving fairies and werewolves; and not one, not two but three new seasons from popular Netflix series. Check out your best streaming options for the month.
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (Hulu, Aug. 16th)
Filmmaker Ben Berman started with a simple concept: a look at the return of absurdist magician-comedian the Amazing Johnathan to the stage, despite being told he only had a year to live because of a heart problem. As Berman looked closer, however, things started to get fuzzy: Had he been hoodwinked? And what’s up with the rival camera crew that Johnathan invited to follow him on tour? It’s an odd look at a cult figure who may or may not be constructing an elaborate prank — and almost certainly the year’s only nonfiction film in which the subject tries to peer-pressure a director into smoking meth.
American Factory (Netflix, Aug. 21st)
After a factory shutdown throws the future of an Ohio industry town into jeopardy, a Chinese corporation saves the day by reopening the facility and hiring thousands of locals. They also bring over a lot of their own management from the mainland; cue a culture clash of globalization in the workplace, with the friction between blue-collar types and their new management. Imagine an episode of The Office set during the dying throes of American manufacturing — that’s roughly the feel of this deadpan-comic doc.
Carnival Row (Amazon, Aug. 30th)
Ah yes, it’s another one of those fantasy epics with a gigantic budget and big names to go with it! In the mythical city of Carnival Row, extraordinary creatures seek refuge from their war-ravaged homeland and cohabitate with humans. A string of gruesome murders require an investigation that entangles fairy Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) and police inspector Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) — it also might be part of a grim, labyrinthine conspiracy. If you like werewolves, goat-men, and a while lot of film noir tropes, have we got a show for you.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix, August 30th)
Jim Henson’s 1982 fable alternately enchanted and scared the snot out of countless latchkey kids in the Reagan era, and now this prequel series seeks to do the same for a new generation. Three of the elfin critters known as Gelflings embark upon a quest to vanquish the nefarious vulture-like monstrosities called the Skeksis, before they plunge the planet into darkness for the rest of time. With a stacked cast of vocal talent (Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Awkwafina, Sigourney Weaver, Mark Hamill, Eddie Izzard, Harvey Fierstein and many, many more) and state-of-the-art animatronic technology carrying on Henson’s original vision, this has “nostalgia-fueled blockbuster TV” written all over it.
Dear White People, Season 3 (Netflix, Aug. 2nd)
As Netflix’s blistering college-campus satire returns for its junior year, everyone at Winchester University is switching it up. Sam (Logan Browning) has ceded hosting duties on her lightning-rod radio show to work on her thesis film. Lionel (DeRon Horton) takes a break from the school paper, and uses his spare time to dive into the local gay culture. Troy (Brandon P. Bell) starts working on a high-prestige comedy writing staff, only to realize that he’s been tokenized. Not to worry: Everything from Tomi Lahren to Eminem’s post-comeback output will still be put on blast.
Free Meek (Amazon Prime, Aug. 9th)
Philadelphian rapper Meek Mill spent five months in jail for a 2017 parole violation that got him slapped with a two-to-four-year sentence. The incident and its fallout — Meek filed an appeal to overturn the 2008 charge that put him on parole in the first place, and won — converted him into an advocate for criminal justice reform. This nonfiction series follows him on his new crusade to keep decent people out of prison. With an assist from Jay-Z as executive producer, Meek takes a broken system to task, shining a light on the courts’ double standards for black and white defendants.
GLOW, Season 3 (Netflix, Aug. 9th)
The Emmy-nominated comedy series wrapped up its second season by canceling the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling TV program and sending the troupe to Las Vegas for a stage show. The show picks back up in Sin City, where business is booming with nightly sellout crowds and debauched casino afterparties. But there’s trouble in paradise: Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin) can’t take the distance this new gig puts between her and her son, and Zoya the Destroya (Alison Brie) still feels unfulfilled. Out in the desert, the hairstyles are only getting bigger.
Jawline (Hulu, Aug. 23rd)
Tennessean 16-year-old Austyn Tester has a plan for success: parley his male-model good looks into online stardom, get some money, and take care of his underpaid single mother. Filmmaker Liza Mandelup tracks thew young man’s meteoric ascent to viral celebrity, as he goes from self-taping motivational broadcasts in his bedroom to sending gaggles of girls into Beatlemania fits at mall food courts. It helps to remember that this strain of fame vanishes just as quickly as it arrives, however — and that’s when this documentary gets really interesting.
Mindhunter, Season 2 (Netflix, Aug. 16th)
This David Fincher-produced series about a pair of FBI agents interrogating 1970s serial killers brings out some big names for its second season. Not any buzzy A-list stars, though — more along the lines of Charles Manson and the Son of Sam. With a string of child homicides gripping Atlanta, the feds must stare even harder into the face of evil to gain some perspective on the madness they’re facing. And in addition to the aforementioned bad guys, the trailer confirms that fan favorite slaughterer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) will also rear his bespectacled head. We’ve heard of a “murderer’s row,” but this is ridiculous.
Wu Assassins (Netflix, August 8th)
Martial-arts-movie nerds already know Iko Uwais as an Indonesian action-cinema dynamo, and The Raid superstar produces and stars as Kai Jin, a cook in San Francisco’s Chinatown district. Then an ancient spirit activates his latent chosen-one abilities as the Wu Assassin, and guess who transforms into an unstoppable ass-whupping machine? It’s up to him to take down a villainous triad gang before they harness an enigmatic source of energy known as the Wu Xing. America, meet the next Bruce Lee.