The Internet is giving folks a strange crop for August, courtesy of an eclectic mix of high-concept comedies, audacious original movies and foreign imports modeled after familiar narratives. Wet Hot American Summer gets brought back from the great beyond yet again and Netflix raises the curtain on its big superhero team-up show; Amazon hosts a pair of off-kilter sitcoms; and the most gleefully sadistic film franchise in recent memory comes online. Here’s your must-stream guide for the next month.
Comrade Detective (Amazon, Aug. 4th)
Get ready to get meta with this bizarre new cop-show parody that plays like it’s been garbled by several rounds of Google Translate. The series begins with Channing Tatum receiving a package containing the last VHS copies of a fictitious Cold War-era crime saga smuggled in from Romania. The rest of the program consists of him and a who’s who of celebrity buddies (the lineup includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jenny Slate, Fred Armisen and Mahershala Ali) dubbing over the “footage” of actual Romanian actors for an impending release in the States. It’s a faithful homage to Reagan-years action flicks and the aesthetics of low-budget filmmaking, as well as one big A-list goof.
Death Note (Netflix, Aug. 25th)
Bored, perpetually bullied student Light (Nat Wolff) happens upon a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written on its pages. Several personal vendettas and one huge ego-trip later, he’s refashioned himself as the god of a brave new world governed by moral absolutism. Fans of the original anime on which this new film is based have cried foul at director Adam Wingard’s choice to whiten up the series’ Asian context; thankfully, the cracking tension of the cat-and-mouse game played between this teen killer and an oddball super-detective (once again, Lakeith Stanfield FTW) has remained intact. It’s a cerebral crime saga with a supernatural-philosophical edge – equal parts Silence of the Lambs, Dostoyevsky and good ol’-fashioned demonic fantasy,
Difficult People, Season 3 (Hulu, Aug. 8th)
Before Broad City returns to the airwaves, why not try out another relentlessly funny series about two friends struggling to carve out a piece of New York City for themselves. Series creator Julie Klausner and walking laugh factory Billy Eichner play misanthropic exaggerations of themselves as they jam their feet in the TV business’ door by any means necessary. The new season sees Julie giving cosmetic surgery a spin, Billy undergoing an experimental de-gay-ification procedure and the pair landing a gig as the grumpiest clowns in the history of children’s entertainment. John Cho shows up as a new love interest for Billy; John Turturro provides some lovin’ for Julie’s mom (Broadway baby Andrea Martin); and as a bonus, you get a memorable cameo from the one and only Maury Povich.
The Good Karma Hospital (Acorn, Aug. 21st)
Feeling frustrated over a disastrous breakup, junior physician Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia) decides to blow it all up and start over. In an effort to connect with her roots, she leaves the U.K. for a new job at a South Indian hospital run by a quirky English expatriate (Amanda Redman). Though the modest, overextended facilities aren’t what she’s used to, Ruby learns a few things about medicine and – wait for it – herself. Looking for a light and fluffy story of self-discovery tailor-made for the intersection point of Eat Pray Love and Grey’s Anatomy fandoms? The doctor is in, etc.
Icarus (Netflix, Aug. 4th)
For a nice change of pace, how about a chilling story of Russian tampering with an international process concerning sports instead of politics? Documentarian Bryan Fogel got the scoop of a lifetime when he started doing a Supersize Me-style investigation on whether anabolic steroid use would help make him a better cyclist. Then he interrogates the scientists behind the Eastern European nation’s doping scandal at the 2016 Olympics – and suddenly uncovers a vast conspiracy involving Putin, cover-ups, cover-ups for the aformentioned cover-ups and several whistleblowers who find themselves stepping right into the crosshairs. It’s already gaining traction (bonus points for a cycling pun!) as one of the year’s buzziest documentaries.
Marvel’s The Defenders (Netflix, Aug. 18th)
Netflix’s various entries in Marvel’s connected universe have all led to this. We all know that Luke Cage brings the pain from the mean streets of Harlem, Jessica Jones holds it down in Brooklyn, Daredevil runs Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Fist patrols the skyscraper-lined avenues of Midtown. But in this new crossover, they team up to guard New York from the evil ninja triad known as the Hand descends on the Big Apple. Fans can expect to see the likes of the Punisher and other regular associates from the individual series drop in, not to mention the long-awaited resurgence of raw sexual tension between Jones and Cage. Sweet Christmas!
Rake (Acorn, Aug.14th)
No, it’s not a prestige-TV drama about he dog-eat-dog world of garden-tool manufacturing. The title refers to a man of status with ladykiller tendencies like, say, Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh), a barrister who likes an uphill battle in the courtroom as much as he likes raising hell outside of it. Outright bigamists, multiple murderers, the odd cannibal – this is the gent who’ll defend ’em. In this comedy-drama straight from Australia, our incorrigible antihero will tackle a colorful new case each episode and use his silver tongue to get himself out of all manner of trouble. Eat your heart out, Perry Mason … before one of Greene’s clients does so.
The Saw Series (Amazon and Hulu, Aug.1st)
If the disreputable subgenre of horror fondly known as “torture porn” has a Mona Lisa, this is it. The first five films in the gruesome and endlessly lucrative megafranchise arrive online this month in all their jaw-snapping, flesh-searing, leg-amputating glory. Masked killer Jigsaw subjects victims to a battery of psychological/physical torture through a series of depraved games; the original installment is pretty much an Escape the Room challenge as devised by Kevin Spacey’s Seven character. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re here for the carnage, people.
The Tick (Amazon, Aug. 25th)
Why so serious, Batman? Lighten up, Avengers! If only all superheroes were as irrepressibly upbeat as the live-action looney-toon known as the Tick (Peter Serafinowicz), a crimefighter armed with great agility and the strength of “a crowded bus stop’s worth of men.” Along with his trusty sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman) and brains-of-the-outfit Dot (Valorie Curry), he protects people from nefarious no-goodnik the Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). The blue spandex wonder represents the culmination of what Guardians of the Galaxy began: a superhero story free to be the sitcom it’s always dreamed of being.
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (Netflix, Aug. 4th)
After the raves for Netflix’s season-length prequel to cult-comedy holy grail Wet Hot American Summer last year, a sequel set a decade after the 2001 film was a no-brainer. The counselors – including Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler and many, many others – have reunited for a harebrained plot including a reincarnated sentient can of vegetables, Bill Clinton and a threat to sell their beloved campground. The biggest change-up? The shift from “oh god, remember the Eighties?” jokes to “oh god, remember the Nineties?” jokes. Bring on the grunge gags.