The Best Movies, TV, Books and Music for August
HBO's most ambitious series since “Watchmen,” all the Ken Burns you’d ever want and more
Welcome to Culture Hound, InsideHook’s deep dive into the month’s most important cultural happenings, pop and otherwise. Note: due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, release dates are highly tentative.
RETURNING: Ken Burns
The entire oeuvre of the acclaimed filmmaker (The Civil War, Country Music, etc.) is being added to Prime Video, as part of a larger, $3.99 add-on documentary service called, rather dryly, the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel. The new station will feature 900 hours of additional programming, including Frontline and American Experience. (Aug. 4)
Other returning TV series and specials: Shark Week (Discovery, Aug. 9-16); Hard Knocks: Los Angeles (HBO, Aug. 11); Top Gear (BBC America, Aug. 30)
As of now, the sequel to the critically acclaimed fast-zombie hit Train to Busan — which you can and should watch on Netflix — is scheduled to hit theaters by month’s end. The South Korean film is already a hit in the rest of the world, but we’re guessing you’ll have to wait, and that a VOD option will pop up before the flick hits the cable streamer Shudder in 2021. (Aug. 21)
More new films coming to your TV screen: An American Pickle (Aug. 6, HBO Max); The Tax Collector (Aug. 7, VOD); Project Power (Aug. 14, Netflix); Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story (Aug. 14, VOD); Tesla (Aug. 21, VOD)
Retro consoles have been a hit for a while, but Analogue is about to debut the ideal handheld device for old-school gamers — Pocket can play the nearly 2,800 Game Boy titles already in existence, and utilize cartridge adapters to work with Game Gear, Neo Geo, Atari Lynx and more … all at 10 times the resolution. The sleek device is also a digital audio workstation with a built-in synthesizer and sequencer. (Pre-orders begin Aug. 3)
More new/retro games this month: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (Aug. 18); Madden 2020 (Aug. 25)
WATCH: Lovecraft Country
A road trip across the Jim Crow South of the 1950s is an exercise in the horrors of that era’s racism, as well as the horrors of Lovecraftian monsters. Heavy stuff, but the last time HBO mixed genre programming with social commentary, they got the Emmy-nominated Watchmen.
New TV series and specials: Immigration Nation (Aug. 3, Netflix); Star Trek: Lower Decks (Aug. 6, CBS All Access); Boys State (Aug. 14, Apple+); Ted Lasso (Aug. 14, Apple+); Hoops (Aug. 21, Netflix)
BUY: Flash Gordon
A 4K remaster of the amazingly surreal and campy 1980 sci-fi flick, which featured a dubbed-over Sam J. Jones as hero/Jets QB (!) Flash Gordon, an amazing synth-rock soundtrack by Queen and some unintentionally memorable dialogue (“Look! Water is leaking from her eyes!”). The expanded Blu-ray edition includes hours of bonus footage, documentaries and new tie-in booklets and artwork. (Aug. 18)
More Blu-ray releases: The Alejandro Jodorowsky: 4K Restoration Collection (Aug. 21)
READ: The Disaster Tourist
A dystopian novel that reads like, well, next year. In Yun Ko-eun’s debut, a worker for a travel agency that specializes in tours to areas devastated by disasters and climate change is forced to go undercover at their latest doomed destination.
More recommended new fiction and non-fiction: Life of a Klansman (Aug. 4); The New Wilderness (Aug. 11); His Truth is Marching On (Aug. 25)
LISTEN: Elliott Smith
An expanded 25th anniversary edition of the late singer-songwriter’s second album, featuring a new remastering of the original record, a coffee table book of previously unseen photographs with handwritten lyrics, and a bonus disc documenting the earliest known recording of Smith performing solo. (Aug. 28)
More new music: Glass Animals (Aug. 7); Whitney (Aug. 14); Bright Eyes, Cut Copy, Erasure, The Killer, Secret Machines, The Front Bottoms (Aug. 21); The Avett Brothers, Disclosure, Metallica, Angel Olsen (Aug. 28)
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