Crossing the Streams is our series of guides looking at all the offerings hitting the big streaming services each month. This time we’re checking out what’s new to streaming on Amazon Prime in August 2023, including Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, The Black Demon, and more!
Prime Pick of the Month for August 2023
John Francis Daley left acting behind and became a filmmaker, and his first two features (Vacation, 2015; Game Night, 2018) turned healthy profits on small/mid-range budgets. He went big for his latest film, though, and it kind of went bust in theaters. It’s a shame as Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023, premieres August 25th) sits comfortably between the two earlier films in regard to its entertainment value — far better than Vacation, can’t touch the masterpiece that is Game Night — and deserves more eyeballs. Chris Pine is fantastic as the goofy rogue, and Hugh Grant is even better as the villain. Add in lots of fun set-pieces, a strong ensemble, a clear and unironic love for the Dungeon & Dragon world, and some entertaining creature fx, and you have a winner. Give it a spin if you missed it in theaters, and give it a rewatch if you didn’t.
The 70s remain the best decade in movies thanks to filmmakers dedicated to delivering all manner of cynically entertaining, frequently thoughtful, and wholly unforgiving movies. Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971) — the filmmaker’s fourth collaboration with lead Clint Eastwood — is among the decade’s more influential films. The no-nonsense, rule-breaking cop butting up against the system in his pursuit of the bad guy gets its most high-profile start here, and it led to a whole slew of copycats (and more than a few sequels). You may argue with its politics, but there’s little denying the film’s visceral, of the moment impact, as Eastwood’s steely glare faces down a maniacal Andrew Robinson. It’s still an entertainingly punchy ride.
Those looking for even darker thrills should check out the PG-rated Chato’s Land (1972) from director Michael Winner and lead Charles Bronson in the first of their six collaborations. The tough guy plays a Native American wronged by some white pricks — an American classic — and forced on the run. Jack Palance, James Whitmore, Richard Jordan, and Victor French co-star, and don’t let the rating fool you. There’s some mean-spirited violence here including a sexual assault that only serves to rile up Bronson’s character even more. Blood will be shed, and it will be spilled across the landscape.
While the two titles above are grim and violent affairs, my final 70s pick is not only a calmly beautiful delight, but it’s also one of my absolute favorite movies. Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion (1979) adapts Walter Farley’s novel into a gorgeous ode to survival and friendship about a young boy shipwrecked on a desert island with a wild Arabian horse. It’s a film unafraid of silence, something most of today’s movies could never be, as it lets the visuals and character expressions (both human and horse) speak volumes. The film’s first half unfolds on the island itself, like a YA Cast Away (2000), and once the boy returns home he feels like a visitor in a foreign land. It’s just a beautiful time.
After hitting it big with 1979’s The Jerk, director Carl Reiner and lead Steve Martin collaborated on two more features. The last was 1983’s The Man With Two Brains, and stuck right in the middle of the two was Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982). As much a comedic experiment as it is a fun noir in its own right, the film mixes scenes from noir classics into its own black & white tale of private dick investigating a suspicious death. Martin and Rachel Ward are joined by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant, and many more. It’s funny, creative stuff and well worth a watch for those of you who’ve missed it over the years.
Speaking of movies that weren’t as loved upon release as they deserved to be, Galaxy Quest (1999) remains an all-timer delivering numerous laughs, genuine heart, and a playfully brilliant skewering of the OG Star Trek. A group of actors at a convention celebrating their long-cancelled sci-fi series are whisked into space by aliens who’ve seen the broadcasts and believed them to be real. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell play the actors forced back into character by a very real intergalactic war, and the ensuing comedy and action bring the goods with lots of laughs and fun thrills.
While both films above went on to find their audience, Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch (2012) has remained a little-seen and mostly hated gem. Four friends form a neighborhood watch for their community only to see an alien invasion threaten their efforts. Co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade, it’s a very funny, sometimes crass, and frequently frantic comedy that seems to hit some as abrasive. If any of these names appeal to you, though — it also co-stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Nicholas Braun, Doug Jones, and R. Lee Ermey — then you owe it to yourself to give it a spin.
When Animals Attack!
Yes, yes, this is a cheat as there is no killer swordfish in Dominic Sena’s Swordfish (2001), but dammit I wanted to include the film here and it doesn’t fit any of the other categories! Hugh Jackman stars as an ex-con forced via blowjob into helping some official crooks execute a daring heist, and the resulting action carnage makes for a hugely entertaining ride. John Travolta is the big bad, Halle Berry is the “moll,” and the supporting cast includes Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Tom Cruise’s cousin, and more familiar faces. It’s the right kind of ridiculous as it’s entertaining nonsense, and it’s a great time played loud.
Sometimes a premise outshines the resulting film, and the most recent example of this is Elizabeth Banks’ Cocaine Bear (2023, premieres August 15th). From the title to its extremely loose inspiration in a true story about a bear that ate packages of cocaine dropped from planes into a national park, it sounds like great fun — and parts of it truly are! Mostly the bits involving the bear that goes on a bloody rampage as the attack scenes are fun and gory. (That said, this is 100% a movie that would kill a kid, but Banks and friends skip right past that golden opportunity.) What doesn’t work here all that well, though, is the comedic dialogue as far too many of the jokes and gags just fall flat.
Ben Wheatley’s The Meg 2 (2023) is currently dividing critics and audiences in theaters, but it wasn’t this year’s first movie about a killer megalodon shark. The Black Demon (2023, premieres August 22nd) takes that honor, and while I haven’t seen it — and have heard nothing good — my inability to say no to animal attack films means I’ll be checking it out later this month. Josh Lucas headlines for director Adrian Grunberg (Rambo: Last Blood, 2019) in a story about a family trapped on an abandoned oil rig by the big fish. As is the case with the majority of killer shark movies made in the last decade, it appears their talents are overshadowed by shitty CG. We’ll find out for ourselves soon enough.
The Complete Prime List for August 2023
|8/1||3 Idiotas (2017)|
|The Addams Family (1991)|
|American Gigolo (1980)|
|Behind the Sun (1991)|
|The Black Stallion (1979)|
|Cahill: U.S. Marshall (1973)|
|Charlie St. Cloud (2010)|
|Chato's Land (1972)|
|City of Men (2007)|
|City Slickers (1991)|
|The Day of the Jackal (1973)|
|Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)|
|Dirty Harry (1971)|
|Galaxy Quest (1999)|
|The Goonies (1985)|
|Hazlo Como Hombre (2017)|
|Hollywood: The Great Stars (1963)|
|I Wish (2011)|
|I'm Still Here (2010)|
|The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)|
|The Many Saints of Newark (2021)|
|Me, Myself, and Irene (2000)|
|Missing in Action (1984)|
|Missing in Action II: The Beginning (1985)|
|Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988)|
|Monster's Ball (2001)|
|One for the Money (2012)|
|Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)|
|The Punisher (2004)|
|Punisher: War Zone (2008)|
|RED 2 (2013)|
|Red Dawn (1984)|
|Rio 2 (2014)|
|Road to El Dorado (2000)|
|Rumor Has It (2005)|
|Saw II (2005)|
|Saw III (2006)|
|Saw IV (2007)|
|Saw V (2008)|
|Saw VI (2009)|
|Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015)|
|Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)|
|Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)|
|Un Padre No Tan Padre (2016)|
|Valentina's Wedding (2018)|
|Walking Tall: The Payback (2007)|
|The Watch (2012)|
|What a Girl Wants (2003)|
|When Harry Met Sally (1989)|
|Ya veremos (2018)|
|Yes Man (2008)|
|8/4||The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart||Prime Original|
|8/8||Bones and All (2022)|
|Destination NBA: A G League Odyssey||Prime Original|
|8/10||The Killing Vote - Season One|
|8/11||2 Guns (2013)|
|Red, White, & Royal Blue||Prime Original|
|8/15||Cocaine Bear (2023)|
|Of an Age (2022)|
|8/18||Harlan Coben's Shelter||Prime Original|
|New Bandits||Prime Original|
|The Unseen (2023)|
|8/22||The Black Demon (2023)|
|8/24||Thursday Night Football||Prime Original|
|8/25||Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)|
|Wayne Shorter: Zero Gravity||Prime Original|
|Women Talking (2022)|
|8/31||Camino a Marte (2017)|
|Honor Society (2022)|
|Volverte a ver (2008)|