In true British summer spirit, we’ve snapped from a heatwave to raging thunderstorms faster than we could whip out our Factor 30: which just goes to show that it’s always a good idea to have some stellar indoors entertainment you can rely on, in the event that your long-planned barbecue is — inevitably — rained off.
Happily, Netflix has got you covered for just such an occasion. Their list of new August releases is as diverse as ever: crime dramas and action thrillers are doing the rounds, alongside timeless murder mysteries, high-school dropouts turned drug kingpins and the psychedelic weirdness that can only ever be attributed to the one and only Tim Burton. In fact, as you press play, you might find yourself secretly glad that your barbecue was rained off, after all.
Chaos, August 1st
Jason Statham, Ryan Philippe and Wesley Snipes: that’s the sort of lineup we like to see. It may date back to 2005, but it’s just the sort of action thriller to see you through a rainy afternoon on the edge of your seat. It sees an experienced detective being paired with a fledgling officer in an attempt to negotiate with a criminal gang, who are holding a bank hostage. We won’t say any more here, but we will say that chaos theory features heavily. Entertainment and education in one neat package: what more could you want?
Gosford Park, August 1st
We’re assuming you’ve heard of this one; but have you ever actually seen it? It’s one of the most famous murder mysteries of all time, penned by the suavely lavish hand of Julian Fellowes (he of Downton Abbey fame) and starring national treasures like Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas (to name just a scant three names, of a list that could fill a book). It’s set in the 1930s, focusing on a shooting weekend at an English country house at which a murder takes place. It’s a black comedy; and it’s more or less a delight from start to opulent finish.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, August 1st
If we told you you’d be spending the first Sunday in August watching a musical slasher film directed by Tim Burton, you presumably wouldn’t believe us. But it’s time to stretch those boundaries, gents. Sweeney Todd is one of the most famous musicals of all time, so it’s certainly one for the cultural credentials; and Johnny Depp’s performance as the eponymous villain is triumphant as ever (on that note, have you taken a tour of Depp’s French village estate yet?). Plus: love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Burton is a genius of a unique variety. You might as well let some of that genius sink in by osmosis.
Catch Me If You Can, August 1st
It’s Leo and Tom in fine fetter (by which we mean diCaprio and Hanks, if you’re not already familiar with the film); and with direction by the god of cinema himself (by which we mean Steven Spielberg, in case that wasn’t immediately obvious), this truly is a film to light up your home screen this August. diCaprio plays a skilled young forger who has conned his way into millions of dollars by posing as a prosecutor, a doctor and even a pilot. Hanks, meanwhile, takes the role of an FBI agent who becomes obsessed with pursuing the conman wherever he goes.
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, August 4th
We love a good docuseries; and if Netflix’s previous examples are anything to go by, this will be a good one. Directed by Billy Corden as a follow-up to his 2006 documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, it focuses on the true story of two childhood friends, who go from being high-school dropouts to the most powerful drug kingpins in Miami: and the series delves into every element of this crime saga that spanned decades.
The Mustang, August 6th
Matthias Schoenaerts takes the helm of this drama; he plays Roman, a convict at a rural Nevada prison who goes on to participate in a rehabilitation programme which involves training wild mustangs. It’s not an easy journey (we nearly said it’s not an easy ride, but that pun felt too obvious); but when a particularly troublesome horse is entrusted to his care, Roman is able to confront his own difficult past.
Vendetta, August 8th
It stars Danny Dyer; and that, presumably, tells you everything you’ll need to know. But we’ll tell you a little more, just in case: it’s a British action thriller in which Dyer plays Jimmy Vickers, a special ops interrogation officer intent on tracking down — and torturing — a gang who killed his parents, without his old unit finding out. It’s brutal; it’s bloody; and it’s Dyer on tip-top form.
Bake Squad, August 11th
After Western gunfighters, drug kingpins and grisly vendettas, we imagine you may be on the hunt for something a little more wholesome. Enter Bake Squad: a competition reality series, in which expert bakers take desserts to a whole new level with innovation, imagination and awe-inducingly skilful execution. Break up the guns and violence with pastry and patisserie; and see if you can note down any tips for your next dinner party. A gentleman who can bake is a gentleman indeed.
Beckett, August 13th
This Netflix Original is surely guaranteed to be an indubitable hit of the summer, not least because it stars the stupendous John David Washington as the eponymous Beckett. Don’t worry; there’s nothing to emulate those long hours in the classroom studying Samuel Beckett’s impossibly dense texts where this drama is concerned — Beckett is an American tourist, who gets trapped in Greece in the middle of a perilous political conspiracy. You’ll be on the edge of your sofa: we promise.
The Chair, August 18th
The Netflix gods have answered your prayers for a new series you can really get your teeth into; and it’s unlikely to disappoint. We’ll watch anything with Sandra Oh in it; and here, she plays Ji-Yoon Kim, the Chair of a failing English department at a renowned university. She’s the first woman of colour to become Chair; and the series follows her try to navigate steep expectations and strong demands of steering the department to success.