15 of the best films coming to Amazon Prime in August 2022 – The A.V. Club

Lists of film highlights from streaming networks can sometimes lead to slim pickings, quality wise. Not so with Amazon Prime Video’s August titles. From concert films and docs to well received recent offerings and classic under-the-radar gems, there’s a bit of everything for film buffs this month—so read on for The A.V. Club’s favorites.
2 / 17
Stephen King’s adaptation of his own terrific book, Pet Sematary, directed by Mary Lambert, really holds up. Sure, the 1989 horror film has some cheesy moments. But there are also indelibly horrific ones, as when Rachel Creed’s sister Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek), twisted with spinal meningitis, terrifies her put-upon sibling, and back-from-the-dead-toddler Gage Creed (Miko Hughes) slicing the Achilles heel of Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne). In a 2012 review of the film’s DVD, The A.V. Club’s Noel Murray said, “Lambert does understand what’s most unsettling about King’s book and script, and doesn’t shy away from the most uncomfortable parts of the story.”

3 / 17
Back in 2004, before he decided to make a mixed bag of comedy and horror films (Your Highness, The Sitter, recent Halloween reboots) and excellent HBO comedies (Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals, The Righteous Gemstones), writer/director David Gordon Green was a film festival and movie snob darling. His debut film George Washington remains a masterpiece, while his forays into artier fare like All The Real Girls are also outstanding. Along those lines is 2004’s Undertow, a white trash, Southern Gothic art film with heavy nods to Night Of The Hunter.
The film stars Dermot Mulroney as John Munn, a father of two (brothers played by Jamie Bell and Devon Allen) who is mourning the loss of his wife and the boys’ mother. Seeking a fresh start, the trio moves to a farm in rural Georgia. There, the boys meet their uncle Deel who they never knew existed—for good reason, as this slow-burn story unveils family angst and potential dangers. The A.V. Club’s Jesse Hassenger praised the film as saying, “Green shoots this stuff beautifully in his lyrical, Malick-influenced style, but he’s especially undervalued as a dialogue writer.”
4 / 17
With his ninth feature film, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson made one of the best films of 2021 by harkening back to his youth growing up in the San Fernando Valley, an area so close, yet so far, from Hollywood. A potent cocktail of real-life characters doused with deep forays into nostalgia, the film proved to be Anderson’s most divisive. Critics’ main issue seems to be the central push-and-pull “romance” between a cocky 15-year-old dreamer named Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and his older muse Alana (Alana Haim). Sure, Alana is a full decade older than Gary, but this story isn’t a romantic comedy in the “will they or won’t they” vein. Rather, it’s a skillful yet meandering foray into finding oneself with very little support or guidance from inappropriate and/or insane “adults” in your life. In a glowing review for The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd said, “The plot is a crazy-quilt time capsule, pulling in the waterbed craze, the oil embargo of ’73, the pinball ban, a tight L.A. political race, and the amorous shit-kicking of New Hollywood.”
5 / 17
If you fancy yourself a student of film, you’re probably going to be all about documentary Making Waves: The Art Of Cinematic Sound. Director Midge Costin (who is also a sound editor) takes viewers—and listeners—on a journey through the often hidden, overlooked, and nuanced area of film sound. Featuring clips from the likes of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars, the film utilizes sound maestros Walter Murch, Ben Burtt, and Gary Rydstrom as ad-hoc narrators. In his review for Hammer to Nail, Chris Reed called Making Waves “perfect for cinephiles … [offering] an engaging journey for any who have ever pondered the mysteries of ambience, dialogue, effects, music and more.”
6 / 17
Easily brushed off as a hipster rom-com about pining after a manic-pixie girl, video director Marc Webb’s feature debut (500) Days Of Summer is much more than it seems. While a grouchy greeting card writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom) does fall for an enigmatic cutie (Zooey Deschanel as Summer), the film is really more of a sad, black comedy about a person giving all of themselves in a relationship when the other person may be giving less. (500) Days Of Summer also utilizes nifty visuals, including excellent use of a split screen and an out-of-nowhere musical number that’s pretty damned genius. In a 2019 piece for The A.V. Club, Caroline Siede calls this “basically the Fight Club of rom-coms … [It] overflows with style, from a nonlinear structure that bounces back and forth across the 500 days of Tom’s infatuation with Summer to fantasy sequences that evoke everything from MGM musicals to Fellini films.”
7 / 17
For decades, Stanley Kubrick worked on trying to adapt Brian Aldiss’ 1969 short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long (a great title, by the way). Much like his long-gestating Napoleon, Kubrick was never able to get a story that worked to his satisfaction, mostly due to the early iterations of CGI; he was certain the only way to really pull off a robot boy lead was with special effects. So in 1995, Kubrick handed what would later be titled A.I. Artificial Intelligence to Steven Spielberg, for whom the story of a futuristic family dealing with deep emotions around love and jealousy would feel right in the wheelhouse.
In many ways, the final product seems to be a hybrid Kubrick-Spielberg film which, given Kubrick’s cold, contemplative style and Spielberg’s warmer tone, makes for a weird movie. But A.I. Artificial Intelligence is ultimately an incredibly compelling and moving film. In his review, The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps made the bold claim that Spielberg had “created what history should confirm as one of the defining films of its time, a compelling, moving inquiry into the most basic elements of existence, told with fear and awe in a vocabulary exclusive to moviemaking.”
8 / 17
There’s been a bit of scuttlebutt on Film Twitter of late in regards to under-the-radar 1970s filmmaker Michael Ritchie. If you’re not familiar, he helmed such classics as Prime Cut, The Bad News Bears, Semi-Tough, and a pair of very good films starring Robert Redford in The Candidate and Downhill Racer, the latter of which is headed to Prime. In the film, Redford stars as talented but selfish downhill skier David Chappellet. Ritchie, in his feature directing debut, deftly handles the story of a person whose abilities strongly outweigh his deep personal flaws and how this self-centeredness creates fallout for those around him. He also places Redford as a charming but unlikable anti-hero, all the rage in ’70s New Hollywood films. As always, Ritchie captures a certain je ne sais quoi while telling a story that sticks. In a lukewarm 2015 review of the film, The A.V. Club’s Mike D’Angelo said, “Nobody can accuse Downhill Racer of lacking artistic integrity.”
9 / 17
The 2014 low-budget neo-noir Man From Reno was a sneakily great film that failed to reach a wide audience. That’s a real shame, considering director David Boyle, working off a script he co-wrote with Michael Lerman and Joel Clark, made a solid and strange crime thriller. Its plot concerns a small-town sheriff (Pepe Serna) who, while driving home one foggy night, strikes a Japanese man with his car. The sheriff delivers the man to a nearby hospital, but before anyone can figure out who he is, he disappears into the night. Meanwhile, in an adjacent storyline, a popular mystery book author (Ayako Kujitani) takes a break from promoting her latest book with a trip to San Francisco where she engages in a romantic rendezvous with a charming yet aloof Japanese traveler from … Reno. He soon disappears, leaving only a suitcase full of mystery behind. Peter Howell of the Toronto Star dug the film, calling it “a story that yields its secrets slowly but sinuously, making the most of its language and cultural differences.” Check it out for something you can tell your friends about.

10 / 17
Neil Young became a legendary artist thanks to his ability to constantly change directions. Lucky for us, several films were able to capture some of these creative shifts on camera: Jim Jarmusch’s Year Of The Horse (1997), Rust Never Sleeps (1979, directed by Young himself), and 2006’s Neil Young: Heart Of Gold directed by the late, great Jonathan Demme. The concert film-meets-documentary covers two nights of Young’s residency at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. It includes interview footage of Young as well as legends like Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, and the lovely Emmylou Harris, who all join Young onstage. In a review for The A.V. Club where he graded the film a solid “A,” Keith Phipps said, “It’s hard to film icons like Young as anything but icons, but Demme’s film gets past the legend, zooming in on Young’s aged, heroic face and finding an artist as human as the rest of us.”

11 / 17
Boy, oh boy, is 1986’s River’s Edge an all-time, creepy-crawly great. Director Tim Hunter’s film stars Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves, and Joshua John Miller as a group of friends going nowhere fast who try to help their equally deadbeat friend (Daniel Roebuck) cover up his murder of a young girl out of an apparent moment of annoyance. The film is endlessly quotable (bonus points for pulling off any Keanu or Crispin acting affectations) and also predates David Lynch’s similarly weird Twin Peaks. In fact, a lot of the Eddie/Chrissy plotline in season four of Stranger Things could be a hat tip to this cult favorite. In an oral history of the film for The A.V. Club, Randall Colburn calls it “a teen movie for kids who hate teen movies.”
12 / 17
Look, let’s not sugarcoat it. The most striking thing about Brad Anderson’s enigmatic, slow burn, existential thriller The Machinist is star Christian Bale’s alarming weight loss for the role. But if and when you can get past this visually upsetting method acting maneuver, the film proves an intriguing mystery based around a machinist named Trevor Reznik (Bale) who hasn’t slept in a year and the negative affect that’s having on … everything. Director Brad Anderson can do a lot with a little, as evidenced by his excellent film Session 9, and The Machinist provides an endless rabbit hole of paranoid filmmaking. In his three-star review, Roger Ebert said the film “wants to convey a state of mind, and he and Bale do that with disturbing effectiveness.”
13 / 17
It’s a wonderful thing to see audiences re-embracing Nicolas Cage as the actor is back to delivering solid roles (Pig) while still maintaining his over-the-top sensibilities (The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent). The previous decade has featured the talented actor in a variety of movies where he’s giving it his all against scripts that aren’t all they used to be. This reminds us of 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, where Cage put his best combination of quiet cool mixed with maniacal outburst on the big screen; his performance as Ben Sanderson, a desperate man who decides to liquidate his assets, move to Las Vegas, and drink himself to death, earned Cage his Best Actor Oscar. While Ben never once stops aiming for this morbid goal, he still captures the eye of call girl Sera, played by the also Oscar-nominated Elisabeth Shue. Cage fans argue on whether or not this is his best performance, a debate rooted in what kind of role you love to see him in. Leaving Las Vegas was directed by Mike Figgis and based off an excellent biographic novel by John O’Brien. In writing for the New York Times about the film, Janet Maslin said, “Cage digs deep to find his character’s inner demons while also capturing the riotous energy of his outward charm.”
14 / 17
By 1975, when The Killer Elite hit screens, legendary filmmaker Sam Peckinpah’s best days were behind him. Having crafted one of the best films ever made, 1969’s The Wild Bunch, he went on to helm such greats as Straw Dogs (1971), The Getaway (1972), and both Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (1973). A cinematic bad boy as well as an alcoholic and drug addict, Peckinpah’s films often focused on characters out of time with their world. This aspect is what makes his later films like Convoy (1978) and Cross Of Iron (1977) intriguing, albeit a little messy. The Killer Elite has flashes of Peckinpah’s brilliance as well as classic performances by Robert Duvall and the recently departed James Caan. Also of note: the film arguably features ninjas for the first time in an American film! In his review of The Killer Elite, Roger Ebert noted the sloppy nature of the film but added, “It has a certain promise, though.”
15 / 17
Most widely known as John Wayne’s final film, 1976’s The Shootist is also a reflection on aging men who have led the kind of life that should have left them dead a long time ago. The question then becomes “what did it all mean?” by way of “what happens next?” Wayne stars as J.B. Brooks, an old gunslinger who knows his end is near. The film’s opening is an all-timer, as we see Brooks through the ages in shots culled from Wayne’s previous films, a clever move that’s rarely used with older actors. Throughout the film, Brooks recounts his life to young local Gillom Rogers (Ron Howard) as the march towards the inevitable continues on. Also featuring Lauren Bacall and Jimmy Stewart, the film made Roger Ebert’s end-of-year top 10; the critic said, “Westerns probably have to end along these lines with confrontations and gunfire and heroism, but The Shootist will be remembered for the quieter scenes that came before.”
16 / 17
When trailers hit for Sandra Bullock’s big-screen return in The Lost City, the results were a resounding shrug. This proved to be a marketing guffaw, as once the film had come and gone from theaters, it was generally quite well received. Bullock plays Dr. Loretta Sage, writer of cheesy romantic adventure novels, the type featured in supermarkets and sporting a hunky dude kissing a distressed damsel on the paperback cover. As a publicity stunt to shill her new book, Sage embarks on a book tour alongside the cover model for her books, Alan Caprison, played by Channing Tatum. After some silly plot machinations, Caprison and Sage find themselves in the middle of a hidden treasure adventure. But will romance fall in line? The film also features Daniel Radcliffe and Brad Pitt. Likening the film to the classic Romancing The Stone, The A.V. Club’s Jordan Hoffman said, Anyone who watches this motion picture and says they truly disliked it is probably telling a fib.”
17 / 17

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