John Lasseter Returns from Cancellation with Apple's 'Luck,' Hulu Has 'Predator' Prequel 'Prey', and DC's Long-Awaited ‘The Sandman’ Hits Netflix: What's Upstream for August 4-10

'Luck' on Apple TV Plus
(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Apple TV Plus’ Luck is finally here after plenty of behind-the-scenes drama. It all started in 2019 when actress Emma Thompson publicly exited as the lead voice in the $140 million animated movie. The dramatic goodbye was due to David Ellison-backed Skydance Animation, the company behind Luck, hiring ex-Pixar chief John Lasseter. Named head of Skydance Animation, Lasseter was ousted from Pixar in 2017 over accusations of misogynistic and toxic behavior. “It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate,” Thompson wrote in a letter to Skydance upper management in 2019. Lasseter re-worked Luck, Skydance Animation’s first feature-length animated film. And two years later, Jane Fonda signed on, and Luck was back on track. Interestingly, Fonda didn’t take over Thompson’s character because that role was erased from the script. 

Thirteen Lives (Amazon Prime Video, August 5)

This two-and-a-half-hour ripped-from-the-headlines drama, directed by Ron Howard, tells the story of the real-life 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave. The junior soccer team was trapped for 18 days in Thailand’s Tham Luang Nang Non cave. The situation captured the world’s attention for several weeks, and the harrowing, dramatic, life-risking rescue drew global praise. The Thai Navy SEALs, U.S. Special Forces and British cave divers filmed their laborious efforts within the cave to save the team. That footage was made into a documentary titled The Rescue, which National Geographic released in 2021. Howard’s narrative recreation of the rescue stars Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton. The film, written by William Nicholson (Gladiator), was released theatrically on July 29. So far, critics love it.  “As scripted, documentary-style fact-based dramas go, it doesn’t get much better than this,” wrote the Observer’s Rex Reed.

The Sandman - Season 1 (Netflix, August 5)

For years, Hollywood has been looking to cash in on The Sandman fantasy comic book series created for DC by Neil Gaiman. Why not? The Sandman is considered one of the best comics of all time, winning over 20 Eisner Awards. The first season of the series, which features 10 episodes, is based on the first two graphic novels from the titular series and focuses on Morpheus/Dream (Tom Sturridge), a member of a group of seven beings called the Endless. When Morpheus is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence transforms the dreaming world and the waking world. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his existence. Sounds trippy. In 2013 Warner Bros. was going to make the series into a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. After that fell through, the movie studio decided to make it a television series and signed a deal with Netflix to have them produce it in 2019.

Luck (Apple TV Plus, August 5)

Two Oscar winners, Jane Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg can be heard in this animated comedy about Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person alive. After aging out of foster care, Greenfield (voiced by Eva Noblezada) finds a lucky penny that she wants to give to a friend but then, not surprisingly, since she is the unluckiest person in the world, she loses the penny. Simon Pegg voices the lucky black cat Bob, who helps Sam find another lucky penny and introduces her to the Land of Luck. There, Sam works with magical creatures, including a loyal leprechaun, to turn her luck around. Goldberg voices The Captain, who is Land of Luck’s head of security, while Fonda is the Dragon, a.k.a. CEO of Good Luck/ the luckiest ancient being in all the land. The movie sounds a bit like Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) in that it explores emotions, tackles challenging scenarios like the foster care system, and has a secret land reminiscent of the headquarters of feelings.

Belfast (HBO Max, August 5)

Five-time Oscar-nominated actor, writer and director Kenneth Branagh wrote and directed Belfast. The film follows nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), a role based on Branagh’s childhood self, as he and his family leave their hometown Belfast, Ireland, in 1969 after violence erupted between loyalists and republicans erupts. Earlier this year, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards in categories including best director and best picture. Branagh won his first Oscar for best screenplay. “[Branagh’s] most intimate and deeply felt film to date,” wrote the London Evening Standard’s Katie Rosseinsky.

The Outlaws – Season 2 (Amazon Prime Video, August 5)

This comedy thriller series stars Christopher Walken as one of seven lawbreakers who bond together during a community service sentence. The BBC One/Amazon Studios co-production was written and directed by actor Stephen Merchant (Jojo Rabbit, Extras), who also stars in the series. The six-episode second season will follow the ragtag group attempting to complete their respective sentences as they battle a London drug lord. According to the BBC, The Outlaws was the broadcaster’s biggest comedy launch in 2021, streaming on iPlayer 11 million times. “Maybe it’s the perky score, the excellent needle drops, or the way that the characters humorously bumble around trying their very best and only sometimes succeeding, but it works,” wrote Paste Magazine’s Allison Keene.

They/Them (Peacock, August 5)

This film serves as the directorial debut of three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (The Aviator). Kevin Bacon and Carrie Preston star as a couple who run a gay conversion therapy camp. Not only do queer and trans campers experience psychological torment via camp counselors, they also have to worry about a deranged serial killer on the loose. But, in case you haven’t guessed, They/Them is a horror film that doesn’t need a serial killer to make it terrifying. Variety’s Peter Debruge credits Logan and Peacock for flipping the genre on this head. “Getting They/Them made represents a meaningful achievement, considering the overwhelmingly conservative codes of American slasher movies, whereby virgins and well-behaved white kids make it to the closing credits while marginalized/diverse characters are often the first to be slaughtered. With this personal project, Logan seized the opportunity to challenge the genre’s heteronormative (and often aggressively homophobic) formula.”

Prey (Hulu, August 5)

Prey is the fifth installment in the Predator franchise, which began in 1987. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Prey takes place 300 years ago in the Native American Comanche Nation. Amber Midthunder (Legion) stars as Naru, a Comanche warrior who is determined to protect her people from the predator. “Prey just works. Cinematic scale, strong performances, beautiful attention to detail, top-notch action sequences. It’s a solid outing that deserves the largest screen possible,” wrote Forbes’ Jeff Ewing. 

Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Detroit Lions (HBO Max, August 9)

The Detroit Lions are the latest NFL team featured on this sports-based reality series about football training camps. Camera crews headed to the Lions’ training camp in Allen Park, Michigan, last month to begin filming the 17th edition of the series. The cinema verité show focuses on players' and coaches' daily lives and routines. The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams are among the many NFL teams that have been spotlighted on the series since it debuted in 2001. This season will chronicle head coach Dan Campbell entering his second season and leading the hapless Lions throughout training camp and the preseason. In addition, camera and sound crews have access to players’ and coaches’ meeting rooms, training rooms, living quarters, and practice fields. “Turning football players into people is what HBO’s Hard Knocks series does so well. The massive scope, meticulous editing, and time-hopping special effects that highlight a production under massive time constraints are all impressive, but it’s the film crew’s access to NFL players that makes the program special,” wrote the Washington Post’s Gabe Hiatt about the 2015 Houston Texans edition of the series.

I Am Groot (Disney Plus, Aug. 10)

This Guardians of the Galaxy animated Marvel Cinematic Universe spinoff stars the friendly extraterrestrial space creature Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby in the 1960s comic book Tales to Astonish, Groot can only say one phrase, “I am Groot,” but those close to the monosyllabic space hero understand the intent behind his words. The series features five animated shorts that explore different points of Groot’s childhood. Bradley Cooper will voice Groot’s best friend, Rocket Raccoon.

Locke & Key – Season 3 (Netflix, August 10)

Based on the eponymous IDW Entertainment comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabrielle Rodriguez, the show follows the Locke children (played by Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones, and Jackson Robert Scott) who move from Washington to Massachusetts after their father is mysteriously murdered. In Massachusetts, they settle into their father’s childhood home, called Keyhouse, where the trio discovers magical keys that may be connected to his untimely death. Problem is multiple demons also want the keys. In the third and final season of the series, Dodge/ Echo, a demonic creature, is back for more warfare. The Locke kids' mother, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), also plays a significantly bigger role in the third season. Even if season two was a bit of a letdown, season three is a must-watch since the Locke kids’ fate will be revealed.