As the Coronavirus lockdown drags on, it’s growing ever more important to find ways to escape total boredom with fun escapism and exotic scenery that spans the globe. This week, I’m taking a look at three of this week’s Top 10 shows on Netflix to let you know if they do the trick.
First up, we have “Extraction,” a tough-as-nails, gritty action thriller starring Chris Hemsworth of “Thor” fame as an Australian mercenary hired to rescue the teenage son of an Indian drug lord who’s been kidnapped by a rival Bangaldeshi drug kingpin. Produced by Joe and Anthony Russo, who co-directed the last two “Avengers” movies, and written by Joe based on the brothers’ graphic novel “Ciudad,” this is a surprisingly dark flick filled with wall-to-wall shootouts, car and foot chases and a nearly exhausting amount of hand-to-hand combat. Yet it still pays enough attention to the characters’ backstories and emotions to work on a deeper level as well.
The movie kicks off with Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) called in to find, extract and return teenager Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) on the orders of his imprisoned father. Tyler works with an ace support team that quickly gets him in to nab the kid, but in time-honored action-movie tradition, things go haywire when the kidnapper’s army of henchmen screw up the escape plan.
When Tyler’s main partner learns that Ovi’s dad has no intention of paying for the rescue, she advises him to ditch the kid and just get himself back to safety. But Tyler’s innate moral code, and the fact that he lost his young son to illness years before, won’t let him do that and thus an intense series of action-packed escapes ensues.
“Extraction” is the number one program on Netflix this week, a testament to the fact you can’t go wrong putting a big-name star into the center of thousands of explosions if you want to give people mindless fun. But filled with all manner of gnarly gunshot wounds, stabbings and killings with numerous other sharp objects, “Extraction” might deliver excitement for adults but is definitely too brutal for Hemsworth’s legion of younger Marvel fans.
Netflix scored a huge coup last year when it premiered “Our Planet,” the latest in David Attenborough’s long string of spectacular nature specials and series. It’s found another intriguing nature series now with the new series “Earth at Night,” which uses the latest highly sensitive camera technology to shine a spotlight on the planet’s wildlife after dark for the first time.
There’s an inherent fascination in seeing lions and leopards on the prowl, seen as clearly as in daylight despite being illuminated only by moonlight. Heat vision cameras also bring other creatures including hippos and giraffes to life in the dark, closing the gap that’s always occurred due to the fact that even a full moon is still 400,000 times dimmer than sunlight.
Other episodes focus on the fascinating worlds deep within oceans or inside jungles around the planet, but one episode I particularly enjoyed shows how wildlife exists in cities around the globe. Examples include elephants that have to cross modern African cities to get to their traditional grazing lands on the other side and thousands of Vaux’s Swift birds swarming into one giant industrial chimney in Portland, Oregon to sleep as a substitute for their usual resting perches inside hollow trees.
This isn’t as spectacular as “Our Planet,” since there are few if any actual shots of animals actually managing to make the kill compared with that standard-bearing nature series. And while actress Samara Wiley does a competent job narrating, no one could match the magic of Attenborough’s rich British tones. But it’s still worth a look if you want to see wildlife from a distinctly different perspective.
Finally, I checked out the pilot of “Outer Banks,” which has risen to take the #2 spot on Netflix’s top programs with its mix of teen angst and treasure-seeking adventure. Focusing on four working-class teens named JJ, John B, Pope and Kiara in a coastal town called Outer Banks that’s divided strongly between the rich and poor, it follows what happens when the main foursome crash their rinky-dink boat into a $500,000 luxury boat that capsized and disappeared amid a hurricane the night before.
When John B dives in to check out the wreck, he discovers a key to a local motel room that has tons of cash and a gun stashed in its safe. Things turn even more mysterious when a pair of local cops show up to root through the safe as well, and the boat’s owner – a normally broke townie named Scooter, whose ability to own a luxury boat doesn’t make sense – washes up dead in a nearby marsh.
Most unusual of all is the fact that John B’s father, a local fisherman, disappeared nine months before after telling his son that he had found something and might have to vanish. What slowly becomes clear to the viewers, at least, is that there’s a giant ship that vanished in 1829 with $400 million in gold aboard it, and signs point to the fact that everyone involved is about to become involved in its discovery and a life-or-death battle to claim the treasure.
“Banks” builds momentum as the pilot unfolds, with an action-packed trailer portending major adventures ahead. Unfortunately, the lead actors don’t have quite the same spark as other teen hits from “Dawson’s Creek” through “Riverdale,” which impacts the likability of the show, but it still marks solid fun for that demo and anyone looking for some escapism amid the mundane horrors of Coronavirus lockdown.