Making the best of it in the time of COVID-19

Cairns on Cinema

John Cairns

Welcome to another edition of Cairns on Cinema where today I am going to provide another update on where we stand with the whole movie situation as we move towards August.

Unfortunately, it’s not looking much better than before. Everyone had hoped that August would be the big month when the new releases would come back, but it is not working out that way because of the absolute havoc happening in the United States with the pandemic.

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The big news of this week is that Warner Bros. has removed Tenet from its latest planned release date of Aug. 12. There is now no set release date for when Tenet will get released. Reports are out there now that its release might be staggered at different times around the world, based on which countries have their cinemas open.

This is very bad news because Tenet was supposed to be the movie that was going to launch the big comeback at the cinemas. But it can’t happen with the situation being what it is in Florida, Texas, California and elsewhere, with record high numbers of COVID-19 cases being reported.

Right on the heels of the Tenet news comes word that Disney has pulled Mulan, which was scheduled for Aug. 21. Now, the release date is paused indefinitely.

Also, on the heels of the Tenet news and with states imposing lockdowns, big U.S. chains such as AMC have delayed their re-opening plans again. AMC has now pushed their openings back to mid-August.

None of this is unexpected. Movies right on down the line are being impacted as well; news broke that Paramount has moved A Quiet Place 2 from Sept. 4 to April 23, 2021. They have also moved Top Gun: Maverick from December 23 to July 2, 2021.

We also got news this week that the Avatar sequel scheduled for release in December 2021 has been pushed back to Dec. 16, 2022. According to director James Cameron, it’s due to production delays caused by COVID-19. The latest Star Wars is also being pushed back, to December 2023.

So that is the theatrical release news, all of it bad. I wish I had better news to report.

I guess the one piece of good news is that the Capitol is now showing movies again in North Battleford. They are screening classic movies on Tuesdays and Fridays now at the Annex. So that’s good, this is better than nothing, but there’s all kinds of restrictions in place in terms of seating and so on.

Most people have been getting their entertainment at home. There have been some pop-culture phenomenons that have emerged over the last several months through Netflix and other venues and here are some of them:

Tiger King: this was that true-crime series about the infamous Joe Exotic, the big cat conservationist located in Oklahoma.

The Last Dance: this was the big ESPN docu-series chronicling the final championship season of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. It got massive ratings, due to a combination of (a) pure 90s nostalgia and (b) an audience starved for any content about sports.

I guess the latest streaming phenomenon has been the musical Hamilton on Disney+ this month. So, that gives you an idea about some of the offerings out there.

Personally, I have been rummaging around online looking for any sort of entertainment to keep from being bored. One of the things I’ve been watching has been back episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, also known as MST3K for short. Plenty of them can be found online.

This series features the adventures of a guy and his robots who are stuck in outer space and who are forced to watch a bunch some really bad old movies, one after another. The show features Joel (or Mike), and robots Crow and Tom Servo sitting in front of a movie screen and making wisecracks all while the movie is played.

That’s it! That’s the show in a nutshell. If you’d like to simulate the experience of going to the movies without going to the movies, you can try that. Unfortunately, I’m finding when I watch MST3K that a lot of the time it’s kind of an “in one ear and out the other” experience. That’s how bad the movies are, for the most part — movies like Robot Monsters, Rocket Attack USA, or The Rebel Set. It’s basically stuff that would have played the drive-ins in the Fifties and Sixties. This show pretty much relies on all the wisecracking just to be watchable — otherwise, it is sunk.

I’ve also turned in desperation to my DVD collection. Lately, I have been trying to go through the entire series for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. from the Sixties.

I guess my big takeaway from watching that has been the number of guest stars that appeared. From the first season, it was pretty amusing to see Barbara Feldon in an episode playing an U.N.C.L.E. agent. I’d say her time at U.N.C.L.E. was good training for Get Smart.

Elsewhere, you had future Star Trek stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy appearing on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — in the same episode!!!

Good stuff. So far I’ve managed to get to nearly the end of season two, but I still have another two seasons to go.

As for conventional TV, I have been forced over the past several months to change my viewing routine, since the sports channels were blown all to heck with the loss of live games. I ended up watching a lot more late night TV and tuned in to a number of episodes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, with Fallon forced to do his show from his home like everyone else. Just in the past week or so Fallon has been able to go back to doing his show in the studio at 30 Rockefeller Center, but in front of no studio audience.

I dunno why I am wasting my time talking about what I have been watching on TV when I should be talking about the movies. Well, that’s what happens when COVID-19 shuts the entire motion picture industry down — there is a shortage of movie news to report. As a result, people turn to the alternatives — TV, DVD and streaming options. That is our life at the moment.

That’s all for Cairns on Cinema for this week. Hopefully by next time the movie business will be showing more signs of life.


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