weather icon Partly Cloudy

Movies can teach us a lot about coronavirus, pandemics

Updated March 4, 2020 - 4:02 pm

There’s nothing funny about the coronavirus.

Spend enough time thinking about COVID-19 and its potential for worldwide chaos, and you may never want to leave your home again — especially if you’ve seen the way pandemics are portrayed in movies.

Now, I’m no expert. Sadly, neither are many of the pundits talking about the threat on cable news. But some of these movies, however unrealistic they may be, contain useful advice about dealing with viral contagions.

Exercise common sense

This should go without saying, but this is a key plot point in the 2007 Hallmark Channel miniseries “Pandemic”: If you’re on an international flight and have direct contact with a passenger who coughs up blood and dies before the plane lands, don’t escape a CDC quarantine — even if it’s put in place by Tiffani Thiessen and “3rd Rock From the Sun’s” French Stewart — just so you can go into work to close a real estate deal.

Quarantines can be effective

When a viral outbreak paralyzes Scotland in 2008’s “Doomsday,” authorities erect a 30-foot-tall wall along the border, sealing the nation off from the rest of the island. It’s effective in keeping the infected away from the healthy population, but Scotland also devolves into two camps: a “Mad Max”-meets-Cirque du Soleil revue and a full-blown medieval system complete with knights, armor, horses, swords and shields.

Quarantines are only as good as the people in charge of them

ABC aired the wildly irresponsible TV movie “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America” in 2006 amid a growing panic about the H5N1 virus. With the death toll in the millions, residents of high-risk neighborhoods are separated from the rest of civilization by a chain-link fence — because there’s no way at all an airborne virus could squeeze through that.

Don’t attempt a cover-up

When a viral bioweapon known as Captain Trips is accidentally released in the 1994 Stephen King miniseries “The Stand,” the military denies any knowledge of it and lies about its dangers. All that accomplished was Las Vegas becoming the hub of supernatural evil until it was destroyed by a nuclear warhead on Fremont Street.

Stick close to a high school science teacher

It was Mark Wahlberg’s academic skill set that kept him, his wife and their friend’s young daughter alive in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening.” Granted, unlike the danger in that 2008 disappointment, the coronavirus doesn’t appear to be caused by plants defending themselves against extinction by emitting an airborne toxin that makes people kill themselves. But, really, please don’t be afraid of science.

Incinerating an infected city should be the absolute, final option

In 1995’s “Outbreak,” everyone but the military virologists portrayed by Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr. are a little too quick to accept a plan to drop a massive bomb on a California city hardest hit by the outbreak.

If all else fails, head underground

It worked for the survivors of the plague that killed 5 billion people in 1995’s “12 Monkeys” — even if most of them were held in cages while waiting to be sent back in time to try to prevent the outbreak.

Stay away from “Contagion”

In Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded 2011 drama “Contagion,” Gwyneth Paltrow heads to Hong Kong on a business trip and becomes Patient Zero for a rare virus before flying to Chicago, where she hooks up with an old flame during a layover on her way home to Minnesota. Her actions are directly responsible for the breakdown of societal norms and riots over food and supplies as millions of people around the world die. “Contagion” is terrifying because it demonstrates just how easy it is for a virus to spread out of control, but it also presents several ways to remain healthy. For example:

Don’t touch handrails.

Don’t touch elevator buttons.

Don’t get too close to other people.

Don’t eat from that bowl of peanuts at a bar.

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. (That’s just good sense in any scenario.)

Don’t sleep with Gwyneth Paltrow, no matter how tempted you may be.

Don’t leave your house.

Don’t do much of anything.

And, seriously, if you’re even a mild hypochondriac, just don’t watch “Contagion” — at least until we’re all in the clear.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
John Prine, country-folk singer, dies at 73 - VIDEO
John Prine died due to complications caused by COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on April 7. The singer-songwriter is counted as one the favorite artists by the likes of Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Bill Withers, soul legend and 'Lean on Me' singer, dead at 81 - VIDEO
Bill Withers' family said he died of heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. Withers was a three-time Grammy winner. His other major hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine" and “Lovely Day.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas KatsWalk: From the Mandalay Bay to Excalibur - VIDEO
Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes walks and talks along the Las Vegas Strip, from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur. (John Katsilometes and Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Make Ivan Grant's Quarantini - VIDEO
Ivan Grant, a flair bartender at Long Bar at The D Las Vegas, makes his Quarantini. (Ivan Grant)
Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger dies from coronavirus - VIDEO
According to Variety, 52-year-old frontman and songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died, following a short battle with the respiratory illness, coronavirus. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
KATS WALK: A walking tour on south Las Vegas Strip – VIDEO
RJ columnist John Katsiometes takes a walking tour of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. (John Katsiometes and Kevin Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiger King character has Las Vegas connection - VIDEO
Entertainment reporter John Katsilometes talks about the popular "Tiger King" and Jeff Lowe, a central figure in the Netflix documentary phenomenon who wanted to do business with the last Las Vegas Strip entertainer to use wild tigers in his act. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coranavirus victim Howard Berman playing the harmonica in April 2014 - VIDEO
Howard Berman, 66, playing the harmonica at a jam session in April 2014. Berman, who was active in the Las Vegas music community, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19. (Diana Andriola)
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga delays new album release - VIDEO
The pop star was planning to drop her sixth LP, "Chromatica," on April 10, but she's made the "tough decision" to push back the launch following the coronavirus outbreak. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ways to keep yourself from going crazy at home during coronavirus - VIDEO
Take art classes with your kids. Install a bidet. Practice yoga. Buy houseplants. Catch up your streaming queue. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas nightclub giant Hakkasan Group lays off 1,600 - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Strip’s leading nightlife company has let go of nearly its entire workforce, leaving about 1,600 staffers suddenly unemployed, due to the shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Disneyland closes in response to coronavirus - VIDEO
Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Thursday afternoon. Known as the "happiest place on earth," Disneyland has closed its doors only three other times in 65 years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to temporarily close buffets amid coronavirus fears - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International will temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets, effective Sunday amid growing coronavirus fears. (Al Mancini and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto tackles Italian cooking at Eataly Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto showed off his skills in a slightly different context Thursday night, when he dropped by Manzo in Eataly to launch the Italian restaurant’s new Guest Chef series. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator leaving Mirage on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The 11-year Las Vegas Strip headliner is on a venue hunt, confirming Wednesday he is leaving his eponymous theater at The Mirage this summer for parts uncharted. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks to play first concert at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Country megastar Garth Brooks is the first non-football event announced for the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Post Malone reveals his face tattoos are due to being 'ugly' - VIDEO
In a new interview with 'GQ,' the 24-year-old admitted his body art is linked to insecurity issues. [The face tattoos do] maybe come from a place of insecurity, to where I don’t like how I look .., Post Malone, via 'GQ'. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 Las Vegas chefs to watch - VIDEO
If you want to know what’s next for dining in Las Vegas, we suggest paying close attention to these five accomplished chefs. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slanted Door in The Forum Shops at Caesars - VIDEO
The Slanted Door, Charles Phan's James Beard Award-winning modern Vietnamese restaurant, will open a Las Vegas location on March 2. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas REview-Journal)
Buddy V opens PizzaCake at Harrah’s - VIDEO
Buddy Valastro, aka Cake Boss Buddy V, is in town this week overseeing the soft opening of his new restaurant, PizzaCake, in Harrah’s Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making mist-shrouded tuna poke at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas - VIDEO
E.J. Estrella, banquet chef at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, makes tuna poke by mixing chunks of bigeye tuna with sliced green onions, julienned white onions and house-made poke sauce and serving it on a bed of seaweed salad garnished with lotus chips and suspended over melon-scented mist. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making baked goat cheese at Ri Ra in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Shea Wafford, sous chef and pastry chef at Ri Ra at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas, makes baked goat cheese served with honey-nut pesto, pickled red onions, peppadew relish and sourdough baguette. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bruce Kalman cooking at Ada’s - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Bruce Kalman will be cooking at Ada's in Tivoli Village in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making banana cream pie at Cut in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Earl, pastry chef at Cut at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, makes an updated banana cream pie by layering banana ice cream, custard and compote with house-made Cool Whip, vanilla wafers and 24-karat gold leaf in a milk chocolate sphere and drizzling it with warm banana-caramel sauce so it devolves into petals. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Chile Colorado at Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas
Javier Chavez, chef/owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas, makes Chile Colorado by braising pork belly with three kinds of peppers and serving it atop stewed black beans with crema and pickled jalapeño, carrots and onions, with flour tortillas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap introduces its vegan CrazyShake - VIDEO
Black Tap at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip has a new CrazyShake that's vegan -- The Black ’N White CakeShake. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)