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Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche
with Gaby Hoffman and Don Cheadle
Screenplay by Jerome Armstronn and Billy Ray
Directed by Mick Jones

IN SHORT: Little story. Lots of cool effects.

OK let's check the disaster effects movie screenplay writing book. One man Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones), check. One woman Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), check. One loved one, in this case Rourke's daughter Kelly (Gaby Hoffman) in danger, check. In this case, there's a trusted sidekick (Don Cheadle) as well. Disaster strikes and people rise to the occasion, check. Disaster averted, another one rises to take its place, check.

Close the book on heavy drama, folks, the summer movie season is officially underway with the first special effects fiesta flick, Volcano, burning down the house. There's a nudge of disaster fifteen minutes in. There's another nudge twenty minutes after that.

At fifty minutes in, all hell breaks loose and some really cool effects take charge for the next hour.

The city is Los Angeles. Roark is in charge of everything when disaster strikes. The thinking was earthquake, but when a volcano erupts from the La Brea tarpits, MacArthur Park melts in the dark, and grey ash comes falling down. In short, LA burns. Trees explode, windows blow out, museums pack up their Hieronymous Bosch collections and head for the hills. That's a very clever in joke, folks. If you don't know Bosch, take an art class.

It's a two pronged effects attack -- lava on the surface. Lave in the subway tunnels below. Men melt in their boots, literally melt, in one of the neatest effects of the flick. Forces mobilize in impossible time and yadda yadda yadda.

Lava is one of those forces of nature that just doesn't go away for a while, like hurricanes or tornadoes or storms. It comes and keeps coming until it stops. So the effort to fire up little human stories inside the big battle is a valiant one, and Jones is one of the few actors who can pull it off.

As we work our way through the summer, I expect to start hearing people tearing apart movies like Volcano for improbabilities in the plot and story telling. Scientific continuity problems abound. And you know what? I don't give a whit. The point is to keep the viewer in the seat ooh-ing and aah-ing at the effects.

The effects are cool, made more so as we have nothing to compare them to. Yet. That's the luck of being first out of the box. No dinosaurs, no sinking ships, no men in black (or black rubber suits for that matter).

You can complain and nitpick in September, if you wish. Right now, drop the dime and have a fine time.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Volcano, he would have paid . . .


Yeah, well, I get paid to nitpick now. Were it not for not even close to believable miraculous ending the numbers would be higher. Gotta live up to my name.

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