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Volcano

Year: 1997
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Mick Jackson
Writer: Jerome Armstrong
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gabby Hoffman, Don Cheadle, Keith David, John Corbett

One of the thousands of development executives in Hollywood sat watching Jurassic Park and said to himself 'this CGI is cool. They've done dinosaurs, why not volcanoes (tornadoes/tidal waves/asteroids/aliens/etc etc) !!'

And so an avalanche of CGI show reels in search of plots and characters poured forth in the late 1990s before Peter Jackson showed them all how to use technology to tell actual stories. Volcano was one of two guilty-pleasure volcano efforts (along with Dante's Peak) that sees Tommy Lee Jones battles the volcano that rises out of the richest area of LA. Yes, it's that silly.

The script by Armstrong and Jackson's direction at least knows how silly the idea is and despite pat, two dimensional relationships, the accomplished cast gives it an edge of seriousness that holds it back from all-out parody.

Jones is Mike, head of the natural disaster prevention authority, and wouldn't you know it, as soon as he starts his holiday to spend with his estranged teenage daughter (Hoffman), earthquakes start rocking California and lakes start heating up. Only cute vulcanologist Amy (Heche) has any idea what's really happening, and nobody believes her until lava starts pouring out of the La Brea tar pits.

Mike goes from the high tech nerve centre of the crisis to the drains and train tunnels of LA before the proverbial hits the fan and they have a full blown CGI emergency as lava flows down Wilshire Boulevard. It's big, dumb, silly, cartoony fun and with not a single promise made about dramatic characterisation or emotional engagement, so don't expect it.

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