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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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The belly of the earth is rumbling beneath Los Angeles; earthquakes the city is used to, but volcanos? When it finally erupts, in LA’s busy mid-Wiltshire district, its deadly and seemingly unstoppable lava flows across traffic-choked streets. The only thing that stands between a final and fiery destruction is the city’s chief emergency services officer, and a pint-sized seismologist . . . female.

"Volcano is an adrenalin pumping spectacle which erupts onto the screen with strong performances, extravagant special effects, good script and a tension building musical score. The flavour of LA is so well established in the openings scenes - making the subsequent dramatic events all the more plausible and realistic. Tommy Lee Jones is rock solid as emergency chief, Mike Roark, who thinks on the run. Jones has that elusive quality, charisma, and uses it to full advantage along with his credibility and authority. Volcano delivers terrific emotional oomph and pace, far more so than the other lava pic, Dante’s Peak. Anne Heche, the seismologist with big ideas and a petite frame, gives a strong performance showing great inner strength and is a complement to Jones. (Why do people confuse controversial sexuality with talent?) The way the film deals with Roark’s dilemma about the love for his daughter (beautifully played by Gaby Hoffmann) and his responsibility to the job, is moving and handled with great sensitivity. There’s plenty of action and thrills and Alan Silvestri’s gripping score, heavy on brass and timpani with crying strings, brings spine-tingling impact to the vivid colours of the sensational eruptions. There is a certain eeriness in watching familiar landmarks like the Beverly Centre being devastated. And when the improbable events of the cutely named Mt Wilshire are over, there’s another improbable event - rain in LA."
Louise Keller

"This is old-fashioned Hollywood movie making on a grand scale. Forget reality, leave such feelings well and truly at the door. Unlike Dante's Peak, which took an hour to get to the point, Volcano is a blast - in more ways than one - from the word go. Clearly British director Mick Jackson (LA Story, The Bodyguard) has enormous fun tearing Los Angeles apart, blowing it up and burning it down, and he does so with a crisp, no-nonsense visual flair that has become Jackson's trademark. As cinema, Volcano has some astonishing moments, such as a remarkably shot sequence featuring a collage of helicopters in unison pouring water over a lava-ridden city. The film looks spectacular, with replicas of main Los Angeles areas painstakingly recreated. And Jackson has created some well-staged sequences of nerve-racking suspense, through taut editing, well-executed camera work and imaginative visual effects. It's easy to pour critical scorn on a simple genre film that is all style and no substance. But it's so well put together, so cinematically grandiose and, well, so damn entertaining, that the script, the cliches, the rather silly racial theme that rears its ugly head, all seem to fade into insignificance. Ultimately what is left is Hollywood cinema at its most engrossing. Occasionally, all one wants in the movies is the chance to really escape, and on that level, Volcano precisely delivers the goods."
Paul Fischer

Having the last word on this film (in this space) means I can take shots at my criti-colleagues as well as the film. First off, Louise, I don’t think the script is that great. It’s far too formulaic and predictable. I like a good disaster movie, but the script needs either more invention or more humour to be a new experience. This has neither. I do agree with Louise (and Paul) about the effects: they’re astonishingly excellent, and so they need to be. If they were cheesy, this would become a B film with a two week cinema run before slinking off to a video fate in Fiji. As for the nerve-racking suspense, Paul, the moments are far too few, given that we can predict the outcome of most. For example (without giving it away) there is a metro train that gets into trouble; the cinematic signposts are all too clear, with close ups that signal every coming move. But then all the set ups are too pedestrian. Then there are the personal angles: the single father with daughter, the single female scientist he needs to work with, the silly (as Paul puts it) racial side-bar vignette, the ambitious but sincere colleague. . . I wish I could have used the word original in here somewhere. OK, so those are my gripes: but did I enjoy the film? Yes, with reservations."
Andrew L. Urban

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LA on fire

Tommy Lee Jones

Anne Heche


CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gaby Hoffmann, Don Cheadle, Jacqueline Kim, Keith David, John Corbett, Michael Rispoli, John Carroll Lynch

DIRECTOR: Mick Jackson

PRODUCER: Neal H. Moritz, Andrew Z. Davis

SCRIPT: Jerome Armstrong, Billy Lray (story by Armstrong)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Theo van de Sande

EDITOR: Michael Tronick, Don Brochu

MUSIC: Alan Silvestri


RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes




spectacular action

Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche suspended from fire engine ladder

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