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Volcano

If you build a better volcano, audiences will beat a path to your door. This utterly formulaic throwback to the disaster movies of yesteryear is 1997's good volcano movie, the one in which a big ol' volcano pokes its nose out from the La Brea tar pits and vomits lava all over some pricy downtown Los Angeles real estate. ( DANTE'S PEAK was the bad one, in case you've already forgotten.) Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) of the Office of Emergency Management has to sort out the mess of biblical proportions ("It is a foolish man who builds his house upon the sand," Jones intones gravely) with the help of a spunky lady seismologist (Anne Heche), and that's about it for plot. The fun is in the mayhem, and there's plenty of it -- you always knew it was a bad idea to build a subway in L.A., and now you know why. What makes this a better no-brainer than DANTE'S PEAK? Three things: A lava geyser in front of the Beverly Center is a bigger kick than ash raining down on some dinky town in the Pacific Northwest. The effects are bigger. No one says anything as quite as stupid as "Her name was Marion and she loved volcanoes..." Even the silly, obligatory imperiled dog scene is better: The dog is so cute you have to cheer when it escapes being burned to a cinder. (And it's not spilling the beans to reveal that Fido gets away either, because no dogs die in mainstream American movies -- only anonymous supporting cast members who might as well have "volcano fodder" stamped across their foreheads.)