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The Aisle Seat

with Andy Dursin

Welcome to Film Score Daily, and the first of our daily rotating columns for one and all to enjoy here on the Internet. Naturally, everybody's take on this exciting new development is going to differ, but here's what you can expect from me each and every week:

-Totally subjective opinions on all the new movies, and my psychic predictions (courtesy of Dionne Warwick and former Love Boat star Bernie Koppell) on what upcoming shows you should be watching, both on the big- screen and on the tube.

-Assorted comments on film music that I've heard.

-Buried video treasures you might have overlooked.

-Coupons for free balloons for the kids. (Note: We're working on this one... more details later).

At any rate, now's a good chance to get things going by saying that Volcano is one of the worst major- studio movies I've seen this decade. For any of you who thought Independence Day was a totally ersatz disaster movie, just check this one out. As a disaster movie, it's almost as bad as Mia Farrow in the Dino DeHorrendo's remake of Hurricane. As an action movie, it's slackly directed and almost as poorly photographed as The Rock. As the latter of this year's two volcano movies, it's to Dante's Peak what Leviathan was to The Abyss and what Wyatt Earp was to Tombstone. In other words, it sucks. Big-time. Alan Silvestri apes his Back to the Future score (in its opening, "magical" motif) in the first half-hour, then copies Predator in a rhythmic underscore about an hour in, and finally becomes as headache-inducing as the movie itself by the final third.

And things don't get any better in this film in any other department, either—Tommy Lee Jones acts like an auctioneer trying to sell off one of Willard Scott's wigs at a nursing home, meaning he continually screams every line in an effort to sell the would-be tension of this mess, while Anne Heche, a bubbly southern California blonde (also Ellen DeGeneres' real-life girlfriend), tries to convince us that she's a scientist. Right—and Mick Jackson (L.A. Story) was the right man to direct this film. Everything in Volcano is pretty much awful; from the rapid-fire editing (that frustratingly means each take in the finished film runs about 2-4 seconds) to the politically-correct racial subplot, lame special effects (ooooh... lava rolling down a backlot set!), and bad acting. When I was walking out, even a group of 7 year-olds agreed that Dante's Peak was a better movie. And it sure was—there were actually characters in that film, along with some suspenseful sequences and a strong performance by Peirce Brosnan. The fact that Volcano only made $14.7 million (several million under the opening weekend take of Dante's Peak) seems to confirm that we've had enough lava for one year, and that no amount of mega-hype from Fox will be able to sell this turkey to the rest of the movie-going public.

THE SMALL SCREEN: The long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining has finally arrived, and it has not disappointed. With strong character development, solid performances, and a creepy atmosphere courtesy of director Mick Garris, this 6-hour remake has been one of the most critically lauded efforts on TV this season. [I understand that, curiously, its ratings have been disappointing, however. -LK] King disliked Stanley Kubrick's visually dazziling but otherwise cold and unbelievable 1980 film of his book, where the director chucked out everything that made King's characters so sympathetic and human, and instead let Jack Nicholson go absurdly over-the-top from almost the first second. This mini-series obviously lacks the visuals of Kubrick's film, but from what I've seen so far, it surpasses the one-dimensional quality of the movie in a heartbeat—Stephen Weber makes for a great Jack Torrance, showing us the frustration and heartbreak that continually make the character a sympathetic but flawed individual, and Rebecca DeMornay is fine as his wife. Even if she had no dialogue, DeMornay would instantly be more acceptable than bug-eyed Shelley Duvall in the original, who was scarier than virtually anything else in the movie. Nicholas Pike, who collaborated with King and Garris before (on Sleepwalkers, which was bad beyond even typical-King-movie standards), has created a serviceable orchestral score. It's a bit much at times, but at least it's not on synths, like most small-screen scores. And the show itself is compelling and creepy, doing justice to King's original story, which is easily one of his best.

VIDEO TIP: Everybody told me to see Lone Star, John Sayles's lengthy drama about a small Texas town. I'm not one to conform, but I did cave in and rent it, and I found it to be surprisingly good. Most Sayles movies just don't connect with me as a viewer, but I did appreciate the character development, good performances, and small- town atmosphere of this flick. It really is too long (at 135 minutes, it could have lost about 20 of them), but if you're in the mood, aren't too tired, and want to see a well-written picture, check it out.


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