A good disaster movie is the ultimate narrative: you get the wrenching emotional catharsis without suffering the consequences. Last year offered Daylight (written by Leslie Bohem, who also wrote Dante's Peak), which is awful, and Twister, which isn't much better. But Dante's Peak contends with the best of a genre that had its heyday in the 70s and seems to be making a comeback as 2000 approaches. The dizzying cinematography by Andrzej Bartkowiak--combining long takes at canted angles with rushing motion even in calm-before-the-storm domestic interiors--outstrips the incidental music at building tension and anticipating doom as volcanologist Pierce Brosnan puts his job and his life on the line trying to save the residents of tiny Dante's Peak, especially the single mayor, Linda Hamilton. The movie's corny and manipulative, taxes your ability to suspend disbelief, and predictably punishes characters for their hubris--all earmarks of a great disaster flick, if the tone is just right. And it is--director Roger Donaldson alternates treacly interpersonal stuff with panic as if measuring and mixing your brain chemicals with pharmacological precision. See it big. Burnham Plaza, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Mill, Hyde Park, Lincoln Village, Norridge, 600 N. Michigan, Webster Place. --Lisa Alspector
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.