They have often ridden down these streets before, but the pavement's never moved beneath their feet before, and the real estate in La Brea never looked so real (and inviting, when you never asked it to be). Yes, all stops get pulled out when the big one wants to blow and if you can't stand the heat, too bad. Yes, disaster movies never die, they just return with bigger effects.

Emergency chief Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) may be troubled by not spending enough time with his daughter Kelly (Gaby Hoffman) since his divorce, but hellzapopin' in L.A. and he doesn't know the half of it yet. Imminent danger is hinted at by seismologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), but Mike suspects that maybe she's just being "girly." Before long, however, everybody's getting shaken up and it's not just about the latest trends. It becomes more a question of here today, fossil tomorrow. Mike tries to fulfill his responsibilities and keep everything under control, but the heavy, hot, and laden lava bombs don't make life any easier as they come hurling like missiles out of the sky. Things are moving too fast for him, though, and he even winds up leaving his own daughter stranded in order to rescue a trapped fireman until he notices that she's just about to metamorphose into orange soup. Scream for daddy, Kelly. Mike stays on the run and takes everything in his stride, realizing that it's just one of those days. Burning palm trees are not the most romantic silhouette against a California landscape, especially when you have no time to enjoy them, and so we all wonder will Mike and Amy ever have a chance to discover what the other person is really like in and, more important, will they ever find the time to fall in love?

There was a steady stream of publicity revolving around Miss Heche in the American press just before the release of this film. As a seismologist, she may study tremors, but I wouldn't go so far as to say she makes the earth move. I don't know what all the fuss was about. Hasn't anybody seen an actress attend her own premiere before?

As for the story, could something like this really happen, you ask? Why not?; in a neighborhood that makes a daily routine of waking up to earthquakes, firestorms and mudslides, anything is possible. So, how do you like that magma? In any case, take my word for it, the one job you don't want when the coast blows is Metropolitan Transit Authority chief (John Carroll Lynch); after all, it gets so warm down in those tunnels.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett