The Company (12A)<br/>Wonderland (18)<br/>Laws of Attraction (12A)<br/>Demonlover (nc)<br/>Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (PG)<br/>The Basque Ball (15)<br/>Reinventing Eddie (15)<br/>Married/Unmarried (18)

It's Altman - without all the Altman stuff
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The Independent Culture

What Robert Altman appears to have done with The Company (12A) is employed all of his tried-and-tested techniques - the multiple plots, the over-lapping dialogue, the satirical lunges - and then edited most of them out. The film takes us behind the scenes of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, across a year of rehearsals and performances. Altman has mixed a few actors in with the real Joffrey dancers, namely Neve Campbell as an overworked ingénue, and Malcolm McDowell as the company's curiously English-sounding Italian-American director, but none of them has anything approaching a storyline or even a rounded character (even though Campbell herself shares a "Story By" credit). Altman seems to have been seduced by the spectacle of the ballet - and, fair enough, he films it beautifully - so we got lots of world-class dancing, and only the merest fragments of anything else. It's like catching five or 10 minutes every week of a fly-on-the-wall TV series. On pointes, but with no point.

What Robert Altman appears to have done with The Company (12A) is employed all of his tried-and-tested techniques - the multiple plots, the over-lapping dialogue, the satirical lunges - and then edited most of them out. The film takes us behind the scenes of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, across a year of rehearsals and performances. Altman has mixed a few actors in with the real Joffrey dancers, namely Neve Campbell as an overworked ingénue, and Malcolm McDowell as the company's curiously English-sounding Italian-American director, but none of them has anything approaching a storyline or even a rounded character (even though Campbell herself shares a "Story By" credit). Altman seems to have been seduced by the spectacle of the ballet - and, fair enough, he films it beautifully - so we got lots of world-class dancing, and only the merest fragments of anything else. It's like catching five or 10 minutes every week of a fly-on-the-wall TV series. On pointes, but with no point.

Fictional as it claimed to be, Boogie Nights adhered so closely to the life of John Holmes - the porn world's biggest star in more senses than one - that a biopic of Holmes would be redundant. The makers of Wonderland (18), then, have concentrated on one episode in his life, after his towering success had detumesced, and he had slid to cocaine-addicted hell. It was then, in 1981, that Holmes (Val Kilmer) advised a gang of associates to burgle another of his friends, an LA nightclub magnate called Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian). Shortly afterwards, Holmes revealed to Nash who it was who committed the burglary. And shortly after that the robbers' house was raided, and four people were beaten to death.

The film shows us these crimes three times, as remembered by three unreliable witnesses. But this Rashomon-inspired mode of storytelling-and-retelling is effective only if each version pulls us in a revelatory new direction, and in Wonderland that doesn't happen. Each account just presents us with almost the same sordid, drug-induced squabble between despicable human dregs. One viewing of that would be enough.

Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore do their best Tracy and Hepburn impressions in Laws of Attraction (12A), an old-fashioned screwball romance directed by Peter Howitt. Brosnan and Moore play New York's fiercest divorce lawyers. When they oppose each other in court, the gloves are off, but when they meet after work - you guessed it - the rest of their clothes are soon off, too. The leads' mature sparring is entertaining, but the five credited screenwriters can't seem to agree on what the story is, and when the film decamps to rural Ireland, it doesn't know where to go next.

Olivier Assayas's Demonlover (nc) is a murky French thriller that stars Connie Nielson as a double-dealing executive involved in distributing Japanese animé-porn on the internet. The unsettling, atmospheric cinematography and music fight a losing battle against a script that's freighted with tediously rambling nonsense.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (PG) stars Lindsay (Freaky Friday) Lohan as a young prima donna who moves house from Manhattan to New Jersey. Once she's there, the theory is that she's picked on by a bitchy bully. But Lohman immediately humiliates her rival and then gets herself a doting dreamboat of a boyfriend, so I'd assume that the director of this shambles hasn't grasped the concept of the underdog.

Billed, not very impressively, as "The Highest Grossing Spanish Documentary Of All Time", Julio Medem's The Basque Ball (15) is an endless parade of talking heads, recommended only to viewers who want to hear in microscopic detail about every contrasting viewpoint relating to Basque independence.

Reinventing Eddie (15) is based on a play about a dad wrongly suspected of abusing his children. It would have worked better as an hour-long ITV drama. Also adapted from a play, Married/ Unmarried (18) is a breathtakingly awful British four-hander whose virulent misanthropy is matched only by its undergraduate pretentiousness. Anazapta (15) is a medieval horror fantasy that's both too long and too bonkers to bother with.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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