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New in theaters

John Cusack raises a 'Martian Child,' Alison Eastwood's directorial debut veers off the rails, and Chinese director Zhang Ke Jia offers up a sublime 'Still Life.'

New in theaters Rails and Ties (PG-13)

Director: Alison Eastwood. With Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden. (101 min.)

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Alison Eastwood's directorial debut, set in a hushed California railroad town, follows the lives of two families, one ravaged by loss, and one praying for emotional traction. In the right hands, this might be the stuff of compelling cinema. Instead, "Rails and Ties" sinks into melodrama. The chief culprits? A slack plot and enough breathy conversations to fill seven episodes of "The View." As a conductor struggling to deal with the aftermath of a fatal train accident, Kevin Bacon dutiful spits out his lines, and eventually manages to inject something resembling subtlety into the proceedings. But even he seems to have trouble stomaching this one.

Grade: Cā€“ ā€“ Matthew Shaer