Martian Child

dir. Menno Meyjes

Opens Fri Nov 2

Various Theaters

If you're a sci-fi writer (John Cusack) having trouble moving on after the death of a beloved spouse, the absolute best thing you can do is adopt a special-needs child who thinks he's a Martian (Bobby Coleman). It's even better if the kid looks like a cross between Powder and Harold from Harold and Maude. It'll be hard at first, but eventually everyone will learn important lessons about the value of individuality vs. conformity, and your creepy little Martian boy will stop believing that if he doesn't wear special weights around his ankles, Earth's gravity will cause him to float away (I think it's a metaphor). He might even learn how to be a normal boy who wears Converse and baseball caps and, I don't know, doesn't fear sunlight or think he can control things with his mind.

John Cusack, stop jerking us around with these shitty movies. Joan Cusack, gain some weight, you look like a goddamn greyhound. Anjelica Huston, did you lose a bet or something? Martian has big aspirations—but in its inability to resist cynically correlating childhood trauma with whimsical quirkiness, it never manages to transcend forgettably sentimental. ALISON HALLETT


dir. Rob Stewart

Opens Fri Nov 2

Hollywood Theatre

According to Lance Bass look-alike Rob Stewart—who directed, produced, shot, edited, and stars in Sharkwater—sharks are getting a raw deal. Full of montages of sharks nobly swimming to hammy vocal arrangements, Stewart is outraged that sharks are perceived as vicious killers. Turns out that sharks are mostly harmless creatures who're now severely endangered thanks to barbaric fishing practices. Which is probably true, but whatever: Stewart is so goofy and self-glorifying in Sharkwater that it pretty much invalidates anything he has to say. With his cheesy, monotone narration ("something happened that day... and I changed") and his annoying platitudes (sharks taught him that "fear was something that I made up, and it wasn't real"), Stewart pads out Sharkwater with bland generalizations (fishermen are dicks), and obvious facts (human beings don't care about the environment).

Things pick up for a bit when Stewart teams up with a bunch of radical hippies who sail into less civilized countries and ram their ship into fishermen's boats, but not even their self-righteous grandstanding can detract from Stewart's whiny statements like, "Everyone wanted to save pandas, elephants, and bears... and the world was afraid of sharks." WELL, NO SHIT, LANCE BASS! THEY'RE FUCKING SHARKS! Now will this movie turn into Grizzly Man already? Ker-CHOMP. ERIK HENRIKSEN

A Touch of Spice

dir. Tassos Boulmetis

Opens Fri Nov 2

Living Room Theaters

This 2003 Greek film practically contains two films in one, and they're so different in quality and charm that it's hard to believe that the whole package was written and directed by the same person. Much of A Touch of Spice is presented in flashbacks, and these sequences tell a whimsical coming-of-age tale that gives a child's-eye view of the conflict between Greece and Turkey.

Young Fanis (the adorable Markos Osse) and his family are deported from Istanbul because his father is Greek, even though his mother is a Turkish citizen. This political climate forms the backdrop for a tender little exploration of Fanis' love of cooking, his grandfather, and astronomy (the three are charmingly jumbled in the little boy's head—his grandfather teaches him about the planets by using spices to indicate the relative heat of each planet).

Unfortunately, this fascinating historical perspective is bracketed by an embarrassingly maudlin look at adult Fanis' (Georges Corraface) life, as he returns to Turkey and reunites with his childhood love. Corraface is sort of like a hotter, Mediterranean Harry Hamlin, but otherwise the grown-up sequences are so protracted and unfun that they overshadow the assets of this bizarrely uneven film. ALISON HALLETT