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Reviews: Fast and Furious 7, The Water Diviner, I Used to Live Here, Altman

The release of the latest Fast & Furious caper is overshadowed by the passing of Paul Walker, who died in a car crash during the filming of this movie. He, along with Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, had been with this extraordinarily successful action franchise since the very start, and his death is marked by a wistful montage at the film's end.

Other than that though, it's business as usual in Fast & Furious 7, as the bloodbath in London at the conclusion of Furious 6 comes back to haunt Dominic (Mr. Diesel) and the gang. A furious Englishman by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) blames Dom's crew for leaving his younger brother Owen a hospitalised cripple, and travels to America to hunt them down.

After Dom and Brian (Walker) are nearly killed in a bomb attack, they're approached by a CIA chief called Frank Petty (Kurt Russell), who offers to help them stop Shaw.

As the Furious franchise has unfolded, its producers and writers have resorted to extraordinary measures to up the ante in terms of car chases and fights. But this instalment sails beyond mere stupidity into a crazy, pumped-up world of flying cars, parachuting jeeps and indestructible humans.

It is daft beyond compare, over two hours' long, and as noisy as a tank battle, but the fans of this franchise are legion, and will love it.

At the grand old age of 50, Russell Crowe sticks a tentative toe into the bracing waters of film direction with The Water Diviner, an amiable and nicely made drama loosely based on a true story. He also stars, as Joshua Connor, a sturdy Outback farmer with a rare talent for locating hidden water springs.

It's 1919, and he and his wife are struggling to cope with the loss of their three sons on the battlefields of Gallipoli. And one morning Joshua awakes to find his poor wife has given up coping altogether and killed herself.

Devastated by this loss, he sets out for Turkey to fulfil a promise to find his boys' bodies and bring them home. But in Istanbul and beyond his prejudices and expectations will be confounded.

The Water Diviner is rather nice to look at, especially the early sequences in rural Australia. Crowe tells his story pretty well, though Olga Kurylenko is dull and miscast as a Turkish love interest, and the scene where Russ takes on the remnants of the Ottoman Empire armed only with a cricket bat is a little hard to take seriously.

The thorny issue of suicide is tackled head on in I Used to Live Here, a gritty, kitchen-sink style low-budget Irish drama shot in and around Tallaght and using mainly amateur actors. Jordanne Jones gives an exceptionally grounded and convincing portrayal of Amy, a sensitive 13-year-old girl who's never gotten over the death of her mother. Her well-meaning father relies on her too much domestically, and things get complicated when his ex-girlfriend turns up toting a one-year-old boy she claims is his.

Disillusioned and under pressure, Amy becomes fascinated by the recent suicide of a teenage acquaintance, and begins to consider a similar course of action herself. Frank Berry's film uses the tinny clamour of everyday life as a busy backdrop to Amy's slow descent into despair. It's an accomplished piece of work.

The glittering, topsy-turvy career of Hollywood maverick Robert Altman is given a cursory but entertaining inspection in Ron Mann's new documentary Altman. Colleagues and collaborators like Julianne Moore, Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould and Sally Kellerman provide fitful and frustratingly brief insights into the making of films like MASH, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and though there are few new insights on offer here, one does get a sense of Altman's tenaciousness and single-minded vision.

Irish Independent