This week’s movie releases

Russell Crowe turns director with historical drama ‘The Water Diviner’

Russell Crowe in ‘The Water Diviner.’
Russell Crowe in ‘The Water Diviner.’

Russell Crowe delivers his first fiction feature as a director with The Water Diviner, a heartstring-tugging historical drama in which the star also takes the lead as an Australian farmer who, four years after the ill-fated WWI Gallipoli campaign, travels to Turkey to discover what happened to his three sons, all of whom were reported missing, presumed dead in battle. Facing labyrinthine bureaucracy, he seeks to gain access to the battlefield to employ his gift for divination to find them. Olga Kurylenko plays the Turkish widow with whom he strikes up a relationship.

Al Pacino plays an aging actor on the verge of a breakdown in Rain Man director Barry Levinson’s The Humbling. An adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel, the comedy drama has shades of Oscar winner Birdman about it as dementia-suffering Pacino struggles to differentiate daydreams from reality. Greta Gerwig plays the lesbian daughter of a friend with whom he begins an affair.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 sees comedy star Kevin James reprise his role as an inept security guard, who is heading off to Vegas for a vacation with his teenage daughter before she starts university. But he finds it hard to leave work behind as he attends a security conference and tackles a gang of art thieves.

Also aiming for laughs is Spanish film-within-a-film comedy, Sexo fácil, películas tristes. Marta Etura and Quim Gutiérez star as two made-for-each-other lovers at the mercy of their creator, screenwriter Ernesto Alterio, who’s struggling to pen a romantic comedy as his own love life hits rock bottom. Alejo Flah directs.

Crisis meeting

The homegrown comedy continues in Murieron por encima de sus posibilidades (or, Dying Beyond Their Means), directed by Isaki Lacuesta, a filmmaker better known for more serious fare – notably his San Sebastián-winning 2011 docudrama about Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló, Los pasos dobles. Featuring a who’s who of Spanish acting talent – Raúl Arévalo, Imanol Arias, José Coronado, Eduard Fernández, Ariadna Gil, Bárbara Lennie, Sergi López, Carmen Machi, Ángela Molina, José Sacristán, Emma Suárez and Luis Tosar, among them – it follows five citizens whose lives have been torn apart by the economic crisis as they hatch a plot to kidnap the head of the central bank.

After Richard Linklater’s acclaimed Boyhood, comes French director Céline Sciamma’s nearly as well received, if completely unconnected, Girlhood. It follows teenager Marieme as she seeks to escape her violent family life and find herself by hooking up with a gang of three fiercely independent girls who aren’t afraid to operate outside of social norms.