George Clooney in The Descendants, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, The Muppets

George Clooney is getting raves for his new film The Descendants. How much of that is deserved?

This is just about the best week I can remember this year for new films. Just look at these titles and the many high marks they're getting.  

The Descendants:  3 1/2 stars
My Week With Marilyn:   4
Hugo:   4
The Muppets:  3 1/2
Arthur Christmas:  3
My Father's Guests:  3
40 Days at Base Camp:  4
European Union Film Festival: --
Whistler Film Festival: --
Atlas Shrugged, Part 1: --

THE DESCENDANTS: After all the buzz and Oscar predictions, I was expecting to be absolutely wowed by George Clooney’s new film. Not quite, even though it’s Alexander Payne’s first feature since Sideways (the clever wine tasting odyssey) and has much in common with his other mid-life crisis in About Schmidt. This time it’s Clooney struggling to find his place in the world as a lawyer in Hawaii and beset by a succession of problems. First, his wife is injured water skiing and lies in a coma. He’ll have to decide on pulling the plug. He also has to learn how to be a parent and care for two daughters. His siblings are pressing him to finish a land deal. They want to sell off a pristine chunk of paradise they inherited to one of three developers. He has to choose which one. And finally, his older daughter, who he finds drunk on the beach one evening at her university, blurts out that his wife had been cheating on him. He, the two girls and an amiable but dopey boyfriend, set off to find and confront the man.

More in New Movies

Reviews of an unexpected charmer, a really red wedding and a local boy who shines in a mediocre movie

Also: documentaries about Toni Morrison and the power of water and an action thriller with Gerard Butler

Local kid gets potty mouth in Good Boys, British teen is musically Blinded by the Light and a stunning history is uncovered

And in other films: Octavia Spencer accuses, Cate Blanchett breaks down, Julianne Moore manipulates, Leslie Jones faces the Angry Birds and four teen girls attract sharks

Women mobsters in The Kitchen, country ways in Honeyland and TV journalism as Mike Wallace did it

Also: stardom as David Crosby endured it, a dystopian tale and a wise dog yarn, both filmed in Vancouver, and two more that I haven’t seen
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