Alexander Payne's subtly humorous and heartbreaking new film, "The Descendants," is drawing enthusiastic praise from critics in its first weekend in theaters.
There's Oscar talk for George Clooney in his starring role as a Hawaii real-estate lawyer whose life is collapsing all around him. His wife is in a coma after a boating accident, he has to raise his two daughters on his own and his enormous family is counting on him to make the right decision in an important land deal. AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire gave the movie three stars out of four, saying: "Clooney being Clooney, though, he makes every stage of his character's arc believable, from grief through anger and eventual acceptance, and he gives a performance that's so understated as to appear effortless."
Also opening this week is "Happy Feet Two," the sequel to the Academy Award-winning 2006 animated film about dancing penguins in Antarctica. Elijah Wood, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Robin Williams are among the large voice cast. AP Movie Writer David Germain gave it three stars out of four, saying: "The penguins are as adorable as ever in `Happy Feet Two.' Yet a couple of shrimp-like krill at the bottom of the food chain almost steal the show in this animated sequel that sticks to the formula of the original while adding enough variety to give it a life of its own."
Finally there's the hotly anticipated "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn _ Part 1," the beginning of the end of the "Twilight" franchise starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Lemire wrote: "The fourth movie in the freakishly popular girl-vamp-wolf love triangle series is so self-serious, it's hard not to cackle at it. The dialogue is, of course, ridiculous and the acting ranges from stiff to mopey. But moments that should be pulsating with tension are usually hilarious because the special effects are still just so distractingly cheesy." She gave the movie just one and a half stars out of four.
Here's a look at how these movies and others fared on the top review websites as of Friday afternoon. Each score is the percentage of positive reviews for the film:
_ "The Descendants": Metacritic, 84; Movie Review Intelligence, 86.4; Rotten Tomatoes, 90. Average: 86.8.
_ "Tyrannosaur": Metacritic, 66; Movie Review Intelligence, 64.4; Rotten Tomatoes, 84. Average: 71.5.
_ "Happy Feet Two": Metacritic, 50; Movie Review Intelligence, 59.8; Rotten Tomatoes, 41. Average: 50.3.
_ "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn _ Part 1": Metacritic, 46; Movie Review Intelligence, 45.8; Rotten Tomatoes, 29. Average: 40.3.