Alan Dee’s guide to this week’s new releases

January, as any film fan knows, is the peak time for ‘look at me’ releases in which big-time stars aim to catch the eye of the Oscar voters with worthy performances that might earn them a coveted golden statuette.

Step forward The Descendants, in which twinkle-eyed George Clooney takes on the tough task of making us side with an estate agent, or realtor as they call them in Hawaii.

It’s on the island outpost of the USA that we find George, handsome, rich and, yes, an estate agent.

But he’s not much of a dad, until his wife is left in a coma after a speedboat accident.

Who’s going to look after the two girls, both of whom have baggage of different sorts to unpack? And what will happen when he discovers that his wife was actually playing away from home?

Our George steps up to the plate in this comedy drama from the director of the much-praised wine buffs road trip Sideways – it’s Alexander Payne’s first film since that 2004 outing.

> We reckon we have it tough in the winter, with those car windscreens to scrape clean in the morning. Spare a thought for the stars of The Grey, foremost among them Liam Neeson, who are not only stuck in Alaska but also fending off a pack of killer wolves.

They’re oil rig workers stranded in the icy wastes by a plane crash, so it’s not even as if they went looking for adventure.

Liam, everyone’s first choice as taciturn but secretly sensitive action hero, is determined not to go down without a fight, which will eventually be bad news for those pesky and persistent wolves.

Packed with tough scenes and bone-chilling scenery, you might be well advised to wear two pairs of socks and take a scarf to this one. Brrrr.

> The underwhelming Chalet Girl may have been a misfire but it hasn’t stopped perky Felicity Jones snagging star parts.

In Like Crazy, this week’s default date movie, she’s a Brit student who falls for an American in LA but overstays her visa, gets kicked out and then can’t get back in to the States.

Will the couple’s romance survive enforced separation over the ensuing years? Let’s ask another question – why doesn’t the selfish Yank come over here?

> Meanwhile this week’s obligatory dash of 3D comes courtesy of A Monster In Paris, which combines the attractions of the recent Hugo and the likes of Ratatouille and Amelie.

You have to wonder how many more love songs to the glories of Paris we need, but this animation is all about a monster’s devotion to a nightclub singer in the days before the First World War. The monster may look frightening but has a beautiful singing voice, for some reason, and while the authorities try to track it down pals rally to protect it.

The film has been created by Shark Tale director Bibo Bergeron on his returned to his native France, where it has already been a massive hit.