It's robots fighting monsters, or it's idiots fighting idiots, at the box office this week.
“Pacific Rim” is the monster mash of a geeky movie fan's dreams, as director Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan's Labyrinth,” “Hellboy”) imagines a future in which interdimensional monsters invade Earth – and humanity counters by building giant robots to combat them. The movie is loaded with exciting set pieces and cool effects (even better on IMAX 3-D), which overcome the slightly stilted dialogue and wooden acting.
“Grown Ups 2” is Adam Sandler's first sequel, unless you consider most of his films a continuum of dumb humor and crude behavior. This one follows suit, reuniting Sandler's Lenny with his small-town pals (Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade) for more hijinks. The jokes are piled on without any sense of story structure – or with seemingly caring whether they're funny or not.
The best of the art-house fare this weekend is “Fill the Void,” an absorbing look inside Tel Aviv's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It centers on Shira (Hadas Yaron), an 18-year-old woman eager to start the courtship process toward marriage – until her older sister (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth, and their mother (Irit Sheleg) pressures Shira to marry her widowed brother-in-law (Yiftach Klein). Director Rama Buhrstein captures Shira's internal struggles between duty and her desires, and catches the telling details of how religion touches on every aspect of life in this tight-knit community.
“Byzantium” is a moody vampire tale, in which two mysterious women (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) arrive in a seaside town and trouble ensues. Director Neil Jordan, nearly two decades after visiting the genre with “Interview With a Vampire,” returns for a darkly atmospheric feel.
Lastly, “Pandora's Promise” is an infomercial of a documentary, a one-sided argument in favor of nuclear energy. Interviews with environmental activists who say their eyes have been opened to the possibilities of nuclear power – and that incidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima couldn't possibly happen now, trust us. There's an intriguing argument to be made here, but the movie buries its case by belittling the other side and never giving them a chance to rebut the pro-nuclear statements.