Pacific Rim

Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi | PG-13 |

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SCI FI/ACTION

The premise is enough to give a nerd palpitations (which is dangerous—we don't exercise much): Twelve-story robots fight alien behemoths invading our planet through the sea floor. In other words, mega-Transformers battle a slew of Godzillas in an epic war for Earth. Why Pacific Rim then goes and ruins all that awesomeness with stories about people is beyond me.

Our unforgivably boring hero is Raleigh Becket (Hunnam), a pilot who watches his brother die as their superbot, known as a Jaeger, is ripped apart in battle. Raleigh's a great fighter but personality-free, much like his new partner Mako Mori (Kikuchi). They're part of a dwindling resistance led by Stacker Pentecost (the intensely magnetic Elba, who shows the younger actors how it's done), aiming to close the portal and stop the aliens.

It's all very serious, with nary a wink or a nudge to let viewers know that the film is in on the joke until halfway through, when a pair of bickering scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) add much-needed levity to balance the fights. And what spectacular fights they are, with robots and monsters body-slamming each other like an intergalactic MMA death match. It's just too bad that Pacific Rim doesn't really make us care who wins.

Fruitvale Station

Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer | R |

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DRAMA

When Oscar Grant was shot in the back by an Oakland cop while in handcuffs in 2009, the controversy sparked mass protests. This film recounts his last day. Rather than lionizing Oscar, though, the movie paints him as complex: a loving father, lying boyfriend, dutiful son and quick-tempered ex-con. Jordan brings all that simmering humanity to life in a naturalistic turn that deserves notice. Seek it out.

Turbo

Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Maya Rudolph | PG |

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ANIMATED

Some might call it doping, but when snail Turbo (Reynolds) gets hit with a dose of nitrous oxide (the stuff that makes dragsters fast and furious), it's a dream come true. He's as speedy as his favorite driver, Indy 500 front-runner Guy Gagné (Bill Hader), to the horror of his careful brother Chet (Giamatti). Sure, Turbo sounds like a lazy mix of Ratatouille and Cars, but it has its own fire, with a fun voice cast, quirky visuals and jokes that will get even adults chuckling.

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MICHAEL B. JORDAN

HE STARRED ON THE WIRE - AND IN SOAPS The Fruitvale Station star, 26, has been acting since he was 11, with turns on The Wire, Friday Night Lights and All My Children, where "I learned about being prepared," says the Newark, N.J.-raised actor. "Susan Lucci is the most prepared woman you could meet. She never takes a scene off."

WHEN HE FELL FOR ACTING "On The Wire, when my character Wallace started sniffing coke. I've never touched that stuff, but [costar] Andre Royo coached me through the process of dissolving myself in this character. Then it was like, 'Oh man, I want that feeling again.'"

ALL IN THE FAMILY Jordan has impressed more than just critics. "Oscar Grant's aunt said there were parts where she couldn't tell the difference between me and her nephew. That's the biggest compliment you could ever hope to receive."

DIVERGENT

COULD THIS BE THE NEXT HUNGER GAMES?

THE STAR: SHAILENE WOODLEY

Woodley, 21, plays heroine Tris in the film (out next March 21), based on a young-adult series by Veronica Roth. In a grim future Chicago, society is split into five factions, each devoted to a trait such as bravery or selflessness. At 16, kids face a placement test.

THE STUNTS

"I'm such a physical person," says Woodley (climbing an L train structure in Chicago). "I wish they would let me do more stunts!"

THE ROMANCE

Theo James plays Four, Tris's instructor in the Dauntless faction. "I love the chemistry between our characters," he says. "There is this great interplay. They are at the beginning of a love story, and you see its development."

THE HEARTTHROB

"He's thoughtful as well as strong," says James, 28, of Four. "There's a quiet masculinity."