Two new movies are out about growing up and finding acceptance — a broad comedy ("Pitch Perfect") and moving drama ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower").
"Pitch Perfect" mixes gleeful musical numbers with raunchy campus antics. Freshman Becca (Anna Kendrick) is a reluctant student at Barden University, where just about everyone belongs to an a capella group. She is ensnared by the Bellas, desperate for new members.
They're a clichéd mix of misfits, but how they make us laugh. As the boldly self-named Fat Amy, Rebel Wilson (from "Bridesmaids") gets the boldest lines, but pigtailed Hana Mae Lee steals the show with her barely audible lunacy.
'Wallflower' will make your heart sing
Stephen Chbosky has done an incredible job as writer-director with "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," based upon his popular novel. It's a wonderful display of ensemble acting headed up by sweet-faced Logan Lerman (Charlie), spellbinding Ezra Miller (Patrick) and lovely Emma Watson (Sam), her "Harry Potter" days firmly behind her.
Charlie enters high school shy, lonely and ridiculed until he meets kindred spirits Patrick and Sam. To Charlie, they are the carefree, confident seniors he aspires to be. But all three are quietly struggling with some serious personal issues.
This is a beautifully realized coming-of-age story with moments that everyone can relate to. It's not a musical, but it will make your heart sing.
'Looper' has unique take on time travel
Rian Johnson has crafted a top notch futuristic sci-fi thriller in "Looper." He cranks up a wild time travel premise with overtones of "The Terminator" and "Total Recall." But Johnson's directing and screenwriting adds real emotional punch with detailed character studies. They draw you into the eye-popping action on a personal level.
Set in the near future, time travel is discovered and quickly outlawed. But wealthy criminals use the new technology to send their enemies back in time to be executed by assassins called "loopers." Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a young assassin hired for this task. His life is turned upside down when his 30-year-older self is sent back for him to execute.
Bruce Willis does a great job as the older Joe. He escapes his fate and tries to educate young Joe about the strange life that lies ahead. This sets in motion a series of mind-bending events that play out with surprising intelligent design. Emily Blunt is outstanding as the single mom and love interest in the center of their storm.
The plot takes us down the rabbit hole to new dimensions where psychic powers and moral dilemmas intersect with R-rated shoot-outs. "Loopers" is clearly one of the best action films of this year.
SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.