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This Week at the Movies

'End of Watch' and 'Trouble with the Curve' are both decent, but 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' is a genuinely surprising film on the joys and pains of growing up.

The gritty police drama meets the found footage genre with mostly successful results in David Ayer’s violent “End of Watch.”

Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena star as two Los Angeles police officers who run afoul of a merciless Mexican drug cartel.

But much of the picture is dedicated to their in-between time, which consists of filling out paperwork, responding to calls from dispatch and hanging out with their wives and girlfriends.

One of the movie’s best attributes is that it feels as if it’s following the everyday routine of a pair of cops and, in the process, gets solid performances out of its everyman leads.

The picture’s biggest stumbling block is its use of found footage. On the one hand, Gylenhaal’s Brian tells us up-front that he is an officer taking a film class on the side, which explains his constantly carrying around a camera.

However, Ayer is not as successful in explaining why the various members of the Mexican cartel, whom we occasionally follow, are consistently videotaping their escapades or how Brian’s footage ends up getting edited together with that of the cartel – that is, if we are to buy the concept that this is a found footage movie.

There are moments in “End of Watch” that are a little tough to swallow, but on the whole it is an intense buddy cop movie.

Clint Eastwood makes his first on-screen appearance in four years in “Trouble with the Curve,” a mostly enjoyable father-daughter drama set in the world of baseball.

Eastwood plays Gus, a cranky old scout whose declining vision has his bosses worried that he’ll be able to carry out his duties.

In steps his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), who is not quite estranged from her father, but not particularly on good terms with him either. In a plot development that is slightly unbelievable, Mickey puts aside her career as an attorney on hold to hit the road with Gus and assist him in scouting a cocky young slugger from North Carolina.

Along the way, a love interest for Mickey (Justin Timberlake) comes into the picture and some familial bonding occurs.

“Curve” gets off to a rocky start. The first quarter of the movie relies too much on portraying Clint as a grouch, which was used to much better effect in the wonderful “Gran Torino.” A scene at a gravesite is another example of how director Robert Lorenz allows elements of the picture to drag on too long.

But once it finds its feet, the movie charms. This is mostly due to the acting abilities of the cast, which also includes John Goodman and Matthew Lillard.

And, thankfully, this is Eastwood’s better of his two performances from the past month.

The big winner of the week is Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Teenagers are frequently portrayed in film as one-dimensional idiots, so it’s great to see a movie that actually appears to remember what it’s like to be of that age.

This is the best picture of its type in several years – at least, since 2009’s underrated “Adventureland” – and it’s due to a combination of poignant performances by its cast, sharp and witty dialogue and a balance in portraying the joys and heartaches of youth that feels true.

Set in Pittsburgh in 1991, the film follows the travails of freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), who is still reeling from the suicide of his best friend and trying to grapple with a trauma involving his aunt that is only slowly revealed.

Charlie’s first months of high school are lonely as he struggles to find friends and draws only the sympathy of an English teacher (Paul Rudd, who is excellent in a small role) who appreciates the young man’s love of literature and decides to loan him copies of great novels.

But Charlie eventually falls in with a pair of misfit step-siblings – Sam (Emma Watson), who is looking for love in all the wrong places, and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who is ostracized for being openly gay.

All three of the film’s leads fully flesh out their wounded characters, but Miller is a scene-stealer as Patrick, whose witty repartee is used as a mask to hide that he is hurting.

While watching the film, I knew I recognized Miller from somewhere and then it occurred to me that he was the loathsome son from “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” That he can play a charmer like Patrick and someone as sinister as Kevin so believably shows that he has range.

This is a film that deftly juggles dark material with genuine pathos in its portrayals of the lives of teenagers.

“Wallflower” is the first genuine surprise of the fall movie season as well as one of my favorites of the year so far.

"Trouble with the Curve" is playing at UA Court Street Stadium 12.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is playing at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13.

Wendy Moss September 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Logan Lerman looks a little like a young Paul Rudd. And they are both Jewish. Too bad Rudd is not playing Lerman's father in this film.

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