Summer's Five Young Stars to Watch

This summer's stars to watch push the boundaries of summer films and give audiences a welcome departure from the seemingly endless slate of action and comic book movies.

In films that go beyond simple popcorn fare, they play compelling characters, including friendly pot dealers and an ex-Playboy model.

ABCNews talked to two industry insiders -- senior film columnist Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter and film critic Jeffrey Wells of -- to get the scoop on the summer movie season's rising stars.

Wells and Kit say these five stars are representatives of a new generation of talent in Hollywood, willing to take on difficult, boundary-pushing roles at the early stages of their careers.

1. Josh Peck

Josh Peck stars in The Wackness alongside Ben Kingsley.

The Nickelodeon regular looks to shed his "good boy" image in the indie film "The Wackness." Peck moves away from kid-friendly fare and gives a compelling and introspective performance as the pot dealer to Ben Kingsley's troubled therapist. Wells said that although he hasn't seen the film, the role has the potential to bring Peck to prominence.

Wells: "He's definitely in that orbit. He's a very lively, spunky, sharp personality, which growing up in any big city (New York City) will do. He's done so well that it's become who he is."

2. Anna Faris

Anna Faris stars in "The House Bunny" as an ex-Playboy model turned house mother.

In "The House Bunny," Faris stars as an ex-Playboy playmate who is charged with beautifying a group of sorority sisters after she's kicked out of the Playboy Mansion for being over the hill at 27. In the role, Faris graduates from the cheap gags and B-movie antics of "Scary Movie" to play the lead in this unusual romantic comedy.

Kit: "She's another one of these people who has been around for a while doing great work in small doses. She nailed a very Cameron Diaz-like character in "Lost in Translation." She was a scene stealer in "Just Friends." This is again one of her first real starring roles on a big platform where a lot of people can see her. They've surrounded her with a great cast."

Wells: "She's done so many of those cheap knockoff things, she has to upgrade. I think she's just there and doing well for herself. I think she has smarts."

3. James Franco

James Franco stars in this summer's stoner epic "Pineapple Express."

The former "Freaks & Geeks" cast member stars in this summer's "Pineapple Express," alongside Judd Apatow-movie regular Seth Rogen. Although he's had minor roles in the three "Spiderman" films, this stoner-action movie should give Franco enough meaningful comedic material to catch on with audiences.

Wells said the movie isn't the "holy grail of stoner comedies" but that it is "pretty funny" and will fit in with Apatow's slate of summer films. "Pineapple" will also be a departure from Apatow's trademark 'dude' comedy, more "48 Hours" than "Happy Gilmore," Kit added.

Kit believes Franco could "shatter that glass ceiling" with his role in "Pineapple."

Kit: "This is a guy who has sort of been on the cusp of blowing up for a long, long time. He just hasn't had that right mix of alchemy and timing and perfect venue for that to happen."

Wells: "The thing that's so cool about Franco – he was gonna be the next hot buy and all the dramas that he made since his brilliant debut in that James Dean biopic were okay, were pretty good, or not bad but he didn't catch fire. The guy was kind of heading down into a character actor obscurity and he catches finally at playing a stoner. He's supposed to be as funny if not funnier than Seth Rogen. I love the idea of a guy finding his energy, his specialness in comedy."

4. Brittnay Snow

Brittnay Snow takes a dark turn in the indie film "Finding Amanda."

As the title character in the summer indie "Finding Amanda," Snow plays a prostitute in Las Vegas whose alcoholic uncle (Matthew Broderick) hopes to bring her to rehab. Insiders said the role shows audiences a new side of the "squeaky clean" Hairspray actress.

Kit: "Sometimes it's a smart career strategy to sort of switch gears once in a while and get yourself seen in a totally different light. There's a lot of myopia in Hollywood. It can be very limiting."

5. Amanda Seyfried

Amanda Seyfried stars in the big screen adaptation of the musical "Mamma Mia!".

Seyfried stars in July's music-filled adaptation of "Mamma Mia!" alongside established actors Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. Best known for her roles in "Mean Girls" and "Alpha Dog," insiders said this movie musical will give Seyfried the chance to show her range and hold her own against Hollywood's old guard.

Kit: "Seyfried is another one who could break out huge because she is in a very high profile movie, and she's surrounded by great actors and actresses. She managed to nab that lead and people are going to see her for the first time. And she's managed to get this movie made called "Jennifer's Body." That's a movie that could propel her. She is a fresh face and a star to watch."