Check out these promising films before the onslaught of summer blockbusters


We know it's coming. It's like a storm forming in the distance, slowly getting stronger as it inches ever closer to our hallowed grounds, ready to wreak havoc on all we hold dear. I write, of course, about the summer movie season, four months of big explosions, crass comedies and all the other things out-of-school teenagers — and the terminally young-at-heart — enjoy.

But we're not there yet, and that's a good thing, because there's plenty to see between now and early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron finds new box office records to break. Here are five promising films that look to be worth the price of admission.

Girlhood opens March 20

Aside from being a coming-of-age story, this doesn't appear to have much to do with the Oscar-nominated Boyhood. Rather, it's a French film about a teenaged girl who changes herself completely after making new friends. Early reviews are glowing, so keep an eye out for it at your local art house.

Serena opens March 27

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this Depression-era tale about a timber mogul (Cooper) whose life becomes unhinged when he marries the strong-minded Serena (Lawrence). The star power alone is worthy of interest; add in director Susanne Bier's penchant for complex family drama (Things We Lost in the Fire, Brothers) and this could be a must-see. Available On Demand now, in limited theaters March 27.

While We're Young opens March 27

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as a middle-aged couple re-evaluating their marriage after meeting a younger couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. Of note here is that it was written and directed by Noah Baumbach, a one-time Wes Anderson collaborator who's made his own quirky headway with Frances Ha, Margot at the Wedding and The Squid and the Whale. If he's done it right, While We're Young should be a fascinating character study.

Clouds of Sils Maria opens April 24

Kristen Stewart — yes, the incredibly annoying girl from Twilight — recently won a Cesar Award (the French Oscar) for her supporting performance in this film, making her the first American to ever win a Cesar. Stewart plays the assistant to Maria (Juliette Binoche), an actress who agrees to appear in a revival of a play that launched her career 20 years earlier. Chloë Grace Moretz plays the young ingénue now embodying the role that made Maria a star. Given her solid work opposite Julianne Moore in Still Alice, Stewart showing legit acting chops is no surprise, and good for her for continuing to find success.

Bonus Pick: Season 3 of House of Cards — now available on Netflix

Kevin Spacey chews scenery with every Southern-drawl-inflected word he utters as an unscrupulous politician, Robin Wright is just as effective as his conniving philanthropic wife, and the entire series is a testament to the corruption and ambition that comes with great power. You will want to watch the first two seasons (each season is 13 episodes) if you're not yet caught up, and it's well worth it to give the series an hour a night. But be warned: That one hour could easily turn into three or four. Binge!

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