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2015 Academy Award-nominated shorts run the gamut

Short films often get short shrift amid all the hoopla surrounding "Best Picture" and "Best Actor" at the Academy's annual awards show. But the wide variety of films nominated in the shorts categories proves that Oscar still gives a damn about the little things. This year's nominees in the animated, live-action and documentary categories range in tone from breezy to devastating. Check them out in advance of the Feb. 22 ceremony. >More
 A Most Violent Year is unexpected, enthralling

Set in the semi-lawless New York City of 1981, A Most Violent Year is about an immigrant entrepreneur trying to expand his heating-oil business while fending off near-daily hijackings of his delivery trucks. It's kind of a thriller -- there are two chase scenes, at least -- but any genre expectations will be thwarted by writer/director J.C. Chandor's almost perverse pleasure in stopping shy of the boiling point. >More
 Benedict Cumberbatch excels in The Imitation Game, despite underwritten part

Is The Imitation Game gay enough? That's not a flippant question; I fretted about it both times I watched the movie. Its subject, Alan Turing, was a pioneering figure in computer science who led the covert group at Bletchley Park that broke the Nazi Enigma code; many credit those cryptologists with winning the war. >More
 A conservatory student tussles with an abusive drumming teacher in Whiplash

If Birdman borrowed a cup of energy from its drum score, then Whiplash, about a young jazz drummer at a cutthroat conservatory, steals a whole quart. I'm not sure the movie would work if it were about a soprano sax player studying smooth and mellow fare. >More
 In Force Majeure, a father ditches his family during an avalanche

"Just who do you think you are?" Those seven words typically signal a taunt or a sneer. But in the darkly funny Swedish film Force Majeure, they mark the collective cri de coeur of a couple perched on the lip of a major existential crisis. >More
 It's hard to tell the characters apart in the flawed football drama When the Game Stands Tall

As a teamwork training manual for young athletes, When the Game Stands Tall may be useful viewing, but as a gripping drama, it's dodgy at best. Loosely based on sportswriter Neil Hayes' book about high school football coach Bob Ladouceur, who led his De La Salle Spartans to a historic 151-game winning streak, the script (by Scott Marshall Smith) wisely includes the game that broke the streak. >More
 Philip Seymour Hoffman leads a German spy group in A Most Wanted Man

An espionage thriller adapted from John Le Carré's 2008 novel, A Most Wanted Man opens on a battered sea wall in Hamburg, Germany, a port city on high alert after Mohamed Atta and his co-conspirators plotted the Sept. 11 attacks there, undetected by German intelligence officers. >More
 Zach Braff reflects on the messiness of his 30s in Wish I Was Here

I'm not one of Garden State's belated haters. Zach Braff's portrait of generational anomie and mid-Aughties indie-film mores was on point when it was released in 2004. But a decade's gone by, and things change. Whether Braff has changed too is another matter. His latest film, Wish I Was Here, provides some clues. >More
 Melissa McCarthy sells herself short as an unapologetic buffoon in Tammy

It's rare for audiences -- so fickle, so prone to judge " to rally behind a single movie star for very long, but ever since Melissa McCarthy's coming-out party in 2011's Bridesmaids, she's basked in the benevolent glow of the people's goodwill. >More
 Cancer looms over two teenagers in The Fault in Our Stars

Teenagers are prone to hyperbole, but when 16-year-old Hazel calls herself a grenade in The Fault in Our Stars, she's not far off the mark. Diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in her early teens, she (Shailene Woodley) has gained a few years with the aid of an experimental drug, but she's still a terminal case. >More
 X-Men: Days of Future Past goes forward to move backward

Director Bryan Singer, reclaiming the X-Men film franchise he launched in 2000, means to establish from the first reel that X-Men: Days of Future Past is not messing around. Via voiceover, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) explains the catastrophic present, in which killing machines called Sentinels have wiped out most of the world's mutant population and many of their human defenders. >More
 In Le Week-end, a strained relationship gets tested in the City of Love

We hear Nick (Jim Broadbent) before we see him in Le Week-end. He makes a noise that sounds like a cross between a grunt and a sigh. It's a meaningful introduction to who he is. Meg (Lindsay Duncan), his fed-up wife of 30 years, has stopped seeing him as a human being with wants and emotions. You get the sense that, for her, he's just a collection of over-familiar tics, aches, complaints and smells. >More
 The Grand Budapest Hotel is both a sly crime caper and a charming ode to Old World culture

Wes Anderson doesn't give a damn about critics who ding his movies for their dollhouse aesthetic and affectless performances. Either you get it or you don't. With his latest effort, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the writer-director doubles down on everything that makes his pictures his own. The product is so enchanting that even the holdouts will be hard-pressed to resist it. >More
 Blue Is the Warmest Color

 Tom Clancy's action hero visits yawn-worthy territory in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

All ticking time bombs are not made equal. When an action flick's hero starts a warning with, "Once I start the audit," blacking out from boredom is a clear and present danger. That's the kind of countdown only an IRS agent could love. >More
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