Oscars 2015: 5 Nominated Films to Catch In Theaters, Including American Sniper, Selma, Still Alice, and More -- Read the Reviews!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2015 Oscar nominations in L.A. on Thursday, Jan. 15 -- catch up with reviews for American Sniper, Selma, Still Alice, and more! Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

It's January at the Cineplex, but you didn't think you were getting off easy this month with Taken 3 and Mortdecai, right? Heck, no! Not when we're hot off the 2015 Oscar nominations announcement. As of now, the clock is ticking to catch up on all the films and performances you've been putting off since Christmas break. (No judgments if you downloaded The Interview and laughed at the Kim Jong-Un buttonhole jokes instead of sitting through A Most Violent Year. Apparently, you're not alone.) Start with these five newly released dramas. Oh, and you might want to check out Boyhood, too.

1. American Sniper
3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

It grips from the very first scene, when a sniper sits on a roof in Afghanistan and must decide whether to pull the trigger on a child holding a bomb. His name is Chris Kyle, and he's played with brooding intensity by a never-better Bradley Cooper. The true story depicts how the taciturn and beefy Texan, who served four tours of duty as a Navy SEAL, became the deadliest shooter in American history. All the while, he struggles to maintain a staid domestic life with his wife (Sienna Miller) and two kids. Director Clint Eastwood deftly shows the mental and physical toll of heroism in a way that will leave you gutted.

2. Selma
3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Song

Films don't get more powerful than this effort from Ava DuVernay. Her civil rights drama closes in on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a magnificent David Oyelowo, whose Best Actor snub mystifies) as he leads a march from Alabama's Selma to the state capital in 1965 to peacefully protest voting inequalities. In a bold and refreshing move, the iconic reverend is portrayed as both a dignified hero who can sway a room with an eloquent speech and a philandering husband who takes out the garbage. Needless to say, his message has never been more relevant.

3. The Imitation Game
3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), Best Director (Morten Tyldum), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design

This engrossing drama is a true story of triumph and tragedy, featuring a memorable performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. The actor, a master at inhabiting emotionally chilly geniuses, plays renowned British mathematician Alan Turing. During World War II, he builds a code-cracking machine that can decrypt Nazi messages. But the socially awkward Alan is crippled by a secret: He's gay, and is so desperate to stay closeted that he proposes to a colleague (Keira Knightley). Sadly, his sexuality will be his undoing in later years. Get past the biopic's old-fashioned narrative and you'll find a moving tribute to an extraordinary man.

4. Still Alice
3 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
Oscar nomination: Best Actress (Julianne Moore)

There's a difference between a great performance and a Great Performance. Julianne Moore's turn as a linguistics professor afflicted with early onset Alzheimer's easily qualifies as the latter. She's Alice, who, just after her 50th birthday, gets alarmed when she starts blanking on familiar names and words. ("It's like my brain is falling out from under me," she haltingly explains to her husband, played by Alec Baldwin.) Though her family struggles to accept the diagnosis, nobody is more distraught than Alice herself. Inch by inch, her condition deteriorates, and Moore is able to subtly convey all the panic and frustration with just a look on her face. This poignant film doesn't sugarcoat a thing, yet it's still beautifully done.

5. Into the Woods
3 stars (out of 4 stars)
Oscar nomination: Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as Prince Charming, Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife, and the inimitable Meryl Streep as the wicked witch. What a treat to watch stars take on these classic characters in this lush adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical. These familiar icons (and more) go into the woods to seek their fortunes and become pawns in the witch's spell. Streep, as always, stands out in a forest-chewing role — though her onetime Devil Wears Prada underling Blunt (herself a Golden Globe nominee) does some beguiling work as well. Just a disclaimer: Despite a dizzying and delightful first half, the film ultimately devolves into a very grim fairy tale.

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