This story first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Alejandro G. Inarritu's raucously dramatic and darkly comedic film about a former superhero-movie star (a better-than-ever Michael Keaton) in desperate need of a comeback is one of the most sustained examples of visually fluid tour de force cinema anyone has ever seen. — Todd McCarthy
The Dead Lands
Toa Fraser's film, a dazzling, sumptuously shot action-adventure set in the Maori world of precolonial New Zealand, chronicles a young man's search for "repayment" after his father and tribe are brutally murdered by savage intruders. — Deborah Young
Mia Hansen-Love's decades-spanning portrait of the pulsing nights, bleary-eyed days and many loves of a young Parisian DJ has a soulfulness and sweep — as well as a sublime final scene — that mark it as the 33-year- old French filmmaker's strongest work to date. — Jon Frosch
Antoine Fuqua's update of the late-'80s TV show is the most exciting, violent and stylish film of its type in a very long while. As the former intelligence op taking on a bunch of nasty Russians, Denzel Washington is cool and charismatic. — T.M.
The uneasy interaction of technology and emotion is explored with chilling timeliness in AndrewNiccol's riveting, psychologically complex drama about a drone pilot (Ethan Hawke, in his best role in years) fighting the Taliban from the Nevada desert. — David Rooney
Love & Mercy
Bill Pohlad's unusual, deeply satisfying bifurcated biopic of Beach Boy Brian Wilson features an exciting duo of performances, with Paul Dano and John Cusack respectively playing the younger and older versions of the protagonist. — John DeFore
Following 2012's Barbara, German auteur Christian Petzold delivers another rich, superbly crafted, emotionally resonant vehicle for actress Nina Hoss, who plays a concentration camp survivor returning to Berlin in search of her lost husband. — Jordan Mintzer
Seymour: An Introduction
Ethan Hawke's first documentary — a loving portrait of the gifted, very private concert pianist-turned-piano teacher Seymour Bernstein — is a genuinely pleasant surprise: well-crafted, tightly edited and elegantly photographed. — Stephen Farber
Chris Rock's third stint behind the camera is a hilarious, hard-hitting autobiographical celebrity satire that doubles as a Linklater-esque love story set during one eventful New York City day. As Rock's romantic foil, Rosario Dawson reveals a comic range we've never seen from her. — J.M.
Harrowing and heartbreaking but laced with humor, Jean-Marc Vallee's adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir is anchored by superb turns from Reese Witherspoon as the former drug addict who embarked on a 1,100-mile hike and Laura Dern as her life force of a mother. — S.F.