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5 Days of War (R)

Anchor Bay Home Entertainment

Renny Harlin is best known as director of The Long Kiss Goodnight and Cliffhanger. He's action film royalty. Imagine my surprise learning he directed this eye-opening war picture, not only because it was ignored by the mainstream media, but mostly because it's about a recent actual war that was also ignored by the mainstream media. The guy who made Die Hard 2 is bringing the truth to the masses! In 2008, Russia attacks and invades the free country of Georgia in a bloody, cruel, five-day war. An American journalist and his cameraman get stuck behind enemy lines and witness the massacres firsthand. But, with the Summer Olympics going on, no one in the rest of the world seems to care. The fact that we ignored these actual events was a disgrace that 5 Days of War seeks to rectify. It's one of the best films of 2011. — Louis Fowler

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams (G)

IFC Films

A pitfall of documentary filmmaking is that you may not know there's a story to tell until after shooting has begun, and it's too late to cut bait. Case in point: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog's take on prehistoric drawings in France's Chauvet caves, a one-hour-with-commercials TV show stretched to feature length. With his cinematic credentials tracking the alternately spiritual and perverse relationship between man and nature, Herzog would seem the ideal director to film man's oldest known artistic creations. But the beauty inspires Herzog's most annoying hippie-dippie impulses, and without a narrative hook or compelling character he's left to recite purple prose gibberish over a New Age soundtrack. An outlandishly pretentious postscript about mutant albino alligators demands to be satirized immediately. — Daniel Barnes

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The Wave (NR)

Sundance Selects

In the late '60s, high school history teacher Ron Jones conducted a social experiment with students replicating how easy it is to become a fascist culture, even in a setting as small as an American classroom. He basically bred a sophomore class of Nazis, but quickly stopped the experiment before it got out of hand. The Wave uses this as the basis for a shocking teen drama that America would never have the guts to pull off. The cool punk teacher, in an effort to shake up his students during a course study in autocracy, devises a club where all kids must help one another, wear matching clothes, come up with a hand salute, and ostracize others who don't join. Unlike the real version of this experiment, the cinematic one has a realistically tragic ending that speaks to how societies often essentially clamor for dictatorship. — Louis Fowler


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