By Steve Greene | Criticwire April 18, 2012 at 2:03PM
This weekend’s newest offerings in theaters and on-demand are a tad more modest than past weeks. There’s no hyped-up meta-movie or Oscar-nominated foreign film. But there’s one release that has distinguished itself as our Criticwire pick of the week.
"My Way (Mai Wei)" is a World War II epic that spans a decade of action. A film from South Korea, "My Way" follows two men (one from Japan and one from Korea) forced into the Japanese army during the conflict. The action spans multiple countries, traveling through Russia, Korea and ultimately to the beaches of Normandy. Complete with multiple, wide-ranging battle scenes, it follows the decade-long lead-up and progression of the war until its ultimate conclusion. "My Way" played at Berlin earlier this year, where Film School Rejects’ Cole Abaius delivered a positive review, singling out the combat scenes. "It’s a movie that slams your head into the wall without giving you a helmet," he writes "At times, it can be overpowering with the camera equally interested in the landscape of explosions as it is the microscopic detail of dirt lifting off the ground and resettling after a man’s blood-drained face slams to the earth for the final time." At a current A- average, "My Way" holds the top spot for the week.
The new film from Korean director Hong San-Soo, "The Day He Arrives," has also received positive feedback from critics and currently holds a B+ average on Criticwire. It depicts a director as he struggles with women and alcohol, touching on themes that have led at least one critic to find an unlikely point of comparison. Writing in Slant Magazine, Aaron Cutler explains, "I've made the comparison between Hong and Albert Brooks before, and I think it still holds. Both at their best seek awkwardness by any means necessary, often holding a shot as characters make greater and greater fools of themselves." In "The Day He Arrives," Cutler writes that "Hong goes even further in this film by obtrusively zooming in on characters at the start of conversations, trapping them with each other. Yet his close attention also allows for pleasant moments, as the misfits make efforts to connect."
A pair of films receiving a "B" from Criticwire make their theatrical debuts as well. Kevin Macdonald’s documentary "Marley" gives a closer look at the legendary reggae artist. As Indiewire’s Eric Kohn says in his review, “Although Macdonald received access to the family's archives, Marley himself rarely appears in old interviews, mainly surfacing in still photography and on the soundtrack. Even through a biographical lens, he's more myth than man.” This seeming scarcity of new material may make the 2.5-hour runtime a tough sell, but critics have cited this as a nuisance rather than a reason to skip the film entirely.
Also opening with a "B" is Mia Hansen-Løve’s "Goodbye, First Love," which tackles the titular experience through the prism of a single youthful relationship. Twitch’s Dustin Chang credits much of the film’s success to actress Lola Créton, who plays Camille to Sebastian Urzendowsky’s Sullivan. "Portraying Camille from age 14 to her early twenties with such honesty and guilessness, she could easily break your heart into a thousand pieces. Hansen-Løve's daring choice of letting her 17 year-old actress playing the same character over five-year span in the film pays off: times and circumstances have changed, so has her hair style. But it's still the same baby-faced, sullen Camille, with her same insecurities and old feelings intact."