Some good. Some bad. In as few words as possible.

The Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey, Marissa Tomei, Ryan Philippe

Matthew McConaughey at his charmingly slimiest as a smooth-operating defense lawyer who experiences a moral dilemma just as he is handling the biggest case in his career. While the story is nothing new -- not even a single twist in sight for the tired old legal drama genre -- the movie does well with strong performances and a solid, if a bit predictable, plot.

Battle Royale: Director's Cut
Fujiwara Tatsuya, Maeda Aki, Shibasaki Kou

I've long heard about this movie but didn't really buy into it. It's basically about violence and moral depravity of people satirized and brutalized into a literal battleground with high school students as the participants. The movie opens strong but loses some of its cohesiveness in the middle portion before fading into a fairly predictable ending. Fujiwara Tatsuya overacts, Maeda Aki underacts, but some strong performances from the villains save the film for me.

Shonen Merikensack
Miyazaki Aoi, Sato Koichi, Kimura Yuichi

A very entertaining dramedy about a punk band composed of 40-year-olds trying to make a comeback with the help of a naive talent scout / music director who is clearly in way over her head. Stellar performances from an ensemble cast. This is a genuinely funny movie with all the usual antics but also surprisingly deep and touching in its quieter moments.

Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Ryo Kase

I heart Mia Wasikowska and have loved everything she's done until this movie. Make no mistake, she does well enough with the material she's given but this movie...tries too hard, methinks. Gus Van Sant, I loved your Elephant. Make more films like that. Forget quirky but overly self-conscious romance flicks that cheapen death and lie about cancer. Also, every time Henry Hopper comes on screen (which is pretty much every five minutes or so), I wanted to pick up a hairbrush and throw it at my screen.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison

The only scary movie I watched turns out to be not scary at all. This is produced by Guillermo del Torro and you can see his hand in the darkly fantastic fairytale that is at the heart of this film. But this is more fantasy than horror. And malevolent tooth fairies? Uhm, can anybody say Hellboy 2?

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade
Odagiri Joe, Nakama Yukie, Shiina Kippei

This is actually a re-watch. I saw this movie a few years back but can't really remember how it was. I know the story. Basically, it's Romeo and Juliet but with ninjas, and because there are ninjas, you can expect the fighting to be more than just swordplay. The movie is adapted from a manga, Basilisk (or was that the anime version? I can't remember anymore). The story is good but for the fact that you have to suspend your disbelief over the love existing between the two main characters as the movie barely spends five seconds explaining it.

Odagiri Joe, Esumi Makiko, Aoi Yuu

A critically-acclaimed adaptation of the manga and anime series of the same name, this film follows the life of Ginko, a mushishi ("bugmaster') who travels the rural countryside, curing the ills caused by the half-spirit, half-matter mushi. While I enjoyed the anime and manga versions, this movie didn't do it for me. As a matter of fact, I found it quite boring, except for the part with Nui. That was just sad.

Mezon do Himiko
Odagiri Joe, Shibasaki Kou, Tanaka Min

Of all the movies I saw last Christmas break, this one satisfied me the most. This is a story about a father and a daughter who can't accept each other, a man and a woman who can't fall in love, and a house that isn't even supposed to be. It's a comedy by the way. It's official: I have a crush on Odagiri Joe.

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I actually watched Shinobi back in 2007. While I was in the middle of reviewing for my board exam! It was a nice movie. I actually like it.

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