I got a lot of movie watching done over vacation last week, but don't have a ton to say about any of the films, so here are some quick thoughts.
Dark Water: Excellent ghost story. Since it's a remake of a J-horror film, I was concerned that it was going to be Grudge-like, but it's not. The characters are all strongly written and expertly portrayed by the cast, and there's a solid logic to why things happen. Almost nothing is there on accident or just to make the visuals cooler. I say "almost nothing" because I watched the misleadingly titled "unrated" version (there's nothing especially gory or racy about it) that had a deleted dream sequence added back in. It's a gorgeous sequence, but doesn't add to the story, so it was wisely cut out of the theatrical version.
Frankenstein Conquers the World: Horrible, Japanese monster flick that has a resurrected Frankenstein's monster fighting a giant armadillo/beetle. And yes, just to keep things fair, Frankenstein's monster does grow to Godzilla-size. I guess if you just really like cheesy, giant-monster movies, it's got its value, but if you're like me and think that King Kong vs. Godzilla is an abomination; pass it on by.
Santa's Slay: Saw enough of this one on Spike to know that I want to see it uncensored and without commercials. Santa is really a demon who's been under oath to play nice for a couple thousand years, but now the contract is up and he's free to rampage. There's a great opening sequence with James Caan, Fran Drescher, and Chris Kattan that hooked me. The WWE's Goldberg plays Santa and -- though I didn't get far enough on Spike to see her -- Emilie de Ravin from Lost is one of the other stars.
MirrorMask: Exactly like reading a Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean comic; only in live-action. Nice story about parenting and raising independent children, but the real wonder is in the visuals.
House of Flying Daggers: I'll never get tired of watching Ziyi Zhang, but I'm now officially tired of the Crouching Tiger/Hero genre of beautifully filmed, tragic, wire fu movies. As they go, this one was okay with it's Robin Hood-esque plot, but can't one of these things have a happy ending?
Russian Ark: Yes, it's impressive as all get-out that they pulled off a single camera-shot that lasts for the entire hour-and-a-half of this movie. I just wish the movie was more interesting than it is. If you don't know your Russian history, you won't know any more after watching this. You'll understand better the relationship between Russia and Europe (at least from Russia's perspective), but that could've been accomplished in about ten minutes tops without all the overly-long shots of oil paintings. Probably a very important film for Russian audiences; not so much for this American viewer.