First off, I hate Tom Cruise. Don't as me why. I think it's because he's famous, and lots of womens want him and he's rich and blah blah blah. I just don't like him. Other than the acting job he did in Magnolia (which I hated-- the movie, not his acting) he's done nothing worth while in quite some time.
That said, I really enjoyed The Last Samurai. Not so much for the movie, but for the look into another culture, and for the BEAUTIFUL way it was shot.
It didn't pander. That impressed me. Alot was said through the angle of the camera, and the sequence of shots and action, rather than having it spelled out in dialogue.
The casting was very well done. The story, if in fact based on a true one, was pretty good-- actually, even if it wasn't, it was pretty good.
But I liked it. And I didn't even have to turn off my brain to do so.