I'm not sure if I dig the idea of our good American directors making big-studio comic book movies, though: it makes the comic book movies smarter and cooler, that is undeniable, but are we not also missing out on stories of actual merit these directors could be telling? Batman Begins and for that matter The X-Men movies are certainly good, but wouldn't Christopher Nolan and Bryan Singer's talents be better used elsewhere? And did I just read that David O. Russell will now be hired to do a comic book movie? Really? I don't blame these guys for selling their considerable talents to the big studio machines, I just regret the studios use of these talents.
As for Last Days which I saw last night, it has a lot in common with Gus Van Sant's most recent two movies: Elephant and Gerry, both of which are superb films. Last Days has a lot of really similar elements: a love of silence, a roving eye, several points of view, and a slow, meditative pace. This film, like the other two, also goes back in time over ground we have crossed already to see things in a different light or from someone else's point of view. I think this style is very effective and interesting.
Last Days is difficult, though, because it has a main character, Blake, to which it is very tough to relate, at least from my point of view. He is a sort of doddering, mumbling crazy-man who rarely does anything we expect him to do. He is obviously a talented musician, but he doesn't seem to have much else going for him (certainly, his choice of friends is misguided), and I found this frustrating. I wanted to like the Cobain-esque Blake, but everything he did seemed drug-induced and I found it difficult to empathize. Van Sant uses sound in a lot of cool new ways in this film, though, and it might be worth seeing just for that. One of the oddest sequences of the movie is when Boyz II Men's "Down on Bended Knee" music video is played almost in its entirety. It is hilarious. Most of the audience at my screening got the joke, but I know some people were just baffled. The theatre was full at the 10:00p screening I attended, but at least 10 people left during the movie, maybe more. I guess they came for Kurt Cobain and didn't know about Gus Van Sant, but hadn't they seen the trailer?
I don't really recommend Last Days. I liked it more than I disliked it, but it isn't for the easily bored and if you haven't seen Gerry or Elephant, rent those first.