Tag Archives: Alex Pettyfer

Dirty Story of a Dirty Man

The Infernal Machine

by Hope Madden

Guy Pearce works a lot. He has 90+ screen credits since debuting in 1990’s universally panned Aussie thriller Hunting. In the interim, he’s crafted unforgettable characters in remarkable films (Memento, The Proposition, Ravenous, Animal Kingdom, L.A. Confidential, Mildred Pierce, Lawless, Hateship Loveship, The Rover).

He’s also cashed some meaningless paychecks. Did you see The Seventh Day? Zone 414?

In the last five years, the veteran talent has indulged in too many low-budget thrillers. I hate to call them geezer teasers because Pearce is capable of so much more than the other actors associated with these straight-to-streaming punch-em-ups. Still, that’s what they are and that’s what I half expected with The Infernal Machine.

Pearce plays recluse author Bruce Cogburn in writer/director Andrew Hunt’s mind game of a thriller. Twenty-five years ago, a gunman inspired by Cogburn’s novel The Infernal Machine climbed a watch tower and took aim at the citizens below. Cogburn hasn’t written a word since.

Lately, his reclusive nature’s been tested by a very ardent fan who delivers letters daily to his PO box. When Cogburn terminates the box, the letters come by courier to his isolated home, regardless of the threat of being shot on sight or mauled by Sol, Cogburn’s dog.

Eventually, respect for the tenacity of this fan – an aspiring writer just wanting some advice – softens Cogburn and he agrees to a meeting.

Bad decision.

Hunt’s script takes wild twists and Pearce and his costars are game for the ride. Alice Eve is a lot of fun. Alex Pettyfer plays against type and mines excellent, sometimes chilling layers in limited screen time. But it’s Pearce, in sun-damage makeup, who carries each scene. He is, as he’s always been, an outstanding character actor. In his hands, Cogburn’s vanities and pretensions give the character needed depth and fit nicely with Hunt’s vision.

It is a fun flick full of surprises. Flashbacks weaken the satisfaction of piecing the mystery together, so the climax itself is not as strong as the adventure that precedes it. Still, it’s great to see Pearce making an effort in a film worthy of his time.

Elvis has Entered the Building

Elvis & Nixon

by Hope Madden

On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley made an unexpected visit to the security checkpoint outside the White House, hoping security would deliver his hand written letter to President Nixon.

He really, really wanted a badge.

It’s a profoundly absurd story – the drug addled King of Rock and Roll hoping to meet Nixon and become a Federal Agent at Large, going undercover to infiltrate different groups (like Beatles fans) who were “bringing down the country.”

Director Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship) celebrates the absurdity by taking the driest approach to telling the story.

First of all, Michael Shannon plays Elvis. Now, Shannon is undeniably talented – he’s among the most reliable and impressive actors working today, capable of comedy, drama, and everything in between. But the tall, hard, grim looking actor is not a top-of-mind prospect when casting for Elvis.

Likewise, Kevin Spacey makes for an unusual choice as Nixon. These are two of the world’s most imitated, most recognizable presences. Kudos to Johnson for kicking the wicked comedy off before the opening credits even role with casting choices that seem like a clever joke.

Both actors are fun to watch, especially as they play off each other and off Nixon aides Elgin and Dwight Chapin, ably handled by Colin Hanks and Evan Peters, respectively.

Shannon, in particular, gives a nuanced and dialed-down performances as the King, both comical and sad.

Alex Pettyfer’s character, Elvis’s longtime friend (and film executive producer) Jerry Schilling, is meant to flesh out Elvis’s loneliness and offer a regular man’s point of view inside this relentlessly weird story.

To be fair, Pettyfer is better in Elvis & Nixon than he has ever been. Keep in mind, the actor has sucked out loud in every film up to now, so that is not necessarily high praise. But he does keep the film tenderly grounded.

The screenplay remains somewhat superficial, though. It leaves the film feeling like an overly long, if abundantly amusing, sketch. The fact that this all actually happened is genuinely amazing, which begs the question, why does the film settle for wryly amusing?



Sure Feels Endless

Endless Love

by Hope Madden

Thirty three years ago (what?), Brooke Shields played a 15-year-old in love. Like everything else the wee lass made during her formative years, there was a lot of sex involved. In this case, it was all filmed with cheese cloths and the mistaken idea that teenage love is unchanging and everlasting, and that kids are not idiots. Which they most certainly are. It was melodramatic and tawdry in the most ludicrous way, but it wasn’t Blue Lagoon, so in a way, we were lucky. Except for that song, which would not die.

But fast forward  a full third of a century and teens today are blessedly unaware of Ms. Shields’s canon. And what generation doesn’t need its own pandering, shallow, weakly scripted and poorly acted version of Romeo & Juliet?

The reboot is the third strike for writer/director Shana Feste (The Greatest, Country Strong). She’s pulled the most hyperbolic pulp out of Scott Spencer’s novel, settling for a tone that’s a little less soap opera, a little more CW drama.

Innocent young Jade Butterfield (Gabrielle Wilde in the Brooke Shields role) waits until high school graduation to finally pull her delicate nose out of her homework and notice hot valet/classmate David, who looks for all the world like a 25-year-old man (25-year-old Alex Pettyfer – pretty, yet bereft of any natural acting talent).

They swoon. Oh, isn’t young love swoon-worthy? Jade’s mom (Joely Richardson) thinks so, in a borderline creepy way. No! She’s just supportive. Just really, weirdly supportive of the highly sexual relationship her teen is having in her house.

And who wouldn’t be? Who would seek to crush such obvious, deep, abiding and eternal – endless, even – love? Well, Jade’s douchebag of a dad, that’s who. And lest you believe this is just a naturally protective father trying to shield his daughter from any STDs or unwanted pregnancies that would derail her pre-med undergrad at Brown, that is not solely the case. He’s also a controlling asshole. Gawd!

If it were only the indulgent teen fantasy element that offended, the film would be almost tolerable. Unfortunately, Pettyfer has lines. Plus, he’s asked to perform with other actors, which means reactions, gestures, expression – how exactly was he supposed to have picked those skills up in his previous employment as an Urban Outfitter mannequin?

Next to him, Wilde looks borderline competent. Which she may be. At a certain point my eyes began rolling uncontrollably.

Valentine’s Day or not, Endless Love will cause you to lose the will to live. Keep yourself safe, and more importantly, keep the world safe from an onslaught of Brooke Shields remakes. Just stay home.