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►  Review: In ‘Good Time,’ Pattinson in the role of his life

The fraternal directing duo of Josh and Benny Safdie make urban odysseys that flow with the quicksilver currents of New York City. You can feel the gum-stained pavement under your feet. You can smell the Q train.

The Safdies were already an electric new energy in cinema — streetwise and scuzzy — but in the ironically titled caper “Good Time,” they have quickened their already kinetic pace. This movie, wild and erratic, is downright blistering. The opening credits, as if rushing to catch up, don’t appear until well into the film, after all hell has already broken loose.

Many of their gritty, abrasive tales emanate directly from the street; that’s where they found the homeless, heroin-addicted protagonist (Arielle Holmes) of their last film, the verite “Heaven Knows What.” The same could not be said for the star of “Good Time”: Robert Pattinson. The “Twilight” actor, captivated by a still from “Heaven Knows What,” contacted the Safdies and out came “Good Time.”

It goes without saying that this is a long way off from “Twilight” — a franchise that, whatever its other attributes, has at least given us two of the most interesting actors of a generation. While Kristen Stewart has already won acclaim for herself in Olivier Assayas films and others, Pattinson has more quietly assembled an equally impressive filmography with the likes of David Cronenberg and James Gray, in whose “The Lost City of Z” Pattinson made such a distinct (if heavily bearded) impression earlier this year.

In “Good Time,” he plays Connie, one of two brothers from Queens. The other, Nick (played by co-director Benny Safdie), is mentally challenged. With no parents apparently on the scene, Connie is Nick’s keeper, and a highly questionable one at that. In the opening scene, he pulls Nick out of a psychiatrist session, admonishing him as they hustle down the hallway that it’s not where he belongs.

Connie believes in his brother — too much, you could say. Not moments after fleeing the doctor, he’s ordering Nick to put on a mask — a cheap, rubbery black face — and leading him into a bank robbery at a teller window. Not since “Dog Day Afternoon” has a more unprepared pair tried their hand at an ill-considered heist. They emerge with $60,000 in cash but soon after their livery cab driver picks them up, a dye pack explodes and the brothers spill out of the car in a cloud of red smoke.

From here, it’s a nonstop freefall. Chased by the police, Nick crashes through a glass door and is arrested. Connie, desperate to put bail money together, first tries to take advantage of his better-off girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and, when that fails, improvises his way through increasingly audacious schemes in a nocturnal adventure that somehow includes trips to an amusement park, White Castle and a random household in which Connie takes the time to dye his hair blond. Along the way, Taliah Webster, as a black teen exploited by Connie, and the “Heaven Knows What” actor Buddy Duress, give terrific performances. (Duress’ entrance is alone worth the price of admission.)

In the annals of the crime film, the pulpy “Good Time” is roughly the opposite of something like the uber-professional thieves of “Heat.” At one point, “Cops” is seen on a television, and these are the kind of dimwitted exploits that would fit right in there. But aside from being a devoted brother, the predatory Connie also a clever, lecherous user of people.

Love was a drug for the smitten young woman of “Heaven Knows What.” For the brothers of “Good Time,” it’s an exploitation. But in the film’s headlong rush, the jailed Nick virtually disappears, and that feels like a mistake. If there’s a knock on “Good Time,” it’s that its sheer eagerness for anything unconventional comes at the cost of something deeper.

But what a trip it is. “Good Time” flies by in a rush of neon colors and the throbbing electro score of Oneohtrix Point Never. The cinematography of Sean Price Williams is exceptionally agile. In the style of Robert Altman’s “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” Williams fuses grainy realism with frozen moments held in a lengthy zoom.

And in close-up, we see Pattinson more clearly than ever before. His performance — sensitive and controlled amid the chaos— is easily the best of his career. But the Safdies, one suspects, are just getting started.

“Good Time,” an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language throughout, violence, drug use and sexual content.” Running time: 99 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


►  Disney to launch streaming services for movies, live sports

With new streaming services in the works, Disney is trying to set itself up for a future that’s so far largely been framed by Netflix: stuff I want to watch, when I want it.

The Magic Kingdom is launching its own streaming service for its central Disney and Pixar brands and another for live sports. That would allow it to bypass the cable companies it relies on — and Netflix — to charge consumers directly for access to its popular movies and sporting events.

“They’re bringing the future forward. What they talked about were things that looked inevitable, at some point,” said Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Weiser. What’s less clear is if Disney will be able to make big bucks from it, he said.

This is important as the decline in cable households and the shift to smaller, cheaper bundles pressures the profitability of Disney’s cable networks. Fewer subscribers and fewer viewers mean less money. In the nine months through July 1, cable networks’ operating income fell 13 percent from the year before, to $4.12 billion.

KID STUFF

Starting in 2019, the only subscription streaming service with new animated and live-action Disney and Pixar movies will be the Magic Kingdom’s own app. That will include “Toy Story 4” and the sequel to the huge hit “Frozen.” Older movies will be there too, as well as shows from TV channels Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD, and original TV and films. That could be hugely attractive for families with young children in the U.S.

Disney is ending an exclusive earlier movie deal with Netflix, and the streaming giant’s shares tumbled in after-hours trading. Netflix today has grown into an entertainment juggernaut in its own right, however, as it focuses more on its own exclusive programming.

Netflix already seemed to be bracing for the potential loss of the Disney movie rights earlier this week when it announced its first-ever acquisition — the purchase of Millarworld , a comic book publishing company that will develop films and kids shows based on its portfolio of character.

Disney might bring more of its properties — particularly its Marvel superheroes and the Star Wars franchise — under its wing, and could even offer them as separate streaming services. CEO Robert Iger said Disney is considering whether it should continue licensing Marvel and Star Wars movies to outside services like Netflix, move them into the Disney app or develop individual services for them.

The Disney service will be available in “multiple markets” outside the U.S. as well, taking advantage of Disney’s global name recognition.

SPORTS

Disney had already said it would be launching a streaming ESPN service. It’s not meant to compete with the company’s TV channels.

The sports service is coming in early 2018, a little later than previously announced, and will air baseball, hockey and soccer games, tennis matches and college sports through ESPN’s popular mobile app. Notably, ESPN will not be streaming pro football or basketball, at least initially.

Customers will also be able to buy fuller streaming packages from the baseball, hockey and soccer leagues, and watch them on the ESPN app.

“Ultimately, we envision this will become a dynamic sports marketplace that will grow and be increasingly customizable, allowing sports fans to pick and choose content that reflects their personal interests,” Iger said on a conference call with analysts.

Disney will have to be careful that it doesn’t transfer too much sports programming from its TV channels to the app. Getting the balance wrong could upset cable companies and weigh on the price they pay Disney for ESPN, Weiser said.

THE BACK END

To roll out its streaming services, The Walt Disney Co. is taking majority control of BAMTech, the streaming arm of Major League Baseball, for $1.6 billion. It now owns 75 percent of the company.

The acquisition and the new services will be “an entirely new growth strategy” for Disney, Iger said.

The new streaming services will likely “accelerate the erosion” of Disney’s TV networks, especially if other major cable networks make similar moves, said Moody’s analyst Neil Begley.

But Iger argues that BAMTech gives Disney “optionality” if the cable ecosystem changes further, Iger said on a conference call with analysts Tuesday. If there’s greater “erosion” — say, if more people drop cable bundles or choose cheaper bundles without key Disney channels — the company has more ways to get its entertainment directly to customers, Iger said.

He said there are no current plans to sell the Disney or ESPN TV channels directly to customers on the apps.

But having a direct relationship with customers tells Disney exactly what they’re watching, giving it powerful tools and information that could help feed decision-making and, on the sports side, sell advertising.


►  Fox to counter ABC’s ‘American Idol’ with new contest

Fox will counter its onetime powerhouse “American Idol” with a new singing contest, “The Four.”

The network canceled its long-running “American Idol” last year because of dwindling ratings and rising costs, only to see it snapped up by ABC for an early 2018 debut.

Fox Television Group CEO Dana Walden, announcing the new series Tuesday, said there’s room for a “fresh” take on the contest format as she defended the axing of “American Idol.”

While other shows are “more about celebrity panels and less about star-making,” Walden told a TV critics’ meeting, “The Four” will be the opposite.

“Our show begins where the others end,” she said, with four finalists pre-selected from auditions by a panel of industry experts. The singers will have to fend off weekly challenges from newcomers trying to replace them. Viewers who believe they “have the goods” can upload an audition video and possibly go from sitting on their couch one week to competing the next, Walden said.

The show’s prize: a career guided by the show’s panel, which Fox indicated is likely to be drawn from music producers, songwriters and perhaps a pop star-mentor.

Like “American Idol,” which transferred a format tested in another country (Britain’s “Pop Idol”), “The Four” is based on an Israeli show.

Walden struck a confident tone about chances for “The Four” in a field that will include the “American Idol” reboot and current singing contest champ “The Voice,” which airs on NBC.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll put it up against ‘Voice’ or ‘American Idol’ because we really believe in this show. We’re not developing it to just try to create some noise in the same space,” she said.

“The Four” will have a shorter season than other singing contests, part of the plan to make it an “event,” said Rob Wade, president of alternative programming for the Fox network.

Wade said the moment when a challenger auditions against a finalist is “brilliantly dramatic” and exciting. “It’s like ‘Game of Thrones,’ with better singing and less nudity,” he added.

There were no second thoughts expressed by Walden about calling it quits on “Idol,” although she said Fox was “taken aback” when producer FremantleMedia decided to bring it back so quickly after its much-hyped farewell season.

The series had become very expensive and its ratings had dropped to a fraction of what they were, creating “terrible” economics, she said. Fox tried and failed to work out a new format with the producer, she said.

When Fremantle put it back in the marketplace, ABC was more aggressive in picking it up, Walden said. Katy Perry was announced as a judge for the new “Idol,” with Ryan Seacrest returning as host.

Specifics on the air date, panelists and host for “The Four” will be coming later, Fox said.


►  ‘Game of Thrones’ fans shun spoilers from HBO hack

For many “Game of Thrones” fans, the routine spoilers are bad enough: You miss an episode, then stumble on an unsought plot twist before you’ve had a chance to catch up.

Worse than that is the threat of leaked details, or even a whole episode, by hackers currently targeting HBO and its most doted-on series.

“It’s the worst news since the Red Wedding,” says Camden Wicker, a self-professed “GOT” superfan in San Diego.

But the news isn’t all bad. Despite recent script leaks and an episode prematurely put online by Indian pay-TV, Sunday’s “GOT” airing was the series’ most-watched ever, seen by 10.2 million viewers.

Wicker was one of them. When “GOT”-time arrives each Sunday, “the phones are off,” he says, as he and his flatmates huddle in the front of the screen. Afterward, they talk about the episode. Maybe watch it all over again.

“It’s a camaraderie,” says Wicker.

Hacks and leaks can undermine that camaraderie.

“Just when I thought White Walkers were the biggest threat,” he says, “this goes and happens.”

The phone isn’t off for Adiya Taylor of New York.

For her, a big part of watching “GOT” is the collective experience, which for her includes live-tweeting during the hour, then checking Twitter afterward for a group post-mortem.

“Between tweets, the messages in my work Slack group and the articles online the next day, watching at 9 p.m. on Sunday is a lot more fun than watching early for the sake of getting it first,” she says.

Ben Storey is a “GOT” fan who, with his wife, makes Sunday night an appointment for viewing of each “GOT” episode. But he’s also a teacher who has modeled a college course on the mythic world of Westeros.

A lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Storey teaches an alternate-reality “Game of Thrones” as a way of creating rival business strategies.

“My students learn real-world business lessons from taking part in imaginary scenarios,” he says. “They’ll try negotiations with each other. They’ll try to assassinate each other.”

He acknowledges that many of his students would avail themselves of every scrap of ill-gained information they could. But then, “they would be sad about it,” he says. “Leaks are a major threat to appointment viewing and to the fan community.”

Mike Onorato says his circle of “GOT” confederates falls into two groups: those who don’t want to know and those who do everything they can to find out.

But the latter group is a minority, he says. He counts himself among the former, who insist consuming “GOT” in its prescribed weekly doses.

“I look so forward to Sunday nights,” says Onorato. “Cheating to learn what’s going to happen is akin to snooping to find the Christmas gifts before Christmas morning.

“Having to wait is part of the fun,” he says, “and then debating with your friends what it all meant and trying to predict what will happen next.”

Onorato, who works in public relations in Cranford, New Jersey, loves to bring discussion of each Sunday-night airing to his office Monday morning.

“But if someone didn’t watch yet,” he adds, “you close the door so you don’t ruin it for that person.”

Among these “GOT” faithful there’s a dedication to keeping it pure that no leaks or hacks can betray. As Onorato puts it: “We’re all in this together.”


►  Review: Love, somehow, shines through ‘The Glass Castle’

Any parents of young children — or anyone thinking of hearing the pitter-patter of little feet — are urged to go to their local movie theater and see “The Glass Castle.” Not as a how-to guide, mind you. No, that might actually get you thrown in jail.

They should go see it instead as a much-needed reminder that you can mess up spectacularly with your kids and still manage to have them adore you. “The Glass Castle ” is steeped in crazy love, but love nonetheless.

Based on Jeannette Walls’ 2005 best-selling memoir, the film is both a tribute to parenting and a confessional of its absence. Like the book, it looks back without pity or sentiment. Unlike the book, it’s got Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson, acting spectacularly.

Walls created a sensation when she wrote about her destitute and nomadic youth, a childhood of hunger and privation at the hands of a pair of idiosyncratic parents who shunned schools, authority, capitalism and regular bill payments.

Hers was a childhood where she suddenly moved in the middle of the night, badly burned herself while unsupervised at the stove, had to eat butter and sugar as a meal, endured rages from her alcoholic dad and lived in homes without plumbing or electricity.

She was left in the house of an abuser to fend for herself and “learned” to swim when her father repeatedly tossed her underwater so she’d no longer cling to the side of the pool. Struggle, she was taught, gives life beauty. Adventure was more important than comfort.

“You learn from living,” her father says after steering the family’s broken-down station wagon into the unforgiving desert for a night under the stars. “Everything else is a damn lie.”

The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who co-wrote the screenplay with Andrew Lanham and reunites with Larson, who starred in his indie “Short Term 12.” It’s a mature, empathetic work of filmmaking from a young artist even if such a quirky story has a few too many grand Hollywood flourishes, as when our heroine — high heels in hand — abruptly leaves a fancy dinner to sprint to her father’s bedside amid a soaring soundtrack.

Larson plays the adult Jeanette Walls who seems to have blocked out much of her hardscrabble youth as a rising magazine writer in New York City. The movie opens like the book, with the author in a taxi in 1989 happening to spy her parents Dumpster-diving on a street in the East Village.

A series of flashbacks reveal the unique way the Walls’ four children were raised. They have an artistic, bohemian mother (an understated Naomi Watts as Rose Mary Walls) and a fiery, charismatic dad (Harrelson as Rex Walls) who promises to build a fantastic glass castle for the family to live in one day. Their father is brilliant and dashing but undependable. He offers them their own stars in the heavens for Christmas, but takes their last few dollars to get drunk. Warts and all are shown — yet very little blame.

The exact moment when dad goes from offbeat quirky to dangerous is never clear but Harrelson’s descent into a moody, angry, lying Walls — but one always loving — is riveting. A man who once promised thrilling freedom for his kids becomes their warden, refusing to let them leave for better lives. (The younger Jeannettes are played with real skill by Ella Anderson and Chandler Head).

Jeannette Walls’ story is clearly lovingly protected by the filmmakers, from the stiff shoulder pads of the 1980s to the developing darkness of the film. There’s astonishing detail rendered, down to the use of real Rose Mary Walls’ paintings on the walls and the long-gone “Please Do Not Slam the Door” stickers on yellow cab windows.

In the face of a horrific childhood, the Walls kids are fiercely protective of each other, as expected. What’s not as expected is that they still love their parents, too. Frustratingly, it’s not clear if they became happy adults because of their upbringing or despite of it, but that almost seems beside the point. The messages here are that kids are more resilient than we think, that your parents aren’t as crazy as you think, and that love always, always, wins.

“The Glass Castle,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking.” Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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