Late Night (15)***

Dir: Nisha Ganatra

With: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Amy Ryan, John Lithgow

Runtime: 102 minutes

EMMA Thompson is having a moment, as they say. Being an eco-warrior in a boat in Oxford Circus, starring as an eerily accurate populist politician in TV’s Years and Years, and now headlining a comedy written and directed by women. Not for Thompson the traditional Hollywood mosey into retirement playing someone’s mother.

Here, Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, queen of a New York-based, US syndicated late night talk show. Newbury rules her show like an absolute monarch, never speaking to the little people and sacking staff without hesitation if they displease her.

But now Newbury’s 60-something face and left-wing politics increasingly don’t fit in a television landscape desperate to pull in the yoof audience. Her ratings are on the slide, her schtick is tired, and the new network chief (Amy Ryan) seems to be casting around for a young male replacement more interested in telling gross-out jokes than having Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the show.

In a bid to refresh her all-male writers room, and scotch rumours that she is a feminist who doesn’t actually like other women, the show hires Molly Patel (played by Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay). Kaling, best known over here for the US version of The Office, was one of the breakout stars in the all-women heist comedy Ocean’s Eight, and is just as impressive here.

Patel braves the bear pit writer’s room, fighting back against sneers that she is only in the job as a is a “diversity hire”. Soon, she’s introducing Newbury to new fangled social media and writing jokes about access to contraception. But is Newbury ready to change, or should she fight back the only way she knows how, by being a raging bull?

Director Nisha Ganatra has a background in television with a cv that includes Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Better Things. Late Night plays like an episode of a TV show that has been stretched too far. Having set up the characters in a broad brush fashion (Newbury is cartoonishly awful at times) the story goes in a predictable direction with the two women leads clashing then bonding then falling out again. The film likes this story arc so much it repeats it, while other sub-plots, including Molly’s budding romance with a fellow writer, are picked up only to be dropped soon after.

By and large, worthy jokes about contraception and tired social media gags aside, Kaling’s screenplay is funny, and she is the real deal as a comedian. There’s a nice moment when she is looking at a YouTube clip of a young Newbury (Thompson in real life) doing stand-up.

Thompson could be hit and miss as a jobbing comedian. I still have flashbacks to that solo show she did; I seem to recall cartwheels. But as a movie star, as here, she rarely puts a foot wrong.


Don't be afraid of the Dark Phoenix.

The 12th film in the sprawling X-Men series, which has largely disappointed except for the deliciously irreverent and brooding double whammy of Deadpool and Logan, is a disjointed gallop through genre tropes and predictable narrative twists.

There are plenty of tears on screen but not a single droplet from us as super-powered characters make bold sacrifices for people they love and writer-director Simon Kinberg unleashes a blitzkrieg of spectacular but soulless action sequences to test on-screen alliances to breaking point.

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is squandered in a pivotal but thankless supporting role as an otherworldly puppet master, who intends to eradicate mankind from the third rock from the Sun.

Jennifer Lawrence is also poorly served as a blue-skinned mother hen of the dysfunctional brood but she does pickpocket the film's best line, a #MeToo-era battle cry which defiantly draws attention to the importance of xx chromosomes in this fantastical world.

"The women are always saving the men around here. You might want to change the name to X-Women," she snarls.

Digital effects run riot in a bloated second act that delivers carnage on a grand scale with almost no emotional payoff.

Nine years have passed since the events of X-Men: Apocalypse when Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) unlocked the devastating telekinetic powers of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner).

The X-Men are now on speed-dial to the White House, ready to answer a call from the US President (Brian d'Arcy James) to rescue the stricken crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is spinning violently out of control after a close encounter with a solar flare.

Mystique (Lawrence) leads the rescue mission, shepherding the special powers of Jean, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters).

During this heroic feat, Jean absorbs dangerous levels of energy and the near-death experience unleashes years of pent-up rage and frustration.

A shape-shifting alien (Chastain) exploits Jean's inner turmoil to rebuild her species' fallen empire.

"It's your destiny to evolve into the greatest force on the galaxy," the scheming extra-terrestrial informs Jean.

Meanwhile, an increasingly disillusioned Mystique questions Professor X's duty of care to his young wards, who routinely risk their lives while their mentor observes proceedings from a safe distance using the Cerebro machine at his mansion.

Set in 1992, X-Men: Dark Phoenix doesn't greatly enrich the series mythology, delivering one expected shock that ignores events from X-Men released in 2000 and its sequel.

Turner works hard to channel her beleaguered heroine's confusion and despair in the few brief moments of quiet contemplation between overblown set-pieces.

She may rise like a flaming phoenix but Kinberg's film never takes off and certainly doesn't catch fire.

Gloria Bell (15)****

Dir: Sebastián Lelio

With: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera

SIX years ago, Chilean director Sebastian Lelio had an international hit with Gloria, the tale of an older woman battling loneliness and uncertainty about the future and trying to find a new joy in life. This is the Hollywood remake, which has taken a while to come around. Refreshingly, Lelio is still in charge, and Julianne Moore and John Turturro taking the parts of Gloria and her older boyfriend who has trouble committing.

The change of personnel is something of a mixed blessing. I’ll happily watch Moore in anything, but she is not the Gloria of the original. That Gloria, played by the marvellous Paulina Garcia, was an average looking woman who wore specs that could have once been owned by Deirdre Barlow. Moore looks like the movie star she is, perfect skin, hair and everything. She is stunning. As for those glasses, Prada or Max Mara? You decide.

For all that, Moore and Turturro gel wonderfully as an off-on couple, their time together plagued by calls from his ex-wife and demanding daughters. Just as enjoyable is the poptastic soundtrack, much of it with Moore singing along as she drives into her LA workplace. And yes, “that” scene is still in, as is Laura Branigan’s titular track.