X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX (12A) Three stars

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.

LATE NIGHT (15) Three stars

All's fair in love and the war for TV ratings in director Nisha Ganatra's spiky comedy of modern manners, which provides Dame Emma Thompson with a plum role as a veteran talk show host who has grown complacent and lost touch with her viewers.

It's a lip-smacking delight to see the two-time Oscar winner in full comic flow, tossing out polished one-liners or rejecting one male staff member's request for a pay rise following the birth of his second child because it represents "the classic sexist argument for the advancement of men in the workplace".

Scripted with a deft touch by co-star Mindy Kaling, Late Night takes aim at gender equality and diversity in the workplace and occasionally draws blood from well-placed barbs at the expense of the mainstream media's obsession with beauty and youth.

Some aspects of the writing are undernourished - one romantic subplot blossoms with almost no on-screen propagation and the emotional fallout of marital betrayal is too neatly contained.

However, chemistry between the lead actors fizzes and there is a delightful rapport between Thompson and John Lithgow as the host's scholarly husband, whose brilliant mind is being unravelled by Parkinson's disease.

For almost 30 years, Katherine Newbury (Thompson) has presided over an award-winning talk show that has tried to take the higher cultural ground.

Unfortunately, ratings have plummeted and network president Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) takes the decision to replace Katherine with edgy stand-up comedian Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz).

Faced with the sobering reality of relinquishing her crown at the end of the current season, Katherine vows to reverse the show's fortunes.

"There aren't any women on the staff because you hate women," observes long-suffering producer Brad (Denis O'Hare) so Katherine orders him to hastily address the imbalance.

Molly Patel (Kaling), an efficiency expert at a chemical plant in Pennsylvania with no writing experience beyond her own stand-up material, is in the right place at the right time.

She joins an all-white male writers' room led by Tom Campbell (Reid Scott), who pens Katherine's opening monologue.

Fellow writers dismiss Molly as a token hire but colleague Charlie Fain (Hugh Dancy) is more open-minded.

"Just because I was lucky enough to get this job doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to lose it," beams Molly, who encourages Katherine to mine personal experience to reconfigure the public's perception.

Late Night is a sparkling showcase for an ensemble cast led by the luminous Thompson and Kaling, which practises what it preaches by utilising talented women behind and in front of the camera, including editor Eleanor Infante and composer Lesley Barber.

Laughter and heartwarming sentiment are keenly balanced, tipping slightly in favour of the latter as the hard-fought battle to save Katherine's show and reputation reaches a predictably crowd-pleasing resolution.


1. Aladdin

2. Godzilla: King Of Monsters

3. The Secret Life Of Pets 2

4. Rocketman

5. John Wick: Chapter Three - Parabellum

6. Pokemon Detective Pikachu

7. Avengers: Endgame

8. Ma

9. Booksmart

10. NGK: Nandha Gopalan Kumaran

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)