Mike at the Movies

Photo | Submitted Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling star in Late Night.

Photo | Submitted
Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling star in Late Night.

Late Night (R)

Katherine (Emma Thompson), though looking like soccer star Abby Wambach for much of the film, is bossy, cruel and out of it. (She can’t be bothered to learn her writers’ names, so she gives them all a number!) She is a nighttime talk show host who has been on the job too long. She has nine writers, all male and all lifeless. They are all operating on autopilot, and Caroline (Amy Ryan), the CEO of the TV station, tells Katherine that her time is up—her show has just gotten too old. Katherine’s  husband, Walter (John Lithgow) who suffers with Parkinson’s, is understanding but advises her to fight back.

Meanwhile, the program director, Brad (Denis O’Hare), as desperate as Katherine for something to change the show’s direction, hires Molly (Mindy Kaling): a dark-skinned Indian woman whose former employer was a chemical plant where she did stand-up over the PA at lunchtime and performed routine, non-comedy, work. She is a “diversity hire,” and nobody is apologizing for it.

Caroline has her eye on rough comic Daniel Tennant (Ike Barinholtz) who everybody can see in an instant is wrong to replace Katherine. Katherine, in one of the many fine turns in the film, guests Tennant and challenges him as her successor. He has to backtrack and say no, he wouldn’t change a thing at the show, which launches Katherine on a social media-fueled comeback, helped by Molly’s relevant assists. Molly is fired, then rehired, then fired again, only to return in triumph after Katherine moans: “You know everything about me, and I don’t even think about you!”

There are soft-pedaled but effective #MeToo moments and some sober judgments on men’s influence in TV (on this show the men have even taken over the women’s restroom), and Thompson is at her incredible best. I think it is one of her finest performances in a long career. See if you don’t agree.

Men in Black: International (PG-13)

Chris Hemsworth carries this film, as perhaps he should, but his “Thor:Ragnarok” co-star, Tessa Thompson, seems a bit lightweight by comparison. The format of the Men in Black series is fantastic fights and chases with tension broken by the lights that blank all memory of the person receiving the rays. (This is the reason that Men in Black always wear dark sunglasses.) That format seems a bit stale this time around, even though the cast travels all over the globe—well, at least all over London, Marrakesh and the desert. The word from the mysterious “Hive” of baddies is that “something is wrong with the Men in Black.” It seems they might have a mole, messing things up for them and nothing seems as easy as it used to be.

Though, to admit it, things are pretty easy: In a gunfight they hide behind a car, the parts of which each disassembles into a  fearsome weapon. Oddly enough, Agent M (Tessa Thompson), the rookie, figures out exactly which part is necessary to tear off the car for each specific weapon needed! Agent M and Agent H (Hemsworth) even find themselves invading “Riza’s Fortress of For Sure Death” only to survive. There are cute bits, as there are in all the MIB films, perhaps the cutest being the dwarf, Pawny (voice by Kumail Nanjiani).

The problem with the film, sad to say, is a lack of chemistry between agents H and M. Hemsworth is a likeable hunk and a model playboy, but M looks too much like his niece or daughter. There is a feeble attempt at suggesting romance between them, but it eventually (and fortunately) fails. The film needed something like that to give H any weight at all. Not an offensive entry in the franchise, but not the most magical either.