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‘Late Night’

“Late Night” is a swell romantic comedy of a very particular sort, a film that details the delightful attachment two women have not to any man (or even each other) but to the profession they’re completely devoted to.

Because that shared passion is comedy, and because the women are played by Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, both in tip-top form, “Late Night” is that rare thing: a deft and intelligent entertainment that can touch on serious issues because being funny is something it never forgets to do.

Kaling, a creative force on television (“The Office,” “The Mindy Project”) not only costars and produces here, she’s written the script. More than that, she’s given the leading role, and the best lines, to Thompson, the woman for whom she wrote the part of Katherine Newbury.

The longtime host (28 years and counting) of a late-night network talk show, the acerbic, cerebral Newbury is a transplanted Brit of high standards and withering hauteur, someone whose idea of a coveted guest is more Doris Kearns Goodwin than Johnny Depp.

A winner of numerous Emmys and a believer in “excellence without compromise,” Newbury is introduced getting an American humor award and cracking, “Is there no one funny left in your country?”

Armed with statistics indicating that the venerated host has been in a ratings slide for a decade, new network president Caroline Morton (a forceful Amy Ryan) tells Newbury that, like it or lump it, her current year is going to be her last.

Horrified at the crassness of the stand-up she suspects is her designated successor (“Mindy Project” costar Ike Barinholtz) and determined to hold onto her job, Newbury does something unprecedented: She gets to know her writers.

Previously so distant from the people who come up with her material that she wasn’t even aware one of them had died years earlier, Newbury accompanies long-suffering executive producer Brad (an expert Denis O’Hare) and enlists the gang in coming up with stratagems that will bolster her ratings and save her career.

As written by Kaling, who drew on her own experiences and stories she’s heard, the “Late Night” writers room is a comedic treat.

Currently crashing with an aunt and uncle in Queens, Molly benefits from a series of flukes to land both an interview with Brad and a 13-week stint in the writers room — which is so unprepared for a female colleague that she is mistaken for a new production assistant and ends up seated on an overturned trash can.

Yes, Molly is professionally inexperienced, but her tart tongue shows she is no naif.

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While watching Molly find her footing — both with her various writers room colleagues and her imperious boss — is the comic heart of “Late Night,” the film also finds space for emotional heft as well as more serious concerns about gender equality, ethical standards and the price of celebrity.

Doing all that can’t have been easy, but making it seem like it was may be the most satisfying of “Late Night’s” many agreeable accomplishments. If summer is a movie season not known for wit, this is a most welcome exception.

(R, 3 of 4 stars, 1 hr. 42 min.)

– Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

'Men in Black: International'

In “Men in Black: International,” Emma Thompson and Tessa Thompson share a cringe over the secretive alien-fighting organization’s outdated name. Unfortunately, we can’t call this kind of half-hearted shoehorning as coming even close to “feminist,” but we see your effort, Hollywood. The actual work is casting Tessa Thompson in the role of a funny, whip-smart, ahem, Person in Black.

In fact, Thompson is what makes this otherwise completely unnecessary reboot work. It’s unclear why we needed a fourth “Men in Black” film seven years after the last one, besides that the property exists and copyrights were likely about to expire. Still, it helps that they’ve cleaned the slate entirely, making way for stars like Thompson and Chris Hemsworth to don the suits and sunglasses.

Clearly, Thompson and Hemsworth are a dynamic duo, as proven in “Thor: Ragnarok.” This is likely due to Thompson being the only young star in Hollywood whose charisma not only stands up to Hemsworth’s, but actually outshines the charming blond Aussie hunk. In the role of Molly, a young girl obsessed with aliens after a childhood encounter and who goes on to chase her dream of joining the Men in Black, Thompson steps into a far more comedic role than the ones in which we’ve seen her. And she is more than up to the task.

Directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, “Men in Black: International” has a decidedly retro ’90s feel. It has the energy of one of those breezy big summer movies of the late 20th century that went down easy like an ice-cold soda on a hot summer day. Some laughs, some action, very little thinking. This international romp peppered with aliens is tightly plotted, but it has a loose comedic timing. Unfortunately, it is, of course, saddled with 20 unnecessary minutes of computer-generated visual noise tacked onto the end for higher stakes or something. Double crosses, end-of-the-world-type stuff. Feel free to dip out around minute 95.

(PG-13, 2½ of 4 stars, 1 hr. 54 min.)

– Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service

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