After Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner schemed and competed to put out movie versions of the Wyatt Earp saga in 1993, I was surprised to see them teamed as Elvis impersonators gone bad in the 2001 shoot-em-up/caper/comedy/road flick “3000 Miles to Graceland.” Then again, they double-cross each other about 3,000 times in this movie, so maybe art imitates life. The special effects are horrible (with all the gunplay, too bad the editor wasn’t shot) but the story isn’t half bad. Lots of familiar faces in small roles (Ice T! Paul Anka?). Courteney Cox steals the show as a redneck grifter.

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I imagine someone took a Western short story, adapted it for the 1970s as a one-act play called “Shootout at the IRA Corral,” and mailed it to Martin Scorsese with a note saying, “Betcha can’t make a movie like Tarantino!” That’s how I imagine Scorsese ended up executive producing “Free Fire,” which made the 2016 international festival circuit and then bombed at the 2017 U.S. box office. I don’t care. It’s funny. It’s got Irish guys, a cute girl, a bunch of Buscemi-like weasels running around and a dude that looks like he just stepped off the set of “Argo.”

It’s a story about journalism hidden inside a story about rock and roll. If you ever wanted to understand the love triangle between sage, subject and story, re-watch “Almost Famous” (2000). For the masses, it’s a fun ride on the wild side of 1970s rock starring Billy Crudup, drugs, music, groupies, fashion and Cameron Crowe’s poetry. Just beneath the surface is a coming-of-age story – two of them – starring Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit. But way down deep, it’s really Fugit and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a story about a story and the friction between truth, friendship and exploitation. Impressive, huh?

You know all those black stand-up comedians over the years who had a bit about horror movies and black people? How the brother always gets killed first? How a real black dude would have been gone from that damn house after five minutes? How black people in the audience are screaming for the black dude to GET OUT of the damn house? Well, comedian Jordan Peele put his money where his mouth is. He placed all those horror movie conventions in a blender and mixed in some Rod Serling. He even called the movie “Get Out” (2017). And it’s fantastic.

Unpredictability is a key element of humor. Part of the problem with comedy sequels is that you know most of the jokes already. “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (1999) is like listening to a greatest hits album. It’s well crafted and true to the first installment of the spy-sendup franchise, but that’s also the problem. You want some new stuff, too. And that’s another problem. Heather Graham is great as Austin’s American counterpart but the Fat Bastard and Mini Me characters are so creepy and get so many scenes, it makes the whole thing predictable AND kinda gross.

I was really, really, really expecting “CHIPS” (2017) to suck, especially when I saw the same person (Dax Shepard) was directing, writing and co-starring (usually a bad sign). However, I was astonished at how fully formed it was. And funny. I mean, it’s overloaded with bro humor (facial-scrotal contact appears to be mandatory in all R-rated comedies these days) but that was to be expected. Still, the dialogue is great, even for secondary characters. Speaking of which, the secondary characters and extras are probably about as diverse a crew as I’ve ever seen in a movie without an ethnic/racial subtext.

“Radio Flyer” (1992) is a heartwarming tale of child abuse and a possible suicide. Even better, it’s narrated by a dad who is telling this heartwarming tale to his own kids. Even better still is that the dad is Tom Hanks. Who thought this was a good idea? The film is filtered through a wistful haze of sepia-toned memories, supported by a fanciful musical score. Ohhh, so it’s a fairytale story of child abuse and a possible suicide. That makes it OK. The only positive is the abused young boy who (maybe) commits suicide grows up to be Frodo Baggins.