When musicians run out of ideas, they do a Christmas album. What if you had only one good idea in your whole career? “Ernest Saves Christmas” (1988) is Jim Varney’s yuletide iteration of his Ernest P. Worrell character, which was first introduced in television commercials and eventually became its own franchise. You’ve heard of lowbrow humor – with Varney’s effectedly verbose and inept (yet oddly likeable) redneck, we’re talking unibrow humor. The plot is irrelevant, but Santa has business succession problems, Ernest is harboring a runaway girl, and everyone is sweating because this movie was shot in Orlando. Yuletide hijinks ensue.

I try not to know too much in advance about films I watch. When I saw a DVD for “Riders of Justice” (2021) with Mads Mikkelsen’s big, bearded mean-mug on the box, I assumed it was a sloppy, meathead, biker action flick. I mean, his name is MADS. Well, Mads supplies plenty of gunfire, but I was the one walking into an ambush – subtitles (they’re speaking Dansk), wacky professors, deep conversations about math, death and fairness (both separately and together), and some truly dark humor. And it’s a Christmas movie! It’s no coincidence pleasant surprises are often the greatest joys.

Canada – America’s cold, remote neighbor. Seems its romantic comedies are a little like that, too. “Chaos Theory” (2008) is actually a very good Ryan Reynolds vehicle. He gets to play a whole range of emotions as a wedding-day dad imparting wisdom to a cold-footed groom, using his own marriage as an example. But instead of the artistic safety of American-style, cinematic tentpole commerce, this film is edgier, angrier and sadder. But also wittier and with music designed to speak to the story rather than to sell the original motion picture soundtrack. A little harder to love, but still a keeper.