Double Feature

February 2006 - Movies can entertain us, but they can also make us think. What's real? What's imagined? Is your reality the same as mine? This month, we have two films that push those boundaries.

In 2004's The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher plays a young man whose attempts to rectify the past radically alter the future. Kutcher plays Evan Treborn, who has been subject to blackouts since he was a child. Evan's father is institutionalized because of the same problem. To help fill in the gaps, Evan keeps journals of what happens during his blackouts. I'm not sure how he knows since he's blacked out. But, I digress.

Evan eventually gets into college and majors in Psychology. He figures out a way to use the journals as a portal to the past. He goes back to various traumatic moments in his life and changes his own actions to create better outcomes.

That's all well and good until Evan realizes that changing the past changes his own future. In one scenario, he's the big man on campus and Kayleigh, his childhood sweetheart, is his Homecoming queen girlfriend. In another, Evan is confined to a wheelchair and Kayleigh is dating his best friend. In another, Evan is a college student and Kayleigh is a crack whore. Eventually, Evan arrives at a future he can live with. The question, however, is whether that future is real.

Overall review: Liked it. An intriguing movie based on an intriguing premise. And, in the end, you're not sure if anything has ever changed.

The Butterfly Effect is rated R. You should be able to find it on DVD or video.

Another film that plays with the link between past and present is Primer. Written, directed, produced by and starring Shane Carruth, Primer won the award for best drama at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

Carruth plays Aaron, a husband and father who works at a local electronics company. Aaron, his best friend Abe, and a couple other guys spend their spare time tinkering around in Aaron's garage. They have a few patents, but nothing that's going to make them rich.

Aaron and Abe start working on a project of their own. They discover that their invention can be used as a sort of time-travel machine. Aaron and Abe repeatedly send themselves a few days into the past to make loads of money from the stock market.

One problem is that the machine creates "doubles," so there is now more than one Abe and more than one Aaron. A bigger problem seems to be that these doubles have minds of their own, and they're thinking of ways to exploit the technology for their own purposes.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK. Interesting concept, but rather hard to follow. You kind of assume that the movie follows the original Aaron and Abe, but that may not be the case. I did enjoy watching actors that I've never seen before. I'll look for more work from this guy, I think.

Primer is rated PG-13. It's also out on video and DVD.