The Butterfly Effect (R) Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. The hallmarks of American Gen-X ennui infest this oddly impressive debut feature from Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (screenwriters of Final Destination 2). There's heroism afoot, but also sadness and paranoia, plus riotous doses of silly self-importance. The story concerns twentyish Evan (marketable funny fellow Ashton Kutcher, playing straight), who learns to revisit -- literally -- his traumatic, blackout-laden childhood via his meticulously kept journals. This prompts the title, with the implication of butterfly wings causing typhoons, here meaning Evan's entire present is radically (dude!) altered each time he messes with the past. This includes a broken home, an institutionalized father (Callum Keith Rennie), an excessively doting mother (Melora Walters) and a "fuckbag" neighbor (Eric Stoltz, in a slippery turn). Much of the plot hinges on Evan's childhood sweetheart, Kayleigh (splendid Amy Smart), who transforms into a hard-luck waitress, a sorority bimbo and a junkie prostitute, depending on his actions. As a thriller, it's iffy and uneven, but as a portrait of people, it's effective and intriguing. Opens Friday, January 23, at multiple locations. (Gregory Weinkauf)
Mindhunters (R) Renny Harlin. In this psychological thriller from director Renny Harlin (Deep Blue Sea) and writer Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), FBI agents are sent to a remote island to train as criminal profilers. A remote island, it turns out, is not the best place to be when one of your fellow agents is a serial killer bent on killing off everyone else. The profilers-in-training must discover who among them is the killer -- before it's too late. Starring Eion Bailey, Val Kilmer, LL Cool J and Christian Slater, among others. Opens Friday, January 23, at multiple locations. NR
The Triplets of Belleville (PG-13) Sylvain Chomet. Opens Friday, January 23, at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! (PG-13) Robert Luketic. Opens Friday, January 23, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.