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Movie Reviews: Ghajini, Let Them Chirp Awhile 

Wednesday, Dec 31 2008
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GO  GHAJINI Aamir Khan, a teen idol in the early ‘90s turned dashing romantic leading man, has for several years been Bollywood’s most exportable overachiever: producer-star of the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, director-star of this year’s Indian Oscar submission Taare Zameen Par. In his latest offering, Ghajini, Khan goes aggressively down-market, indulging a midlife urge to kick ass and snap necks in slow motion, like some of the South Indian action behemoths who have recently been kicking Hindi cinema’s ass at the national box office. The result is an experience almost too stimulating for the non-Indian nervous system, a blockbuster layer cake of full-strength escapist entertainment. In a series of gaudy, tuneful flashbacks, Khan is the sleek CEO of a cell-phone company, a prince of industry passing as a commoner so that a radiant young actress will fall in love with his soul and not his money. In the much darker present-day sequences, he’s a revenge-obsessed victim of anterograde amnesia, complete with shaved, scarred cranium, bulging muscles crawling with tattoos, and a pocketful of annotated Polaroids. The movie does, indeed, owe a large debt to Memento, albeit once removed: This version of Ghajini is an exceedingly detailed redo of a 2005 Tamil/Telegu hit of the same name that initially lifted its trappings of short-term memory loss from Christopher Nolan’s film. Although there are some variations, especially in the second half, long stretches of the two Ghajinis are virtually identical. The new cast includes several prominent holdovers, including leading lady Asin Thottumkal, bad guy Pradeep Rawat, and muscle-bound cop Riyaz Khan, with Aamir Khan seemingly pasted in over original star Surya, who won a regional Best Actor award playing the tormented yet brawny hero. If Khan was hoping some of the commercial mojo of South Indian action icons such as Superstar Rajnikanth (Sivaji the Boss) might rub off, he could scarcely have picked a better collaborator for the project than A.R. Murugadoss, the writer-director of both versions of Ghajini, auteur of the legendary headbanger Stalin: Man for the Society (2005), and a master of the pile-driving Southern style. (Key YouTube clip: “megastalin intro.”) The reinvigorated performer strides into battle in Ghajini haloed with bullet-time clouds of glittering water droplets, wrapping his opponents around tree trunks and perforating them with iron pipes, already half-transformed into Superstar Aamirkhanth. (Culver Plaza; Fallbrook 7; Laguna Hills Mall; Naz 8 Artesia; Naz 8 Riverside) (David Chute)

GO  LET THEM CHIRP AWHILE When Bobby (Justin Rice) sits down to justify his self-description as a screenwriter, he thinks only in vague references (“Is expressionism OK or not?”), and all he can come up with is a vision of two men in pigeon costumes trading fatalistic commentaries on post-9/11 New York. “Crap,” he thinks, and rightly so. Later, at the movies with his equally untalented songwriter friend, Scott (Brendan Sexton III), and Scott’s long-suffering girlfriend, Michelle (Pepper Binkley), they watch a parody of Garden State, complete with a devastating paraphrase of the hamster-burying scene. Jonathan Blitstein’s feature debut studies urban, “artistic” twentysomethings and their failed relationships in a quasi-naturalistic way that runs counter to both of the bad examples offered in its own opening. Nearly every scene has its own visual conceit, from comic fast-motion chases to a languorous pan through a guitar store, which allows a bro heart-to-heart to set its own rhythm. It’s lively and funny, if unbalanced: Bobby and Scott’s relationships are pitted against playwright Hart Carlton (Zach Galligan), whose overtly self-important plays win all the grants and girls. Hart’s a pompous villain in a film that doesn’t need one (he’s just as talentless, albeit better at hiding it), and Blitstein screws up all momentum when trying to juggle three unequal stories. But if the structure of Let Them Chirp Awhile prevents any accumulated emotion, scene to scene, it’s pretty hilarious. (Sunset 5) (Vadim Rizov)

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