A trend-setter in 2012, Karthik Subbaraj's 'Pizza' won the fans and critics alike, and its no surprise that the producers want to cash in on its name, by turning it into a franchise. 'Pizza - II : Villa' is directed by newcomer Deepan Chakravarthy, and please make no bones about it, it is definitely not a direct sequel to 'Pizza'. Then what else it could be ? The namesake, purely for profitable purpose ? One has to think about it after watching the film, rather than making assumptions before a viewing.

Ashok Selvan, who made his debut in 'Soodhu Kavvum' plays the lead role here for the very first time. Though he looks confident, the acting was not exceptional, and definitely there were plenty of room for improvement. His expressions could have been better and more intensity in his portrayal would have done great justice to the role. Still, Ashok tries his best to give you the 'writer-look' and with his nearly apt body language. Sanchita Shetty, performs an extension of sort of her 'Soodhu Kavvum' performance, minus the humor. The pair has no proper chemistry between them and the romance sequences, actually fell flat. Though the lead pair has rendered their best, its still an injustice to the potential of the script and scope of acting. Keep improving, folks ! The rest of the cast such as Nassar, Kaali, Jayakumar, Vegan Rajesh, Veera Santhanam, 'Pizza' Venkatesh, 'Boys' Rajan, Ramanathan, Anjali, Aaryan, Sarath, Vinoth, Jith, Ram and etc were adequate in their limited screen timing and presence.

Technically, the film has some very good output from the relatively, young and talented crew of technicians. First of all, congratulations to the sound department for its brilliant work. Arun Seenu with the effects, Vishnu Govind and Sree Sankar dealing with the designing and the experienced M.Gita Gurappa taking care of the Dolby Atmos mixing, the sound engineering is riveting, especially in the second half. Kudos to the sound department ! 'Billa' Jagan handles the action choreography, and whatever action sequences present, were neatly executed. Production design by Maayan Ela's sufficed the needs of the script, though the budget was quite tight. Good detailing work with the props of the villa and also for the interiors of other plot settings available, interiors especially. Leo John Paul should be credited for the tight editing, and ensuring the screenplay is racy, especially with a slow-moving type of story-telling involved. The climax was well put together, though the end could have been little more smoother in scene transitions. The man who the director should be really thankful, is the cinematographer Deepak Kumar Padhy. Deepak's framing, and the quick camera movements in the second half created the perfect mood and feel of the script, added with Maayan's well set ambiance. Deepak, experiments with indoor lighting and he comes out with flying colors, in his attempt. The eerie and chill factor needed was justified by Deepak's work !

Santhosh Narayanan, rocks once again with his musical score. "Kaanum Gnanam" is a perfect soundtrack for this script and was used as the introductory song of the villa, featuring Ashok exploring the indoors of the villa for the first time. The lighting and framing for this song by Deepak, was really good ! "The Villa" and "Varaipadam" are background scores and were well used for the appropriate situations. "Boomiyil" is a melodious number shot on the lead pair, with many montages used for the song. Leo's editing was smooth for this song. "Pa Pa" was shot on Ashok on his venture of fact-finding and also had plenty of montages. Santhosh's background score was fabulous and his contributing to the script, is immense. This man is certain for great heights, provided that he's got talented directors with good scripts.

First of all, kudos to the producer and director for launching the idea of a 'Pizza' franchise. Let's clear the air, first. This is no direct sequel to Karthik Subbaraj's film. The similarity ? Both are thrillers. The difference ? The first installment was a supernatural/horror thriller with a twist, whereas the second is more of a psychological thriller. Its evident from the opening sequences that Deepan Chakravarthy has crafted the script in such a way that, it does not scare or fright you with atypical horror movie tricks. Deepan creates an eerie atmosphere throughout the screenplay and its more about the characters' dilemma and their understanding of what's happening around them. Deepan should be appreciated for his research and scientific explanations about paranormal activities, which are very interesting, in Manikandan.K's dialogues. But there are flaws in the direction, where the extraction of performance from the lead pair is below par, and the intensity needed for such scripts, missing. For some audience, this film can bore you, till the climax is reached. But the director made up for it, with a sucker punch of an ending, which has a promising prospect for a direct sequel. 

'Pizza - II : Villa' is a neatly executed film, but a more matured writing, direction and performance could have done wonders to this flick.

Ratings: 2.75/5 STARS



'Paandiya Naadu' raised eyebrows and piqued the interest of Tamizh audience when it was launched. Suseenthiran join hands with Vishal for the very first time. An intriguing pairing this is, due to their current form in Tamizh film industry. The former is basking in the glories with the critically-acclaimed 'Aadhalaal Kaadhal Seiveer' and the former, reeling in consecutive flops and poor showing of films. Also, Vishal has decided to take things into his own hands by flaunting a new film production company (Vishal Film Factory) and churning out this flick as its maiden debut. Throw in, the best of technicians and Bharathiraja, this is a very interesting concoction indeed. Can Susee redeem Vishal's flagging career ?

'Paandiya Naadu' is certainly a throwback for Vishal to his 'Sandaikozhi' and 'Thimiru' days. Coincidentally, both those films were based in Madurai and its third time lucky for Vishal, because this performance is easily the best from him thus far. Though 'Avan Ivan' had plenty of struggle and pain, Vishal makes us fall for him and root for his success. He is totally convincing as the shy and mild-mannered Sivakumar. Its a refreshing change to see him shed his action-hero image and immerse into a believable and endearing character. A very well written role and neatly portrayed by Vishal, especially with the transformation in the second half, and the way he carried the stammering issues. The legend, Bharathiraja steals the show, with his terrific performance, and its a real shame that only a handful of directors in Tamizh cinema, had actually utilized his acting capabilities. The veteran just oozes class and moves us with his emotional outbursts and a touching performance in the end. Take a bow, sir ! Though Lakshmi Menon was adequate and convincing in her role, her acting scope was very much limited in the screen timing. Antagonist, Sharath Lohithashwa looks menacing and powerful, and is just the perfect villain for this genre of films. A fantastic portrayal by the Kannada actor. Harish Uthaman, comes close as well, with very commanding screen presence and looks. Soori makes his mark, wherever he was given space and Vikranth does a energy and rage-filled cameo appearance. The rest of the cast such as Somasundaram, literateur Jayabalan, Muthuraman, R.S Amudheswar, Thulasi, Keerthi Shetty, Priya, Soumya Satish, Bava Lakshmanan, the cute 'Baby' Rakshana and etc were befitting of their neatly presented roles.

Vasugi Bhaskar has done a terrific job with Vishal's costume designing, as he looks like a Madurai chap, perfectly ! Malini and Nikila are in charge of Lakshmi Menon's and their work was not bad, either. Rajeevan has handled the production design very well and all the landscape and plot setting looked very apt and authentic. The prop detailing was intricate and very well-researched. The opening sequences are a highlight and also the climax fight sequences, which had very good detailing, in terms of set properties. Anthony's editing was as usual, sharp and precise. Some trimming in the first half would have made wonders to this film, but the feel-good moments will have to be sacrificed, which could deter the reception of general, family audiences. 'Anal' Arasu's action choreography is simply superb, as it is very original and realistically shot. The climax fight sequence, where Vishal uses whatever props he can reach, was very well executed. Action sequences are definitely big highlights of the film ! The backbone of the film, is definitely Madhie's exceptional cinematography work. He made use of the 4K resolution camera very well, and each frame and camera movements, were well measured and carefully shot. The golden brown color tone maintained throughout the film, brings the nativity feel to the script. Virudhu Nagar of Madurai has been shot beautifully and 'Paandiya Naadu' will certainly be one of Madhie's best works, so far, especially with the fantastically shot, action blocks. 

D.Imman is certainly having the time of his life, and he rocks again with brilliant musical score for this film, as well. The "Theme Music" was used for the opening credits and also used sparingly as background score. The thumping score, certainly eleveates the mood of the script. "Daiyare Daiyare" is an enjoyable opening song, which had a colorful, funeral 'celebration' as its backdrop. The camera movements and angles are the highlights of this song's picturization. "Yelay Yelay" was beautifully shot inside the ancient temples of Madurai, on Vishal and Lakshmi Menon, and had brilliant natural lighting and color tone, which brought out the earthy essence of the song. The pick of the lot, "Othakadai Othakadai" was shot on Vikranth, Soori and Vishal and was mostly shot in the narrow back-lanes and alleyways of Virudhunagar, with few montages interspersed. "Veri Konda Puli" is a situational song and had plenty of montage sequences, depicting the hero in his new 'journey'. "Fy Fy Kalachify" is a typical dance number, shot on Vishal and Lakshmi Menon, on barren fields, with minimal props. D.Imman, scores big time with the background score as well, with stirring and emotional arrangements. Clean hit, D.Imman !

When it comes to script novelty, there's nothing path-breaking here, since Suseenthiran has taken the beaten-to-death revenge story as his core content. But the treatment and screenplay, developed along with G.K Gopinath, Arun Balaji, Nagarajan and Vijay Anand, wins our attention and interest. The screenplay is packed with well-written, thrilling and suspenseful moment, especially in the second half, and keeps us on the edge of our seats. Suseenthiran should be really applauded for proving that one can still make a decent and innovative new script, based on as-old-as-the-hills type of theme lines. The unpredictability factor, coupled with some amusing scenes in the first half, entertains us pretty much, and Suseenthiran proves that he is a master in handling his artistes and bringing the best effort from them, with perfect conviction. Dialogues, co-written with Suseenthiran's pal, writer Bhaskar Sakthi are a scream in certain scenes and has a no-nonsense approach, with the serious sequences. Another plus point of the film, is the avoidance of over-glorifying of the protagonist and the shelving of needless heroism and a special thank you to Suseenthiran for not taking the audience for granted, by avoiding illogical scenes. The travel in the screenplay is nearly free of jerkiness, except for the needless song, late in the second half, which sticks out like a sore thumb. 

'Paandiya Naadu' - Suseenthiran saves Vishal's career and enhances his directorial repertoire. They hit the bull's eye !

Ratings: 3.25/5 STARS



This film had all the ingredients to be a 'killer' comedy flick. A catchy title, the successful combo of 'Comedy Superstar' and M.Rajesh and add in Karthi into the equation. Isn't this suppose to be an exciting combination and that too for a Deepavali season ? M.Rajesh has scored hat-trick of successes but can he and Santhanam utilize their prowess in comedy and score a nearly, unprecedented four strikes in a row ?

Karthi has the charming looks and cute expressions to win over the ladies. He certainly looks handsome and cute in the colorful attires and with his facial expressions. His voice modulation too can be appreciated but he does not seem to be entirely convincing in an out-and-out comedy role. He certainly seems to lack some confidence in certain sequences, but it can be overlooked due to his chemistry with Santhanam. The fabulous entertainer is in fine form, though 'All in All Azhagu Raja' is no where near his best. His myriad of expressions and body language must be appreciated and for pulling it off effervescently, as well. The 80's episode does look over-the-top, but its a good try from Karthi and Santhanam, who have put in personal efforts to mimic Prabhu and Suruli Rajan, respectively. Kajal Aggarwal has put in simple efforts and she's at complete ease in her role. There's conviction in her performance, though there are plenty of room for improvements. Additional plus point is her gorgeous attires and looks in songs. Prabhu does a simple role and looks like the perfect gentleman whereas Naren tries and out-and-out comedy for the first time. The biggest drawback is the wastage of talents such as Saranya Ponvannan, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Nassar, M.S Bhaskar, who are fantastic performers, but was made to do ill-written roles. Radhika Apte was cute in the flashback sequence. Sri Ranjani, Santhana Bharathi, V.S Raghavan, Senthil, Vetrivel Raja and etc make up the rest of the cast.

The technical crew of the film have delivered very decent output, in terms of production value. Priyanka Kochar and Rustam Chauhan's costume designing was very rich and vibrant in colors. Kajal Aggarwal was looking beautiful in half-sarees especially and the pair should be lauded for their work on Santhanam's look and dress code. Not to forget, the 80's episode was well worked as well. Om Prakash's action choreography was unnecessary for this script, though it was well executed. Vivek Harshan could have done a lot, lot better in terms of editing. The film is conspicuously slow paced and drags too much in the second half. Other than that, the 80's episode was well edited and presented, though the 35mm format could have been maintained for it. Jacki's production design was just adequate and perfect. The props used for songs were colorful and lively and the ambiance of small town ambiance has been well maintained throughout the film. Sakthi Saravanan's cinematography was very colorful and bright and its just a pity that the 80's sequence was reverted to stereoscopic format, instead of the originally intended 35mm format. Balasubramaniem also chips in with his contribution and on overall basis, the film's cinematography works were simple, neat and colorful.

S.S Thaman has scored decent numbers for this flick, which has the potential to be chart-busters. "All in All" is the opening introductory song and had few montages of comedy portions involving Karthi, Santhanam and Kota Srinivasa Rao, with apt production design by Jacki, who erected sets resembling jewelry commercial advertisements. "Ore Oru" is a situational bit-song and serves as Kajal's introductory song, and was shot in a wedding hall premise. "Yaarukkum Sollaame" is the pick of the lot and had colorful props by Jacki, resembling Pongal celebrations. Sakthi Saravanan has captured good shots of rural temples and small town ambiance very well. Kajal looked a million-bucks in the traditional half-sarees, she was wearing for this song. "Silu Silu" is another situational extra bit-song, and was shot on Karthi dancing in the streets, shot in the dark, middle of the night atmosphere. "Unnai Paartha Neram" is the visually best made song. Inspired by the "Oh Maane Maane" song from 'Vellai Roja', Karthi and Radhika Apte were made to resemble like Prabhu and Ambika, and the choreography and camera works were all in-tune with the 80's style and format. Good stuff ! "Yamma Yamma" was shot on Karthi and Kajal and had vibrantly colored, simple house-like set works and some sharp editing by Vivek Harshan. The background score too was neatly done, but whether the songs were well utilized or not is a different question all together.

When it comes to M.Rajesh's films, its all about contemporary funny dialogues and a comedy entertainer, pertaining to the tastes of youth audiences. One cannot expect a fully bounded, well-researched script from M.Rajesh, if you are familiar with his previous films. The light-hearted manner of his script was his trump card, though all of his films had very thin plot-line. The same applies to 'All in All Azhaguraja' as well, but this time the output is disappointingly, a big letdown. Santhanam has always been omnipresent throughout the length of his M.Rajesh's previous films', apart from a few scenes. But here, Santhanam only appears sporadically and most of the jokes fell flat. Literally ! There's no excitement or any rip-roaring comedy sequences in this flick, as how it was in 'Siva Manasula Sakthi, 'Boss Engira Baskaran' or 'Oru Kal Oru Kannadi'. Although all of them were simple comedy films, they all had some semblance of true emotional content. But its conspicuously absent in 'All in All Azhagu Raja' and whatever we encounter just seems to be too farcical to be taken serious. The ending is the epitome of ludicrousness. Also, there are more silly and unpretentious gags throughout the film, which are pretty much not welcomed. The story appears to be heading no where, and it tests our patience, especially with the draggy second half. Although the 80's episode were well etched out, they hold not much importance to the script. As mentioned earlier, talented artistes have been wasted just like that, which is an unacceptable factor. 

'All in All Azhagu Raja' - The first blip for M.Rajesh and a hat-trick of flops for Karthi. For sure !

Ratings: 2.25/5 STARS



'Sutta Kadhai' made noise for its unique teasers and posters. Coming from the stable of total newcomers, it piques the interest of audiences with new ideas and creative presentation. With some good artistes in the casting, did this pulp-fiction inspired film live up to its expectations ?

Television host and celebrity Balaji Venugopal and Venkatesh Harinathan play the two bumbling, dubious constables to a certain respectable degree. Balaji as the dumb kleptomaniac, uses more of his facial expressions and dialogue delivery to delivering his acting chops whereas Venkatesh, who has partial hearing disability, utilizes his good body language to bring out the character's personality. Nassar, was the true scene-stealer with his impeccable expressions and comic timing. The veteran simply oozes class, especially with his snooze mode antics. Lakshmi Priya Chandramouli fits her character and pulls off some stunt movements with confidence. Jayaprakash leaves a good mark with his unique dialogue delivery. R.S Shivaji, Lakshmi Ramakrishnan, M.S Bhaskar, Jayamani, T.P Gajendran, Shanmuga Sundaram, Rinson and etc fits the crazy characters they enacted.

T.Ramesh's stunt choreography is a little over-the-top, but it was essential for this sort of script and Lakshmi Priya, handled most of them quite well and with ease. Sivakumar's costume designing was okay, considering the shoe-string budget he worked one, with some good, minute detailing. Sivaraj's production design should be appreciated, especially the police station set and the various props used for different plot settings, such as forest, comic book world and etc. Surya's editing was though slick, in regards to the length of the film, drags big time in the second half. Nizar's camera work is commendable, especially the way he has utilized the natural landscape of Kodaikanal and adapted it very well for the design and mood of the script. The night effect shots, were professionally handled, especially in regards to lighting. Kudos, Nizar !

Music of the film was handled by the Madley Blues band, consisting of Harish Venkat and Prashanth Techno. Songs were decent, but nothing really brilliant about it. The opening song, "Kattukulle" was terrifically designed, using the comic book template design, where the director intricately weaved the whole film's plot. Superb idea and execution ! "Yelay Yelay" had plenty of montages and focused on the lead pair of bumbling cops, rooting for the tribal female lead. "Dingu Dongu" was shot on a cheap liquor bar setting, with plenty of earthy tone and feel to it, which was complemented by apt set properties. "Twist on Top" is a situational track number, with good camera movements and angles, focusing on Jayaprakash's episodes. "Anbe Aaruyire" was the climax, situational song and featured a few characters going against each other, in a dark forest. Nizar did a very good job with the lighting, and the slow motion effect added to the pulp-fiction effect, the director was striving to present. The background score was adequate and fun.

Written and directed by newcomer, Subu, 'Sutta Kadhai' is basically a dark-comedy film, inspired by the 'Sambasivam Crime Comics' template. The problem with this idea, is that many will not be able to relate to such Tamizh pulp-fiction comics, and that was a craze for youngsters of a generation ago ! The fun quotient of comic book story-line and presentation did not translate smoothly from the print edition to it's celluloid version. The characters, though unique and quirky, do not stand out properly and is marred by poor writing and characterizations  especially in the second half. What's unpalatable is the fact that the film is crisp in duration, yet drags big time in the second half ! The funny moments and twists in the second half, falls flat entirely. A dark comedy should be not be just dark in visual presentation, but also in its writing. Subu can be commended for his various absurd sequences, but the connective thread is missing and the story becomes dull.

'Sutta Kadhai' - Novel attempt, but not so good execution.

Ratings: 2.25/5 STARS



After the colossal flop of 'Billa 2', Ajith Kumar aka "Thala" is back once again, and this time in a true multi-starrer, with Vishnuvardhan at the helm. The stylish 'Billa' remake still linger in the minds of movie buffs, and its a tricky tight-rope for this combo, as they have to ensure the hype is met and at the same time re-launch the career of hit-maker A.M Rathnam as a producer in Tamizh cinema once again. Backed by good technicians and a solid cast, what does 'Arrambam' has for us ?

For "Thala" Ajith Kumar, this is a piece-of-cake sort of role, and he waltzes through it with style and elan. His impeccable timing in dialogue delivery, broods excitement and adds more classy touches to his performance. His look is an added element, which further elevates his stylish avatar as AK. The man, pulled off all the stunt sequences by himself, in a very professional manner and deserves a big round of applause for taking the risk. There are plenty of shots, which highlights the stylish element of Ajith's and it is a treat for his die-hard fans. Though the grey-shaded role is repetitive, no one actually bothers about it, as Ajith is enjoyable in such roles. Arya is lively with his comic timing and his antics and a little surprise is there in store, in regards to his appearance. Though his role pales in terms of screen appearance, he still makes his mark. Nayanthara is the stylish diva here and she pulls of some action sequences effervescently, and also manages to oomph the glamour quotient, nonchalantly. Taapsee Pannu was cute as the naive amateur journalist, though her character has not much relevance to the script. Kishore rocks as the tough cop, while Mahesh Manjrekar is a good addition to Tamizh cinema. Atul Kulkarni, Suman Ranganathan, Akshara Gowda, Naren, Murali Sharma, Krishna and etc had stylish rendering in their characterizations. Not to forget, Rana Daggubati made his official entry to Tamizh cinema with a solid cameo appearances.

Action choreography is a real highlight of the film, and there were plenty of them, induced into the screenplay. 'Billa' Jagan, Lee Whittaker and Kecha Khampakdee of the 'Jaika Stunt' team, rocked in the action choreography. The bomb-threat encounter scenes were very professionally choreographed and executed by the team. And the shoot-out sequence shot in a warehouse, was very well planned as well. Anu Vardhan and Pinida P.Shamdasani's costume designing was fantastic and all characters looked brilliant in the stylish costumes, especially Ajith Kumar, Nayanthara and Taapsee. Production design by Lalgudi N.Ilayaraja blends well with the script's needs and was very realistic. The interiors of apartments and buildings were very well detailed and each props complements the mood and plot setting of the script. Multiple National Award-winning editor, the veteran Sreekar Prasad's editing is taut and he manages to tighten the grip on the screenplay, by ensuring there's no over-stretched sequences. The story moves fast and kudos to the veteran for a neat work. Cinematography is big highlight of the film, done by Om Prakash with some few sequences canned by P.S Vinod. The camerawork is stylish and the aqua-green color tone, complements the mood of the script. There were plenty of hand-held shots and appropriate usages of steady-cams. The Dubai sequences were very stylishly done, but the real highlight is the bomb-threat action sequence, which was brilliantly shot and edited. 

Yuvan Shankar Raja always had a great combination with Vishnuvardhan and they have churned out chart-busters  But 'Arrambam' is a disappointment, because the tunes were repetitive and not enthusiastic enough, to further spur the energy of the script and cast. The opening song "Adada Aarambame" was shot on Ajith, accompanied by dancers, and the heavy Maharashtrian percussion instruments. The fort in Maheshwar was the backdrop, and the bright daylight adds more gloss to the song. "En Fuse Poche" was shot on Arya and Taapsee and had some cute montages, with colorful ambiance  The simple special effects complemented the mood of the song. "Melaala Vedikkuthu" was shot on Ajith, Nayanthara and Rana with splashes and splashes of Rangoli Colors, which was a visual treat in terms of color palette. "Stylish Tamizhachi" was Akshara's introduction song and featured her in a glam-doll role and was shot in a clubbing arena. Yuvan's background score is a letdown and it does not capture our attention. Not the best of works from Yuvan and Vishnu combo.

Vishnuvardhan, known for his stylish, visualistic story-telling, engrosses us most of the time in the screenplay, which was co-written by the 'Subha' duo, D.Suresh and A.N Balakrishnan. The sequences were well etched and executed and some of them very well exploited the stylish mannerisms of Ajith Kumar. Nonetheless, there were a few drag moments, especially in the second half, which could have been avoided. This is due to the very cliched flashback sequences and some sentimental and emotional ones, as well. The letdown in their script, is the predictable nature of the story-line, which kills of the excitement factor. And for ardent movie buffs, they would have spotted that the entire script is a clever adaptation of the 2001 Hollywood action-thriller 'Swordfish' starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle. Vishnu and 'Subha' duo have taken the basic plot of 'Swordfish' and adapted it with some real-life Indian scandals. There are plenty of loopholes and logical gaps in the script and screenplay, which are to be ignored if one wants to enjoy this film thoroughly. The 'Subha' duo have written some killer, punch-dialogues in the film, which will definitely be well received by the fans. Vishnuvardhan has a neat directorial touch and has good grip of his script and end-product, but still 'Arrambam' is not as gripping as his 'Pattiyal'.

"Lets make it simple" - 'Arrambam' is a Vishnuvardhan, 'masala' entertainer. Enjoyable and neat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ratings: 3/5 STARS