The Young Montalbano: The Honest Thief (2/5)

The honest thief will definitely go down as one of my favourites from this season.  For one thing, it did not focus heavily on the mafia.  Instead the main plot was on the disappearance of a local barmaid.

Very quickly we learn that she had had many lovers most of which are semi-respectable and would have nothing to do with her disappearing act.  As the story progressed, we find that she received a threatening phone call regarding a blackmail effort centring on an incriminating note.  Even though claiming she cannot find the note, the man does not believe her.

Fearing for her life, she empties her bank account and safety deposit box before catching a train back to her home town, Milan.  A couple of days later, a body is found.

The first sub-plot focusses on the title criminal; the honest thief.  Reports come in of small amounts of money being stolen.  Even more interesting is the fact that more money has been left behind.  Later, we learn that and old man has recently finished a prison sentence and suspicion moves to him.  The modus operandi of the new thief fits the old, perfectly.

The second sub-plot concerns a kidnapping of a rich local businessman’s son.  All efforts to find him are proving useless until our friend, the honest thief, overhears a phone conversation during a break-in.  I won’t go into any more detail but what I can say is this, I liked the solution.

Finally, we have the ongoing story of Livia and Salvo’ relationship.  Montalbano has put in a transfer request to Genoa in order to be closer to her.  When the rest of the team find out, I almost felt sorry for them.  Their boss, who they respect and admire, is abandoning them.  To make matters worse, he had been keeping it a secret.  I can’t blame them for tempers flaring but I would be interested to see how this pans out.

Will season three see Montalbano in Genoa?  There is still one more episode this series so who knows what will happen.  I know what I would like to see, but I’ll keep my mouth shut for now.

The Young Montalbano: Death on the High Seas (2/3)

Like earlier episodes, last night’s consisted of a main plot and two sub-plots.  The main plot revolved around the death of a fishing boat mechanic while out at sea.  By all accounts, he was shot by accident.  On investigation, it is revealed that the fleet the boat belongs to, has been drug trafficking for the Mafia.

The first sub-plot concerns Fazio and a woman he has known for many years.  The woman in question had been dating a man who, it transpires, is a hitman for the Sinagara family (Mafia).  When he goes on the run the police, through Fazio, offer her and her father, protection.  The hitman, offended by this move, sets a firework factory belonging to one of her father’s friends alight.

The second sub-plot is about Montalbano’s wedding.  While attending a fancy dress party with Livia, Motalbano spots the hitman.  Leaving her when the hitman walks out, Montalbano tracks him down and a gun battle ensues.  Having watched Montalbano leave, Livia follows.  Livia now realises what sort of person Montalbano is like and the wedding is put on hold.

While the second sub-plot is probably the most familiar cliché when it comes to detective dramas, it is revealed in a different way.  The earlier series (Inspector Montalbano) showed that they are still friends.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other detective who remains in contact with a former fiancé.

The main plot is a nice touch as it is usually the case that the death is suspicious.  Using it to reveal the drug trafficking is an extra twist to what could have been a bland tale.

This story was a lot easier to follow than ‘The Man Who Followed Funerals’, which is great as I do like watching this series.  Saying that, I get the feeling that the producers have gone for more drama this series.

The Young Montalbano, The Man Who Followed Funerals (2/1)

For those of you who are unaware of this series, it is an Italian crime drama set in Sicily. As someone who followed the original Inspector Montalbano series, it was natural for me to gravitate to the prequel, The Young Montalbano.  While it features the same characters, they are played by a different cast in order to play younger versions of said characters.

Now in its second series we are treated to a story of the murder of a man who followed funerals.  Like all earlier episodes, it takes its sweet time to unravel and wrap it’s delicious tendrils around our minds.  This episode features two cases, the aforementioned murder and a kidnapping. As usual, it is up to Montalbano and his team to solve both puzzles.  Since watching the earlier series, I have come to see the main characters grow and bond together.

‘Mimi’ Augello (deputy) is the near stereotypical philandering male who gets himself into all sorts of scrapes.  Then there is fastidious Fazio (virtually Montalbano’s right-hand man despite ‘Mimi’s’ presence) who seems to do all the legwork which proves useful in helping to solve the case.  Finally there is Catarella, the bumbling fool who mans the telephone.  If there is a message to be passed, he will inevitably get it wrong. So why don’t they get rid of him? Because he is a whiz on the computer.  It helps that he is more of a clumsy buffoon rather than a complete moron.

And so we see the band trying to solve the riddle of who killed the man who followed funerals.  At first it seems that he is loved by all.  An innocent man who felt discarded by society.  As it transpires, one of his neighbours, who is terminally ill, does not want him to attend his funeral.  He confronts the victim but he does not listen and so, murders him.

When confronted, the man confesses but instead of facing a mortal court prefers to chose a higher judgement, shooting himself with the same weapon.  The kidnapping has a grizzly end too but at least this time they are arrested.

All in all, I enjoyed this episode, barring one niggle.  It seemed to me that whoever was nearest the camera stood out a little too much, especially in the outdoor scenes.  I got the impression that the lighting was a little too bright.  Otherwise, it was very good.  I can’t wait to see the next episode, not least to find out how Montalbano and Livia Burlando get on.

Theirs is the everlasting friendship that really should have been a marriage by now but I guess Montalbano likes to be a bit of a playboy.

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Okay let’s get this out of the way right now shall we?  I love Jeremy Brett’s version of the famous detective and have steered clear of Benedict’s rendition for a few reasons which I shall name later.

When I saw the trailer for this one-off special, I was delighted to see it was to be set in the Victorian era (despite the Suffragette movement being founded in 1903), oh joy.

Imagine my surprise therefore when I found it wasn’t.  But was it?  No, it wasn’t.  But maybe…Okay guys, I think you over did the flash-back/mind palace plot device here, I got it quite quickly as I’m sure most of us did.  It’s a shame as I was getting into the story and the idea of linking it with the Suffragettes was an interesting one.  The concept of using Mary to basically drag our intrepid duo onto the right track felt poorly thought out though.

It left me thinking that Sherlock was a blusterer prone to jumping at the wrong conclusion just to show how good he is.  And now I come to the reason why I don’t watch most versions of Sherlock Holmes.  Those who adapt Conan Doyle’s stories centre on Holme’s abruptness.

When you read the stories however, you come to understand that he is a more rounded character than his acidic side seems to suggest.  He is quite capable of compassion, calming overwrought witnesses and winning over people to get the next piece of data.

To me, Holmes is prone to moments of theatre, incredibly vain (which certainly goes against his purely logical, non-emotional brain we are led to believe), sometimes vulnerable, observant like no other man before or since, harsh of himself and others and briefly joyous.

Jeremy Brett’s version shows Holmes’ patient side, his brotherly love with Watson as well as his confidence that goes beyond arrogance.  This is more to do with the writers than the actors.

Getting back to the show, Benedict’s performance is exceedingly good and I can see why people watch him.  He is ably assisted by Martin Freeman but I’m not going to watch a show entirely based on the actor’s performances.  The writing on the other hand, while full of brilliant touches, left me feeling confused.

Overall then, I liked the Victorian setting and the suffragette movement plot twist.  The ‘mind palace’ and the addition of Moriarty were unnecessary.  Looking back at this review, it feels like it is vitriolic in nature.  It’s not like I hated the special, I just think they could have done a better job.

Additional:  Avid followers of the series, please can you answer this question for me; is Holmes solely based on his sharp manner or is there more to him than what appeared last night?

What Have I Been Working On Over Christmas?

Starting with the monthly theme for the writers’ group, ‘Renewal’, I came up with a piece called ‘A New Look For Clover Street’.  First off I’ll let you into a secret, this was not my first attempt.  ‘Driving licence’ was already written pending editing before it got pulled to pieces.

Deciding I could not be bothered to fix the problems, I started afresh.  Within minutes I had a new idea and I was soon writing.  By the end of the day the new piece, provisionally called ‘Clover Street’, was ready for editing.  Having got to that stage, I took the time to reflect and came to the conclusion that I was much happier with the new story.  I left it for a week then edited the piece before submission.

Other than that, I have another story in what appears to be long term editing (in other words, there are issues but I can’t be bothered to sort them out yet!).  Sooner or later I’ll get around to it and release ‘The Pink Salamander’ onto my dear, unsuspecting readership.

Those who have followed my blog for a while will have noticed a significant increase in output over the last week.  A few days before Christmas (which feels such a long time ago now), I set myself the challenge of blogging every day for the Christmas period.  The first day I sat down to blog, I found I had plenty of ideas but nothing to write about.

It sounds odd, I know, but you have to experience it to understand it.  To make a long story short (this from a guy who can never tell short anecdotes!), I decided on a film review.  Like all things, I found it was a matter of discipline and of giving myself the time to do it.

Now that I’m at the end of the week, I can look back and say I’ve really enjoyed it.  So much so that I want to increase my regular output beyond the *ahem* once a week blog I normally do.  We shall see what the future holds.

Her

When I bought this film, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into.  Sure, I’d seen the trailer, but that barely skimmed the surface.  What we have here, is a skillfully crafted story of a man’s relationship with an artificially intelligent operating system called Samantha.

Before we go any further, I’d like to point out that there are no spoilers.  Now that sticky wicket is out of the way, let’s get down to it.

This film is a powerful and moving story of a man called Theodore who has given up on love.  Considering his job, this can’t have been easy for him.  He is reminded on a daily basis of just how wonderful this emotion is.  But it is like he is existing in a world that is familiar, but no longer belongs to him.

Like all love films, a new interest arrives in his life.  A gentle spark of happiness and kookiness (can an AI even be kooky?) that triggers something in him.  The journey is of course fraught with the ups and downs of reality.  So much so that I wondered if it would turn out okay in the end.

While watching the film, I found his friend’s and colleague’s acceptance of his love for a machine, somewhat unsettling.  That is what this film is about, though.  It is meant to challenge our way of thinking.  Is it morally wrong to fall in love with an AI?  The second point it raises, is to show just how easy it is.

In a strange way, I can see it happening already.  People meet online to talk, to play, to socialise.  We’ve heard stories of men playing as women and vice versa, so its not that big a leap to use a machine.

At the moment our current AI incarcerations come across as petulant pre-teens.  Given time though, it is quite possible a full-blown adult (by that I mean, fully developed and mature) AI will be the norm.  I’m sure some people will be outraged and claim this will be the death knell for humanity, but that doesn’t give this race the credit it deserves.  There is a need for vigilance, however.

Casting Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore was an excellent decision.  He didn’t just make Theodore likeable, he was positively human.  His performance was difficult to watch at times, why, because I could see elements of myself in him.

So, could I love an AI just as he did.  Yes, I probably could.  Does that disturb me? Just a little.

 

Now that I have given my opinion of this film, I’d like to hear what you think.