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56. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (#16)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

To avoid prison on a statutory rap charge, charming misfit Randle McMurphy secures a transfer to a low-security psychiatric ward for evaluation. What initially seems like a cunning plan to serve out the rest of his sentence in more soothing surroundings quickly evolves into a battle of wits for the hearts and souls of the hospital’s residents.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 16th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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The Six Faces of 007: Daniel Craig

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

The Daniel Craig iteration of James Bond is the first time that a change of actor has been explicitly confirmed as a new character, rather than a continuation of the same character. (Unless you count Lazenby’s ad-libbed “this never happened to the other fella” bit.) Going back to the first of Fleming’s novels for his first film, Casino Royale, there was a conscious effort to bring the character back to basics, but also an effort to humanise him considerably. The result has been somewhat contentious, but I think Craig has managed to put his own stamp on the role and to define it in his own terms that are respectful to his five predecessors, but also define the character as his own.

All-time high?

Note: As a look at Daniel Craig’s take on the iconic character, this article contains spoilers for Skyfall. Consider yourself warned.

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The Six Faces of 007: Sean Connery

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Ian Fleming created James Bond. However, he crafted the character as a “blunt instrument”, a relatively bland character that might serve as a vehicle for all manner of adventures. It’s fair to argue that a lot of what modern audiences take for granted in the character of James Bond came from Sean Connery, the tall Scotsman who played the character for the first five films in the series, before returning once officially (and once more unofficially). Connery’s portrayal of the secret agent was so definitive that even Fleming himself retroactively gave Bond Scottish roots in tribute to the actor.

The name’s Connery, Sean Connery…

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An Interview with Robert Davi

We’ve been doing a bit of celebrating this month, to mark Bond’s fiftieth anniversary on film (and the release of Skyfall). Actor Robert Davi, who played the villain Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill, was kind enough to get in contact with us about a piece we published covering the character, and politely volunteered to ask a few questions about the film. Davi has been a remarkably recognisable screen presence since the eighties, with roles in iconic movies like Licence to Kill, The Goonies, Die Hard and the hit television show Profiler.

He now manages his own film (Sun Lion Films) and music production (Sun Lion Records) companies. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with The Dukes, and launched a professional singing career in 2011. You can check out his Sinatra-inspired work at Davi Sings Sinatra, with some great testimonials. (Quincy Jones knows music, and his endorsement is worth more than mine – although consider mine offered as well. Check out a sampler here.)

The opportunity to ask Davi some questions was too good to pass up. It was a delight to be able to put some of my questions to him, and Davi was very generous with his time in answering quite a few of the more tangential and nerdy ones – a great insight into the construction of, I’d argue, one of the more fascinating Bond villains.

A View to a Bond Baddie: Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

For Your Eyes Only is often overlooked when discussing Roger Moore’s time as the iconic secret agent. Positioned between the camp excesses of Moonraker and the rather disappointing blandness of Octopussy, Moore’s fifth film in the role is arguably the actor’s best. It distinguishes itself from its peers in several ways. Most obviously, it’s a relatively low-key espionage thriller, rather than a spectacular action film. The narrative is driven by mystery and intrigue at least as much as it is by action and adventure. The stakes are relatively grounded when compared to those in Moore’s other films. There’s no planned genocide here, not even the immediate threat of nuclear war. It almost feels like a spiritual companion to the Timothy Dalton films, or the early Sean Connery adventures. And yet, despite the fact its tone feels a little out of character, For Your Eyes Only really feels like it plays to Roger Moore’s strengths. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the villain, Aristotle “Aris” Kristatos, who serves as the best foil for Roger Moore’s Bond in any of Moore’s seven films.

One to cross(bow) off the list…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Elektra King

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Elektra King remains unique among Bond’s selection of big-screen baddies if only because she’ really the only major female villain. Of course, Bond villains have employed henchwomen before. Rosa Klebb was a major menace in From Russia With Love, even if she was answering to a mostly absent Blofeld. Largo employed the sinister Fiona in Thunderball, immune to the charms Bond used to seduce Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. A View to a Kill even gave us a female villain who wasn’t defined by her sexuality, with Mayday defined by her physical strength more than anything else. Still, it seemed like a villainess would never quite break the Bond movie glass ceiling, which makes Elektra such a fascinating character.

Of course, she’s trapped in a pretty terrible film.

It’s good to be the King…

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Non-Review Review: Skyfall

There’s a moment about a third of the way through Skyfall that manages to perfectly encapsulate its opinion of the iconic British spy at the heart of the film. Casually dismissing the villain’s lofty accomplishments, Bond mutters, “Everybody needs a hobby.” The villain takes the jab quite well. “Oh. What’s yours?” Bond retorts, “Resurrection.” Released to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the film franchise, Skyfall is a veritable ode to Bond’s endurance – in both a literal and metaphorical sense. After all, not many fifty year olds look as stylish as this.

Sam Mendes, and his talented cast and crew, have managed to get Bond the perfect birthday present.

Working in the shadows…

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Non-Review Review: Never Say Never Again

Never Say Never Again has quite a lot weighing against it. Most obviously, there’s the fact that we already say this story at the height of the film franchise’s popularity, but there’s also a whole host of other issues that arise due to the attempts to distinguish this iteration of the character and story from the EON productions. There are times when the film can’t seem to decide if it is or isn’t Thunderball, just as there are times when it can’t decide if it wants to acknowledge the “other” Bond films, or ignore them completely. Despite that, there’s some good stuff on display here. The film famously opened against Octopussy, losing the box office battle. While neither is “vintage” Bond, I think that Never Say Never Again is the stronger of the two films. At least it serves as a better swan song for Sean Connery than Diamonds Are Forever.

The Bond who came in from the cold…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Franz Sanchez

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

As far as James Bond’s on-screen adversaries go, Franz Sanchez stands out for a number of reasons. Like Julian Glover as Aristotle Kristatos, Robert Davi seems like he might have wandered on to the set from a nearby sound stage. While the murky and subtle double-agent from For Your Eyes Only could have arrived from a John le Carré story, Franz Sanchez looks to have wandered out of Miami Vice. Licence to Kill represented an attempt by the producers to make Bond topical again, with mixed results. It’s still one of the most divisive films in the series.

Part of that attempt to modernise Bond was the decision to cast the character as a morally ambiguous anti-hero out for revenge, in contrast to the clean-cut morality of earlier adventures. However, Sanchez himself was also by-product of the attempt to modernise Bond. Bond was no longer hunting a spy, an assassin or a madman with plans of world domination. Instead, Bond found himself confronting a thug running an international drug cartel.

It’s all keeled over on him…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Francisco Scaramanga

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

You see, Mr Bond, like every great artist, I want to create an indisputable masterpiece once in my lifetime. The death of 007 mano a mano, face to face, will be mine.

You mean stuffed and displayed  over your rocky mantelpiece?

That’s an amusing idea,  but I was thinking in terms of history.  A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK. Each of us with a 50-50 chance.

Six bullets to your one?

I only need one.

Scaramanga and Bond

Was there ever a better Bond villain wasted in a more terrible film? Okay, maybe Christopher Walken as Max Zorin comes close, but Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga feels like the only potentially redemptive aspect of the tonally mismatched The Man With The Golden Gun, a movie about a duel to a death that involves a karate school, secret lairs, giant frickin’ lasers and a slide whistle. Scaramanga is easily the most compelling thing about the whole film, and that might explain the contempt that many people hold for it. After all, the eponymous assassin is missing for most of the middle section of the film.

The eyes of a killer…

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