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By midlandsmovies, May 15 2020 09:41AM



A Batman premiere forever in Leicester hearts


Leicester Square! The home of the red-carpet movie premiere in the country. Well, the famous London location didn’t get its hands on one particular UK premiere back in the 90s - but the city of Leicester in the Midlands sure as hell did. Holy cinema, Batman!


For it was on 12th July 1995, the European premiere of Batman Forever unbelievably took place on an industrial estate just outside this East Midlands city. What?? You heard right. A 9-screen Warner Cinema complex opened at Meridian Leisure Park on the outskirts of Leicester and to celebrate its launch, Warner Brothers decided to launch its summer blockbuster right here.


A sequel to the 1992 film Batman Returns and the third instalment of the 90s Batman film series, superstar Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the caped crusader. He appeared alongside a host of Hollywood hot properties including Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Chris O'Donnell.


But given its slightly less than elegant whereabouts, this event probably just had z-list celebrities though, right? Well, there were a few it must be said. But amongst 90s Neighbours soap opera actor Craig McLaughlin and British entertainer Bradley Walsh, the film’s stars Val Kilmer and Chris O’Donnell did in fact attend the bash!


As well as that, director Joel Schumacher was also present with many of these A-listers dropped off by helicopter right next to the glamorous M1 motorway. And to welcome them all to Leicester, a frankly astonishing 2,500 people were invited to be a part of this special occasion.



The recently constructed cinema was unique as well, resembling as it did a giant film set. High ceilings had hanging lamps and gantries added, and placed alongside were life-size models of the Looney Tunes characters. It sounds as gaudy as the sets from Batman Forever itself.


Gabrielle Miller, owner of Cool As Leicester, was there on the day and fondly remembers the event. “I loved that day. My mum took us down early to be near the front because I wanted to see Ryan Giggs and my sister wanted to see Craig McLaughlin. It was completely mental that there was an actual film premiere down the road! I remember Craig McLaughlin turned up in some leather outfit and being very excited”.




Other celebrities out on the carpet included the band Oasis, Julie Walters, Patsy Kensit and half of the Manchester United football team.


Truly one of the strangest cinematic events to befall the Midlands, another attendee was young Leicester resident Mathew Pearce who was involved in even more bizarre antics. “I got a signed football that was kicked out into the crowd with the autographs of the cast on it”, says Mat.




“I remember getting into huge trouble because I was 10 and didn't tell anyone I was going. You can imagine to a small kid that getting one of those balls was the most exciting thing possible. Bradley Walsh must have presented it and came over to us with Lesley Joseph. I remember being scared because her character Dorian was a bit mean in Birds of a Feather”.


Mat finishes off, “Bradley Walsh asked if I wanted him to sign the ball as well. I said ‘I don't know who you are but sure’. He just laughed and signed it. I was dark when I got home and I was grounded for an eternity but well worth the punishment”


“It really was a great day and obviously growing up in Braunstone it was massive having all of these film stars come to town. There were helicopters flying over the house all night and Warner Brothers had Batman-style lasers lighting up the sky that you could see for miles”.




Local drama principal Karen Stevens has fond recollections too. “I won tickets to the screening an hour before in Town Hall Square. I raced down in whatever I was wearing to walk the red carpet!”


Despite mixed reviews (and the ugly addition of nipples on the Batsuit), the film was in fact a financial hit grossing over $336 million at the box office worldwide. And its successful soundtrack featured monster hit singles "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2 and "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal.




And one final shock from the time was the remarkable fact Batman Forever was nominated for three Oscars! Less surprisingly however was that it won zero.


So come on, Hollywood. What are you afraid of? The welcoming and friendly folk of Leicester ask you to set your spotlights once again on our fair city. Let’s see another huge premiere head our way as it’s about time you tried to top the last one.


Michael Sales










By midlandsmovies, Aug 11 2015 07:01AM

Forgotten 80’s Gems




The Eighties were a great time to be into movies. It gave us plenty of all-time greats like E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future, Die Hard, Blue Velvet, Blade Runner, Platoon, The Thing, The Terminator, Aliens and A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are also those that came to define the decade like The Breakfast Club, Flashdance and Wall Street. But there’s plenty of titles that went the same way as The Rubix Clock and were forgotten about almost immediately.


So, in no particular order –


Animalympics

Before helping to bring about the birth of CGI in films with Tron, Steven Lisberger directed this animated tale of the world’s animals coming together to compete for gold & glory. Yes the message of how everyone’s the same deep down is as subtle as some the stereotyped characters but there’s some subversive digs at saturated sports programming and features voices from the likes & Billy Crystal and The Simpsons legend Harry Shearer.


Trivia – The film was never given a theatrical release, it originally premiered on HBO


Who Dares Wins

Lewis Collins, the best actor never to have played James Bond TM, transferred his badass persona from The Professionals to the big screen in this love letter to the SAS. Hastily shot & released to ride the wave of goodwill the regiment had after dealing with the Iranian Embassy hostage crisis, it’s a well-paced thriller, if a little po-faced. It’s just a shame it didn’t ignite Collins’ star like it was hoped and he didn’t get the roles his everyman likeability & natural charisma deserved. His 007 could’ve been up there with Connery & Craig’s if given the chance.


Trivia – Most of the climactic siege scenes were shot with real SAS soldiers and not stunt men


UHF

King of the parody song Weird Al Yankovich co-writes & stars in this madcap comedy. His unemployed loser inherits his Uncle’s local TV station and looks to increase its ratings in order to ward off a hostile takeover from another channel. The plot in just an excuse to stitch in a number of Weird Al’s trademark parodies, from Conan the Librarian & Ghandi II (tagline – No more Mr Passive Resistance), to adverts for Spatula City. However a warning for your ears, this film does contain dialogue spoken by Fran Drescher!


Trivia - The Wheel of Fish game show sequence was filmed with real fish on the prop wheel, by the end the day’s filming many of the crew were sick from the smell


Hoosiers (Best Shot)

Based on a true story this basketball drama is a slam dunk. Despite ticking every sporting cliché in the book (the new coach’s methods aren’t accepted, sport as the lifeblood of small town America, talented but troubled star player brought out of his shell, last second winners…) it by gets on the quality of the script and the actors. In particular Gene Hackman, and the Oscar nominated turn by the late Dennis Hopper as a player’s alcoholic father. There’s also an excellent fist-pumping score by Jerry Goldsmith.


Trivia – Ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s list of The 10 Greatest Sports Films.


Top Secret

This World War Two spoof from writer/directors Jerry Zucker, David Zucker & Jim Abrahams is criminally overlooked despite having jokes hit at the same rate as their more widely regarded Airplane! Val Kilmer plays Elvis rip off Nick Rivers (his latest hit Skeet Surfin’ opens the film) who gets caught up with resistance fighters in East Germany, cue some of the best word play and visual gags ever.


Trivia – Val Kilmer sang all of his character’s songs himself


The Sure Thing

The high water mark of John Cusack’s teen slacker flicks sees him ride across country with Daphne Zuniga for the chance to shag a morally lax Nicollette Sheridan (yes, her off of Desperate Housewives). Sandwiched in between Spinal Tap & Stand by Me this is regarded as one of Rob Reiner’s lesser works which is great shame. It may not have the abundance of quotable lines like the former but it certainly has the heart of the latter and plenty of laughs as well.


Trivia – Daphne Zuniga’s character states that when she was six she wanted to grow up to be a princess. Two years later Zuniga played Princess Vespa in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs.


The Changeling

George C Scott plays a composer who is left broken when he witnesses his wife & son killed in an accident. To piece his life back together he rents a massive, spooky looking house so he can compose & reflect, but soon enough he begins to witness strange occurrences and, as hundreds of horror stories tell us, he must dig into the house’s past to solve its mysteries. Although it’s like many, many haunted house pics before & after it, director Peter Medak wrings every ounce of dread out of the story without ever relying on cheap jump scares or piercing violins. Directors of modern, CGI saturated crap-fests like Mama & The Lazarus Effect should take note, this is how you make a ghost story.


Trivia – Included on Martin Scorsese’s list of Scariest Horror Films of all Time


American Flyers

Kevin Costner, in one of his first starring roles, struggles to bond with his estranged brother (David Marshall Grant) whilst competing in America’s most dangerous cycling event, The Hell of the West. Director John Badham slips into high gear (sorry couldn’t resist) for the race sequences, showing just how dangerous a sport it is without going OTT. He also doesn’t allow the brother’s story to slip too far into sentimentality. Bonus points should also go to Costner for anchoring the film despite displaying a horrendous (even by 80’s standards) porno ‘tasch.


Trivia – One shot sees a rider slide off the road and over the edge of a cliff. This was not planned and the rider only escaped a fatal 1000 feet fall when his bike was snagged by a small tree.


BMX Bandits

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman made her big screen debut in this low budget Oz effort. Made at the height of the BMX craze, her character Judy is teamed with likeable best mates PJ & Goose as they get caught up with bank robbers after coming across a stash of walkie-talkies. Despite being aimed at kids, there is a little edge within the story thanks to a menacing Mr Big gang leader, Ms Kidman intimating teenage threesomes (prizes for spotting it), and a night time chase through a graveyard that left my cousin embarrassed as shit due to my 5 year old self running out the cinema in blind panic.


Trivia – Nicole Kidman was doubled during BMX sequences by an 18 year old boy in a ginger wig.


The Secret of My Success

Michael J Fox sets out to prove that Yuppies can be nice guys too in this winning comedy. His Kansas farm boys moves to New York to make it big in business but winds up having to scam his way up the corporate ladder after his post grad job is liquidated. Fox is perfect in his role, anybody else would have made their turn as the all American guy, getting by on wits and shit-eating grin very annoying, but he gets you on his side with his easy going charm. It almost makes you want to carry a Filofax and wear trouser braces.


Trivia – Features a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance of a young Cindy Crawford


Guest writer Jake Stevenson


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