We're kicking off a new feature with a look back at three popular movies that debuted this week in the past. Maybe you'll remember actually being there on opening night, with the smell of popcorn in the air, and the anticipation of something new in your mind. Or, maybe you remember catching these movies months later, after a long perusal at your local Blockbuster. However you saw them, the fun part here is that it's now all the more easier to take these movies and re-create the box office weekend in your own home.
So, let's step into the ol' wayback machine and transport ourselves back to 1995, when, in this week in movie release history toys came alive, transit cops turned bad, and the mob laid their stake in the middle of the desert.
Toy Story (opening gross: $29.1M | lifetime gross: $191.8M)
What child hasn't wondered what their toys are doing while they are away? The geniuses at Pixar took this thought and transformed it into what would become one of the most revolutionary movies of all time. In 1995, computer animation was still rough and crude, and only really used to enhance films. In fact, it was the Pixar team that designed one of the most stunning uses of CG animation for its time: the ballroom dance sequence in Disney's 1992 hit animated musical "Beauty and the Beast." The team was really looking to make a computer animated feature length movie – the first of its kind, and an undertaking that many wrote off as near impossible. This all changed, of course, when 25 years ago this week, Pixar's big bet with CG-animation paid off big time. Featuring the voice talents of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen – both of whom were enjoying their own mid-90s career-highs – this buddy comedy, with its perfect buddy song (Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me"), enjoyed three weeks at the top of the box office charts. The film impressed critics just as much as parents and kids, and went on to nab four Oscar nods that year, winning only a Special Achievement Award for being the first of its kind, as there wasn't yet an animated film category. Disney, in true form, also cashed in on the obvious merchandising; and come 1999, a franchise was born with the subsequent sequel "Toy Story 2."
Animated / 1995 / G
Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks), a good-hearted cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy (John Morris), sees his position as Andy's favorite toy jeopardized when his parents buy him a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) action figure. Even worse, the arrogant Buzz thinks he's a real spaceman on a mission to return to his home planet. When Andy's family moves to a new house, Woody and Buzz must escape the clutches of maladjusted neighbor Sid Phillips (Erik von Detten) and reunite with their boy.
Money Train (opening gross: $10.6M | lifetime gross: $35.4M )
The next big release this week in 1995 was another buddy movie, but this one was never going to win any Oscars. It did, however, feature the re-teaming of "White Men Can't Jump" duo Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. This time around the two find themselves in the thick of the action, as NYC transit cops looking to keep the city's subways clean. After facing mounting gambling debts, Harrelson's Charlie plots to rob the city's money train, which runs nightly through the tubes, collecting the daily coin intake from the day's subway fares. Added into the mix was budding star Jennifer Lopez, as a newly assigned transit cop, to whom the two take a liking. The success of the movie rode mainly on the charm of its stars, with Lopez being a standout, while the action only continued to prove how bloated 1990s set pieces could get. Does the film still hold up 25 years later? Well, just consider the fact that New York's actual money train was discontinued 11 years after the film's debut, as the city's MetroCard meant less and less collected change.
Action / 1995 / R
Synopsis: Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is a New York City transit cop with a mountain of gambling debts, and John (Wesley Snipes) is his responsible, and frequently exasperated, foster brother. They compete amicably for the affections of fellow officer Grace (Jennifer Lopez), but things become more serious when Charlie decides to rob the "money train" that carries the Transit Authority's daily proceeds. John must decide whether to prevent Charlie's crime or to join in on the heist.
Casino (opening gross: $9.9M | lifetime gross: $42.5M)
Just as 1995 audiences were treated to one classic re-teaming in "Money Train," director Martin Scorsese got his own band back together with "Casino" -- a crime epic many consider to be a spiritual successor to his 1990 mob hit "GoodFellas." Not only was this a re-teaming of actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci from "GoodFellas" and "Raging Bull," and the eighth collaboration between De Niro and Scorsese, but it was also based on a book by "GoodFellas" author Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the script. Here, Scorsese takes us to the glitzy, mob-controlled Las Vegas of the '60s and '70s, with De Niro portraying fictional casino head Sam "Ace" Rothstein, and Pesci playing his fictional enforcer Nicky Santoro. Sharon Stone, coming off of a steamy performance in 1992's "Basic Instinct," and her mysterious Western turn earlier in the year in "The Quick and the Dead," sizzled as Rothstein's stoned showgirl girlfriend, Ginger McKenna – a role that landed Stone dual Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. While "Casino" earned its fair share of critical praise at the time, the film itself was hindered by the large shadow cast by the similarly themed "GoodFellas." Over time, however, many critics have found "Casino" to be a deeper, more mature outing, compared to the quick-cut, rockstar approach Scorsese took in his earlier film.
Crime Drama / 1995 / R
Synopsis: In early-1970s Las Vegas, low-level mobster Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro) gets tapped by his bosses to head the Tangiers Casino. At first, he's a great success in the job, but over the years, problems with his loose-cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), his ex-hustler wife Ginger (Sharon Stone), her con-artist ex Lester Diamond (James Woods) and a handful of corrupt politicians put Sam in ever-increasing danger. Martin Scorsese directs this adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi's book.