Coming to the Pro: My Childhood and the Cold War

Goosebumps

Surely you remember R.L. Stine’s prolific “Goosebumps” series. Even if you somehow escaped childhood without reading one of his kooky “horror” novels, you probably noticed their existence. The seemingly endless supply of brightly-colored covers, boasting titles as amazing as “Say Cheese and Die!” and “Planet of the Lawn Gnomes,” stood out amongst the otherwise-tepid fare of elementary school libraries everywhere. They were the most wholesome “scary” thing a kid could get their hands on, and given how slim each novel was, they could be devoured by the dozen.

The “Goosebumps” movie offers a fun trip down memory lane, but instead of adapting the novels themselves, “Goosebumps” takes their zany spirit and translates it to the screen. It follows the tale of a teen named Zach who moves in next door to the “Goosebumps” author himself, R.L. Stine (played with relish by Jack Black), and accidentally releases all of the monstrous creatures Stine has ever created. This is a “scary” movie made for kids (so, in other words, it’s not very scary), but for anyone looking for an exciting bit of nostalgia, “Goosebumps” is an excellent place to find it.

 

Bridge of Spies

 

“Bridge of Spies” is Spielberg’s latest, and once again, the director doesn’t disappoint, delivering a harrowing tale that blends legal drama with espionage, war, and emotional upheaval. Based on a true story, “Bridge of Spies” follows James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer tasked with defending a Soviet spy at the height of the Cold War. But after an American spy plane is shot down and its pilot taken captive, Donovan is sent to East Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the Soviets, with the goal of trading one spy for another.

“Bridge of Spies” is polished, bleak and somehow incredibly violent while also remaining nearly bloodless. It is also — above all — very tense. Lives are constantly at risk throughout the course of the film, and this sense of danger is conveyed with missed meetings and stolen jackets as often as it is with gunfire and downed planes. Masterfully crafted and breathlessly paced, “Bridge of Spies” depicts a pivotal moment in the history of the United States with all the smooth confidence of a spy under fire.

 

The Peanuts Movie

More nostalgia! Miraculously, the studio behind the “The Peanuts Movie” managed to take the minimalistic artistry of the classic cartoon and adapt the style into computer-generated animation without ruining it. They also succeeded in capturing the unique, woebegone spirit of those old comic strips, much to the delight of dedicated fans around the globe.

So what’s the gang up to this time? Well, Snoopy is on a quest to vanquish the Red Baron, and everyone’s favorite sad-sack, Charlie Brown, is determined to finally win over the affections of the Little Red-Haired Girl. Meanwhile, Lucy is still doling out psychiatric advice, Linus remains a pint-sized philosopher and that football is still impossible to kick. Basically, “The Peanuts Movie” plays out in the same manner as the old holiday specials — imagine seeing a bunch of comic strips strung together, jumping from story to story while maintaining the loosest of overarching narratives — and it’s all the better for it. Anyone who grew up watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will find something to enjoy in “The Peanuts Movie,” and even new fans will find themselves chuckling at the antics of this iconic group of children.