Of all the at-home entertainment now available for cooped-up kids, Christian parents will welcome none as much as Revelation Media’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. The full-length movie is available for free at watchpilgrims.com.
Though faithful to John Bunyan’s 17th-century tale, the film makes a few concessions to modern tastes. It gives Apollyon’s designs to enslave humankind a gothic backstory and mines humor out of sometimes-clueless Christian’s interactions with characters.
More than a few moments delight with ingenuity, as when Christian goes to visit Mr. Legality in the village of Morality. The literal mountain man flings down chiseled tablets engraved with, as we might expect, demands for religious rule-keeping. But he also cleverly mixes in more modern commandments like, “You will not waste one second,” and “Be the best.” In other words, the law of self-empowerment is no less burdensome because of the impossibility of actually keeping it.
A few other scenes show budget constraints, as when Christian battles Apollyon. Something more creative might have looked less like a 1960s Godzilla movie. But these gripes are surprisingly few, given that the film’s financing started on Kickstarter.
The loveliest thing might be the introduction: Irish singer/songwriter Kristyn Getty exhorts us to use our imaginations to connect with our faith through storytelling. It’s a good thing to tell kids we don’t need to fear, though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It’s a better thing to show them.
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Goose Gossage David Durochik/AP
Fastball explains the art of bringing the heat
by Sharon Dierberger
It’s not quite the same as box seats at Fenway or bleachers at Wrigley. But with baseball on hold, watching Fastball from your recliner brings a nostalgic smile.
This 2016 film, now on Amazon Prime (with some foul language), highlights pitchers who made the fastball great and hitters who tried to get a piece of one.
Insights and humor from baseball superstars such as Nolan Ryan, “Goose” Gossage, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks combine with scientific analysis to assess who had the best heater. Then there are comments like Bob Gibson’s: “Half that plate is mine. Now you gotta figure out which half I’m coming after.”
We learn the difference between facing pitches at 90 mph versus 100. If that doesn’t make you marvel at the incredible eyes and brain God gave us, and the serendipitous decision of baseball’s creators to put the pitcher’s mound 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate, nothing will.
The science inspires awe, but the film’s best parts show the game’s personalities. Banter between Hall of Famers, reflections by sluggers and hurlers, and historic interviews with legends Walter Johnson and Bob Feller remind us how the fastball has fascinated fans and players for a century.
Top-Grossing Baseball Films
• A League of Their Own (1992): $107.5 million
• 42 (2013): $95 million
• Moneyball (2011): $75.6 million
• The Rookie (2002): $75.6 million
• Field of Dreams (1989): $64.3 million
• The Benchwarmers (2006): $59.8 million
The coronavirus stoppage is the 11th time Major League Baseball has halted a season, the first for medical reasons. Most have been labor disputes.
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Flaws and all, Emma underscores Jane Austen’s timelessness
by Megan Basham
While the world closed for the coronavirus, Universal Pictures announced it would make several movies that had only recently appeared in theaters available for streaming. Two of those films are horror schlock that are the last thing anyone needs in these times of homebound, high anxiety.
The third, however, will give eyes starved for beauty and hearts starved for society something to savor.
Perhaps it’s due to the multitudes Jane Austen’s novels contain, but no other 18th- or 19th-century works have proven more enduringly popular for fresh television or film adaptations. Austen’s works are swooning romances, hilarious satires, and social commentaries all rolled into one. Underneath all that, they’re also moral instruction—but instruction that arises so naturally from the characters she’s so sharply drawn, more than two centuries later we still easily recognize ourselves in their defects and virtues. No Austen heroine has more of those all-too relatable defects and fewer of the virtues than spoiled, selfish Emma.
This latest Emma is, admittedly, less accessible than the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow film or the 2009 BBC miniseries. It focuses far more on the farce and sometimes foolish pageantry of Emma’s world than on the love triangles and intrigue. Characters’ intentions and interactions are often more subtle. Because of this, it will be harder for younger viewers to fully grasp what’s happening.