Quick Links: Just Mercy, Brave New World, The Dawn Patrol (1938), Created Equal, and The Stand at Paxton County

Alas, I have neglected to link to several movie reviews that were posted at the Independent Institute. Here are quick hits and links to five recent reviews. They represent a smorgasbord of styles, themes, and visuals.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian science fiction classic gets a modern makeover in Brave New World. A nine-part limited series on the Peacock network, the series stays true to one of the most important themes of the novel: What does it mean to be happy? But fans of the novel are unlikely to be fully satisfied. One season of a TV series simply can’t do full justice to the story’s layers and complexity. Nevertheless,

… those looking for a contemporary aesthetic and interpretation may find David Weiner’s spin refreshing and probing. For those looking for an adaptation that puts individualism and personal liberty at the center of the story, they’ll be hard pressed to find much better television.

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a powerful film about a glaring American injustice: the unequal application of law and sentencing guidelines to death penalty cases. Anchored by top-flight performances by Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy will have viewers fundamentally rethinking the the appropriateness of capital punishment given the gapping inconsistencies in law and law enforcement.

Just Mercy doesn’t need to sensationalize the story, because the reality was already a dramatic affront to common-sense justice. And this injustice makes the movie all the more compelling. “

The Dawn Patrol (1938)

The Dawn Patrol, starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven and other notable actors of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, is notable for when it was released as well as its gritty content. As a depression-ravaged Europe sat on the precipice of another global conflict, this World War I movie takes aim at the emotional trauma of war through the eyes of pilots during “The War to End All Wars.” This movie takes PTSD seriously before we had the acronym.

While the special effects are little better than what could be made on a theater sound stage, the story and performances hold up remarkably well.

Despite this contemporary backdrop, The Dawn Patrol’s antiwar message resonated deeply with the Western movie-going public. The story of the world’s first generation of combat pilots raked in $2,185,000 at the box office ($42 million in current dollars), more than four times its production budget ($9.2 million in current dollars).

Created Equal

Few U.S. Supreme Court justices are as reviled by political pundits, particularly those on the left, as much as Clarence Thomas. This documentary provides long overdue balance, focusing on the controversial justices life and evolution as a man and a jurist.

Thomas is vilified by the left and extolled by the right. But no one seems to understand who he really is, or what he believes, outside his immediate family and close professional colleagues. Created Equal goes a long way toward helping general audiences understand the man, whether or not they agree with his politics or jurisprudence.

The Stand at Paxton County

Independent film companies like Forrest Films help provide diversity of viewpoint and world view in cinema. The Stand at Paxton County is one of those films that would be easy to miss without streaming services like Netflix. While the plot uses a conventional “police corruption” story line, it adds a significant twist with its provocative question: What happens when political activism creates conditions that open the door to corruption?

As I write:

Our freedoms and property rights are at risk when dogmatic special interests use the legislative process to achieve their goals. Moreover, poorly designed legislation opens the door to corruption.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).