Based on the memoir Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam Jr., October Sky emerged as one of the most delightful sleepers of 1999--a small miracle of good ol' fashioned movie-making in the cynical, often numbingly trendy Hollywo... more »od of the late 20th century. Hickam's true story begins in 1957 with Russia's historic launch of the Sputnik satellite, and while Homer (played with smart idealism by Jake Gyllenhaal) sees Sputnik as his cue to pursue a fascination with rocketry, his father (Chris Cooper) epitomizes the admirable yet sternly stubborn working-man's ethic of the West Virginia coal miner, casting fear and disdain on Homer's pursuit of science while urging his "errant" son to carry on the family business--a spirit-killing profession that Homer has no intention of joining. As directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer), this wonderful movie is occasionally guilty of overstating its case and sacrificing subtlety for predictable melodrama. But more often the film's tone is just right, and the spirit of adventure and invention is infectiously conveyed through Gyllenhaal and his well-cast fellow rocketeers, whose many failures gradually lead to triumph on their makeshift backwoods launching pad. Capturing time and place with impeccable detail and superbly developed characters (including Laura Dern as an inspiring schoolteacher), October Sky is a family film for the ages, encouraging the highest potential of the human spirit while giving viewers a clear view of a bygone era when "the final frontier" beckoned to the explorer in all of us. --Jeff Shannon« less
A little slow to start but what a cool movie and true story too!
Cora K. (Cora) from EL CAJON, CA Reviewed on 6/8/2008...
This is a fascinating--true--movie. Very much worth seeing.
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Randolph S. Perry | Ann Arbor, Michigan | 02/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'd seen the October Sky DVD at the local video store, but avoided it--I imagine because I didn't know much about it and because I'd read it was just a "family" movie and figured it wouldn't be very interesting. Well, I finally rented it, and now I see why so many of the reviewers here have raved about it. I won't go into the story--others here have. I'll just say that October Sky is simply a wonderful story, and it's very well told in this movie--script, direction, and cast are all first rate, the photography is beautiful, and the score evocative. It even captured our thirteen year old son's attention--not a small feat for a movie with a PG rating. My guess is you'll be thinking about Coalwood, West Virgina, and its people for a while after seeing this movie. (I should add I ended up buying both the DVD and Rocket Boys (also published as October Sky), the book on which the movie is based. The book is great, too.)"
An undiscovered jewel of a film.
Neal C. Reynolds | Indianapolis, Indiana | 07/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not everybody will like this film. Three people out of the one hundred and seventy five reviewers here didn't like it. And fifteen more out of the remaining one hundred and seventy two gave it three or four stars, leaving one hundred and fifty seven who thought this an absolutely great movie against eighteen who didn't.So I think I'm safe enough to say you'll like this movie even if reading about it doesn't make it sound that exciting. The bottom line is that this movie is so very human. The boys who are obsessed with rockets are normal, every day boys sparked with enthusiasm about what can be done. They are following their own stars, their own sense of what is right for them, against the opposition of those who don't understand. And so, there is a story for each and every one here, a very real story about following your own star, not somebody else's. Yes, it's a feel good movie, but it achieves this through the power of the true story, not out of viewer manipulation. Very highly recommended."
Victor I. | Jersey City, NJ | 01/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do you feel constrained in your job? Are you an unhappy student? Then this movie is for you. I first watched the rental and I was deeply touched and inspired by it. I right away decided that this movie is worth owning, so I bought myself a copy. I don't regret it. Every time I watch it, it makes me re-evaluate my life and inspires me to go after what I value most. It makes me realize that I, too, can do what most people will tell me is impossible. It inspires me to keep trying and keep dreaming. You must own this movie so it touches and inspires everyone who visits your home."
The best family movie of the 90's
Steve Silver | Reston, Va. | 12/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There isn't a better family movie than October Sky. It was enjoyed by all three of my sons who range fron 10-18. My sons have asked to read the book. What better recommendation is there than that. The movie captures the Sputnik moment and helps kids of the 90's to understand their parents' generation better. But even more importantly, it lets kids understand that anyone can make a success of himself if he is focused and will try hard. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie the first, second, and third time I saw it, and so did my kids. The characers are terrific. The four heroes, the Rocket Boys, led by Homer Hickham spend weeks developing their rockets, scrounging material, and testing their science by trial and error. The movie provides some subplot relief with typical teenage problems including girls, parents, and being made fun of at school, but the movie, like the Rocket Boys, stays focused on the main event, launching a successful rocket and competing in the national science fair. Even though you feel you know the ending before the movie finishes, it keeps your attention because the characters are human and you can identify with them. If you are looking for a movie for you and your kids or parents to enjoy together, this is it. It may be one of the 10 best family movies of all time not just 90's."
Exceptional drama about four boys and their dream
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 01/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With the Cold War brewing and the launch of Sputnik, paranoia captured America in its tight little grip. There were exceptions. A quartet of boys in a West Virginia coal mining town discovered their love of rocketry. Sputnik inspired them to develop their own rockets and launch them out in the wilderness. With the help and inspiration of a sympathetic teacher (Laura Dern), Homer (Jake Gyllenhaal) fights his tough father (Chris Cooper) who wants Homer to get his education and then become a coalminer just like him. Ultimately Homer achieves his dream but not before conflict, an arrest, lack of support and lack of funds try combine to try and undermine those dreams.
An intelligent and involving period drama, October Sky overcomes the pitfalls of dramas of this sort; Director Joe Johnston creates an involving, suspenseful story about a town with myopic vision and fears and a boy who dreams far beyond the reaches of the town to the stars. Gyllenhaal (The Day After Tomorrow) gives a stirring and confident performance as Homer. The entire cast particularly Chris Cooper and Laura Dern in major supporting roles add a sense of gritty reality to the film preventing it from degenerating into a "based on a true story" TV movie. Colick's screenplay doesn't take the easy way out here; he portrays Homer's father as an unsympathetic hard man who loves his sons but doesn't want them giving into pipedreams so he doesn't support them.
October Sky looks as clear as a perfect, cloudless moonlit night with rich blacks and nice color reproduction of the original theatrical film. There's some minor artifacting (this appears to be the same digital master used for the 1999 DVD release although it appears for the first time in the higher definition format of anamorphic widescreen) issues but, on the whole, the film looks particularly sharp and vivid. The 5.1 mix and DTS soundtracks both sound crisp and sharp with the edge going to the DTS soundtrack which tends to be fuller and with a wider dynamic range than the 5.1 mix. Both soundtracks use the surround speakers well particularly during the sequences when the boys are setting off their rockets.
Although this is the same digital master as last time, we go get some new special features that might make this worthwhile to fans of the film. There's a new documentary Aiming High: The Story of the Rocket Boys featuring interviews with Homer Hickam and his compatriots from West Virginia who inspired this story and Hickam to write his book. The documentary primarily focuses on Hickam and his leap from rocketry whiz to a position working for NASA. The original extras are also included. There's a Spotlight on Location featurette which, essentially, is a glorified promo for the film that showed on some of the cable channels. There's also production notes discussing the various people involved in the production from the actors to production crew. The theatrical trailer, which highlights the art of trailers in the way it summarizes the story but also why this film was a difficult sell for audiences, returns on this edition as well.
Homer Hickam does a great job separating fact from fiction in his commentary track. Surprisingly, the film remains accurate for the most part to Hickam's book and the few times it does divulge from reality it's usually for dramatic reasons and Hickam acknowledges that it does make dramatic sense. Although much of the action seems telescoped most of the action that occurs in the film (with a few exceptions) accurately portrays what occurred during the time frame of the film. Hickam notes those few exceptions and also gives the reasons the filmmakers decided to alter his story.
A marvelous story, October Sky features a number of strong performances. The new extras including Hickam's commentary track make this a worthwhile addition for fans of the movie. The better picture quality along with the new extra features will make this a worthwhile addition for fans of the film. "