October Sky: Special Edition

DVD Reviews | Mar 4th, 2005

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Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen, William Lee Scott,
Written By: Homer H. Hickam Jr. (book), Lewis Colick (screenplay)
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Studio: Universal Home Videos
Buy on Amazon.com link

I never saw October Sky until yesterday. After seeing it though, I think the story is really great and touching. I knew I would like this since Joe Johnston directed the film.

The story is actually based on a true story and was adapted from a book. October Sky takes places in Coalwood, West Virginia around 1957. Coal mining was a way of life in the town, and seemed like the only option outside of high school. Either you got a scholarship and went to college or you went to work in the coal mine. High school student Homer Hickam, Jr doesn’t want to be like his Father, John Hickam, who’s in charge of the coal mine. Once Homer sees Sputnik fly over his house, he wants to pursue rocket making. With the help of his friends and one nerdy outcast, Homer builds a rocket out of scratch. He hopes to win the science fair and get the “Rocket Boys” scholarships.

After I read the back of the October Sky DVD, I knew I was gonna like the film and I was right. The story was really interesting and the characters are all likable ones. It was encouraging to watch the “Rocket Boys” build the rocket, and get the motivation to not become coal miners. The scenes when they were tested out the rocket were fun to watch and at times, amusing. The film has some humor in it and thought that was a good decision. I never knew what this story was about when it came out originally, but I really liked the film score by Mark Isham. I’ve been listening to the score for years. But besides the score & the story, the acting is excellent as well. Jake Gyllenhaal does a superb job as Homer Hickam, and Chris Cooper is always believable in the roles he chooses. It seems he plays that tough-hard ass father types a lot in movies, but he does it well. He certainly did that type of role perfectly in American Beauty. With this character, he’s tough on his son but you can see he cares for him too. He just thinks he knows what’s best for Homer, and wants him to fill his shoes eventually at the mine. I believe Chris Cooper carries the film. Laura Dern was okay as Miss Riley, nothing too special. I thought the character could have been used more in the movie, since she had a bigger part in real life. But this film was more of a father-son relationship movie than a student/teacher movie. I guess it’s a combo of father/son, student/teacher, and a story of friends bonding and doing something great for the town. By building the rocket, it really put Coalwood on the map. The school was known for their football and not their smart students. The film certainly surprised me, because I thought it was going to be just “okay.”

I’ve pretty much enjoyed every movie Joe Johnston has directed, with Hidalgo being my favorite. October Sky is sort of a different picture than the stuff Johnston usually directs. Other films he has directed have been action/adventure type movies but this movie stands out from the others as something different. I like Hidalgo for the fun action/adventure-ness but October Sky is probably Joe Johnston’s strongest picture to date.

The Aiming High extra was nice because the real life Homer Hickam talked about the story. He mentioned the similarities and differences between the movie and real life. His Dad was a little nicer in real life, it seemed and the principal seems nicer too. The rest of the Rocket Boys were interviewed by Hickam, along with other people including the principal and the last remaining father of the Rocket Boys. That featurette was good, and you learn more about the story. Other extras include featured commentary with Homer Hickam, spotlight on location, and production notes.

Overall, I felt October Sky was a strong film. I enjoyed watching it and thought the story was intriguing. It seems like a perfect film for teenagers to watch. To get motivated to do the things they want to do when they grow up.

Aiming High: The Story of the Rocket Boys – hear the story of the real “Rocket Boys” as they supported Homer Hickam in his journey from a coal mining town to NASA.
Feature Commentary With Homer Hickam
Spotlight On Location
Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer

ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC
SPANISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
FRENCH: Dolby Digital 5.1 CC

Widescreen 2.35:1 Color (Anamorphic)


Favorite Scenes: building and testing the rockets was fun to watch
Rating: Rated PG
Running Time: 108 minutes
Extras Rating:
Overall Rating: