Customer Reviews: October Sky (Special Edition)
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on February 29, 2000
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.)
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on January 1, 2000
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.
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VINE VOICEon July 30, 2002
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.
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on December 2, 1999
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.
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on February 3, 2000
I am a coal miner and have been for many years. I grew up during the same time period as the movie and lived and worked in the coal camps portrayed . I am also an avid movie watcher and "OCTOBER SKY" is by far one of the best movies of all time. It is probably one of my top five favorites and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a heartwarming, true to life movie. The characters, language, scenery and incidents are impeccable. Would'nt change a thing. The movie didn't play in my area so I drove about 75 miles to Charleston just to see it and I wasn't disappointed. TWO THUMBS UP!
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on January 5, 2003
This movie is definitely, withut a doubt, the best movie of 1999 in my opinion. Here's why: The acting is great, the music is well done and fits the era perfectly, and the story is uplifting and inspiring. This movie, however, is not a feel-good movie with a cliched story line and needless melodrama. This movie is about a boy who lives in the coal moning town of verginia, who on one fatefull night, watches Russia's satelitte, the Sputnik race across the October Sky. This inspires him to build rockets againt all odds, be it his father, a hardened coal miner, who refuses to let Homer build rockets on campany property, forcing them to walk 7 miles to snake root, or the fact that there wasn't very much information on rockets in coalwood. However, with the help of his freinds, this story became one of success despite great odds. I beleive that music is very important in a film or game, and this might just be the first review to note the music, witch is very very very well done by Mark Isham. Even four years after it's realise, the final credits still bring a tear to my eyes.
"This one's gonna go for miles, Homer!" ~Quinten
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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.
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There are too many movies about prestigious people making it big. I am very happy that one person in a million was able to make it as a country star or rock star for whatever reason. However, I am neither. Neither am I famous. This movie is for people like me who can identify with the difficulties of changing the course of their lives and become engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers or any of the other seemingly mundane jobs that may ultimately change our lives and just possibly our country.

Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a teenager in the coal town of Coalwood, West Virginia in 1957. The only generally accepted way to get out of Coalwood was to get a football scholarship. Homer is too small to be in football. However, Homer is smart and John Hickam (Chris Cooper) hopes that Homer can learn enough to replace him in the mine some day.

Miss Frieda Riley (Laura Dern) is a school teacher who left Coalwood to become a teacher, and now she hopes to inspire others to do the same. After Homer and many of the townspeople watch Sputnik fly through the night sky, Homer decides to build a rocket. Miss Riley suggests that Homer might enter his rocket in the science fair, perhaps ultimately obtaining a scholarship.

Homer gathers three of his friends and tries to give them the same enthusiasm he has for building rockets. Soon their experiments go from disaster to success, and back to disaster again as the State Police accuse the boys of starting a forest fire. Things are looking grim until the boys determine that their rockets could not possibly have started the fire. Back in school again, the boys quickly recover from the disaster to win their local, county and state science fairs, and move on to the national science fair in Indianapolis. I leave the rest of the story for viewers.

Homer and the other boys were likely going to end up in the coal mines of Coalwood. The boys' teacher inspired them to reach for something better, and with a lot of ambition and personal sacrifice, the boys made their parents, their town and themselves proud. Much of this movie was about the interaction between Homer and his father. John Hickam thought Homer had a lot of capability, but as many fathers do, John was not thinking big enough for Homer. There are a couple of key scenes in this movie that send chills down my back because I recognized the respect that Homer had for his father, and the difficulty his father had in seeing that respect. John Hickam was Homer Hickam's hero, and he always will be.

This movie is rated PG for mild language, alcohol use, and mild violence, but I think this is movie is suitable for everyone in the family with a minimal amount of parental explanation and guidance. My children first saw this movie as teens, and both liked the movie, especially my son.

This movie won three major awards and was nominated for nine others. It deserved to win more than it did.

I enjoyed this movie because it was about every day people overcoming their life circumstances to achieve something better than what their parents would have anticipated. We work with those people, we know those people, and we are those people. Watch this movie; you will recognize the characters and you will enjoy it.
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on September 30, 2000
October Sky is a fantastic has all the elements of a great movie, but more importantly is a true "emotional experience." In the era of teen flicks such as Scream and Cruel Intentions, it is refreshing to see a movie based in a school and with teenagers that actually look and act like teenagers.
But the most striking thing about this movie is the young man playing the lead role of Homer Hickham. Jake Gyllenhaal deserves all the accolades for how great this movie is. He is the rare actor who looks through the camera instead of into it. His eyes are piercing and earnest, and you really believe he's just a boy from West Virginia trying to make something of his life. (And his southern West Virginia accent is very convincing).
He is the "good" future of young Hollywood. It is clear he wants to study and become a better actor--not rest on the laurels of one good performance.
Chris Cooper is wonderful as a father who simply doesn't understand his son's dream, while Natalie Cannerday brings just enough spunk to make Mrs. Hickham interesting. Other notable performances include Laura Dern and relative unknown William Scott.
But make no mistake...Gyllenhaal steals the show.
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on April 20, 2005
Overlooked by the Academy Awards and most of the movie viewing public, October Sky turned out to be one of the best movies of 1999. Based on the true life story of Homer Hickman, a coalminer's son inspired to learn about rocketry following the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, October Sky is more than just a film about rockets, it's a film about one man overcoming the trials and tribulations that attempt to run him down. The emphasis placed on the passion of the human spirit and its ability to overcome great conflict and achieve feats of wondrous heights makes October Sky a film that is certain to enjoy an enduring legacy and a heightening in stature among critics with the passing of time...

Set in a 1950s West Virginia town, October Sky follows the life of Homer Hickman (Jake Gyllenhaal), the teenage son of a coalminer who pushes his son to follow in his footsteps. Growing up in a town where coal is king, the citizens of Homer's world can't fathom pursuing a career in any other field. But when Homer's classroom is informed of the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the satellite inspires Homer to learn everything he can about rockets, satellites, and inner-orbiting spacecraft. Goaded on by their teacher Frieda Riley (Laura Dern), Homer and his friends study the various aspects of a rocket launch and begin staging the launch of their own homemade rockets. But their trial and error experiments go awry, putting the local townspeople in the path of their errant rocket launches, and they incur the wrath and disdain of a community that views them as freaks and outcasts.

As Homer's father becomes ill from the deadly effects of coal dust, he pushes his son to support the family by entering the mine. Unable to see the bright potential of his son's interest in rockets, John Hickman (Chris Cooper) battles Homer every step of the way as he pursues his passion. But Homer remains committed, and when he and his friends begin launching rockets from a new site outside of town, more and more people begin showing up to see the brilliant spectacle... When Homer's hero, German rocket scientist and NASA engineer Wernher von Braun, replies to a letter Homer wrote, the path is cleared for the students to exhibit their work at the National Science Awards.

Encouraged by Miss Riley, Homer and his friends are prepared to put their entire future on the line at this one exhibition, where the prize includes fully paid scholarships to some of the top universities in America...

The inspiring tale of a boy and his friends who never give up on believing in themselves, October Sky is a feel-good movie reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra. Outside of the traditional mold of action super-thriller or blood-spilling reality drama, October Sky bucks the trend of cinematic commercialism by offering its audience a more intelligent foray into the world of film and storytelling. This trend toward quality cinematography is one we can only hope will continue. Sporting a colorful cast of characters rife with conflict and passion, October Sky is a definite must-see film that you won't want to miss...

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