Discs Are Rated
review by Zach B.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Chris Owen and
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Written by Lewis Colick
Based on the novel "Rocket Boys" by Homer Hickim Jr.
Directed by Joe Johnston
Retail Price: 24.99
Features: Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios,
Spotlight On Location, Theatrical Trailer, DVD-ROM: Weblinks
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full
Frame, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, 2.0 Dolby Surround
French, English Captions, Chapter Search
Based on Homer Hickam Jr.'s inspiring and bestselling
memoir, Rocket Boys, October Sky recounts some of the most
significant experiences from the book. I have read the book,
and the movie is basically an abbreviated version of his
memoir (I did read the book after seeing the movie
The year is 1957, and in the heart of Coalwood, West
Virginia, a young teen named Homer is inspired by seeing the
satellite sputnik, and dreams of doing something with outer
space. Homer then begins to build rockets. However, his
father, the superintendent of the town's biggest job
industry, coal mining, does not approve of Homer's interest.
Yet with some hope and nurturing, Homer, with help from his
supportive teacher, friends and mother goes out to follow
his dream, no matter what.
I did see a screening of this film before it opened, and
I walked in thinking it would be another hokey family drama.
Boy, was I wrong. October Sky is a fantastic movie, about
one teenager who won't stop dreaming and believing, as he
faces off against his father, his friends, his life and his
future entirely. Set in 1957, It features some great drama,
some humor, but the underlying themes really make this
movie, how we should never stop trying until we achieve our
dreams. The movie features an excellent ensemble cast, and
the acting by them is top notch. Joe Johnston's direction is
great and really captures the feel of the late 50s, and the
script is solid. October Sky was released in February 1999,
and became the sleeper hit of the season. Though the gross
was average, it did capture a lot of viewers and critics
hearts - including mine.
The DVD, even though lacking on the features side, does
deliver some fantastic audio and sound. If you missed it in
theaters, October Sky is an excellent addition to your home
One of the best DVD presentations I have ever
encountered, another excellent Universal transfer and sound
mix. The movie is presented in your choice of aspect ratios:
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the standard 1.33:1 full
frame. Each transfer is near flawless. I did not notice any
major lines, grains or artifacts. The picture is clear and
crisp, the colors bold and beautiful, it's a little bit jaw
dropping. A great movie has an excellent transfer. Nothing
gets in the way from enjoying it, and you'll probably marvel
at how good it really looks.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, as said, looks great.
But I feel you should really watch this movie in widescreen.
Most notably, the movie's opening has some beautiful shots,
that should be seen in their full glory. In addition to
that, over the course of the movie there are multiple great
shots. The cinematography is simply excellent. Of course,
this being a pretty wide ratio, on the full frame version
you are losing about half of the picture. The full frame
transfer is of course, cropped, and you will be missing the
total of all the shots. Unless you can not stand widescreen,
definitely watch the widescreen version. You won't be
October Sky features 5.1 Dolby Digital English, and Dolby
Surround in French. The sound is music to your ears. A film
like October Sky really does need to utilize 5.1 Dolby
Digital, and thankfully, it does it in a really good and
creative mix. The film does have it's numerous shares of
loud, breathtaking sounds. A lot and lot of rockets are
launched in this movie, and when they fly, it sounds like
it's really flying right around you. A good example of this
is when Home and his friends launch a rocket, and lands up
in the coal mine. When it blasts, it sounds so good. There
is a part in the movie where Homer blows his mother's fence
up, and it's quite an explosion. The LFE .1 makes good use
The sound on October Sky is some of the best I have ever
heard on DVD, and is a loud, furious and just plain
brilliant mix. Better crank those speakers up!
Once again, Universal releases a disc with a great
presentation, but a very standard supplements section. Some
early pressings of the disc says there is a commentary with
director Joe Johnston, but alas, there is not. This was just
a mistake, I suppose, before things were finalized.
A commentary really would have helped this section out,
but, there are a few things. First off, there are some
wonderful production notes to read. They are pretty long,
but I found them fascinating learning the history of the
movie and some side stuff, like about the real Homer Hickam
Jr. and what the movie is based on, his memoir book. It is
an average feature, but you can learn a lot by reading
There is a Spotlight on Location featurette, which is
basically Universal's way of saying production featurette,
making of... whatever you want to call it. The featurette is
under a half hour and shows some interviews with Homer
Hickam Jr., the actors and scenes from the set. Short, but
There are some talent bios, which like other Universal
features, have great biographies on the cast and crew and
list the filmographies. Now you can learn everything you
needed to know about Laura Dern.
The film's original theatrical trailer is presented in
widescreen. The transfer on this trailer is good, the sound
is good, and it's a nice trailer. If you have not seen the
movie, it is sort of a good introduction.
Finally, there is the usual Universal weblinks for your
DVD ROM users. All in all, the features were standard,
surprisingly, for such a well received movie. I do wish that
commentary from Joe Johnston was not a typo, and a
commentary from the real Homer Hickam Jr. would have been a
good addition as well.
As far as menus go, for the most releases, Universal
menus are pretty interactive. These are standard. The main
menu has the movie poster with a simple straight cut to
whatever you choose, and the bonus materials section has a
shot of the mine, which is in similar style to the poster.
The chapter links are four per screen, with a caption and
image from the chapter. The font for just about everything
is the movie poster font. Decent, not great.
October Sky, at least for me, is one of those movies I
will watch over and over again. It has some laughs, raw
drama, a talented cast and significant lessons everyone
should learn during their lifetime. With superior audio and
picture quality to boot, and for a retail of 24.99 (I bet on
the web you can pick it up cheaper), October Sky is highly
recommended. I just wish there was a bit more in the
supplements section. If you have never seen the movie, go
out now and check it out for yourself.
(4.5/5, NOT included in
(3.5/5, NOT an average)