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On October 5, 1957 the Russian satellite Sputnik passes over the mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia. For teenager Homer Hickham (Jake Gyllenhaal) it provides the inspiration to build his own rocket and dream of a life beyond simply following his father John (Chris Cooper) into the coal mine. Encouraged by teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) and mother Elsie (Natalie Canerday) Homer enlists the help of schoolfriends Roy (William Lee Scott), Quentin (Chris Owen) and O'Dell (Chad Lindberg) in the construction of a rocket. Despite spectacular early failures and the disapproval of Homer's father, the 'rocket boys' are determined to design a successful rocket and earn a place at the State science competiton where the possibility of college scholarships and life beyond Coalwood awaits.

 "All our critics praise this film for its strong story (fact based) and its sense of period (50s middle America) and its effective performances. It is a film with a great visual menu of coalmining town and big open spaces, dark interiors and half-lit faces - so the visual quality of it on the small screen does matter. Welcome to the DVD. This is where the digital revoultion shows its paces, easily handling the underlit scenes and retaining the gentle contrasts which make film making so pleasurable: it can be 'painting with light' as much as any impressionist's canvas. (Well, almost…) As for the so called bonus materials, there is a modicum. The best part is the 9:30 minute Spotlight on Location, which is in fact a short Making Of, with actors, director and producer giving interview grabs. If you're observant (and now I've told you it doesn't count) you'll see the slates are marked up The Rocket Boys, presumably the original title. No-one talks about it, but I think they did well to change it to October Sky. Best of all, it is narrated by the real Homer Hickham (now an engineer at NASA), who we also get to meet, his short cropped grey hair a surprise after seeing young Jake Gyllenhaal's characterisation as a teenager with dark brown hair. The rest of the extras are text based, except the trailer. The music of Mark Isham seems to stand out on the DVD, but perhaps that's just the result of a pristine recording."
Andrew L. Urban


We gratefully acknowledge the complimentary use of a DVD player from Philips.


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CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Chris Owen and Laura Dern

DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

DVD RELEASE: April 2000

DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar  

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