October Sky/A,A

Universal/1999/108m/ANA 2.35, FS 1.33

       October Sky soars. It is quintessential American entertainment. Every element of this wonderful film is delivered with impeccable taste and skill. The opening montage defining the world of October Sky is brilliant in capturing the time, place and people. The images are reminiscent of Thomas Hart Bentonís magnificent murals depicting aspects of America. Together with the inspirational Americana score by Mark Isham, perhaps the best work this fine screen composer has done, the photography by Fred Murphy provides director Joe Johnston with fuel to drive this worthy movie through its paces.


Rockets away! ©Universal

     October Sky is the uplifting story of four boys from a West Virginia coal-mining town inspired to build a rocket and make it work. Sputnik, the Russian satellite that launched the space race, is the catalyst. There is some remarkable father and son scripting, the production details smell of coal dust and desperation. Don't miss it. It's a great family film filled with the right kind of messages. And it's all based on a true story!
     The lead, Jake Gyllenhaal, is wonderful and appealing as Homer Hickam. Gyllenhaal, the son of director John Gyllenhaal (Waterland) grew up in a movie family. The eighteen year old knows his way around a movie set. Chris Cooper smokes as his Dad. The scenes between father and son are insightfully scripted, but itís the actors pulling the performances from each other that make the dynamic work to perfection. All the young men are fine. In addition, Laura Dern provides some soulful inspiration for the boys as their high school teacher and Natalie Canerday is nothing short of perfect as Elsie Hickam. 
      Joe Johnston who made The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Jumanji finds the perfect unexpectedly finds the perfect story for his talents. Johnstonís montage compilations are joyful and heís incredibly to the actors in their most intimate moments. Lewis Collickís previous writing credits fail to hint at his ability to produce such a wonderful adaptation of Homer Hickamís biography "Rocket Boys." The cinematography by Fred Murphy is consistently appealing. His camera angles match the feeling of power in the montage work giving them a force of their own, yet blending perfectly with the great Isham score.
     October Sky is a glorious DVD. The sharp transfer replicates the grand photography in all its majestic beauty. The colors are cool and accurate. You can feel the coal dust in the air. The contrast ratios are excellent. Scenes in the coal pits are well lit and vary nicely with Hickamís home interiors. The music is simply joyful and inspiring as recorded in Dolby Digital 5:1 surround. The sonic drafts of the rocket launchings are powerful and the dialog is incisively clear.  The DVD package lists a feature commentary by director Joe Johnston. Unfortunately, this is an error. It would have been terrific to tour October Sky with its director. The ďSpotlight on LocationĒ short is a typically strong effort from the Universal DVD team.












































































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