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October Sky

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: October Sky

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, William Lee Scott
Director: Joe Johnston
Rated: PG
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genres: Drama, Family

*Also starring: Laura Dern, Chris Owen, Chris Cooper, Chad Lindberg

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Review by Susan Granger
4 stars out of 4

"Until I began to build and launch rockets, I didn't know my home town was at war with itself over its children, and that my parents were locked in a kind of bloodless combat over how my brother and I would live our lives" what Homer Hickam, a high school boy in Coalwood, West Virginia, wrote in "Rocket Boys," a memoir which forms the basis for this wonderful, new coming-of-age film. When on October 4, 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik, heralding the dawn of the Space Age, it inspired Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) to look to the stars rather than into a bleak future in the coal mines. Working with three high school friends, and inspired by rocket pioneer Dr. Werner Von Braun, Hickam begins to design and launch a series of rockets at his own "Cape Coalwood," a slag heap - much to the disgust and dismay of his father (Chris Cooper), the mine superintendent. Only his teacher (Laura Dern) supports him, supplying a book on rocketry and encouraging him to learn trigonometry to gauge the range of the shots. Everywhere, Homer Hickam looks there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles blocking him from his goals of becoming a rocket scientist, yet earning his father's acceptance and approval. Nevertheless, he doggedly pursues his soaring dream which, eventually, becomes a fulfillment of the hopes of the close-knit, rural town. Adapted for the screen by Lewis Collick and directed by Joe Johnston ("Jumanji"), this is a remarkably rich, s ensitive, heart-warming family drama. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "October Sky" is a triumphant 10, the first "must see" movie of 1999. And there's a post-script. In Feb., 1998, the real Homer Hickam took an early retirement from NASA, where he worked as a space engineer, training astronauts on the space shuttle.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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