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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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October Sky

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 103 mins . PG . PAL


The year is 1957. In Coalwood, a town preoccupied with events under the earth, Homer Hickam Jr's interest in rocketry sets him apart. His father runs the coal mine, the lifesource of the town. "A few boys will leave the town on football scholarships", Homer's principal states, "but the rest will be miners."

This true story follows Homer and his three friends as they struggle to build a working rocket for the state science fair; winning this competition means a university scholarship. Obviously Homer's blue-collar father is not impressed with his son's disregard for the town's main source of income, but there are worse problems to overcome, like proving the boys' rockets haven't started a forest fire!

Though it's very well regarded on the Internet Movie Database, this film didn't quite take off for me. I've seen a few too many films following the 'chase your dreams and you can accomplish anything' All-American Dream formula, which makes this a decent film, but not a superb one.


Congratulations must go out to Universal - the video quality on this disc is extremely good. The image perfectly reflects the dreary, depressing look of Coalwood in October, with bleak skies and grimy buildings. The level of detail is of reference quality (hurray for 16:9 encoding!), though on the downside you'll notice more aliasing than with a softer transfer. Generally, the picture looks quite filmic, and with a high bitrate used to encode the video, there's no glaring MPEG artifacts to spoil the show.

Colour and shadow detail are pretty much as good as we can expect from a film-to-disc transfer, in other words, damn fine. I'd only expect to see more accuracy from a Pixar digital transfer.


People, if you still don't have a 5.1-capable system, this is another convincing argument to upgrade. Though October Sky doesn't threaten your foundations like, say, Twister, it does have moments where the huge dynamic range of Dolby Digital makes itself apparent. Chapter 6 has the boys testing a succession of rockets which invariably explode, swiftly and loudly - a great way to judge your systems ability to provide power quickly and recover with grace.

The sound designers also took great advantage of the discrete rear channels, and at times the mix really pulls the viewer into a scene. Check out the rocket flying from the front and exploding above your head at 34:40 - it sounds truly convincing.

Dialogue is always clear, in sync and easy to understand, and the score is well-presented. However, the soundtrack tends to sound a little forward, bright and artificial at reference level. It misses the warmth and smoothness of a top class mix.


Not much to mention here, the most interesting being a 10 minute 'making of' doco, which does have at least a couple of useful moments in it, unlike the majority of these extended commercials.

Besides that, there's the trailer, production notes and filmographies. I didn't bother with the DVD-ROM features - my DVD PC isn't net-connected.


Though there's some great performances (in particular, Chris Cooper as Homer's father), I don't rate this film as an essential purchase. You should definitely rent it and check it out, though. I suspect many will be less offput by the touches of cheese in the script than I was.

Steve: I have to agree with Paul on the look and sound of this DVD but I enjoyed the movie that little bit more. Even though Paul recommends a rental, I don't think you'd be disappointed with a purchase either.

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