Smithsonian Channel // 2007 // 106 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // July 18th, 2009
"Sit back and fly with us over some of the most beautiful sights imaginable."
With Sky View, the title kind of says it all. It conjures up an image of European locales seen from the sky through the miracle of aerial photography, and that's what it delivers. The DVD cover for this Smithsonian Networks offering says it's the result of "cutting-edge, high-definition, camera-mount technology." Having just seen a documentary which mentioned Gaspard-Félix Toumachon, who began aerial photography, it piqued my interest.
Sky View features four episodes, around 26 minutes each, on one disc:
* "Southern Britain"
Starting at London, the cameras head for the Isle of Scilly. Among the sights: Stonehenge, the Eden Project biodomes, and a giant figure carved on a hillside that looks vaguely like an anatomically correct Pillsbury Doughboy.
* "The Emerald Isle"
Ireland is seen from Malin Head to Mizen Head. Peat bogs, burial mounds, and a golf course used by the crews who installed the transatlantic cable are seen.
* "The Heart of Italy"
Florence, where even a bridge has buildings, is the starting point. From there, check out a medieval town with huge towers and the Tivoli Gardens as the cameras make their way to Rome.
* "The French Riviera"
The cameras go from the Pyrenees to the French Riviera to Monaco. A solar-powered furnace for electric generation, a high-altitude town where commandos train, and apartment buildings that look like Egyptian pyramids are among the sights.
Sky View looks as beautiful as you'd imagine. The producers do a good job of striking the balance between obvious tourist destinations like the Tower of London and Stonehenge and lesser-known sights. The sights are augmented by music and narration. The music is gentle and soothing, with local touches such as hints of "La Marsellaise" when appropriate. The narration is meant more to be fun and relaxing than to cram your head with knowledge, but it has some fun facts (St. Michael's Mount, for example, becomes an island in high tide and is believed to be the setting for the "Jack and The Beanstalk" fable). It has few really purple bursts in its prose, although I had to wonder about "A time traveler from the thirteenth century would feel right at home approaching these sturdy walls." I, for one, thought all the cars I saw might make him feel a little out of place.
The object is to show off those high-def cameras and create a relaxing viewing experience, and Sky View does what it promises -- a little better than I expected. I liked it, but this one is a matter of personal taste. If the concept sounds deadly dull to you, even the best aerial photography won't change that. If it sounds like something you'd enjoy, you'll like it a lot; it's excellently done and has engaging narration.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Smithsonian Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site