Thursday, 25 April 2019

Sci Fi Future Is Here & Now (Part 6): Living Forever?



Eventual Immortality? 

Science fiction films and books have often dealt with the idea of human beings searching for the secret of remaining forever young and exploring the implications of achieving immortality.



If recent reports are to be believed, it seems that researchers from the University of Exeter may have succeeded in reversing the ageing process in lab-grown human cells, thereby raising the possibility of one day fulfilling humanity’s age-old desire to beat death and live forever!

It seems that every other month similar potential human “immortality” claims are reported in the media.



WHY? 

As our body ages, it loses the ability to control how genes are regulated causing them to become more damaged until we eventually die.

A gene is activated by signals from inside or outside the cell to make a molecular message known as RNA. ‘Splicing factors’ consisting of a group of about 300 proteins determine the decision on which type of message is created.

The amount of ‘splicing factors’ these proteins are able to make decrease as we get older. The older cells are then less able to turn genes on and off to react to the environment. The result is that we become more vulnerable to diseases which can end our lives.


HOW? 

The scientists’ experiment supposedly showed that by treating old cells with a chemical that releases small amounts of hydrogen sulphide, they were able to increase levels of some ‘splicing factors’, and to rejuvenate old human cells.

The molecule, hydrogen sulphide is found naturally in our bodies and has been shown to improve several features of age-related disease in animals. Due to its toxicity in large amounts, a way had to be found to deliver it directly to the part of the cell where it is needed.

A ‘molecular postcode’ was used to deliver the molecule directly to the mitochondria, (the structures that produce energy in cells) where it is thought it acts, allowing the researchers to use tiny doses, which are less likely to cause side effects.

The hope is that the use of such tools will enable scientists and researchers to eventually remove ageing cells in living people and allow multiple age-related diseases to be targeted at once.




IMPLICATIONS 

Research such as this could hold out the possibility of combating such conditions as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as cancer and diabetes and similar horrible diseases that afflict so many.

It is one thing to seek breakthroughs in the treatment and elimination of both chronic diseases and those associated with the progressive decline in people’s normal bodily functions due to the ageing process. It is quite another thing, however, to focus on and grasp at the chance merely to live longer for its own sake or ultimately to live forever.

Are we so arrogant as a species that we feel we can out-smart Nature by circumventing what evolution has taken millions of years to achieve – all without any consequences to ourselves?

Imagine a future in which more and more people live longer and longer. What about those yet to be born? Will there be a place for them? Will there be any room for them as more people living longer would have implications for the world’s population and the consumption of its resources? 

I suppose we are to believe that the prospect of living forever or even for hundreds of years would be made available to all! More likely it would be provided to those who could pay. Welcome to the new pharmacological / medical divide!

It would make far more sense to help people all over the world live longer and healthier lives by improving medical care, hygiene, nutrition, living conditions, education and by giving people equitable access to essential resources and services, as well as giving people purpose in their lives.

What is one important factor that gives the life we have some meaning and which may set our species apart from others? The awareness of our own mortality. Interfere with that and imagine what implications it could have on how we view ourselves and the way we live. 



We may relish the idea of living virtually forever, but many of us can’t even bare the idea of discussing or considering anything to do with death. We often act like frightened children when confronted with our own mortality and would do anything to postpone what up till now is the inevitable fate for ALL of us: Wealthy US presidents and North Korean dictators, Democrats and Republicans, Black or white, Muslims and Christians, atheists and Scientologists, internet trolls and celebrities. Yes, ALL of us, despite our stupid petty differences!

We come kicking and screaming into this world but that is no reason why we should leave it kicking and screaming. Instead of being shielded from and running away in fear from our own mortality, we should incorporate it into the brief lives we do have on this planet. It is one important element that can give our lives meaning and we should be prepared for it as each and every one of us eventually journeys away from our earthly material existence.


******************


Immortality

Humanity has long steadfastly refused 
The stifling limits of Nature’s stern measure. 
Now a Baby Boomer stands shocked and bemused 
At news that Millennials may soon live….. forever! 

Science will banish both ageing and death, 
By hijacking cells and switching genes off and on, 
While the Soul endlessly awaits the final breath 
To convey it away, but which now may never come. 

The Fountain of Youth fizzes away in a test tube fantasy 
Before finding its way into a pill or tube of cream. 
Cheating death and living forever: a swallowed and applied fallacy, 
Giving fools false faith in their ultimate dream. 

Don’t we know that life is but a brief stop-over, 
On a journey from dead stars from where we came? 
A chance for us to seek a full disclosure 
Of all that which we can barely name? 

Like infants we clutch at placebos to chase away the fear 
Of the ultimate leveler, a fate in which we all share. 
But still we cling to that spark of life we hold dear, 
And board the Science Express after paying the Devil his fare. 

We fear the return journey to new stars, home 
To the true source of our immortality, 
Instead we offer prayers to the human genome, 
To free us from the truth of our own mortality.



©Chris Christopoulos 2019

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Volition – The Movie (2019)





Philip K. Dick BEST FEATURE WINNER 

The upcoming science-fiction feature film VOLITION - Directed by Tony Dean Smith and co-written/produced with his brother Ryan W. Smith just won BEST FEATURE at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival!

A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. 

Directed by TONY DEAN SMITH
Written by TONY DEAN SMITH & RYAN W. SMITH
Produced by RYAN W. SMITH & TONY DEAN SMITH
Executive producer: LAURENCE “PALY” PALESTRANT in association with SMITH BROTHERS FILM COMPANY

Starring: 


ADRIAN GLYNN MCMORRAN (The Revenant, CW’S Arrow, CW’s Supernatural, Woody Woodpecker)

MAGDA APANOWICZ (Caprica, Kyle XY, Continuum, Butterfly Effect) 

ALEKS PAUNOVIC (War for the Planet of the Apes, Van Helsing, Percy Jackson, Siberia, Dirk Gently, Continuum, The 100)

JOHN CASSINI (Seven, Continuum, Get Carter)

FRANK CASSINI (Good Fellas, Watchmen, Blackstone)

BILL MARCHANT (Chappie, Strange Empire) 



Teaser


VOLITION — a mind-bending science fiction thriller, where the line between fate and free-will blurs. When you know your world is predetermined, it’s hard to care about your choices.

This is true for James Odin. On a rain-soaked night in 1991, two cars collide, leaving all drivers dead on the scene, including the mother of the lone survivor — a child — James Odin

It’s a tragedy. But what’s more tragic is that seven-year-old James foresaw the accident happening two months prior. He tried to prevent it, but who’s going to believe a kid who claims to see the future?

Twenty-plus years later, James is a product of the failed foster care system. Knowing that the events of his future are predestined, he’s getting by, using his ability for petty crime and cheap thrills. But when a prescient vision reveals to him his own imminent murder, James must go on the run.

Together with a new friend, Angela, he must change the fate he knows is fixed.


My Recommendation 

Volition is a compelling sci-fi film that will grab and hold fast your attention from the start through to the very end. It deals with themes we are familiar with in science fiction: time travel and notions of free will vs destiny and Fate. Instead of finding ourselves along with the characters stuck in the usual endless temporal loop, the action rapidly moves between time periods in a novel and interesting way. The essential clues are there and do make sense and not everything is necessarily what it seems. 


The actors give very competent and strong performances and you’ll find yourself thinking for each one, “I’ve see that actor before.” Chances are you’ve probably seen them in a number of roles in many other fine films and series. 

Volition works well not just as faced-paced entertainment but also on the cerebral level as it forces us to consider aspects of own existence: To what extent are our lives and indeed our possible futures determined by the choices we make and the free will we exercise? OR Is free will just an illusion and are we merely playing roles that have been predetermined along the road towards a fate that is set in stone? 



DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT: TONY DEAN SMITH 

“I have always loved social and cerebral science fiction, all the way from The Twilight Zone to Black Mirror. What I love about these stories is how they position a character in direct opposition to his/her belief system – forcing them to look at their choice-points in the most creative of ways.

“I’ve also been fascinated by the existential debate of fate vs. free-will. If we have free-will, do we exercise it? How do we know we aren’t fated to do so? On the surface, VOLITION fits into this mold. It’s is a cerebral science fiction thriller about James, a man afflicted with clairvoyance, who is spurred into action after seeing a vision of his own imminent murder.

“From its origin, this premise had enough of a hook to grab me, yet it’s not what drove me to spend years developing the story alongside my brother Ryan W. Smith (co-writer and producer).

“What compelled me was something far deeper and, ultimately, something entirely personal. It took me a while to realize it, but I was really telling my own story. Like the character in VOLITION, there was a time in my life when the world felt fated and deterministic. The more I leaned on this fixed mindset — a belief that I “knew” how my future “should” transpire — the less active I became. My worldview became a self-fulfilling prophecy — sometimes as a boon, but more often as a hindrance.

“For me, VOLITION works as a metaphor, challenging us to face our greatest fears and to take a leap into the unknown. We hope VOLITION takes the viewers on a mind-bending adventure, allowing all to partake in the choice-points that shape our characters. I also hope that, like the stories that inspired me, this film lingers just a little bit longer... allowing our audience to think about the ideas of fate versus free-will and how the notion that the very thing we think about ourselves (positive or negative) becomes our worldview and therefor, our world. And though this vision may seem fated, there is always time to break free.”



PRODUCTION TEAM BIOGRAPHIES 

TONY DEAN SMITH — DIRECTOR / CO-WRITER / EDITOR / PRODUCER Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tony Dean Smith is a Director, Screenwriter and Editor, living in Vancouver. His first 35mm short film, “Reflection” — a paranormal thriller — was granted the Directors’ Guild of Canada “Kickstarter Award.” It went on to earn five Leo Award nominations and First Prize at the Spiritual Cinema Festival, run by Producer Stephen Simon ("What Dreams May Come").

Tony’s feature film directorial debut is “Volition” — a science fiction psychological thriller, which he co-wrote with his brother, Ryan W. Smith. The film is the culmination of Tony’s years of experience with directing short films and television and working in post-production.

As a seasoned editor, Tony’s strong story sense has shaped over 100 hours of features, indie-films and TV movies for companies such as NBC, Universal, Syfy and, most recently, for Neill Blomkamp’s company, Oats. Tony and his brother are also winners of the Superchannel Super Catalyst Award for their screenplay, "The Sensational,” a project they are currently developing.

RYAN W. SMITH — PRODUCER / CO-WRITER Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ryan is a writer for film and television, living between Los Angeles and Vancouver.

Recent credits include: Adapting a confidential political drama feature for Anonymous Content; writing on the animated feature, "Next Gen,” starring John Krasinski and Constance Wu (Netflix Original); Co-writing and Producing the feature sci-fi thriller, "Volition" (Smith Brothers/ Paly Productions) with his brother, Tony Dean Smith, the film’s Director; writing and serving as Senior Story Editor/Writer for "ReBoot: The Guardian Code" (Netflix Original); serving as Supervising-Producer/Writer on "Some Assembly Required" (Netflix Original); and as Senior Executive Story Editor/ Writer on "Mr. Young" (Disney). 


Between the above series, Ryan has written on over 150 episode of television, and received two Leo Awards. He is also the winner of the ScreenCraft Fellowship and an Austin Film Festival Semifinalist for his historical thrillers, "Jacaranda" and "Black Messiah." Ryan and his brother Tony are also winners of the Superchannel Super Catalyst Award for their screenplay, "The Sensational.


THE SMITH BROTHERS — A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP 

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tony Dean Smith & Ryan W. Smith are the Smith Brothers, a creative partnership forged in the fires of sibling rivalry. The brothers moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1990, where their childhood collaboration began, making short films that Tony would direct, with Ryan acting. As their love-affair with film making developed, they combined their talents to write various short films, television concepts and features films. This led to each of them working as professionals in the film and television industry for the past decade. 




More info: www.volitionthemovie.com



Saturday, 13 April 2019

Terror in The Midnight Sun (1959)



 Space Invasion of Lapland
(Rymdinvasion i Lappland)
Invasion of the Animal People 

For some, a Viking good time! 
For others, a bloody waste of time! 
So bad, it’s good some might say 
While yet others might suggest 
It should never see the light of day.


Directed by Virgil W. Vogel
Produced by Bertil Jernberg, Gustaf Unger
Written by Arthur C. Pierce (screenplay and story)
Music by Harry Arnold, Allan Johansson
Cinematography Hilding Bladh
Edited by Shirley Citron, Tom Rolf; 

Running time: 73 minutes (Sweden); 55 minute (US); 80 minutes (TV)

Cast


Barbara Wilson as Diane Wilson
Sten Gester as Erik Engström
Robert Burton as Dr. Frederick Wilson
Bengt Blomgren as Col. Robert Bottiger
Åke Grönberg as Dr. Henrik
Gösta Prüzelius as Dr. Walter Ullman
Doreen Denning as Anna, Dr. Ullmans secretary
Ittla Frodi as girl in the sports car
Brita Borg as the singer
Lars Åhrén as the monster
John Carradine as narrator (US version) 



Trailer


Space Invasion of Lapland is a 1959 Swedish-American black-and-white science fiction-monster film that was heavily re-edited by American producer Jerry Warren and had newly filmed American sequences added. I admit that until recently I was unaware of the existence of this film. Sadly, after viewing it I feel that I have not missed much. 


Read on for more....