Cloudy with a chance of deception

Have you heard this one? A couple walks into a community-based assistance office seeking advice on securing a mortgage without declaring income or filing income taxes because they engage in a profession that is exclusively paid for with cash. As some of the advisers work furtively with this situation so that the young couple can finally become homeowners, it’s clear that this is a pimp and his prostitute.

Wait a minute! Keep your pants on! It turns out that the couple wasn’t really a pimp and prostitute, after all. No, they were really a couple of jokesters secretly taping the encounters so that they could have a laugh and punk them à la “Candid Camera.”

Whoa, there! Hold your horses! They weren’t out for a “gotcha” moment. They were really right-wing activists seeking to strip bare the workings of this assistance organization by posting their secret tapes on the Internet and sending them to like-minded pundits in order to blow the whistle.

Not so fast! That would be premature! This stunt was really a ruse to attack the president and the Democrats for supporting an organization that ...

Clearly, we live in times where all is not what it appears to be. Is it about race? Are they really establishing “death panels?” Can I trust that “Wikipedia” entry if it has not been checked by some mysterious, anonymous editor? Did Kanye really mean to dis Taylor at the awards show, or was he just trying to boost his ratings the next day on Leno?

Something just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t know what it is.

That “not right” feeling also afflicts the multiplex. To give you a sense of that, try this brain teaser. Below are synopses of four recent releases. Can you determine which ones are live action features and which ones are animated? Good luck!

Option 1: The Island and the Inventor

An island community is experiencing an economic downturn. Its main industry is the fish it harvests off its shores, which it cans and exports. Sales are down, and the islanders are in a funk. A hapless inventor who grew up on the island and was ridiculed as a nerd, creates a new technology that — through genetic and molecular engineering — produces other food stuffs. His invention is a great success as it boosts the island’s economy, helps feed its inhabitants and creates an international sensation. However, that does not come without a cost. Something goes wrong, and the technology goes wildly out of control, creating impacts to the environment and the climate. He scrambles to correct his mistake, but not before creating serious weather and waste impacts to the island and its inhabitants.

Option 2: The Invincible Army

A small army battalion combs the countryside looking for the enemy. They are seemingly invincible as they cut off the scalps of their foes after they have dispatched them with baseball bats. They also carve an insignia into the foreheads of those they happen to let live. They have no trouble infiltrating the enemy’s territory, speaking their language, and killing their adversaries without being discovered. They devise an elaborate plot to kill the leader of the opposing army. To do this, they work with a movie starlet who happens to be a double agent. They learn that the enemy leader is planning to attend the premier of a propaganda film at a theater run by a sympathizer who evaded being captured and killed in an earlier confrontation. She now owns this theater and happens to develop a relationship with star of the propaganda film. To gain entry into this theater for the showing, the battalion poses as filmmakers with the starlet in tow. Once inside, they proceed to kill all the occupants, including the enemy leader.

Option 3: Raging Against the Machine

A group is making its way across a devastated landscape. There has been some sort of calamity — a war, a natural disaster — and there are few survivors. Those who are still alive seek each other out and band together. One member of this group is captured and taken away to an industrial building. The leader of the group discourages the others from rescuing the captured member. However, others of the group go after the lost member and infiltrate the industrial complex. Once there, they find their comrade, but also inadvertently reactivate the machinery, which then turns on them. They then have to scramble to deactivate the machine in order to save themselves and live happily ever after.

Option 4: A Young Boy and the Sea

A young boy who lives with his mother along a coast while his father is out to sea on a patrol ship frees a fish trapped in a bottle he finds as he is playing on the beach. The bottle is just one item among tons of trash and sewage that humans have spewed into the ocean, turning it into a waste dump. He puts the fish in a bucket of water and takes it with him to school and when he goes with his mom to work at a retirement home. After the fish is returned to its home in the sea, a great storm occurs, threatening the town and all who live along the coast. The storm’s intensity is exacerbated by human pollution, which creates not only stronger storms but genetic mutations of sea life. The young boy and his mom try to protect themselves and their community members from the effects of the storm. The boy gets separated from his mom and, when the storm subsides, he goes looking for her along with a young female companion he meets along the way. When the boy, his mom and the young girl all reconnect, the storm surge abates and they pledge to try and live more harmoniously with nature.

Doug Young, The Statesman’s film critic, provides various perspectives in his reviews, thereby fulfilling his role as a master film critic.