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DVDs In Brief: January 20, 2010

The Invention Of Lying (Warner Bros.) promises greatness with its cast (Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K., Tina Fey, and lots of other big stars in tiny roles) and premise (Gervais’ hapless loser invents lying in an alternate universe where everyone blurts out the first thing that comes to mind), but the film had the misfortune to be merely good. There are high points scattered throughout nevertheless, though the film is nearly ruined by a non-starting romantic subplot about Gervais wooing a horrible, horrible woman played by Jennifer Garner…

The writing (and now directing) team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor—credited under the Borg-like moniker Neveldine/Taylor—can generally be counted on for high-concept action premises pushed to comic, borderline avant-garde extremes. So what happened with Gamer (Lionsgate)? Like the pair’s Crank movies and Pathology, the film has a crazy hook—in this case, human beings controlled remotely, like characters in a videogame—but save for a outrageous performance by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, the film leans on the cheat codes of conventionality…

Here’s a thought: Maybe the best idea in the world does not consist of setting the big climax of a mystery-thriller in an environment where neither the characters nor the audience has the slightest idea what’s going on. But that’s pretty much the premise of Whiteout (Warner Bros.), which stars Kate Beckinsale as a U.S. marshal trying to solve Antarctica’s first murder. Faulty logic and terrible storytelling abounds, as flashbacks and repetition clumsily feed the story to the audience, and then the whole thing winds up with an overlong battle in a blinding snowstorm that practically might as well be 10 minutes of watching a white screen…

Like a literary Morgan Spurlock, Manhattanite Colin Beavan took it upon himself to live out his ideals by going through an entire year without harming the environment in any way. The conditions, instituted in carefully plotted phases, range from minor inconveniences like no television, no transportation beyond a bike and a scooter, and cloth diapers for his 2-year-old girl (sans washing machines, mind) to serious hardships like no toilet paper, no electricity (meaning no refrigerated food), a diet of seasonal local produce and dairy only (meaning root vegetables in the winter—yum!), and no trash. No Impact Man (Oscilloscope) makes the difficulties plain, but it functions even better as a portrait of a marriage, as Beavan hijacks his family for his grand social experiment…

Dennis Quaid slums it up alongside Ben Foster in Pandorum (Anchor Bay), an underachieving Alien knock-off about space madness infecting the skeleton crew of a spaceship. It’s all dour and tension-free, a poor pastiche of science-fiction classics past.