Marie Phillips' amusing novel "Gods Behaving Badly" had Olympians slumming and causing trouble in modern-day London. Turns out in "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" - a family-friendly adventure based on the first novel in Rick Riordan's fantasy series - that the Greek gods still are making mischief by coming to Earth and "hooking up" with humans, resulting in demigods.
Our hero, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), a dyslexic high school student, finds out one day that he is one of them - the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) - because Zeus (Sean Bean) believes he has stolen a lightning bolt required to wield absolute power.
Suddenly, he finds himself among centaurs - including his classics teacher, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) - and other mythological creations, as well as hot demigod Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the doe-eyed daughter of Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr (a man-goat hybrid) who is charged as Percy's protector.
After a bit of training at a camp for such gifted types, Percy, Grover and Annabeth hit the road to prove his innocence and prevent a titanic battle among the gods.
Along the way, the trio encounters Medusa (Uma Thurman, looking cool as ever but not too frightening), the sexy Persephone (Rosario Dawson) and Hades (Steve Coogan), who appears benign at first but eventually reveals his true nature. There are also stops at the Parthenon replica in Nashville, where the security guards morph into Hydra, and Las Vegas, where casino hostesses slip them a memory-erasing lotus flower.
This PG-rated film was directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two "Harry Potter" movies and "Home Alone." It's inoffensive, but that's practically a Columbus trademark. The effects are large, but not likely to give anyone much of a jolt.
Though competent, Columbus is rarely inventive in this story. The teens are fairly bland, though the script by Craig Titley doesn't give them much to work with. It's only the adults who pop in occasionally, including Catherine Keener as Percy's mom, that bring a little verve to the proceedings.
"Creation" tries to make melodrama out of Charles Darwin's journey to writing his world-changing "On the Origin of Species." Darwin (Paul Bettany), in director Jon Amiel's film, is a haunted man who has nightmares about his dead daughter, Annie. His wife, Emma, played by Jennifer Connelly (Bettany's real-life wife), worries about her husband's soul. Religious, she sees where his theories are taking him and they argue.
A local minister (Jeremy Northam) also challenges Darwin's notions. There are a number of obvious implications to today in "Creation," but it's a bit of a mash-up, part psychological bio, part romance. Despite a lot of arguing and anguish, we don't really get to know the eminent scientist any better in the end or understand much about his intellectual drive to find the truth.
Tom DiCillo's "When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors" uses a collection of film clips of the band shot between 1966 and 1971. Narrated by Johnny Depp, it tells the story of how the Doors - lead singer and poet Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore - were formed and ultimately fell apart. While the band made some great rock in its day that still sounds alive today, it's the pinup image of the charismatic Morrison, who died in a bathtub in Paris at 27 in 1971, that remains the focus of the group. No one will ever solve the mystery of the self-destructive "Mr. Mojo Risin"' (it's an anagram), but "When You're Strange," with some footage that has rarely been seen, is fascinating for even casual fans of the band.
The disconcerting "The White Ribbon" won the Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The black-and-white German film from Michael Haneke is a sort of "Village of the Damned" fable. Set in a small, seemingly peaceful German town on the eve of World War I, the people are inexplicitly cruel though polite. Who's innocent? Who's guilty? It's a dark mystery.
One thing we know is that this generation of children will grow up to be Nazis.
Keep in mind
Irish playwright, screenwriter and director Conor McPherson's "The Eclipse" is a ghost story that boasts Ciaran Hinds, a fine character actor who gets a chance to shine. "Don McKay" is a strange comedy starring Thomas Haden Church that relies on a lot of literary and cinematic references.