The articles/posts I've seen lean towards 2 things: 1. The laser is dodgy/losing power, reading CDs uses a different wavelength to reading DVDs. Normally I'd say that'd be if its a few years old though. 2. The lens is dirty. Cleaning things from Walmart for $10 or so seemed a popular answer.
Depending on how geeky you want to be, you could rule out a hardware problem (maybe) by creating a boot CD that has a DVD player on it. If the boot CD can use your DVD drive, then you know that the issue is a software one and is either your OS or your Player software.
You could try this one Geexbox (geexbox.org) or look for a different one.
I have a MacBook Pro that is a couple years old. I'm experiencing this weird thing where when I move the cursor, either with the touchpad or the bluetooth mouse, it nudges the entire screen a tiny bit in the direction the cursor is moving.