January is often the no-man's-land of Hollywood's calendar, an island of misfit toys that are neither Oscar hopefuls nor surefire commercial hits. There's only one new wide release this week, 'Season of the Witch,' kicking off this season of the hard-to-market.
'Season of the Witch' (PG-13)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Claire Foy, Robbie Sheehan
Directed by: Dominic Sena
What's It About? Two medieval knights (Cage and Perlman) must escort to a monastery a girl (Foy) suspected of being the witch who caused the Black Plague, for an exorcism meant to undo the curse. Cage's character suspects she is innocent, but along the way, it becomes clear that dark supernatural forces are at work.
Why Should You See It? There's not a lot of advance buzz about this film, which was initially supposed to be released last March, but we do know that no one does intense like Cage, and no one does grotesque like 'Hellboy' star Perlman.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'The Order,' 'The Name of the Rose,' 'The Seventh Seal'
Nicolas Cage Interview | 47 Facts About Nicolas Cage | In Defense of Nicolas Cage
Watch a Scene From the Movie and Mr. Moviefone's Six Second Review
'Country Strong,' which finally opens wide this weekend, is a musical drama about a down-and-out Nashville country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) who tries to reboot her career following a high-profile stint in rehab. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
'Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune' is a documentary that examines the music and tragically short life of the 1960s protest singer. Showtimes & Tickets
'The Time That Remains' is an autobiographical comedy-drama from Palestinian director Elia Suleiman about the fraught history between the Palestinians and Israelis. Showtimes & Tickets
•'Blue Valentine' -- Watch for Oscar nominations for both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in this intimate portrait of a marriage's sweet beginning and bitter ending. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'Another Year' -- Watch for an Oscar nomination for Lesley Manville as a freewheeling middle-aged Brit in Mike Leigh's comedy-drama. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
•'True Grit' -- Watch for an Oscar nomination for Jeff Bridges in the Coen brothers' bloody-good remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic.
New on DVD This Week: The French satire 'The Dinner Game' (1999) was a hilarious farce about a yuppie who competes with his associates to see who can bring the most clueless buffoon to a dinner party, only to have the buffoon he picks inadvertently wreck his life. Last summer's American remake, 'Dinner for Schmucks,' both softens the satire and takes it to some bizarre, otherworldly land of absurdity. Here, the yuppie is Paul Rudd, while his unwittingly destructive idiot is Steve Carell. It has its moments, but for consistent laughs, brave the subtitles and rent the original. Buy or rent the DVD | More new DVD releases
Movie Homework: If the premise of 'Season of the Witch' sounds familiar, maybe that's because you've seen this tale more than once, albeit in a more modern context. A notable version was Dennis Hopper's 'Chasers' (1994), in which two Navy men (Tom Berenger and William McNamara) had to escort to trial a young woman ('Baywatch's' Erika Eleniak) who was a lot trickier than she seemed. That, in turn, was a virtual remake of 'The Last Detail,' in which the prisoner is hapless Randy Quaid and his naval escorts are Jack Nicholson and Otis Young. Nicholson being Nicholson (and this being 1973), he's determined to bend the rules and show nebbishy Quaid a hellraising good time on the way to the brig. No witches, no black plague, just a sweet, sad gem from '70s auteur Hal Ashby. Buy or rent the DVD
On Our Netflix Queue: Watching Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson going through the motions in the current 'Little Fockers,' it's easy to forget that these two are a unique comedy team, with their own offbeat rhythms and chemistry, who've made 10 movies together. The one we never get tired of is 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' where failed financial genius Stiller and substance-abusing novelist Wilson are part of a larger family dynamic that also wraps Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover, and Bill Murray in director Wes Anderson's gentle lunacy. Buy or rent the DVD
•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.