After a deluge of populist, crowd-pleasing films mixed in with the usual year-end awards bait, the first Friday of 2011 finds an awfully unusual lineup of cinematic offerings at your local movie theater. Gwyneth Paltrow's music-centric road movie "Country Strong" goes wide today, which will give more people the opportunity to enjoy Paltrow's refreshingly excellent singing voice. If you prefer your music films a little more political, this week also marks the release of "Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune," a sharp documentary about the extremely popular and influential protest singer. (It's a fascinating, clear-eyed portrait of an underrated artist and a complicated man.) But if you find yourself in the mood to watch Nicolas Cage spit lines like "I have no such yearnings for home" while making his way through the Crusades, then "Season of the Witch" will cure what ails you.
Directed by Dominic Sena ("Gone in 60 Seconds," "Swordfish"), "Season of the Witch" casts Cage as Behmen, a legendary soldier of God who is excommunicated after walking out on a battle he finds morally corrupt. He and companion Felson (played with grim humor by Ron Perlman) try to make good with the church by agreeing to transport a woman they think is a witch to a monastery, which will theoretically end the plague that has swept through the country. It's a nutty little movie that is long on charm and has some killer action sequences.
In order to properly prepare yourself for "Season of the Witch," take a spin through the playlist below. It features 13 songs about witches (Clinic's "The Witch") and their punishments (Usher's "Burn," Spoon's "Small Stakes"), evil spirits (Kyuss' "Demon Cleaner") and the plague (Tad's "Plague Years," Slipknot's "My Plague"). Get everything started with Bloc Party's "Hunting For Witches," a jittery gem from their underrated second album A Weekend in the City.