Weekend Forecast: Scenes From a Box-Office Wasteland

Happy Friday! Just not necessarily at the movies, where the first Hollywood offerings of 2011 include a gloomy trip to the Middle Ages with Nicolas Cage and a fitfully satisfying post-rehab journey through country-music stardom with Gwyneth Paltrow. The biggest news likely features a film you've already seen and another that's technically almost four years old. To the Forecast!


· Season of the Witch: So Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman come back from the Crusades one day and, for their trouble, get stuck transporting a young woman suspected of having caused the Black Plague. Hardly seems fair! And according to critics, it hardly seems good: "[T]his material is both too bombastic and too puny to be shaped into anything with even marginal entertainment value," wrote our own Stephanie Zacharek, and she was far from alone. Regardless, and as they should, moviegoers will make up their own minds -- just not a lot of them. Tracking is terrible in general, but Cage can open virtually anything not called The Sorcerer's Apprentice, so let's call it somewhere between "January movie-dump catastrophe" and "multiplex-filling genre pulp." FORECAST: $13.1 million

· Country Strong: Starring as a country-music superstar on the road from rehab to restoration, Gwyneth Paltrow goes courting Oscar and about half the heartland in this generally satisfying sturm-and-twang melodrama. "Paltrow has moments of both great charisma and startling pathos," wrote Michelle Orange in her Movieline review, "and man, does [writer-director Shana] Feste love to drive them home." Comparisons to The Blind Side have commenced (at least in marketplace terms), but on only 1,400 or so screens and with the equally audience-friendly True Grit angling for first place overall this weekend, that will be a hard standard to accomplish. It should jump out Strong nonetheless. Ha! OK, I give up. FORECAST: $10.3 million

gogotales_225.jpgREGIONAL OUTLOOK

Not a lot to offer you here, either, but I will say that New Yorkers are in luck: Go Go Tales, director Abel Ferrara's minor classic from 2007(!), is finally getting a theatrical run at Anthology Film Archives. I could go on and on about the wild ensemble (Willem Dafoe, Bob Hoskins, Sylvia Miles, Burt Young, Matthew Modine) advancing the story of a swanky if down-on-its-luck T&A nightclub under threat by its landlord, all of which is fine, more from the cannily entertaining King of New York side of Ferrara's brain than its viscerally affecting Bad Lieutenant side. But damn if you'll see a better stage routine all year than the one featuring Asia Argento and... a rottweiler. This is what Burlesque was missing. Oh, and it's probably best viewed drunk. Enjoy!