‘Red Tails,’ ‘Contraband’ Lead January Movie Releases

'The Devil Inside,' 'Beauty and the Beast 3-D' and 'The Grey' also arrive this month.

As far as excitement for brand-new movie releases goes, January is not a month film fanatics expect to deliver them major blockbusters, award contenders or other assorted cinematic events. The first month of the year falls into one of two seasons of studio dumping grounds: the late summer and winter months during which movie studios typically unveil their most forgettable fare.

There are exceptions, of course, and being the optimistic movie fans we are, we always hold out hope. Without further ado, here’s a rundown of January’s new releases and our guesses at their box-office potential.

January 6
The lone new release this week is “The Devil Inside,” an R-rated thriller that revolves around a daughter’s quest to find out the truth behind her mother’s institutionalization. Is she mentally ill or demonically possessed? Our guess is a little bit of both. Fun fact: Director/editor Brent Bell and producer Matt Peterman shot the movie guerrilla/ found-footage style, making the film almost entirely outside the studio system on a shoestring budget.
Prediction: Horror fans, particularly those who made “Paranormal Activity 3″ a $100 million box-office success story , will flock to this one.

January 13
The second week of the month pits an action flick vs. two family-friendly films, only one of which is actually “new.” “Contraband” is an action thriller about a retired smuggler (Mark Wahlberg) who has to return to his criminal ways in order to save his family from harm. Think “Gone in 60 Seconds” set in New Orleans with smugglers instead of car thieves. In contrast, “Joyful Noise” has all the elements of a schmaltzy warm fuzzy. A small-town church choir struggles to find its “joyful” voice when its directors (Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton) clash over methods for how the choir can beat the odds and win a national competition. Finally, Disney will release its revamped 3-D version of 1992 Best Picture Oscar nominee “Beauty and the Beast.”
Prediction: The NFL playoffs might keep the “Contraband” target audience at home, leaving the family-friendly flicks to dominate the box office. “Beauty and the Beast” will take the weekend. Latifah and Parton’s movie magnetism are no match for the “tale as old as time.”

January 20
The latter half of the month is all about action and intrigue. January 20 marks the release of the George Lucas-produced “Red Tails,” the first Lucasfilm production since 1994′s “Radioland Murders” that is not associated with the “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars” franchises. The film is based on the true story of a group of African-American pilots, commonly referred to as the Tuskegee Airmen, who served in World War II. “Underworld: Awakening,” the fourth film in the franchise, was shot in 3-D with fancy new Red Epic digital cameras and takes place after “Underworld: Evolution”; Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as former Death Dealer Selene. Finally, “Haywire” features MMA fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano as a black ops super soldier double-crossed in the line of duty who then sets out to exact revenge on those who betrayed her.
Prediction: This one’s a tossup. We’re giving the edge to “Tails” for its PG-13 rating, the “based on a true story” factor and the slightly broader appeal that comes with it.

January 27
It’s the star-studded heist thriller “Man on a Ledge” vs. the Liam Neeson-led survival thriller “The Grey,” vs. “One for the Money,” based on Janet Evanovich’s best-seller of the same name. Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and Ed Burns give “Ledge” an edge in star power, adding intrigue to a film that seems to be a fun twist on the typical heist formula. “Grey” holds appeal for the man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. animal aspects. “One for the Money” will definitely draw book clubs and fans of star/producer Katherine Heigl.
Prediction: Shooting for the moon and solely because we believe in the power of Liam Neeson’s post-”Taken” and “Unknown” bankability, our money is on “The Grey” to edge out “Ledge” and “Money.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.