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Time to reflect Sampling the best films starring African-Americans

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday and Black History Month in February, it seems an appropriate time to spotlight the work of African-American actors and actresses. While many of these films have been previously released, they are certainly worth mentioning -- as well as watching -- again.

*MGM Home Entertainment has taken about 60 of its movies and released them under three categories -- Black History, Urban Cinema and Soul Cinema -- in celebration of Black History Month.

The great Sidney Poitier, who paved the way for modern African-American actors, is honored in "The Sidney Poitier Gift Set" ($44.98) with "In the Heat of the Night," and its sequel, "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!," plus "For Love of Ivy," "Lilies of the Field" and "The Organization."

"The Soul Cinema 5 Pack" ($69.98) has the great Pam Grier starring as the sexy "Foxy Brown," plus "Coffy," "Cooley High," "Hell Up in Harlem" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka."

Here's a look at a few of the titles included under each banner and sold for $14.98 each: Black History: "AKA Cassius Clay," "Jackie Robinson Story," "King," "Pressure Point" and "The Wilby Conspiracy"; Soul Cinema: "Blacula," "Black Caesar," "Cotton Comes to Harlem" and "Sheba Baby"; Urban Cinema: "Amos & Andrew," "Barbershop," "Breakin'," "Jason's Lyric," "The Mighty Quinn" and "Six Degrees of Separation."

*Fox is also highlighting the movies of such stars as Will Smith, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy and Queen Latifah.

Check out, for instance, Murphy in the family comedies "Dr. Doolittle" and "Dr. Doolittle 2" (each priced at $14.95). The story continues in "Dr. Doolittle 3" ($14.98) with Kyla Pratt starring as Maya Dolittle in this film geared to the teen set. Extras include a commentary with Pratt and director Rich Thorne, plus the featurettes "Growing Up Dolittle" and "Making of Dr. Dolittle."

Fans of Denzel Washington can see his passionate directorial debut, "Antwone Fisher" ($14.98), as well as his emotional performance as the bodyguard out for revenge in "Man on Fire" ($19.98).

Laugh it up with Queen Latifah in "Taxi" and Martin Lawrence in "Big Momma's House" ($14.98) and "Black Knight" ($9.98).

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In the 1980s, cool kids like Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick and Andrew McCarthy hung out in the films of John Hughes. Appropriately, then, you can buy the new "Too Cool for School -- The John Hughes Collection" ($39.99, Paramount). Broderick hams it up in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"; Jon Cryer plays the lovable Duckie in "Pretty in Pink"; and Eric Stolz stars in the underrated teen romance "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Extras abound on all of these titles. Each is also sold separately for $14.99.

*The Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen" ($14.97, BBC Video) is brought to life in a mix of live action and animation featuring Juliet Stevenson, Kenneth Welsh and the voice of Patrick Stewart. Extras include a making-of featurette.

*"Love's Abiding Joy" ($26.98, Fox), based on the fourth novel in the "Love Comes Softly" series by author Janette Oke, is also the fourth novel adapted as a Hallmark Channel original movie. Erin Cottrell and Logan Bartholomew star as young pioneers Missie and Willie, who will again face hardships and tragedy in the film directed by Michael Landon Jr., who also co-wrote the movie.

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Coming Tuesday

"Dreamland" (Image), "Employee of the Month" (Lionsgate), "Gridiron Gang" (Sony), "La Moustache" (Koch Vision), "The Protector" (Weinstein) and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" (New Line/Warner).

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DVD Extra:

THE ILLUSIONIST: Edward Norton plays a magician who uses his talents to win over Jessica Biel in this suspenseful romance. Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell also star. Writer-director Neil Burger provides a commentary; the actors all provide interviews. ($29.98, Fox. Available now.)

e-mail: truberto@buffnews.com

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