February is Black History Month, and a number of DVDs have been released to coincide with the observance:
• "Drumline: Special Edition" (Fox, 2002, PG-13, $19.98). This predictable but well-played comedy-drama is a nice showcase for Nick Cannon, who plays a street-smart New Yorker with a chip on his shoulder.
He's also a talented drummer and manages to land a spot in a marching band at a Georgia university, where the expected ups and downs with classmates and teachers culminate in lessons learned.
With films like this, however, it isn't so much the "what" as the "how." Cannon and company are quite likable, and the drumming/marching/music sequences are irresistible.
This new edition includes a few more bonus features, though there were plenty on the original DVD, released in 2003.
• "The Wiz" (Universal, 1978, G, $19.98). When I saw this in 1978, it seemed like an interesting idea gone haywire the wrong director (Sidney Lumet, who's more at home with gritty street crime), the wrong star (Diana Ross, who's more at home on the concert stage) and the distracting "reality" of New York City intruding on the fantasy.
Watching it again, my opinion hasn't changed much. But it must be said that this all-black version of "The Wizard of Oz," adapted from the hit stage musical, does have some good songs and a great supporting cast: Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor ... and yes, Michael Jackson.
Widescreen, featurette, trailer; includes music CD with eight tracks
• "Blackout" (BET Home Entertainment, 2007, not rated, $22.99). Starring Jeffrey Wright ("Angels in America"), "Blackout" recounts the violence of two days and a night in Flatbush, N.Y., during the largest power outage in North America.
• "Black August" (Warner Home Video, 2006, not rated, $19.97). The account of the life and death of George L. Jackson, a prison activist and author. Gary Dourdan ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation") stars.
• "Africa Unite" (Palm Pictures, 2008, not rated, $24.98). A music documentary, directed and produced by Stephanie Black, features exclusive footage of three generations of the family of reggae artist Bob Marley on their first trip to Ethiopia.
• "Soulfood" (Paramount Home Entertainment, 2002-2003, not rated, $49.99). The series reunites the Joseph family, a tight-knit African-American family living in Chicago.• "Showstoppers" (Warner Home Entertainment, 2007, not rated, $19.97). Sorority sisters dream of winning the national stepping competition. Stars Faune Chambers ("Bring It On Again"), Tamala Jones ("Head of State") and Clifton Powell ("Ray").