Post-awards doldrums assuaged by TV offerings

Furious 7

The seventh outing for the “Fast and Furious” franchise proved to be its most successful topping over $100 million last weekend. This is a fitting tribute to Paul Walker, one of the returning stars who died in a car crash last year before he could finish the movie.

Despite the popularity of this series, the post-award-season movie drought continues, but DVD and download options are gaining steam with the recent releases of many Oscar-nominated films and some that were overlooked.

Quick. Name the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Picture. That’s how quickly all of the hype and accolades fade from memory. It was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu “Birdman,” and while it was one of my favorite movies of 2014, there were others that are now available for home viewing.

“The Imitation Game” earned many nominations including for best picture, best director and best actor. I really hoped Benedict Cumberbatch would jump into the race, but it was Eddie Redmayne’s year for “The Theory of Everything.” While Redmayne’s role was the more physically challenging as Stephen Hawking, Cumberbatch was no less stellar as another complicated character from real life, the genius Alan Turing. Morten Tyldum’s movie, mostly set during World War II as Turing and his team try to break the Nazi Enigma Code, luxuriates in the time period with great sets, costumes and characters — and for the most part, it’s true, with a few exceptions woven in to create a little theatrical suspense.

Before “Still Alice” popped up and Julianne Moore’s performance was recognized with the lion’s share of awards, the buzz was about Reese Witherspoon and “Wild.” You can see for yourself, if you didn’t already catch it in theaters, that this is one of her best performances. It’s raw and exposed and pushes her clean-cut image out the way, as it was designed to do.

While Witherspoon enjoyed her many nominations, albeit with no wins, Jennifer Aniston wasn’t even a bridesmaid during the awards season for “Cake,” which was supposed to be her big bid for Oscar recognition. The reviews were very mixed for this character study of a woman suffering from constant pain who pushes away those close to her. Beginning this week, it is available for download on iTunes, with a scheduled DVD release for next week.

The sting of months of mediocre movies is assuaged slightly by some great television lately. On of my current favorites is “Better Call Saul.” For “Breaking Bad” fans, the announcement last year that creator Vince Gilligan would spin off one the show’s most memorable characters was met with a bit of skepticism, but the show has proved to be a winner with record-breaking ratings.

Though it lacks the undercurrent of menace that “Breaking Bad” always had, it does have that signature dark sense of humor. Gilligan has created an entire universe around the lead character, Saul Goodman, played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk, that begins years before “Breaking Bad” and so far has chronicled how Saul became a lawyer, while introducing some other familiar faces from “Breaking Bad.” It’s quirky, creative and was meant for a rainy day of binge watching.

“Trainwreck,” the comedy starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, is one of this summer’s best bets for R-rated laughs (July 17). Schumer, who also wrote the script, stars basically as herself along with Bill Hader and — whoa! — basketball wiz LeBron James, who appears as himself. Schumer’s brand of reveal-all, self-deprecating comedy is like repeated slaps to the face or a breath of very brisk, fresh air, depending on whether or not you like that brand of humor. To see if you do episodes of her Comedy Central TV show “Inside Amy Schumer,” are available for download on a variety of platforms.

My anticipation meter has failed to spike with this week’s opening of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” with Kevin James returning as the dim-witted rent-a-cop. Really? Wasn’t one enough? I hold slightly more interest for the grim drama “Child 44” with Tom Hardy. Set in Russia in the ‘50s, it centers around the discovery of a child abduction conspiracy.

shadow