Here are the 5 best movies you can now watch at home –

Theaters are starting to tentatively reopen in some places, and drive-ins are making a comeback. But with most theaters still closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, this year’s summer movie season is still up in the air.

Yet film releases have not slowed down. Each weekend, on streaming services and through “virtual theatrical” releases, new and newly available movies arrive to delight cinephiles of all stripes.

The offerings for this Memorial Day weekend are uniformly joy-giving. There’s a documentary about a feisty, brilliant chef. There’s a rom-com caper and an intimate nonfiction portrait of a painter and a thief. One of last year’s most joyful musicals is now available to stream. And a decade-long journey of two comedians is coming to an end, with a delicious trip to Greece. (Most of the films that were newly released in recent weeks are also still available to watch.)

Here are the five best movies, from a range of genres, that premiered this week and are available to watch at home — for a few bucks on digital services, through virtual theatrical engagements, or to subscribers on streaming platforms.

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Diana Kennedy is 97 years, but you’d never know it from Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, in which the famed cookbook author’s insatiable appetite both for great food and for learning about her adopted home country of Mexico is on full display. Kennedy, who is British, moved to Mexico with her husband when she was a young woman and has lived there for most of her adult life. She’s sustained such a fascination with indigenous Mexican cooking — with its ingredients, its traditional methods, the ways that different regions of Mexico handle all sorts of flavors and textures — that she’s widely considered an authority on the cuisine, even by native chefs, and has been dubbed the “Julia Child of Mexico.” (Kennedy prefers to be referred to as the “Mick Jagger of Mexican Cuisine.”) “For giving Mexican cuisine the place it deserves, she is an adoptive daughter in Mexico,” says Abigail Mendoza, chef and owner at Tlamanalli restaurant and a friend of Kennedy’s for more than 35 years.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, which takes its subtitle from one of Kennedy’s books, is an unusually engaging portrait of a cook whose interest, above all else, is in preserving traditional ways, rather than adapting them to modern tastes. Director Elizabeth Carroll spends time with Kennedy on her travels and in her home, letting her tell her own story in her own way, interspersed with interviews with famous chefs (like José Andrés and Alice Waters) and the people Kennedy has befriended. Kennedy is largely responsible for introducing Mexican cuisine to the English-speaking culinary world, and her opinionated enthusiasm is infectious.

How to watch it: Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is in virtual theaters this week, and a list of participating theaters is available on the film’s website. (You’ll receive a rental link, and profits help support the independent theater you select on the page.)

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Really, The Lovebirds is an excuse to get Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani in the same place and let them bounce off one another. The pair play Leilani (Rae) and Jibran (Nanjiani), who’ve been together for four years but are getting very much on one another’s nerves. They’re headed for a split when, on the way home from a very unpleasant dinner date, they hit a biker, who just looks at them, wild-eyed, and keeps going. Then a cop (Paul Sparks) commandeers the car, with them in it, to chase down the biker and mow him over in an alleyway, then disappear himself. Suddenly it looks like Leilani and Jibran are the murderers. Their attempts to clear their name send them on a strange thrill ride.

Directed by the great comedy director Michael Showalter (The Big Sick), The Lovebirds is a grab-bag of set pieces, some of which work better than others. You can guess where the narrative is going — of course you can; The Lovebirds is a romantic comedy, whose formula almost always ensures that you know what will happen by the end. But the joy of any by-the-numbers genre is in seeing how it’s pulled off. Rae and Nanjiani are terrific comedians whose wisecracks and antics are fun to watch, and so even if you know how The Lovebirds will wrap things up, it’s great fun watching them get to that point.

How to watch it: The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix.

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The Painter and the Thief is a stunning film about young Czech painter Barbora Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland, the thief who stole two of her paintings from an Oslo gallery. He says he was so high that he can’t remember why he did it — or what he did with the paintings. Barbora’s less interested in the thief himself than in where he took her paintings, but eventually she meets him and decides to paint his portrait, after which they form a friendship and creative partnership of sorts.

The Painter and the Thief, which won a prize at Sundance for creative storytelling, actively challenges what we think we understand about its characters based on their appearance, class markers, or behavior. It highlights the way artists of all kinds, from painters to filmmakers, turn reality into something that’s at least a little fictionalized in order to make their work and how everyone conceals the truth a little.

How to watch it: The Painter and the Thief opens on May 22 in virtual cinemas and digital platforms including iTunes, Fandango Now, and Google Play. Some virtual screenings on opening weekend also involve Q&As with filmmakers and subjects (one moderated by me). See the film’s website for full details.

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Any worthwhile movie about Elton John must be much, much larger than life. But Rocketman, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, is smart enough not to try to outshine its subject. It’s flashy because the singer is a spectacular light source all his own. The film explodes with energy because Elton John is its pulse. It stumbles a few times — as has John — but on the whole, it’s a consistently good biopic and jukebox musical from start to finish, a movie rooted in a real story that nonetheless doesn’t tether itself too close to the ground.

Which is a bit of a relief. You don’t have to be a fan of Elton John’s music to know his music; even the most pop culture-oblivious person knows “Your Song,” and “Tiny Dancer,” and “Rocket Man.” And it’s easy, watching Taron Egerton play Elton John whipping a crowd into a frenzy, to understand the artist’s genius. Rocketman is a solid introduction to the singer that is also guaranteed to please his fans.

How to watch it: Rocketman is newly available to stream on Amazon for Prime members. It’s also available to digitally purchase on iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Amazon, and Google Play.

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The Trip to Greece is the fourth (and maybe final) in a series of films in which actors and comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon head off somewhere for a week to eat extravagantly, tour the countryside, and have some fun. Ostensibly the pair are there to “review” the restaurants, but the food and wine and comedy bits are really part of a tale of discovery and, at times, disquieting reflections on life, love, and regrets.

While comparing the pair’s pasts and futures has always been part of the Trip series, The Trip to Greece is more interested than its predecessors in mortality. Brydon and Coogan follow in the steps of Odysseus, from Troy to Ithaca, spouting Greek mythological trivia alongside jokes about “The Poetics, by Ari Stottle” and dueling impressions of everyone from Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman to Werner Herzog. Of all four installments, The Trip to Greece — while certainly snort-through-your-nose funny in places — plays most like a drama. The whole series, taken together, is a meditation on middle age and mortality, on how our irrevocable life choices, even when they’re the right ones, will haunt us all our lives.

How to watch it: The Trip to Greece is available on a variety of digital platforms, including Apple TV and Amazon Prime. You can find the full listing here.

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