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Round-up: new to streaming 

click to enlarge Sidney Flanigan in "Never Rarely Sometimes Always," coming to digital VOD this Friday.

PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURES

Sidney Flanigan in "Never Rarely Sometimes Always," coming to digital VOD this Friday.

With movie theaters around the greater Rochester area shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, film lovers are having to look elsewhere for their viewing entertainment. The following includes some of the best from the waves of new offerings arriving on digital platforms.

Among the first cinematic casualties of local theaters closing back in March, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” may have had its Rochester release cancelled, but happily you can now catch it at home. An intimate and raw drama from director Eliza Hittman (her film “Beach Rats” is available through Hulu and also worth a watch) the film follows 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) who, after learning she’s pregnant, travels with her cousin (Talia Ryder) from their conservative rural Pennsylvania hometown to New York City where she can have a legal abortion.

Making their screen debuts, Flanigan (a Buffalo native) and Ryder give extraordinarily rich, vital performances. And Hittman brings her trademark naturalism and sensitivity to the story, immersing viewers in Autumn’s experiences until we feel we’re going through them right along with her. It’s a story about how frightening and dangerous it is to be a teenage girl in America today, and a testament to the sheer resilience it requires. It’s also one of the best films so far this year. Coming to VOD on Friday, April 3.

Several new titles have been added this week to The Little Theatre’s The Virtual Little streaming offerings, and as with the previous batch of films, a portion of each streaming rental goes directly to support the Little during its closure.

First up is Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band,” which had a successful theatrical run at The Little earlier this year. But if you missed it, now’s your chance to catch the music documentary about Robertson’s young life and the creation of the influential rock group, The Band.

Next up is Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu’s stylish neo-noir thriller The Whistlersabout a cop embarking on a dangerous game by attempting to play both sides of the law.

And finally, starting Friday, April 3, The Little will be streaming the wildly entertaining “Extra Ordinary” starring Maeve Higgins and Will Forte. One of my favorite comedies in recent memory, it’s a surprisingly sweet paranormal rom-com about reluctant ghost whisperer Rose Dooley (Higgins) who finds unexpected romance amidst ghostly possessions, virgin sacrifices, and gallons of gooey ectoplasm.

Scary movie fans and trivia nerds may also want to check out the fascinating “Cursed Films,” a five-part documentary series debuting on the horror streaming service Shudder, which explores the legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions.

The first episode, focusing on “The Exorcist,” premieres this week, with a new episode each Thursday, through April 16 (I was also able to preview the next two installments, about “Poltergeist” and “The Omen” respectively). Smartly directed by Jay Cheel, the series digs into the origins of these long-held rumors and attempts to get to the truth — or at least something close to it — behind each of these notorious Hollywood myths. In the process, it gets at the heart of what exactly it is about these stories that so fascinates us in the first place.

New to Netflix on Friday is the hit-or-miss buddy action comedy “Coffee & Kareem,” about 11-year-old Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), who hires a criminal to scare his mom's (Taraji P. Henson) new cop boyfriend, Officer James Coffee (Ed Helms), out of dating her. But when the plan backfires the pair are forced to team up in order to save themselves from a ruthless drug kingpin. There’s some laughs to be had thanks to a talented cast, but the sophomoric humor and attempts to be provocative too often feel stale. Streaming on Netflix starting this Friday.

Also currently on Netflix is the riveting and hugely inspiring documentary feature “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution.” Directed by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham, the film chronicles the founding of Camp Jened, a summer camp for disabled teenagers in the Catskills during the early 1970s, and how it ended up sparking a revolution by planting the seeds for the burgeoning disability rights movement.

If you’re not already a subscriber, the Criterion Channel is a fantastic streaming service for cinephiles, offering an extensive rotating collection of world cinema, classic films, and arthouse favorites. April 1 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, and starting this month Criterion is celebrating with a lineup of films featuring some of the star’s finest performances, as well as Steven Okazak's documentary “Mifune: The Last Samurai.” It’s enough to keep you busy at least for a couple days.

Like many people, I’ve been spending a lot of time video chatting with friends and family while we’re all stuck in our homes self-isolating. So while it’s not a new release, I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about the 2014 cyber-horror film “Unfriended.”

The entire film is told through the computer screen of a teenage girl as she chats with a group of her high school friends. Then they all receive a Skype message from a classmate who died one year prior, and suddenly all kinds of digital hell breaks loose. An underrated entry in the horror genre, “Unfriended” is a ton of fun, utilizing some inventive visual storytelling to tap into some of our shared anxieties about the online world. Available for rental and streaming on HBO Go.

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