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Quibi launches today with tons of content available, and even though recent events have provided us all with a large amount of time for entertainment, that doesn’t mean you want to spend it wading through underwhelming content, even at Quibi’s easily digestible lengths. Quibi’s hook is right in the title. The service, short for “Quick Bites,” offers viewers a variety of movies, shows and news programs, all of which clock in at less than 10 minutes, perfect for short attention spans and mini-binges.
Of those made available to the press ahead of time, here are the five best shows and movies Quibi is streaming into your phone on Day One:
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Pop Culture Randomness Finds a “Memory Hole”
If you’re the kind of person that has bits of pop culture detritus constantly rattling around in your head to the annoyance of those around you, then you’ve found a kindred spirit in “Memory Hole.” The kind of quick-hitting comfort food that Quibi should lean into, this irreverent look at a collection of WTF? moments from entertainment’s inglorious past is fast-paced, funny and the right kind of weird.
The show is aided greatly by the talents of host Will Arnett, whose snarky delivery is ideal when diving into the strange clips and odd trends explored in each episode. The first season of “Memory Hole” turns its cockeyed gaze at an eclectic array of topics, all of which have some connection to Canada. So, if you ever wanted to see Alan Thicke and Andrea Martin celebrate the opening of Toronto’s Skydome in an ill-fated (and rainy) musical production, you’ve come to the right place.
One of “Memory Hole’s” strongest episodes is a look at the unwanted craze of sports teams making music videos, which was kickstarted by the Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle” and then copied to lesser effect by teams far and wide. This leads to a deep dive into the absolute madness that is the 1986 Calgary Flames team music video, a sick(ly) power ballad called “Red Hot,” complete with Arnett providing the long-lost third verse in full, mustachioed glory.
Arnett gets some help exploring these pop culture fever dreams from some of his famous friends, including comedian Patton Oswalt, “Ozark” star Jason Bateman and “Game of Thrones” fan favorite John Bradley.
With an unlimited supply of the entertainment industry’s most embarrassing material to pull from (just wait until the show gets around to “Swans Crossing”) and has the potential to provide a continuing stream of hilarity to the screen.
LeBron James’ “I Promise” Is a Touching Look at Hope
Athletes have done a great many things in the name of charity over the years, but none has pulled off trying to open a public school until LeBron James started the Herculean task in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
The stirring docuseries “I Promise” explores the challenges the Lakers superstar faced in working with the city of Akron to develop and create the I Promise School in 2018, but wisely focuses more on the young students whose lives could be most changed by attending a nontraditional school that wants to lift these at-risk kids out of educational danger.
Director Marc Levin is no stranger to exploring the trials and tribulations of those striving for transformation in the inner city. His 2009 Peabody Award-winning series “Brick City” explored the residents of Newark, New Jersey and its ambitious young mayor, Cory Booker. Levin uses some of the same techniques as in his earlier work, placing a spotlight on the external factors that have led to this educational crisis.
It can be hard to watch these earnest fourth and fifth graders admit their fears about not being smart enough and tough to see the conditions that have led to their struggles. But it is also uplifting to see the joy they have on their faces when walking through the school for the first time and in connecting with the caring staff that goes above and beyond to make sure they get the educational experience they deserve.
The doc doesn’t shy away from some of the criticism lobbed and James and the school, even if it’s impossible to fathom taking shots at one of the world’s most famous people for putting some of his money where his mouth is in trying to uplift his hometown.
Once you get started on “I Promise,” it will be hard to stop watching, so this is more suited for a traditional binge than off-and-on viewing.
Teenage Drama Explored in “When The Streetlights Go On”
A hot, steamy summer ends with a small town’s teenage stunner shot dead in the forest. Shocking, but even more so is that she’s dead next to the school’s popular English teacher, with whom she was having an affair. The masked man responsible for the murders gets away scot-free, hanging a pall over the town as everyone attempts to get back to something resembling normal.
That’s the premise of the noir-ish drama “When The Streetlights Go On,” a compelling hook that makes this the best of Quibi’s initial Movies in Chapters, rising above the higher-profile efforts “Survive” and “Most Dangerous Game.”
Chosen Jacobs (“IT”) stars as our bicycle-riding, intrepid school reporter who discovers the bodies and sets out to unravel the mystery of who was behind the killings with the help of the victim’s sister, played by Sophie Thatcher. Queen Latifah also stars as the lead investigator in the case, part of an ensemble cast that also includes Tony Hale, Mark Duplass and Nicola Peltz.
“I couldn’t imagine a better way for this suspenseful and alluring story to be distributed,” “Streetlights” Jacobs said about the Quibi format. “I definitely believe it will assist in fueling the mystery. Also, I believe it allows the audience the time to connect and grow with characters in the series.”
Sure, “Streetlights” traffics in some of the clichés that are found in any teen drama or mystery story — red herrings, mysterious family secrets, school caste systems, etc. — but the mood is evocative and Jacobs makes for a compelling lead, gawky and unsure as he navigates the changes within himself and his previously idyllic life. This is one of those movies where nothing is as it seems, and it will be interesting to delve into what’s behind the facades of our main characters.
The road for “Streetlights” was long and winding – previously written and developed as a feature film back in 2011 and turned into a pilot for Hulu in 2016 – but this seems to be the right format for the project, at least through the compelling first three episodes Quibi has made available for review.
“Run This City”: Real-Life Doc with Movie Vibes
The unbelievable often finds it way to politics, and in “Run This City,” you can’t help but imagine that this documentary series spotlighting a small-town mayor and the many layers found within his city’s politics would work just as well as a big-budget movie starring Mark Wahlberg, who just so happens to be an executive producer.
It’s a testament to the storytelling ability of filmmaker Brent Hodge (“I Am Chris Farley”) and the this-can’t-be-real story behind the rise and fall of Jasiel Correia, who at 23, became the youngest mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, only to crash and burn under the weight of fraud and corruption charges, and later attempt an audacious second chance at redemption.
Initially, Correia comes off as an irrepressible kid hellbent on achieving his dreams of being mayor of his hometown, fueled in part from his love of “ruling” the towns he created in the video game “Sim City.” His parents paint a portrait of a perfect kid who never caused them any trouble. But real-life politics are a lot different than pixelated ones, and the seductive nature of power can put its hooks in anyone. Over the course of the doc, Correia rises from junior city council member to surprise mayoral winner to target of the FBI.
All great documentaries have a compelling central figure, and Hodge has struck gold with Correia, who projects a know-it-all manner, trash talks former mayors, steadfastly proclaims his innocence and doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. It’s not hard to imagine the filmmakers secretly pumping their fists when seemingly presented with a stream of information and access you’d think would be difficult to acquire.
Quibi is also focusing heavily on unscripted shows, news and documentaries, including “Run This City,” a mesmerizing look at the rise and fall (and rise) of Jasiel Correia. At 23, he became the mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts only to wind up later being charged with corruption and fraud by the FBI.
Director Brent Hodge said once he found out the documentary was going to Quibi, it made perfect sense for the storytelling structure. “We knew we wanted a younger audience, and I do think the 10-minute segments really cater to this story,” Hodge said. “It’s not traditional, it’s not longform. It’s interesting as a filmmaker to think about films that way. I’m really excited for how people are going to watch it on Quibi. I watch a majority of stuff on my phone now and I think certain stories cater to that experience. I think the Quibi audience will understand this kid really well and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Just when you think you have all the twists and turns of this tale figured out, up pops another out-of-left field surprise that makes you ready to press play on the next episode.
Mouth-Watering “The Shape of Pasta” Is a Foodie’s Dream
Evan Funke is the award-winning chef behind L.A.-area hotspot Felix Trattoria and a classically trained pasta maker whose passion for discovering and learning the traditions of the form come to vivid light on “The Shape of Pasta,” a bite-size exploration of food, Italy and craftsmanship that will leave your mouth watering.
And have we mentioned the nonnas? So many wonderful Italian grandmothers appear, all of whom immediately embrace the American visitor and open their kitchens to share the secret recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
No matter if you’re from an Italian family from Brooklyn or your extent of pasta knowledge comes from the all-you-can-eat menu at Olive Garden, “Shape” will blow your mind with the extent of noodle shapes, sizes and techniques Funke discovers on his trip through the nooks and crannies of Italy.
Take the episode surrounding the shape Strangulet, a small pasta found primarily in the hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio. Funke bonds with the one woman in town who has been making this pasta for decades, using a unique instrument called a pettine, a pasta comb of sorts. Funke is a chef whose admiration for fellow masters shines through, and he is in awe as the woman whips through making the pasta before offering him a chance to try his hand at it.
The show has a slow, languid rhythm, essentially acting as comfort food on your device as you watch Funke in his quest to bring these shapes out of obscurity and keep their traditions alive. You’re not going to get any shocks or jolts out of this show – Funke has a calm, soothing voice that brings to mind your favorite teacher, not the hard-charging chef stereotype. Every episode ends with a giant bowl of pasta and the desire to go to Funke’s restaurant and try one of these shapes yourself.
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