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Quibi Reviews: 50 States of Fright, Most Dangerous Game, and Other Must-See Shows

on April 13, 2020, 6:00pm
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The Stranger


We’ve all had a bad ride-share experience, but I’m sure it doesn’t compare to the bad night The Guest‘s Maika Monroe is having in Veena Sud‘s (The Killing) thriller The Stranger, in which she plays a young ride-share driver who picks up a mysterious passenger (Dane DeHaan) who turns out to be deadlier and more elusive than he appears at first glance. Though come on, it’s Dane DeHaan, he’s just got that natural ‘eats live rats for breakfast’ look to him. Don’t trust this guy!

Dare We Quibble? Monroe’s always a reliable horror lead, and DeHaan absolutely leans into his natural leeriness as a self-described sociopath with shades of Elliot Rodger incel-itude to him. Sud’s direction is suitably atmospheric, and makes delightful use of the restrictive phone-friendly format of the platform. But the dialogue hardly impresses in the three quibis provided with the premiere.

50 States of Fright

Sufjan Stevens may have abandoned his quest to write an album about all 50 states, but hopefully executive producer Sam Raimi won’t let us down in his own promise – crafting chilling horror tales based on folklore found in every state in the Union.

Dare We Quibble? Based on the first full story we’ve been given, the Michigan-set “The Golden Arm”, we might be in for a campy, bloody treat through the old US of A. Directed by Raimi himself, “The Golden Arm” is a blood-soaked tale of fanatical romance centered around a vain woman (Rachel Brosnahan) who loses her arm, only for her craftsman husband (Travis Fimmel) to build her a gilded prosthetic. The results are very Drag Me to Hell, and mines buckets of blood and a respectable amount of creepy atmosphere from its premise. One piece of advice, though, Sam: lose the obviously staged ‘talking head interview with a local’ that is so very clearly performed by an actor.

#Freerayshawn

Antoine Fuqua executive produces this taut thriller from creator (and Blacklist-worthy screenwriter) Marc Maurino, about a desperate black man (If Beale Street Could Talk‘s Stephan James) in a tense standoff with the police in his apartment building with his girlfriend and son. As the cops (including a sympathetic Laurence Fishburne) try to resolve the situation, Rayshawn starts livestreaming his plight.

Dare We Quibble? Dog Day Afternoon with shades of #BlackLivesMatter, #Freerayshawn is off to a shockingly solid start, kicking off with a thrilling car chase and economically establishing the high-stakes nature of the standoff. In an age of rampant police brutality and social media as the only means of getting the truth about police misconduct to the people, #Freerayshawn‘s cat-and-mouse game of public sympathy is deathly intriguing, and James and Fishburne are especially compelling so far.

Agua Donkeys

Based on the 2018 short film of the same name, this Funny or Die-produced series follows two slacker pool cleaners (MP Cunningham, Baby Darrington) concerned with little else than getting the right tan and dating the perfect girl.

Dare We Quibble? This one commits deep to the Napoleon Dynamite school of deadpan quirk, and your mileage may vary on whether or not this all works. Cunningham and Darrington have a charming, dunderheaded chemistry, but the real gags are few and far between. (And are we really gonna do ‘not-gay’ jokes in 2020, no matter how reflective they are of the stupidity of the people saying them?) Worlds like this need time to draw the viewer in, and 6-10 minute chunks just ain’t gonna do it.

Reality/Documentary

Run This City

This docuseries follows the cloud of corruption allegations surrounding Jasiel Correia, a 23-year-old city councilman who talked himself into a successful run for mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts. Chatting with other former mayors and Fall River’s townspeople, the doc explores just how far youthful charisma and a willingness to play dirty can get you.

Dare We Quibble? Absolutely — the doc hums with a real Netflix true-crime energy, and the story contains a number of colorful characters, from the eclectic townspeople to the spurned former mayors to the fast-talking brashness of Correia himself. One moment, in which Correia’s parents take a long, pregnant pause before answering a question about their boy’s charges, is that rare, beautiful snapshot when a quibi is allowed to breathe. One of those stories about small-town politics that feels perfectly graftable to our broader grift-happy political moment.

Nightgowns with Sasha Velour

Drag Race winner and drag icon Sasha Velour brings her acclaimed avant-garde New York revue to Quibi, a mixture of polished behind-the-scenes documentary and lip-sync performance piece.

Dare We Quibble? Like Gayme ShowNightgowns is a piece of queer performance picked up by a streaming service for mass consumption, but there’s at least some artistry to this one. Velour’s drag has always been experimental and deeply personal, and the show gives us a window into her fabulous process and the ensemble she’s picked to perform alongside her. The first quibi ends with a showstopper of a lip sync to Stevie Nicks’ “The Edge of Seventeen” that’s just about worth the price of admission.

Punk’d

Chance the Rapper resurrects the Ashton Kutcher-led MTV prank show with big-budget goof-em-ups at fellow celebs like Meg Thee Stallion and Adam Devine. There’s dudes in gorilla suits and stolen dogs and hidden cameras; it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

Dare We Quibble? This might be well-suited to Quibi, even though shows like this have gone the way of the dodo amid the realm of Youtube pranks. I’ll admit Punk’d wasn’t my thing even in its original form — rich people pranking rich people is some Jimmy Kimmel shit — but if it’s your speed, Chance seems to be having fun at least.

Line of the Show: “You can’t call the police on no gorilla!”

Dishmantled

Tituss Burgess hosts a cooking competition show where two cooks are blindfolded and blasted with food shot out of a cannon, and they have to recreate the dish in 30 minutes based on what they ate off their bodies. Somehow, this is not a discarded 30 Rock joke.

Dare We Quibble? Now we come to the category of the Quibi catalog where high-concept reality/game shows run amok, where sitcom writers’ unused ideas for parodies are created and played straight for laughs. Strangely, it kinda works in this format, especially given the vague air of disbelief on everyone’s faces (including guest judges Antoni Porowski and Dan Levy, in one episode) that they’re even doing this in the first place.

Line of the Show: Levy, upon being asked if he’d do the show: “I’m wearing a light beige knit, so no.”

Chrissy’s Court

Imagine The People’s Court if you put Chrissy Teigen on the bench, gave her cases so frivolous even the plaintiffs can’t even take them seriously, and (it seems) introduce a carbon monoxide leak. Yeah.

Dare We Quibble? I don’t know if it’s the giddy, slap-happy energy of the whole thing, or the slow fugue state watching five hours of Quibi shows has left me in, but Chrissy’s Court was a delight. There’s a wholesome Tim-and-Eric energy to the whole thing, especially in the first episode, when John Legend comes out to act as musical expert witness for a case involving an old, crabby crooner suing a young customer for making him break his own speaker (which doesn’t seem all that broken in the first place).

Line of the Show: Teigen’s daughter Luna yelling “Good job, Mommy!” at the end of episode one.

Murder House Flip

Sporting the strangest concept of the bunch, Murder House Flip sees a couple of fashionable interior design experts (including the bow-tie-clad Mikel Welch) renovating houses where gruesome crimes took place in the past. It’s exactly as batshit insane as you’d expect.

Dare We Quibble? Murder House Flip immediately makes Flipped irrelevant by being both funnier and a better send-up of the home-improvement show format, chiefly by sticking to its premise and taking it to its furthest conclusion. The key is Welch and co-host Joelle Uzyel’s constant air of disbelief at where their lives have taken them, treating the murder house in question (and its kooky owners) with infectious bemusement. The chuckle they give when they find a box of “Bone White” tiles in the house’s art shed is the droll show in a nutshell.

Line of the Show: “I don’t think we need to bring more body parts into the design.”

Gayme Show

Less a legit game show than a cheeky love-in with gay comedians and their allies, hosts Matt Rogers and Dave Mizzoni bring on two straight comedians every week to run through a gauntlet of queer-themed games for the title of “Queen of the Straights.”

Dare We Quibble? A long-running live show brought to Quibi in TV form, Gayme Show is … fine. On the one hand, it feels celebratory of gay culture and history, and its desire to show straight guys gleefully flaunting masculine norms is all in good fun. On the other, the joke runs its course fairly quickly, and often just feels like watching people act out the oh-so-extra rhythms of Gay Twitter with the budget of a Buzzfeed show. Queer people love Laura Dern, we get it! We gotta find a new joke!

Elba vs. Block

Fresh off his stint as a bad guy in a Fast and Furious movie, and setting UK’s land speed record, Idris Elba teams up with professional stunt driver Ken Block for a competition to see who can beat the other in various car-based challenges — from monster trucks to big jumps to weaving around a flaming obstacle course.

Dare We Quibble? As these kinds of short-form competition shows go, this is perfectly watchable, no small credit going to Elba’s devil-may-care charisma. Block’s understated American energy bounces off Elba’s bravado quite nicely, and if car porn’s your thing, you could do way worse. Don’t be fooled by obviously-scripted stunts like Elba changing his ride last minute to a big truck so he can bash through the obstacle course and beat Block’s time, though. Even so, it’s harmless, nitro-fueled fun.

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