Netflix’s new animated anthology series Love, Death + Robots is eighteen episodes full of blood splatter, animated boobs, and cat memes – and I’ve ranked them all, from worst to best (For a deep reflection on the series as a whole, check out Mitchell’s review here):
18. Episode 18 – “Secret War”
Love, Death + Robots makes the strange decision to save its absolute worst for last, a tale of Russian soldiers in 1920’s Serbia, trying to take out an army of demons accidentally released by the government. “Secret War” isn’t aggressively terrible; it’s just aggressively boring, another example of sanitized photo-realistic CGI unable to coalesce with the material on the page in any meaningful way, everything just stiff and facile enough to completely fail to deliver a compelling visual narrative . There are moments where the episode’s lack of dialogue is somewhat engaging, but the underwhelming story arc and limp ending end the series on a particularly low note.
17. Episode 6- “When the Yogurt Took Over”
The shortest of the Love, Death + Robots episodes, “When the Yogurt Took Over” is as simple and straightforward as it sounds; genetically engineered yogurt becomes sentient and takes over the world. That’s it; ultimately, this episodes suffers from being brutally unfunny and essentially pointless, a six-minute sorbet that’s way too passive with its message about humanity’s shortcomings to be an effective intermission piece. Even though it features the voice-over talents of legend Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain), “When the Yogurt Took Over” is silly and inert, too boring and brief to make any impact (plus it has one of the most gratuitously pointless boob shots in the series, which is saying something).
16. Episode 17 – “Alternate Histories”
There are probably a lot of people that will get a chuckle out of “Alternate Histories”, with its colorful interpretation of the age-old debate of “what would happen if Hitler didn’t become Hitler?”… I just wasnt’ one of those people. Framed as a demo for an app called ‘Multiversity’, “Alternate Histories” is the second-shortest episode of the series, a small respite for the painful six-minutes that entails this story. There’s an interesting nugget of an idea buried under the garish, ugly animation style of this episode, but that idea – how changing one moment in history can have a wide variety of results – is already better explored in other media, to much more effective results. I mean, if you want to see what these animators thought Hitler drawing his own naked dick would look like interests you than maybe you’ll enjoy “Alternate Histories” – it just wasn’t for me.
15. Episode 3 – “The Witness”
“The Witness” is a classic example of form over content; the wild animation style of “The Witness” stands to become the series’ signature look; unfortunately, it is also a signature episode of the series because of how neatly and brazenly it embodies the central themes of the series. That means lots of animated titties, a main character who is a sexy sex worker, and a third act plot twist that screams “why?” more than “wow!”. There’s probably no larger dichotomy between the quality of animation and quality of story than in “The Witness”, which utterly wastes its strange, colorful art style on a laughably mindless sci-fi story that is basically a lazy college freshman short story in the form of a technical showcase.
14. Episode 1 – “Sonnie’s Edge”
“Sonnie’s Edge” is an unfortunate way to open Love, Death + Robots – I understand why they’d put it here, with its supposed themes of female empowerment, and how much it feels like an animated Pacific Rim spin-off of sorts. But since Love, Death + Robots wants to be edgy, speculative noir sci-fi without the actual thematic backbone, “Sonnie’s Edge” goes from violent kaiju battles to naked boobs to elitist horror like it has ADD, unable to decide whether it wants to ogle at titties, or deliver a strong story about the bond between woman and animal, harnessing trauma into a colorful violent release of destroying the patriarchy. “Sonnie’s Edge” feels precociously pandering, a classic “having cake and trying to eat it, too” without understanding the mixture of ingredients that make the recipe work.
13. Episode 5 – “Sucker of Souls”
Who is ready for some monster dick? “Sucker of Souls” has you covered, an action movie short set in an underground dungeon, where 80’s action cliches are trying to fend off the hunger of one very angry, hungry, self-healing vampire creature. There’s some fun to be had here (mostly cat-related), but “Sucker of Souls” really just wants to spray blood on the walls and hear its main character say “motherfucker” a lot; with its simple visual style, there’s plenty of room for “Sucker of Souls” to have fun with dialogue and narrative, but it never really gets those three elements in harmony at any one point. The “twist” at the end of the episode is also wholly unnecessary, and feels inserted just for the sake of trying to ending on a conversation starter – for a series that appears to pride itself on breaking away from formula, “Sucker for Souls” is a reminder of how much Love, Death + Robots wants each episode to stick to its own specific template.
12. Episode 9 – “The Dump”
“The Dump” is an unabashedly dumb story about a redneck living in a garbage dump; but it is also one of the mroe charming entries of the series, like a much darker, disturbed version of Up. “The Dump” is about a man mourning his best friend and his life, but also defiant about his home and the strange creature living in it; how “The Dump” gets to its final, wonderfully gross moments isn’t the most creative, original material, but it’s a pleasure to watch, even though it doesn’t stray from its template of nudity (there is some serious CGI dick flop in this episode), blood, or predictable final twists. It is clear the people behind the creation of “The Dump” were having an absolute blast, and that fun is infectious, elevating an otherwise perfunctory episode purely on its personality.
11. Episode 11 – “Helping Hand”
Another entry in the Uncanny Valley CGI category, “Helping Hand” is a rather simple tale, told with a single dark twist – it’s essentially the end of Gravity‘s first act, with the added bonus of some solid body horror thrown in. While the plot and main character are rather perfunctory, “Helping Hand” is a master class in tension building, a crescendo of anxiety building from the first frame until the disturbing climatic moment. It is not a particularly memorable episode, nor is it a significant technical achievement on its own; it is just a really solid execution of a simple premise, which is just fine.
10. Episode 10 – “Shape-Shifters”
“Shape-Shifters” looks to be one of the more divisive entries in the series, because it is a story hoping to operate on multiple allegorical levels. In a world where werewolves are members of the United States military, two wolfy jar heads alienated from the rest of their team and questioning their mission to help humans defeat “terrorism”. As a story of brotherhood and an examination of pack mentality, there is a lot to enjoy about “Shape-Shifters”; however, if you’re looking for intelligent commentary on the war on terror, this is most certainly not it. The ruminations on racism between the first and third acts are so dissonant, so thoroughly under cooked it is a wonder this episode works at all; but yet it still does, by centering itself on one of the series’ stronger protagonists, a level-headed man just trying to make sense of his purpose in the world.
Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Triple H and Cactus Jack Street Fight
Royal Rumble 2000
WWE Championship: Triple H vs. Cactus Jack
The thirteenth annual Royal Rumble gave us one of the best matches in WWE history.
The event took place on January 23, 2000, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was the start of a new decade and the WWE was gearing up to build their next great champ. And this was the match that gave one participant the push he needed to become a heavyweight legend over the next decade and arguably the greatest heel for the entire Attitude Era.
Of course, I’m referring to the Street Fight match between Triple H and Cactus Jack for the
WWF WWE Championship.
It was the match the helped Triple H earn everyone’s respect; in fact, in retrospect, it’s clear the whole match was designed as one giant promo in order to give Triple H a believable physical prowess as an ongoing champion contender. And for WWE fans who weren’t familiar with Mick Foley’s earlier hardcore wrestling, the match pretty much certified the man was indeed, truly insane.
Yes, Mankind and Undertaker had already wrestled their legendary Hell in the Cell match two years prior at King of the Ring— and yes, we had already seen plenty of street fights in the WWE— but the WWE Championship match at the 2000 Royal Rumble was a brutal, violent, and extremely bloody affair. By WWE standards, it pushed the boundaries, delivering a level of violence that casual WWE fans weren’t accustomed to seeing.
It was also a match that told an excellent story and had a remarkable buildup leading into the event.
By the summer of ’99, Triple H was finally getting the main event push he deserved thanks to the McMahon-Helmsley Faction, a partnership that benefited from that fact that at the time, Stephanie McMahon had almost full control over the WWE. Great power means great responsibility but for Stephanie McMahon, it meant scheduling unreasonable matches for the wrestlers who were deemed a major threat to her husband. The superstar most affected was none other than, Mick Foley.
Triple H and Mick Foley put on a series of exciting matches in the first year of the new millennium and with this rivalry, came some of the best writing in the history of the WWE. The compelling storyline featured legendary promos, unforgettable drama, and unusual matches designed to wear down Triple H’s main competition. One such match was the “Pink Slip on a Pole Match” between The Rock and Mankind, with the loser forced to leave the WWE. Mankind lost, and thus was fired unceremoniously, only to return two weeks later when the Rock and the rest of the WWE superstars threatened to walk out unless Mick Foley was reinstated. That night, Foley requested a Street Fight for the
WWF WWE Championship at Royal Rumble— and on a January 13 episode of SmackDown!, Foley shocked the world when he returned to the ring in his Cactus Jack persona! It wasn’t Mankind set to fight Triple H at the Royal Rumble— instead, it would be the hardcore legend.
With Mick Foley entering his final year as a full-time professional wrestler, fans were expecting big things from the legend, and the 2000 Royal Rumble Championship match did not disappoint. There have been plenty of Street Fights in World Wrestling Entertainment history, but one would be hard-pressed to find one better than this classic. It was the fifth match of the night— in one of the best Royal Rumble pay-per-view events to date— and by far the most memorable match on the card.
Cactus Jack gained the early advantage after repeated punches but it didn’t take long before both men took to the outside the ring using everything in their reach including the ring bell, the stairs, a couple of trash cans and more. The match featured multiple chair shots to the head along with the destruction of both announce tables and at one point, the two men even took the fight into the crowd. But the real turn of the match came earlier when Cactus brought out a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire, and slammed it across the skull of Triple H, busting his forehead wide open. It was brutal. It was bloody, and for some fans, it was hard to watch.
Reminiscent of prior a Royal Rumble, Triple H managed to handcuff Cactus Jack and continue to use the steel chair as a weapon, taking advantage of a man who could barely defend himself. Eventually, The Rock made a brief cameo, striking Triple H across the head with a chair, and allowing a police officer enough time to remove Jack’s handcuffs so he could continue to fight. Soon after, Cactus Jack was ready to seal the match but made the mistake of pouring hundreds of thumbtacks onto the ring. In a quick turn of events, Triple H fought back to take control of the match and hit his Pedigree finisher on his opponent, slamming the challenger face-first onto a large pile of thumbtacks and in the process and sealing the victory. The finish was gut-wrenching and graphic but well-scripted given the level of hatred and disdain the Superstars had for each other. Both men took a beating, but in the end, it was Triple H who escaped the victor.
The brutality of the match is a reminder of the differences between the current WWE and the Attitude Era. Nowadays, the WWE doesn’t allow blood in their matches, never mind the use of barbwire and thumbtacks as weapons to use against your opponents. It was a match of its time; a match that stands the test of time— and one of the greatest matches in Royal Rumble history, fueled by the emotion of the competitors, and an epic storyline that would prove Triple H a legitimate headliner.
On a night filled with memorable moments such as the Tables Match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudely Boyz, not to mention The Rock’s unforgettable Royal Rumble win, Triple H and Mick Foley ended up stealing the show— but it was far from the latest chapter in their rivalry. With the stage set for another iconic battle, the Hardcore Legend and Triple H would step inside a Hell in the Cell for yet, another epic encounter.
- Ricky D
Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
Royal Rumble 2003
WWE Championship: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
WWE’s annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view is famous for its over-the-top main event, but there have also been many legendary single and tag team matches over the years that wound up overshadowing the titular 30-man brawl. One such match came during the Ruthless Aggression Era when two of the greatest wrestlers in the history of professional wrestling, squared off in what would be a technical showcase between two mat technicians. Of course, I’m referring to the 2003 Royal Rumble WWE Championship match between Kurt Angle and the Rabid Wolverine, Chris Benoit.
The match between Benoit and Angle isn’t just one of the greatest matches in WWE history— it is hands-down, the best match of 2003— a non-stop classic that doesn’t get the full recognition it deserves.
This match took place on January 19, at the Fleet Center in Boston. It was the sixteenth annual Royal Rumble and it unfolded during the pinnacle of the first WWE brand split. Monday Night Raw placed a heavy emphasis on soap opera drama while Smackdown focused more on technical wrestling. And if this wasn’t evident at the time, it became crystal clear during the 2003 Royal Rumble pay per view. In short, there was a huge difference in quality between the Angle/Benoit match which headlined the Smackdown brand and the primary match for Raw which saw Triple H and Scott Steiner fight for the World Heavyweight Championship. It was no contest. The Smackdown brand came out on top thanks to the sheer talent of Benoit and Angle; two world-class competitors in their prime and arguably at the time, two of the best wrestlers on the planet.
For roughly twenty minutes the Canadian Wolverine and the U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist went to war in a non-stop physical encounter which simmered with an amazing series of transitions from the Ankle lock to the Crippler Crossface. Needless to say, both men pulled off every single one of their special movies, multiple times throughout the match. Benoit attempted a diving headbutt on Angle, only Angle avoided the move and attempted an Angle Slam on Benoit which Benoit countered. Later when Benoit applied the sharpshooter on Angle, Angle in dramatic fashion, slowly made his way to the edge of the ring and touched the ropes to break the submission. Their chemistry was off the charts and the action in the ring kept the audience at the edge of their seats, as did the incredibly convincing near-falls which were executed to perfection. At one point, both men laid on the mat unable to get to their feet which almost resulted in a double count-out. It as a back and forth battle that had spectators believing anyone could win at any given moment.
WWE had built Benoit up as a babyface, and despite being the underdog— with the crowd behind the Canadian wolverine, many believed he would finally hold the belt over his shoulders. By the time Benoit executed a diving headbutt, nobody in the arena was left sitting on their chairs. In the end, however, Benoit applied yet another Crippler Crossface on Angle, only to have Angle counter it into a modified ankle lock, forcing Benoit to submit to the hold. It was a clean finish that featured a rare submission from the famously resilient Benoit.
The match exceeded any expectations and in the end, both men received a standing ovation. And while Benoit didn’t win, he walked away as the man who stole the show. Thankfully, it wasn’t the end for him but only the beginning. Over the course of the next year, he would rise in the ranks of the WWE roster and in 2004, he would win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XX against Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a triple threat match.
As Kurt Angle said when asked about his career-defining match: If you want to learn and understand the art of pro wrestling, you need to watch the 2003 Royal Rumble World Championship match.
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Up next….. Royal Rumble in January 2019. 16 years ago I had the privilege of defending my WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. This is how the match was explained verbally to those who haven’t watched it. “Professional wrestling in its purest form is as beautiful as ballet, as elegant as a ballroom dance and as captivating as a theater. By purest form I mean technical wrestling, which in today’s world is almost non-existent. The fiery chain wrestling, involving great chemistry, in-ring psychology and dream like story telling is something that happens when all the stars align.” This match was one of my best performances of my career. If you haven’t seen it, give it a look. #itstrue #wwe #championship #royalrumble
Angle vs. Benoit can be viewed as the single greatest non-Rumble match in the history of the pay per view. Watching it again after all these years proved to be just as thrilling— even if I already knew the outcome.
- Ricky D
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” Concludes By Going Big… and Going Home
Crisis ends, and DC’s television universe looks towards a bright future.
After three hours of thrilling cameos, bold narrative design, and clumsy dramatic crescendos, “Crisis on Infinite Earths” returned to air its final two episodes, concluding what’s been arguably the most ambitious experiment on a broadcast network post-LOST. Its final two parts – aired as the ante penultimate episode of Arrow, with Part V serving as the Legends of Tomorrow season premiere – are much like the three that aired in December; equally ridiculous and resonant, able to transcend an undercooked central premise with a combination of heart and humor unlike anything else in the superhero genre.
Equally ridiculous and resonant, Crisis on Infinite Earths transcends an undercooked central premise with a combination of heart and humor unlike anything else in the superhero genre.
“Part V” particularly benefits from being able to serve two critical roles: it serves as both a testament to the core characters of the DC-CW universe and their continued legacy on the network, as well as a poignant reflection on the impending departure of Green Arrow. And despite the obvious similarities, it would be a little simplistic to call Crisis on Infinite Earths the Endgame of the DC Universe: through characters like Sara Lance, Black Lightning, and The Flash, Crisis – and Part V in particular – is a reminder that even 500+ episodes into its universe, there’s still a bright future ahead for its super powered paragons.
That being said, let’s be honest: “Part IV” is a hot goddamn mess, rush through a web of silly plot twists and unnecessarily drawn-out scenes, that builds to one of the most laughably incoherent action climaxes of recent memory. Watching the heroes fight anti-matter ghosts was bad in “Part I” – by the time we get to the end of “Part IV,” and Ollie the Spectre is trading energy beams with the Anti-Monitor while everyone else stands around punching the air, the conceit of the whole endeavor almost falls flat on its face.
The only reason it doesn’t is because of what comes before it; though it is understandable to criticize “Part IV” for the strange collection of brief flashbacks into Oliver’s past (experienced by our paragons as they exist within the Speed Force), there’s a certain balance between chaos and clarity that’s found in the random assortment of moments The Flash, Supergirl, and company experience. The Speed Force is an unruly, uncontrollable force, and “Part IV” establishes the difficulty of their ability to even exist in such a state: given that, it makes sense that much of what we experience in the Speed Force is unsatisfying, or feels like it is missing out on key moments.
There’s no doubting how clumsy everything around it is: from the Monitor’s origin story, to the inexplicable beard Ray Choi grows, much of “Part IV” feels like filler material, hamster wheeling its way to its final two minutes, where the paragons…. look up a CGI hill, and think really hard about what they’re the paragon of? While the notions behind the final moments of “Part IV” are certainly noble – the idea that the super friends’ greatest powers are not their physical attributes – the execution is sloppy at best, and teeters towards being utterly ludicrous in its most critical moments.
But when the Anti-Monitor’s siege is (temporarily) defeated, Crisis on Infinite Earths drops the entertaining, if superficial conceit of unpredictable cameos and absolutely insane world building and turns towards deifying Green Arrow. And though it falls utterly flat in landing its emotional beats in “Part IV” (admittedly, it’s hard to take anything seriously after the Climactic Collection of Stares), once Crisis leaves Arrow to move to Legends of Tomorrow, all the pieces begin coming together, to deliver a rather touching homage to the long shadow cast by Stephen Amell’s impending departure.
By centering on The Flash and Sara, two characters who spend most of the episode refusing to believe Oliver doesn’t exist in this new universe (where every character in the DCTV universe has been integrated into one world), “Part V” is able to grasp an emotional thoroughline “Part IV” is way too busy to find. Especially with Sara Lance; as she reflects on her journey from philandering sister, to dead assassin, to captain of a MF’in time ship, Crisis finds resonance in Oliver’s departure, and how that has a rippling effect on every hero left behind.
Even more interesting is how the subtext of Sara’s reflections give voice to the anxiety of uncharted seas lying ahead for the minds behind the DC television universe: without their original protagonist, their dramatic bedrock of nearly a decade, there is a changing of the guard happening on both sides of the camera. Positing Sara as the de facto protagonist moving forward is a logical move: her journey to becoming a true leader on Legends of Tomorrow might be the single most satisfying arc of this entire dramatic experiment, something “Part V” openly acknowledges as it begins to fill in the landscape of its new shared universe.
By the time “Part V” ends (which, let’s be honest, it takes a long time to get to), there’s a Hall of Justice, a Super Friends table, a brand new conflict for Supergirl to face, and plenty of intriguing new threads for its new and returning series to explore in the coming months and years. The impact of Crisis will ripple through the DC televerse for years to come, and that’s an exciting creative kick start for some of its long running series: though sometimes Crisis certainly feels more interesting to dissect than it is to actually experience, the impact of its conclusion offers infinite potential to rejuvenate series like The Flash, and a fresh slate for shows like Black Lightning, the new Lois and Clark series, and the upcoming Stargirl to begin building a new, more refined foundation on.
Though the minute-to-minute quality of Crisis on Infinite Earths is wildly uneven – and ultimately, it comes up dramatically short in its climactic moments – it is undeniably one of the most exciting television events in recent memory, a crossover that should be lauded for its sheer ambition, and heartfelt delivery. Though the Arrowverse will be losing its bedrock when Arrow departs the air at the end of January, “Part V” proves the new, post-Crisis universe is clearly in good hands heading into the new decade.
It is not surprising the two MVP’s of the entire crossover are both Legends of Tomorrow regulars: Brandon Routh pulling dual roles before his own swan song from the universe (“Wait… there was a Super-me?”) and Caity Lotz absolutely fucking chewing scenery in the final half of “Part V”.
Best moment of the crossover? I mean, it’s gotta be the scene with Ezra Miller and Grant Gustin, right? Extremely impressed how they kept that cameo under wraps. The Doom Patrol dance is probably a close second, though.
Swamp Thing cameo!
The sidelining of Constantine in the final two parts is a bummer, though I guess having a dude who can access the world of the dead might make the whole eulogizing Green Arrow thing weird.
Gotta say it: it sucks there was no Felicity in “Part IV” or “Part V”.
Mick Rory the author continues to be the greatest subplot of the DC universe.
Unfortunately, Batwoman sticks out as the weakest part of the new Super Friends lineup. I want to like Ruby Rose in the role, but it’s just not working for me, at least so far.
It is no surprise the best episode of the five-part series is the Legends of Tomorrow season premiere.
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