Who does Baby Yoda think he is?
Baby Yoda's back – is that a good thing? Plus: Cocaine Bear, Aftersun and all of the recommendations you need to plan your weekend to perfection.
Kia ora and welcome to Rec Room! Yes, we’re coming out on Fridays now. We’ve made the change so you can plan your weekend binge-watches a little easier. And yes, there’s a new TV addict filling the editor’s spot for a bit – me! There’s all kinds of things to talk about in the coming weeks, including the finale of The Last of Us (yikes!), the debut of Succession’s final season (nooo!), and my upcoming appearance on a reality show (yes, really!). Hopefully you’ll find all kinds of useful film, TV and podcast tipoffs to help fuel the coming days, so let’s rip into it! -Chris Schulz
Baby Yoda can’t stop the Star Wars death spiral all on his own
Warning: Spoilers ahead for season three of The Mandalorian….
On a sun-drenched beach lined with caves and crystal-clear water, an initiation ceremony is underway. A child recites lines, agrees to honour a creed, and promises to “Walk the way of the Mandalore”. In return, he gets a shiny blue helmet freshly forged in fire. From this, it’s clear: this is how one becomes a Mandalorian, a member of Star Wars’ secret space police force.
Someone has other ideas. A giant scaly sea creature – imagine a Mermaid Jabba the Hutt – spirals his blubbery body onto the beach and begins a smackdown, scattering those present into disarray and chomping through Mandos like it’s dinner time. If someone doesn’t help them, they’re all going to die.
Enter man of the moment Pedro Pascal. With his super fast space ship, he peels in to blast the beast to smithereens, a move that blows slabs of meat across the beach. As our hero lands and waves to survivors covered in monster gloop, the camera instead zeroes in on someone else present: a familiar green puppet with a goofy look on its face.
Who, exactly, does Baby Yoda think he is? He’s not needed in this scene one jot, but I sure did smile when I saw his gremlin grin. But he’s more than just comic relief in a really rather good serialised weekly adventure series. Baby Yoda’s in the unenviable position of holding an entire franchise in his tiny green maw.
If you think that’s an overstatement, consider this: Star Wars, as a franchise, is in a precarious position. A second season of Temuera Morrison’s Book of Boba Fett hasn’t been confirmed. Based on lacklustre reviews, it seems unlikely. Same goes with Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Ewan McGregor mini-series that turned Darth Vader into a toothless villain.
As good as Andor was (and it was very good) viewership was so low Disney was forced to give it away for free. Several Star Wars films – remember those? – are rumoured, but none are confirmed. According to the rumour mill, everyone from Rian Johnson to Game of Thrones bosses David Benioff and DB Weiss to Taika Waititi are toiling away, trying to crack what exactly the future for Star Wars on the big screen looks like.
So, right now, the Star Wars universe belongs to a puppet. Beginning this week with a chapter titled “The Apostate,” The Mandalorian returns for a much-hyped season three, and if one thing’s clear, it’s that Jon Favreau is in complete control of what he’s doing.
There are pounding drums building tension right from the start. There are brilliant set pieces, from Mermaid Jabba’s demise to a Frankenstein robot crawling across the floor Terminator-style. There’s a classic Western street shoot out with pirates, a fiery space battle through an asteroid belt, weird folk bands performing on the streets of Nevarro and the great Katie Sackoff lounging around on her own version of the Iron Throne looking like a menace.
Oh, there’s also a great one-liner pulled straight from an Arnie action film: “That’s using your head,” utters Mando when the top of a bronzed statue crushes a killer legless droid.
It’s undeniably good television. The Mandalorian hits all of those Star Wars sweet spots. I love it, my kids love it, my parents love it too. Watching Baby Yoda snuggle into Mando’s lap for a wee nap during a hyperspeed trip doesn’t just look great on a big-screen TV, it hits me right in the parental feels. Sometimes, I wish I could be as good a dad as Mando is to Baby Yoda.
But I can’t help but wonder: How’s it come to this? Star Wars began as a film trilogy, then a prequel trilogy, and another post-trilogy trilogy before morphing into what it is now, a collection of mostly pretty average TV shows. As good as The Mandalorian is, it’s the only one delivering the goods. Most fans would happily swap all of it for more big screen adventures, Death Star explosions, battles between the Force and the Dark Side, and arguments about who shot who first. Come in, Taika, you’re our only hope.
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Why you need to see Cocaine Bear…
Walking out of Cocaine Bear my immediate thought was, “Does a film called Cocaine Bear have the right to be this much fun?” This is no Oscar-worthy film, and nor does it pretend to be. It is a graphically violent, very silly and incredibly fun horror about a bear that ingests a lot of cocaine and goes on a bush rampage. It’s (very) loosely based on real events – in real life the bear died after eating all that coke. Directed by Elizabeth Banks and stylised to look and feel like a 70s slasher, Cocaine Bear is a modern classic Friday night flick. /Stewart Sowman-Lund
Why you need to see Aftersun…
Aftersun is an incredibly tender, graceful film about a father and daughter on holiday in Turkey. The dreamy sunny light and camcorder footage seems nostalgic, but the film also wonders about how growing up lets you understand your parents’ sadnesses more fully. The film is generous, leaving space for interpretation – what does the Turkish carpet mean? What happened after the airport? I took my boyfriend, and would recommend going with someone else so you have space to discuss What It Means afterwards. /Shanti Mathias
On The Spinoff Podcast Network: The Winner of Treasure Island
Jane Yee sits down with the winner of Treasure Island: Fans v Faves to discuss a season filled with broken alliances, breakdowns and redemption.
This week’s new stuff…
The Mandalorian is this week’s biggest TV release, a show kept so tightly under wraps that critics weren’t sent screeners until Wednesday, the day it was hitting Disney+ anyway. If you’re not into puppets, the seconds seasons of Aussie comedy show Upright and the Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air have just hit TVNZ+. Netflix has the second season of the raunchy Sex/Life, Neon has season six of the excellent cocaine caper Snowfall, and Apple TV+ has new Eugene Levy travel series The Reluctant Traveller and the third season of The Problem With Jon Stewart. On Amazon Prime, people seem to be enjoying The Consultant, a black comedy starring Christoph Waltz. In theatres, boxing reboot Creed III is this week’s big new release, and it’s getting great reviews, while Olivia Colman’s Empire of Light is, apparently, delightful. But who are we kidding? You’re going to go see Cocaine Bear, aren’t you?
Everything you need to know…
New seasons of Succession, Ted Lasso and Yellowjackets are coming, plus a Luther film and the much-hyped Rain Dogs and Daisy Jones & the Six. This is a huge month for new TV shows. You can see what’s coming up in Sam Brook’s March streaming guide.
Speaking of Succession, warm up for season four with GQ’s OTT Jeremy Strong profile in which he wears brown clothes the entire time, admits he’s never spoken to Brian Cox out of character and pretends to be a sheep (it’s good, promise). And here’s the brand new Succession trailer with Logan yelling: “We’re pirates!”
TVNZ has announced it will screen the much-hyped and well-reviewed third season of Party Down along with the first two seasons from 13-plus years ago. But fans of the cult workplace comedy will have to wait – it’s not landing until April.
Claims and counter-claims are flying about The Idol, HBO’s upcoming raunch-fest from the mind of The Weeknd. Rolling Stone reports on rewrites, reshoots and delays, with one insider telling them: “It was, let’s just say, a shitshow.”
More kids are watching TV shows with the subtitles on than ever before (weird!).
They’re apparently making “multiple” new Lord of the Rings movies.
This Vulture takedown (paywalled) of why Quantumania is absolutely the worst Marvel movie ever is both funny and sad. It’s also riveting reading.
For all you Survivor-heads out there, season 44 has just started, and along with it comes a brand new Jeff Probst podcast called – what else? – On Fire. Sadly, Survivor doesn’t screen in Aotearoa anywhere anymore. But it really should.
And finally, some talking points…
I know I’m really late on this, but I just finished season two of Reservation Dogs (Disney+) and it ruled. Is it the new Atlanta? I’m really enjoying Poker Face (TVNZ+), but I agree with our review – the overarching plot needs to become a bigger deal. I finally saw Avatar 2 and … I don’t want to talk about that. Instead, I’m slowly ekeing out episodes of When Bob Came (TVNZ+) and Cunk on Earth (Netflix), savouring them like little treats. Feel free to share you own thoughts on any of this below…
That’s it for Rec Room for this week. If you liked what you read, why not share Rec Room with your friends and whānau.