Movie Review: Throwback Today is a Fun, Inventive Ride That Takes a While to Take Off

TL;DR: This charming sci-fi film about second chances is at its best when it fully explores its premise.

Stories about being able to find a way to redo one’s life is a rich, thematic vein that’s been done many times before, but rarely have they’ve been brought to life full of clever ideas as Throwback Today. It focuses on Primo (Carlo Aquino), a talented, aspiring production designer who lives an ordinary college life. He has a close relationship with his stubborn father (Allan Paule), who’s the only person taking care of him ever since his mother died. He loves to hang out with his best friends & work together with them on school projects, but the one he’s closest to is Andie (Empress Schuck), his best friend who unbeknownst to him is harboring a crush on him.

Everything seems to be going well until he meets Macy (Annicka Dolonius), a flighty woman with a troubled past. They quickly become a couple that transforms into an intense, passionate romance that consumes them both, causing their lives to go off the rails. They have a nasty break up, & Primo is left reeling from the relationship, losing his direction in life. To make matters worse, his father dies & he might end up homeless soon. But one day, he finds out he can communicate with his past self by chatting with him through an old iMac.

Thus begins his wild journey towards self-improvement, but it takes a while to get there. The movie’s first act is predictable & rushed, which doesn’t give the movie a solid foundation once it takes more risks during its second act. The production values look cheap, but understandable for an independent filmmaker making his feature debut.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. It takes its conceit & pushes it to it to the limit with boundless energy , affording it with more narrative paths to take. It also helps that Carlo Aquino is a charming presence throughout the movie & Annickus Dolonius livens up a role that isn’t fully formed in the script. While the ending undercuts its message, Throwback Today is a fun, inventive romp about second chances.

Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2017: Bar Boys Get a Passing Grade

TL;DR: At its best, Bar Boys captures the rich tapestry of college life through the unique lens of law school.

The titular Bar Boys are far from the drunk slackers you’d expect them to be. It refers to the four close friends who love hang out & play DOTA on internet cafes. All of them applied in the same law school, but only three of them were accepted. Erik (Carlo Aquino) struggles early on once he enters law school, which he feels guilty about since his father works very hard as a security guard just so he could study. Torran (Rocco Nacino) is doing much better than Eric, but he’s also alloting some of his time at a fraternity for the connections it could bring. Chris (Enzo Pineda) is a studious, intelligent man who comes from a rich family & receives good grades. But his life is far from perfect: he’s trying to juggle his studies, his relationship with his girlfriend, & trying to hide said relationship from his controlling father who wants him to study in America. The only one who didn’t make it is Joshua (Kean Cipirano), who only applied for law school to please his parents & would rather use this opportunity to become an actor.

From there, it follows Erik, Torran & Chris as they try their best to survive law school without tearing each other apart, especially since only few students get to graduate with a law degree. It does this by mixing the internal struggles of the main ensemble & broad, funny yet relatable moments familiar to those who went to college, or even studied; from the old student that easily stands out, terrifying professors, and trying your best not to get called on by the aforementioned professors during recitation. It’s similar to other nostalgic coming-of-age movies such as Bagets, but the uniqueness of its milieu & its specificity makes its stand out. The approach gives it a chance to flesh out the world of law school & its inhabitants; it doesn’t shy away from the more violent impulses of fraternities either. At its best, these two elements are combined with ease & reveal the rich tapestry of being a law student, but at its worst, it slows down an overstuffed movie & takes our attention away from the movie’s more interesting stories.

But the main ensemble keeps the whole movie from spinning in multiple directions. All of them are excellent, especially Carlo Aquino as the striving underachiever who slowly becomes jealous of his friends. The most memorable role comes from Odette Khan as the strict yet caring Justice Hernandez, who understands more than anyone that the path to becoming a lawyer is stressful, because of the responsibility they will yield in the future. Bar Boys is cognizant of this, even if they are faced with so much obstacles. Whatever happens, their friendship will carry them onto graduation & beyond.

Movie Review: Meet Me in St. Gallen Makes It Hurt So Good

TL;DR: Meet Me in St. Gallen is a wistful romantic comedy that’s not afraid to look at the cost of choices we make to become adults.

Celeste (Bela Padilla) is a graphic artist working under an abusive manager who dreams of becoming a successful artist. Jesse (Carlo Aquino) is a college student who moonlights as a frontman of a fledgling band without his parents’ approval. After he was caught by his parents performing at a concert, they scold him & demand that he finish his studies. He’s left feeling frustrated, but when he inadvertently listens to Celeste quitting her job over her boss’ unreasonable demands on the phone, he decides to follow her. Celeste notices & doesn’t take it lightly that someone is tailing her. But when she finds out that he’s a harmless man looking for someone to bond with his failing artistic ambitions, she calms down & they bond over the course of one night; talking about their childhood & the similarities of their name to the movie Celeste & Jesse Forever. Their lovely night is even capped off with a passionate kiss.

But Celeste decides it would be better not to ruin the moment & leaves Jesse without exchanging their personal details & promising not to add each other on Facebook. From there, Meet Me in St. Gallen becomes a wistful romantic comedy about chance encounters, missed opportunities, & the compromises we make as we find ourselves. It takes the “Before Sunrise” template – two people who found each other & slowly falling in love in the process – that’s been so popular nowadays & takes it even further, injecting it with a heavy dose of melancholy & pragmatism that’s comparable to the rest of the Before Trilogy. That makes it sound like a downer – and it is! – but it doesn’t lose the witty, captivating discussions & great performances that makes romantic two-handers like this so enjoyable. Bela Padilla is once again the blunt, guarded, yet compassionate artist full of ambition & resentment, similar to her role as Stella in 100 Tula ni Stella, but instead of Stella’s recklessness, she ingrains Celeste with maturity. Carlo Aquino is charming as the equally ambitious & friendly Jesse, whose pained expressions reveal the depth of his regrets in life. Both have a cackling chemistry that makes it easy to understand how quickly they’re pulled in each other’s orbit.

But that’s not enough to commit to a relationship. Meet Me in St. Gallen understands that the weight of all of our decisions in life will leave us reeling if we made the right choice, haunting us even as we’ve already carved a space for ourselves in the world. It doesn’t shy away from the realities of adulthood, even as it takes the form of a romantic comedy, which makes for a very satisfying watch. That’s why even as the movie presses on to its inevitable conclusion, it hurts so good.