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Twenty13: Sounds of a New Year

Once you've returned that hideous scarf your aunt Gertrude gave to you on Christmas, rest assured that there's a brand-spankin' new year waiting just around the corner. For many of us, 2013 couldn't have come any sooner, and with much to look forward to after January 1, I wanted to provide you with a soundtrack that will get you adequately amped up for what's to come in the next 365 days.

We start with my favorite track from Unorthodox Jukebox, transition into an empowering Kelly Clarkson bonus track that (I pray) will be released as an official single, and then soar into an eclectic mix of EDM-driven wonders peppered with some alt-pop.

You can sample each track over at my Spotify channel.

1. "Moonshine" by Bruno Mars
2. "People Like Us" by Kelly Clarkson
3. "Just Give Me A Reason" by Pink feat. Nate Ruess
4. "Euphoria" by Usher
5. "Silver Lining (Crazy 'Bout You)" by Jessie J
6. "Be A Boy" by Robbie …


That Time I Stared Down Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Paul Rudd

I spent my holiday season watching a lot of movies.

So many, in fact, I got to interview some of the people behind them for ScreenPicks.

My interviews with the casts of This is 40 and Parental Guidance (including my reviews on Jack Reacher and Django Unchained) are available over HERE.


Blog of the Year: A 2012 Review

By the time you read this, the world may be bracing itself during its final hours during the Mayan apocalypse...or you'll be cozied up on a couch enjoying some eggnog while waiting for Santa to deliver a shiny new iPad. Either way, it's a time to look back on the endlessly entertaining sideshow that was 2012.

Once again, the year flew by faster than a speeding train heading into the Capitol of Panem. It feels like it was just yesterday when I was commuting 32 miles each way to a temp job deep in the Valley. Then, all of sudden, I had another birthday, Desperate Housewives ended, The Avengers assembled, I left Palm Springs with my Best Suntan Ever, Comic-Con provided several personal nerdgasms, I yee-hawed my way through Dallas, Ricki Lake shoved a microphone in my face -- and before you know it -- I'm gorging on candied yams and turkey on November 22 and trimming my Christmas tree for my sixth annual holiday cocktail party while refiling for (gulp) unemployment. Where did…


In Light of Today's Tragedy in Newtown, CT

Since I'm sickened by what CNN has been feeding me all morning -- and by how we as a country refuse to learn from past horrors -- I'm feeling a little soapboxy and just had to voice my thoughts as I'm watching a 10-year-old boy recall how he had to hide in a closet from gunfire during gym class.

Please, everyone, don't let this be another national tragedy we eventually let fall to the wayside until another one comes around. There are preventative measures that are not being implemented here in this country -- for psychological purposes and otherwise (accessibility to weapons, etc).

To those who passed "the right to bear arms" in 1791 (the era of the single-shot musket), you clearly didn't have any foresight because, 221 years later, nowhere -- movie theaters, shopping malls, elementary schools -- is safe. And to those who turn a blind eye on behavior that could result in such devastation: wake up, unplug your ears, and find a way to resolve such instabil…


One Reason Why I'm Not a Fan of Taylor Swift

Let the evidence speak for itself...


Judd Apatow vs. J.J. Abrams

This week, I spent my Monday morning in a room at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills with the cast of Judd Apatow's This is 40.

Four things: Albert Brooks is incapable of not being funny. Megan Fox has now earned MILF status. Paul Rudd is more pocket-sized than I thought. And director Judd Apatow (pictured here with his wife-actress Leslie Mann) knows how to work a room.

Alas, my interview for the folks at Screenpicks is now available HERE.

@TheFirstEcho


My Friends: An Early 'Auld Lang Syne'

My friends are awesome.

They inspire me. They make me laugh. They look out for each other. They console me during my downs, and they celebrate my ups.

They give me a rides to the airport. They have great tastes in clothing. They write books. They direct TV shows. They travel around the world. They're really good cooks.

Some of them look like the hotter, younger siblings of celebrities. Some of them are celebrities.

My friends know my weaknesses. They motivate me to exploit my strengths. They're brave. And talented. They don't stand for bullshit. They have blogs. They know people who know people. They put me on lists. They hook me up with DVD screeners so that I don't have to pay $12 for a movie that will inevitably be nominated for an Oscar.

Other friends of mine call them "good people."

They treat me to coffee. They exhibit outstanding hospitality. They surprise me in the best ways possible. They call me out of the blue...just because. They leave me texts t…


My Interview with the Vampire: Paul Wesley

The Vampire Diaries star Paul Wesley graces the cover of Bello Mag's holiday issue (now available in the iTunes Newsstand), and during my interview with him, I was surprised to find out that he's a Jersey boy (his family's okay after Hurricane Sandy).

He's also a huge geek for anything Stanley Kubrick. Who knew?

Also in this month's jam-packed issue: my Apocalypse Mixtape, our list of Entertainers of the Year, and my interview with Mehcad Brooks.
Check out a preview of my piece with Paul below:
@TheFirstEcho


All I Want For Christmas

1. Roundtrip airfare and a six-night stay in London.

2. Daniel Craig's arms.

3. A $1,500 gift card to Target to get me through the next three months.

4. Lunch and afternoon cocktails with Kate Winslet.

5. A second-season pickup of 666 Park Avenue by SyFy.

6. Payoffs on all three of my credit cards.

7. Payoffs on all three of my student loans.

8. The seventh and final season of Melrose Place on DVD (to make my collection complete).

9. A three-year development deal with a certain network television studio.

And, oh yeah, world peace.

@TheFirstEcho


How Many Calories I'll Consume Back Home During the Holidays

There's no avoiding it. When I go back home for the holidays, my life will be one enormous smorgasbord of indulgent eating. Although I'll try my best to tame my gluttony (good luck with that), I have a feeling I'll be saying "F**k it" every time a sweet or savory morsel stares me down from across the table.

Here's just a sample of what I expect to ingest during my three weeks (yes, 3) in the winter wonderland that is the East Coast...

1. A late-night meal after landing at JFK at midnight.

2. Coffee and cake while visiting my mom's best friend.

3. The lone candy cane I'll suck on while watching afternoon talk shows on the couch.

4. The potato chips and onion dip to keep me satiated before Christmas dinner.

5. The eggnog latte I'll buy at Starbucks while doing some last-minute shopping at Target with my mom.

6. The hot cocoa I'll purchase near Rockefeller Center to keep me warm.

7. The fabulous lunch I'll eat with my best friend.

8. The fab…


My 12 Songs of Christmas

Over the past couple of years, it has come to my attention that listening to Christmas songs is a great way to relieve stress and brighten any downtrodden spirits because they tend to provoke reminiscences of holidays past. They also make me long for those days when my heart skipped a beat at the sight of big, wrapped package -- not only from Santa, but from any one of my many relatives.

Holiday songs not only bring good cheer to any party with mistletoe, they simply exist for the sake of nostalgia. Therefore...

I've collected a dozen yuletide tunes that have a special place in my heart. Behind each one is a particular memory of mine, either from the first time I heard it or from a random moment from my past. Who's ready to hop on a sleigh and take a ride with me?

1. "All Alone On Christmas" by Darlene Love (1992) -- Hard to believe it's been 20 years since I first heard this jingle, easily the best part of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (besides Tim Curry's …


Nerdgasm of the Month: 'Star Trek Into Darkness'

There are some movie trailers that make you as giddy as a schoolgirl who just got hug-raped by One Direction...and then there's this.

J.J. Abrams's Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't come out until May, but the movie trailer gods have given us a gift Santa only wishes he could've delivered.

What we get: Chris Pine's baby blues, some killer voiceover from Benedict Muthaf**king Cumberbatch (Sherlock), a roughed-up Spock (Zachary Quinto), and a nice shot of a CGI-altered Century City in L.A. being blown to smithereens.

Let the geek squealing begin:



@TheFirstEcho


I've Seen 898 Movies in 16 Years

Since November of 1996 I have kept a written log of films I've seen in theaters. It's something I've shared with a close few since a) it makes me look like a completely anal retentive film geek and b) it makes me look like a completely anal retentive film geek.

As I write this, I have seen 898 movies. I know what you're thinking: that's a crapload of popcorn. To which I reply: I've also enjoyed many a bag of Skittles.

If you're wondering, my 898th film was Les Miserables. On Saturday afternoon I attended a guild screening of the epic musical at the Mann Chinese 6 in Hollywood (another item to add to my What I'm Thankful For List: industry friends in unions). When the movie's Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper, introduced the film, he thanked his cast, crew, and friends, one of whom was sitting in the row in front of me -- Helen Mirren. Needless to say, the audience turned their heads in awe and ogled the Academy Award-winning GILF who was sitting w…


The Apocalypse Mixtape: The 2012-13 Winter Playlist

Not only is this my final playlist of the year, it could also be the final playlist -- ever. If those silly Mayans were right, then by all means, let's party and dance until the world comes to its fiery end. Because this season, Santa Claus isn't the only one coming to town. Mr. Fire-and-Brimstone is on his way -- with a big bag of catastrophe.

Here are some tracks that will keep you busy from now until the apocalyptic poo hits the fan on December 21.

It was nice knowing y'all...

1. "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Ester Dean -- It's what you'll be telling your crush right before you see him fall into a pit of fire during those mega earthquakes. Yes, it's a cover of the Bonnie Raitt classic. Sung by the lesbian chick from Pitch Perfect:
2. "Let There Be Love" by Christina Aguilera -- An anthem for all the sinners who'll be raging on when the End comes:
3. "I Found You" by The Wanted -- May these boys forever kick the asses o…


18 Things I'm Thankful For This Week

For my family. For my L.A. family, those who inspire me, support me, and remind me how much love I have in my life. For my health. For my abilities. For Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes. For Instagram. For the opportunities I've been given. For the motivation I need to go through those open doors. For The Actors Fund. For blessings in disguises. For BBC America. For the chance to hang on to my youth as I stare down my age. For Diddy Riese Cookies. For the luxury that is cable, Internet, and a car. For my Twitter followers. For the Madeon remix of Martin Solveig's "The Night Out." For the food coma I will induce upon myself this Thursday.

For life.

@TheFirstEcho


10 Things I'll Miss in 2013 (If The World Ends Next Month)

Should the Mayan calendar actually end on December 21, 2012 -- along with the rest of the world -- I will miss many of the pleasures that 2013 promises to deliver. Sure, I'll also miss my friends and family, but hey, at least the Apocalypse will help wipe out my student loan debt. Too bad the last installment of The Twilight Saga wasn't scheduled for next year...I would've loved to have seen the countless pissed-off virgins and their overweight mothers cry over never getting to see Edward and Bella kiss for the umpteenth time.

But if those ancient ones were wrong, then I can still look forward to the following (in no particular order)...

1. The Rest of Revenge - Who the hell got killed on Jack's boat in the middle of the ocean? And how in the world does Emily's mother not recognize her? Or does she, and she's just keeping up Emily's charade...?

2. Oz, the Great and Powerful - Because James Franco could squat on the corner of San Vicente and Santa Monica and …


I Was on 'The Ricki Lake Show'

...and apparently there was no way you could miss me in my purple shirt -- which Ricki liked, by the way.

I attended a taping of her "Ambush Makeover" show last month, and it felt as if I had been transported back to 1995 (running home from school, turning on channel 9, chanting "Go Ricki! Go Ricki!"). Who knew, 17 years later, that friendless, Knots Landing-obsessed bookworm from New Rochelle, New York would be standing next to Miss Lake and shooting the shit with her during a commercial break inside the studio of her reincarnated show in sunny Los Angeles?

If you happened to catch Monday's broadcast, you may have spotted me right before they revealed the makeover results in the final segment. And from the looks of it, it seems as if I had inhaled several burritos from Chipotle...along with the entire Chipotle franchise.

I was the only audience member selected by producers to ask a question. I was also one of five males in the audience, so perhaps they were l…


The 10 Greatest Sitcom Theme Songs from the 80s

I still find it reprehensible that today's generation is being robbed of the enjoyment of proper TV sitcom theme songs. Therefore, while going over my iTunes playlist of classic TV jingles I've collected over the years, I couldn't help but climb on board the Nostalgia Express and reminisce about each of the following. What makes them so great is the way they left an indelible mark on a generation, perfectly encapsulating the sensibility and tone of their respective shows.

They truly don't make 'em like they used to...

1. Perfect Strangers - Covering the parallel origin stories of cousin Balki's journey to America and cousin Larry's big move to the big city, this is possibly the most epic (and inspirational) sitcom openings of all time. What network has the time (and budget) to shoot such a grand intro anymore? Apparently none.


2. Who's the Boss? - A perfect track for any romantic comedy, including Christopher Cross-like, easy-listening vocals (courtesy …


Review: Christina Aguilera's 'Lotus'

The album doesn't come out until Tuesday, but I couldn't wait...

First things's first: Perhaps this album should have been called Hubris. Like Christina's past pop contributions, this 17-track disc -- I'm going with the Deluxe Version here -- is an ambitious effort. The girl sure loves to deliver a meaty musical package. Every heavily-produced track is as confident as that questionable album cover. She clearly doesn't give a shit, especially after two colorful decades in the business. Read any current interview of hers, and you'll see that she still prides herself on unabashedly expressing herself no matter what anyone says. It seems as if she gets off on spitting back at her critics, particularly her haters. But one has to ask: Why bother? Why continue to be on the defensive?

Maybe someone should tell Miss Aguilera that subtlety is in. Yes, she has that voice -- and no, I'm not talking about the talent competition show that has redirected the spotligh…


Save the Date for the Apocalypse!

After the pumpkin's been carved,  After the turkey's been cooked,  There's another event, That's about to be booked. 
It's an annual tradition.  It's about that time.  Another silly chance,  For me to break out a rhyme. 
I'm requesting your presence.  You won't want to wait.  All that I'm asking,  Is that you save this special date.
*I was going for a Santa-and-His-Reindeer-meets-The-Four-Horsemen-of-the-Apocalypse theme for my annual holiday cocktail party. That said, let's hope the Mayans were misinformed. My grandmother's 91st birthday is on December 21, and that would suck if the earth exploded before she got to blow out her candles.

@TheFirstEcho


Some Halloween Required Reading

For all you youngin's out there who have their noses stuck in the pages of any novel featuring characters named Katniss, Bella, or Dumbledore, I implore you to listen to your bookworm elders and focus your attention on the literary oeuvre of R.L. Stine.

The book to your right is the eighth in a series called Fear Street. Each installment focuses on the horrific goings-on in a stateless town called Shadyside. In the fall of 1992, I happened upon this book and was introduced to its murder mysteries and supernatural mayhem when I was 12. Since then, I couldn't get enough, and I stuck with the series up until its 10-part miniseries finale in 1999 (you should see my bookshelf). I wrote about my obsession four years ago here.

Anyway, Halloween Party is about a girl who invites a particular group of her classmates to her spooky house on the titular street for a party they'll never forget. There's a dead body or two (or three) and one hell of a plot twist by the end that'…


Why I'm Digging 'Cloud Atlas'

I knew it had the potential to be messy in some parts. I knew some of the makeup was going to be questionable. But after sitting through 3 hours of Cloud Atlas, a movie I had been anticipating ever since I laid my eyes on that oversized, M83-fueled trailer, I feel satisfied, appreciative, impressed, and grateful.

Grateful for Hollywood allowing this production to happen. Impressed that there are filmmakers who can lure big names to a risky, big-concept film. Appreciative of a movie that can speak to my emotions by daring to explore the very abstract concept of an afterlife, of human connectivity, of past lives, and of a journey one soul can take through time and space. Satisfied that a film has tapped into our collective subconscious in an attempt to explain the metaphysics of our world.

The multiple role-playing in Cloud Atlas, while a great and exciting challenge for all of the actors involved, isn't gimmicky at all. The pacing is sharp and crackling, weaving the six stories to…


Superstorm Sandy Bitchslaps Halloween

Thankfully I picked the right time to leave New York after last week's visit to see friends and family.

As I write this, my parents are without power (and water), a tree has fallen on my father's Nissan, and a rollercoaster I used to ride during summer vacations in Seaside Heights, New Jersey has been washed away by the Atlantic Ocean (below).

The incoming pictures are horrifying, and although a part of me wishes I could be there to rough it out with loved ones, I'm counting blessings (no one I know has been injured).


To my friends in Manhattan, stay safe, help each other out, and be patient. I know your city's been through the ringer, but a wise American Idol winner once sang, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
To the countless kids who were excited to go out trick-or-treating tomorrow, I'm afraid Halloween might be cancelled this year. Stay inside. You're better off watching watching horror movies (if you don't have power, work thos…


10 Hipster Halloween Costumes I'll Never Wear

Forget the sexification of ordinary Halloween costumes. Major cities like Los Angeles are starting to see a growing trend in costumes catering to those who love all things alternative. To those of you who wish to take a break from the flannel shirts and skinny jeans, I'm sure you'll come up with something that perfectly expresses your disinterest in the holiday. But in the meantime, here are a few outfits I won't be surprised to see should I find myself driving through Silverlake, Echo Park, or Los Feliz this year...

1. Intelligentsia Coffee Barista -- Comes with a shot of sarcasm and a dollop of biting rhetoric.

2. Any Character from a Wes Anderson Film -- Because hipsters like their heroes despondent and consider Anderson to be their Scorsese. And the slightly obscure reference will ironically make them popular with their own kind.

3. Pabst Blue Ribbon Truck Driver -- Even better if you make good on your disguise and deliver a few six-packs to that underground party in Wil…


I'm with the DJ

Last night was the annual Halloween Havoc bash, this time in Santa Monica, and yours truly provided some tunage for the costumed masses. As you can see, I decided to go for a Doctor Death kind of look. Or perhaps you could call me a spin doctor. Get it? Spinning records...even though I didn't touch single piece of vinyl.

It was another successful event. Once again, I got a kick out of standing behind my little station, grinding with the cardboard cutouts behind me, and watching friends and strangers throw their hands up in the air like they just don't care.



There's nothing quite like the experience of watching a crowd react when you start blaring the Crooklyn Clan remix of Faith Evans's "Love Like This" followed by some "How Many Licks" and "Dirrty."

Good times.

@TheFirstEcho


What I'm Reading: 'Red Rain'

A travel blogger survives a wicked hurricane off the coast of South Carolina and stumbles upon twin orphan boys in the wreckage. She adopts them, bringing them back to her home and family in Long Island, New York. Bad idea -- these innocent-looking, fair-haired kids got some evil tricks up their sleeve...

And so kicks off Part 1 of Red Rain, R.L. Stine's thrill-a-chapter novel. That's right -- R.L. Stine. The man known around the globe for terrorizing kids and teens with his Goosebumps and Fear Street series (I've read the first 16 of the former and own all 80-plus titles of the latter). This time he's clearly catering to all of his readers who came of age during the 1990s, his golden era, by penning a horror novel for them. Packed with adult themes, naughty words, and sexual overtones, this book is one that should be kept, as the cover states, "far, far away from your kids."

In all actuality, it's an easy-breezy read with just the right amount of gore, …


Autumn in New York