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REVIEW: 'Hidden Figures'

The great Space Race of the 1960s, as history books will explain, was a time filled with hope, innovation, and bravery. Hope amongst the American population, excited at the prospect of sending a man into the stars. Innovation surrounding the technology used to accomplish such a Herculean task. And bravery required of the pilots who were lined up to be the first human to travel where no man has gone before.

But little does history tell of the individuals who were instrumental in making all of that happen. See, HiddenFigures refers to both the unsung heroines who helped NASA scientists execute the perfect launch and the missing factors of a very large mathematical equation only a rare, intelligent mind could solve...

Check out my review of this exciting true story starring Taraji P. Henson over at ScreenPicks.

@TheFirstEcho

An Open Letter from 2016 to the World

Hello people,

It has recently come to my attention that a lot of you have many bones to pick with yours truly, and I'd like to take this opportunity to address and respond to some of your concerns and problems.

First of all, I apologize if you think I've let you down. Like most Januarys before, the first month held lots of promise. It was a fresh start. But then, a lot of shit happened.

Like, a lot...

Check out my latest on The Huffington Post -- HERE.

@TheFirstEcho

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: L.A. Edition

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through L.A. Not an actor was stirring, nor using valet. Tinder was ablaze with Netflix and chills, While the botox flowed freely in Beverly Hills.
The agents were stunned by stars who were deceased, While their heads filled with visions of box office receipts. And I in Marc Jacobs, my plus-one in Cavalli, Were just winding down from Spielberg's big party.
When out on the boulevard there arose such a noise, I put down my iPhone and saw several boys. They were scantily clad, yelling "Ho, ho, HO!" I thought to myself, "Must be from WeHo."
Then over to the left, nursing bottles of craft beer, The next batch of revelers were soon drawing near. The man-buns and flannel, I did not mistake, These hipsters were now arriving from Silverlake.
Not too far behind was a group very catty, Their offspring in strollers, quite loud and quite bratty, A dominant species in this part of Cali, I give you the housewives from OC and the Vall…

On the Loss of So Many Celebrities in 2016...

I've decided that, once I pass, I want to wake up in my own Gary Marshall-directed "San Junipero" where my alarm clock plays the below song every morning (#RIPAlanThicke), where my neighbors are Florence Henderson and Patty Duke, where Alan Rickman -- as Severus Snape -- owns a bakery down the street (next to Willy Wonka's factory), and every Friday night Prince and David Bowie perform duets at my neighborhood bar.

The 2016 Review: A Totally Critical Look Back

I think it's safe to say 2016 will go down in history as one of the stormiest years of the 21st century. Who knew, back in January, that 2016 would turn out to be a year most Americans would like to wipe from their collective memory?

No one wanted to say goodbye to iconic musicians and beloved actors week after week. No one wanted to be inundated with headlines about mass shootings and innocent lives lost to senseless gun violence. No one really wanted Suicide Squad...or Ryan Lochte's superb display of douchebaggery, which outdid his previous displays of douchebaggery. No one wanted to say "on fleek" anymore. And no one wanted to witness one of the most divisive and frustrating presidential elections in American history. (And for most of us, the rise of an egomaniacal, tweet-happy reality-TV misogynist who lied his way into the White House.)

But, despite how difficult it all was, we must look at the proverbial bright side of things.

2016 gave us the Summer of Strang…

The First Echo Turns 10!

Back in 2006, I decided to turn my chaptered "e-mail updates from L.A." (reserved for friends and family) into a blogsite. After all, everyone was doing it back then -- back when you could still catch Perez Hilton typing away on his laptop at the corner table inside The Coffee Bean near Sunset and Fairfax.

Why The First Echo? For those who haven't heard me explain it before, it's simply the English translation of my full first Japanese name: Hikoichi. (Now try saying that five times fast with my last name.)

Little did I know my little, self-indulgent "life updates" would turn into pop culture-flavored rants that would then lead me to opportunities like Hotter in Hollywood (2007-2016), ScreenPicks, Bello, and most recently, The Huffington Post.

And while I've branched out across the interwebs, I've always prided myself on having this site as my own personal hub of word vomit and random thoughts that I would publish to the ten (or hundred) people who…

REVIEW: 'Office Christmas Party'

Decking the halls with boughs of holly is sooo 20th century. And so are warm, fuzzy holiday movies about family, love, and friendship.

Hence why, over the past several years, we’ve been treated to such R-rated yuletide fare like A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, The Night Before, and most recently, Bad Santa 2. There’s an audience out there that appreciates penis gags and F-bombs to go with their cup of cheer, especially if that cheer is spiked or laced with illegal substances.

Office Christmas Party continues that naughty tradition with a venerable who’s who from the film and TV comedy world. It’s like the Love Actually of dude-centric workplace comedies, but depending on who you are, that may not be a comparison to be proud of...

Head on over to ScreenPicks to read my full review of the yuletide work-com.

@TheFirstEcho

INSERT EYE ROLL: The Trailer for 'Transformers: The Last Knight'

If the words "From Director Michael Bay" do not prompt an audible "ugh" from your lips, then you and I clearly have different tastes in movies. I'll just go ahead and accept the fact that you enjoy excessive explosions, slow-motion pan-arounds of actors looking beaten, and young nubile women baring their midriffs against sunset-tinged landscapes with an American flag flapping in the wind.

The trailer for the fifth Transformers movie dropped earlier today -- much to the disinterested dismay of those who can't fathom that the bombastic franchise has lasted this long.

"Optimus Prime has left us," says a British voiceover from...Sir Anthony Hopkins? (This is how far we've come?) I would probably peace out on Earth too after being subjected to an egomaniacal director, four films, and constant cast changes.

Did anyone besides a group of money-hungry studio suits ask for this sequel? Didn't think so.

@TheFirstEcho

HYBURN8: The 2017 Winter Playlist

The weather outside is gonna get frightful, but this playlist is so delightful.

And since you need to brighten your day...let it play, let it play, let it play...


Once again, be sure to check back here for more tunes as I'll be adding more throughout the next two months.@TheFirstEcho

#TBT: My December of 1996

Picture it: December, 1996.

I'm freezing in the back row of a van with my fellow speech-and-debate teammates in a shopping mall parking lot somewhere in Massachusetts. We've just finished (victoriously) competing at the annual Holly Speech Festival at Natick High School. We're still in our suits, blazers, and ties, and we're all exhausted. As I wait for some of my peers to come out of a nearby Starbucks, I proceed to listen to a mixtape on my Aiwa cassette tape player. It consists of "Lovefool" by The Cardigans and "Wannabe," a catchy gem from a new Britpop group called the Spice Girls.

Some of the guys talk about catching a late showing of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, a daring retelling of Shakespeare's classic starring that girl from My So-Called Life and the pretty boy who was on Growing Pains for one season. I then make a mental note to add to my Christmas wish list a VHS copy of Independence Day. (I saw it twice in theaters earlier…

R.I.P. Hotter in Hollywood (2007-2016)

It is with bittersweet feelings that I announce the end of an era.

With a heavy heart, I have reached the difficult decision to close the digital doors on HotterInHollywood.com, the site I've been overseeing for the past nine years. It is something that has provided me lots of opportunities and tons of great experiences, and I couldn't be more grateful for what it has given me.

For those unfamiliar with my history with HIH, it all started with the annual Hot in Hollywood benefit on which I was a steering committee member for three years. During the non-profit's second year, its founder, the incomparable Michael Medico, wanted to start a blogsite to spotlight other charities, celebrate pop culture in a fun, positive way, and showcase what celebrity alumni were up to throughout the year. I was more than happy to offer some of my views on music, TV, and movies during those first couple of months.

Then, I was absolutely honored to take over the reigns shortly after its launch…

REVIEW: 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World was first introduced to pop culture back in 1997 with the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and now, 19 years later, fans of the ubiquitous book series and film franchise are given the chance to see what life was like decades before that little boy with the lightning scar tried on that Sorting Hat.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them promises, as the tagline would suggest, “a new era” in this magical world, and result is a mixed (but mostly good) bag of delights and whimsical adventure...

Head over to ScreenPicks to read the rest of my review.

Obsession of the Week: Client Liaison

Picture it: Tuesday night.

I've just finished dinner and decide to watch episode 4 of the third season of the excellent, criminally underrated Please Like Me. (Seriously, get on board -- Entertainment Weekly included it on its annual Top 10 list of TV shows two years in a row.)

I pause the scene in which Josh, Arnold, and Tom take MDMA for the first time and go to a nightclub. I rewind, whip out my iPhone, and proceed to Shazam the shit out of the song they're dancing to. And I'm directed to this:


This indie electro-pop duo, like the show, hails from Australia, and I am now a convert, taking to Spotify to consume every piece of music they've put out since 2014. Everything about them is unabashedly 80s, from their production sensibilities to their wardrobe. Even their WEBSITE looks like it was designed in 1989.

Here is their most recent single, "Wild Life":


And here's "World of Our Love," a summer jam that should've made its way to the State…

Help! I Suffer From Too Much Good TV!

Less than twenty years ago, when it came to TV viewing, times were simpler. My television diet consisted of regular tune-ins of favorites like Melrose Place, Friends, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Saturday Night Live.

Less than ten years ago, I would usually find myself on weekend mornings catching up on shows I've missed during the previous week. It was a time when I could easily break down the week, day by day, listing what shows I watched. I had at least one for every day of the week. TV geeks and pundits deemed those days of the DVR the "Golden Age of Television."

But now we live in Streaming Times. I am a proud cord cutter (going strong 3+ years). I am both an advertiser's nightmare and prime target. I stream and download everything at random hours. I have no set schedule. I watch whatever I want, whenever I want. And since we're also living in the era of "Peak TV," there is simply too much television to keep up with. Seriously, in 20…

Invasion of the 'Girl' Thrillers: What Do They Mean in the Era of Trump?

Call it the Gone Girl Effect.

When Gillian Flynn's blockbuster literary thriller hit shelves in 2012, little did Pop Culture realize the ramifications this would have...

My latest piece at The Huffington Post is now available for your reading pleasure (Women friends, I look forward to hearing your thoughts): HERE.

@TheFirstEcho

After the Election: A Chronicle of Thoughts From the First 24 Hours

NOVEMBER 8, 2016

5:00pm - She has to win, right?

8:20pm - I don't know if my heart palpitations are a result of the incoming projections...or the watermelon martini I had with dinner.

9:45pm - Really? This is actually happening?

10:05pm - No. Wait...no. No. No. No. No.

11:30pm - Hate did not win tonight. Fear did. Fear of progress. Fear of “otherness.” Fear of privilege being taken away. And while the shock has not worn off, when we woke up in the morning, it will not have been a bad dream. And a new fear will take hold.

11:34pm - James Carville's "worst case scenario" prediction was right. The markets are crashing. The value of the American dollar around the world is plummeting. My God.

11:37pm - We now live in Panem. (Have you seen those projected images lighting up the Empire State Building and announcing the winners?) All that's missing is the sound of cannons being fired with every victory. When do the Hunger Games begin?


NOVEMBER 9, 2016

12:03am - At the risk of sou…

REVIEW: 'Trolls'

Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake dropped his single “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” a summer jam contender that demanded to be liked by every man, soccer mom, and child with its happy-go-lucky message and irresistible groove. It insisted on its own mass appeal. (Personally speaking, I am in the camp of believers who argue that, while a fun piece of pop, it’s a blatant wannabe of Pharrell’s superior 2013 megahit “Happy.”)

Trolls, the latest animated creation (and toy adaptation) from a major movie studio, is just as persistent in its determination to make you to love it, dance to it, and inevitably buy merchandise based on it. And it makes sense that JT’s chart-topping single hails from the movie’s soundtrack, a collection full of family-friendly covers and mash-ups designed to send your middle-aged aunt to the nearest dance floor and shake her rump like it’s 90s (or 80s) again...

Read more of my review over at ScreenPicks!

Enough with the Basic Halloween Costumes: Men's Edition

While most women get criticized for their choices in Halloween attire (sexy kitten, sexy mouse, sexy Freddy Krueger, and this year's most basic, most predictable choice: the inherently sexy Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad), men tend to glide by without anyone batting a carefully applied fake eyelash. But men are just as guilty when it comes to picking a basic costume that they think will get them lucky when the night is over.

And after living through 14 Halloweens in Los Angeles and witnessing the parade of guys, both straight and gay, who strut their stuff on Santa Monica Boulevard on October 31, I have come to the conclusion that there are several costumes that need to be retired (10 in fact). The utter lack of creativity can be astounding sometimes, and someone needs to tell the men of America to step it up a notch in the Imagination Department.

These are the costumes that most guys have tried at least once in their lifetime, and they don't need be worn again. Ever. If you…

REVIEW: 'Moonlight'

Coming-of-age stories usually come packaged in a nice bow, with hardships dealt and lessons learned within two hours of fairly painless storytelling. Those are the forgettable ones. But unforgettable coming-of-age stories, the ones that really stick with you, function on a more visceral, more resonant level, tapping into emotions and ideas that transcend the screen. Moonlight, from writer-director Barry Jenkins, is unforgettable...

Check out my full review of one 2016's best over at ScreenPicks.

TRICK'd: The 2016 Halloween Sessions

What's that? You're hosting (or going to) a Halloween party? And you need music to pump up the festivities?

Well then, you've come to the right place.

However, my apologies if you're expecting "Monster Mash" or "Purple People Eater." If you're looking for those, there's a special episode of an 80s sitcom with your name on it.


@TheFirstEcho

Ana Navarro is Officially My Favorite Republican

Who knew I'd admire and cheer for a Republican this much?

Watch Ana Navarro, a GOP strategist and political pundit, take down Donald Trump after that Access Hollywood tape leaked this week, further incriminating him as a misogynist.

@ananavarro SHUTS IT DOWN. Mic Drop. #Trumphttps://t.co/I10xxizLMe — Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho) October 8, 2016 @TheFirstEcho

I Competed in My First Ever Posterpalooza

Last weekend I took (ahem) a plunge.

I woke up early on a Sunday morning to drive to the Valley and join a bunch of people I had never met before...only to end up having a blast, surrounded by creative minds, and coming up with ridiculously fun things like this poster recreation of Overboard (above) in which I gave my best Kurt Russell.

Created by my screenwriter-playwright friend Erik Patterson, POSTERPALOOZA has become an annual tradition. (This is its fourth year.) 15 teams gather together in a park and are sent off on a mission -- to recreate as many movie posters as they can within 6 hours. Each team is given a list of 20 films, spread across 5 genres, to choose from.


Once all photos have been submitted to a panel of judges (in jpegs on a USB drive, natch), teams can take a break before everyone gathers at night for a party to watch a slideshow of all the entries and eat some grub. (This year we reconvened at The Smokehouse in Burbank -- my first time; must go back.) There, priz…

SNEAK PEEK: 'Slasher Movie Girl'

PREFACE: Some of you may have heard me talk about the horror novel I am currently writing. So I thought I'd share the first chapter of this book-in-progress, Slasher Movie Girl, not only to generate interest but to hold myself accountable. Because I want to see this thing through and make sure it gets finished. Because the next time someone asks me, "How's your book coming along?" I want to answer honestly with a promising status update. Because, frankly, I want to get this bloody thing published, read by the masses, and optioned for a big-screen adaptation (naturally).

What is Slasher Movie Girl about? I wish I could give you the elevator pitch, but since I'm releasing a tiny portion of this into the world, I'm afraid that's all I can do for now. (Can't give it ALL away now can I?) Besides, hopefully this excerpt does a good job setting things up. And if all goes well, perhaps I'll release more and see if anyone else gives a damn...or if my agent …

Pop Culture Rant of the Week: Thank You Donald Trump

Hi Donald.

I just wanted to take this time to offer my thanks after watching your first presidential debate. (As expected, you acted like a 7-year-old throwing a tantrum while trying to convince his mom to stay up past his bedtime.)

Thank you for creating one big shitstorm of a campaign that has derailed the Republican party. Thank you for bringing crazy, bigoted Americans out of the woodwork so we can truly see whose narrow-mindedness is preventing progress and keeping our culture trapped in a time warp. Thank you for being so repugnant, so bigoted, so generally godawful, you allow us to clearly see Hillary Clinton as a shining example of what a U.S. president should be, regardless of any faults of her own.

You have crafted such a glaring contrast of an image, it would take the densest idiot in America to not see through you and your antics. And unfortunately, there are a lot of dense idiots out there who still don't see through you and continue to hang on your every word that d…