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, Hidden Figures 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 Valley.

Then next came the vegans, the goths, and the tanned,
Who joined hands and smiled, taking a proud stand,
From Santa Monica to Inglewood, there was no delay.
There were even folks who came up from South Bay.

They were all singing merrily, as if brought here by fate,
For weed was now legal across California state.
They celebrated bigly, danced 'round a large tree,
But no cookies for Santa (he's now gluten-free).

Their hero soon arrived, so sudden and quick,
I knew right then that it must be St Nick.
More rapid than the Metro his entourage came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name!

"Now Gosling, now Lawrence, now Affleck and Streep!
Take La Brea, take Wilshire, take all surface streets!
To the top of the Hills! To the bistros downtown!
Let's get this this party started, right here and right now!"

And then, in a twinkling, bubbly champagne flowed,
People were everywhere, blanketing the whole road.
As I got out of my Uber and was turning around,
 St. Nicholas leapt towards me in one single bound.

He spoke not a word, but reached into his bag, 
And pulled out a vape, offering me a drag. 
Then laying his finger aside of his nose, 
He snorted some glitter, heading towards Melrose.

He sprang to his Benz, to his team gave a shout, 
As he hopped on the 10 with a quick "Peace out!" 
But I heard him exclaim into the night so clear, 
"Happy Holidays to all, and Happy New Year!"

@TheFirstEcho

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 Stranger Things and PokemonGO. It gave us delicious Lemonade and gave Tatiana Maslany a well-deserved Emmy. It also gave us the glorious return of Mandy Moore -- on a beautifully weepy NBC drama no less. Personally, it gave me some new perspectives: I now know what summer in Cape Cod feels like (thanks the magical wonders of Provincetown). I now know how retirees like to party down in Florida (thanks to a trip to see my "snowbird" parents in March). And I now know what it feels like to subscribe to certain "curated" services that just won't let go. (Ahem, Freshly, StitchFix, Omaha Steaks, and Hello Fresh.)

But most importantly, 2016 gave us the following highlights in entertainment. These are the films, TV shows, and music that made my year as bright as possible. These were the pieces of entertainment that stood out, dared to be different, and for lack of a better description, left me shook.

Before you can say "mannequin challenge," let's get to it, shall we?







See you in 2017...

@TheFirstEcho

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 paid attention.

So instead of doing a drawn-out retrospective looking back at all of the stuff I've spewed onto this site, I'd like to say thanks. To the handful of you out there, thanks for sticking around.

Let's see where the next 10 years will take us.

@TheFirstEcho

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 that summer.) I think it's on sale at Nobody Beats the Wiz or Sam Goody...

I am a junior at Iona Prep, halfway through a school year that will see me soar in the category of Oral Interpretation with my poetry and prose readings of Shel Silverstein and Stephen King. (I proudly place 2nd in the state of New York the following May at a tournament in Albany.)

I am also an avid fan of Melrose Place, and I begin chatting with my friend James about the juicy storylines of the current fifth season. ("Who the hell is Taylor McBride, and how is she tied to Peter's past?" "Will Sydney ever find love?")

During this time I am also intrigued by TV promos for a new thriller from Wes Craven called Scream.


I think to myself: Drew Barrymore's starring in a horror movie now? I'll have to go check it out. And I do -- on Christmas night, with my father. We hit up the General Cinemas multiplex in the Bay Plaza shopping center in the Bronx after a festive day of unwrapping gifts and eating. Turns out I love Scream. Like, really love it. It's the best scary movie I've seen in a long time. It has the best opening scene (and twist) I've ever seen. It's smart. It features characters who are just as knowledgeable and obsessed about horror movies as I am. And it's genuinely thrilling. I become obsessed with this movie and see it again with a bunch of my friends later in the new year.

It is December of 1996. I think of how I'll have to get used to writing "1997" on my homework and essays in English class. I think about how we're three years closer to the new millennium. I wonder what will come then.

In 2016, soon to be 2017, I wonder about similar things.

@TheFirstEcho

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. And from there, HIH took on a life of its own, becoming its own little media outlet, opening doors (and red carpets) for me in ways I couldn't have imagined. One of those doors led me to the fabulous team at Bello Mag, where I became an editor and also wrote about all things entertainment.

However, with HIH ending, not all is lost...

Since I will continue to act as Bello's Entertainment Editor-at-Large, I will be writing about local happenings, movie reviews, red carpet events, and overall pop culture goodness over at bellomag.com (as well as pursuing other exciting writing endeavors). So think of this as redirecting my pop-culture-reporting efforts to one singular site now. (And FYI, The First Echo ain't going anywhere).

That all said, thank you to those who contributed to HIH over the years, those who supported the site, and those who indulged me with a read whenever I posted some commentary on a new music video or movie trailer.

In honor of this closing chapter, let's take a quick look back at some of the awesome people, places, and things HIH covered throughout its run:


@TheFirstEcho

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 States but didn't:


You're welcome, America.

@TheFirstEcho

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 2015 alone, there was a record-breaking 409 scripted shows (comedies and dramas) that aired. Scripted. That doesn't count reality shows, game shows, talk shows, and various docuseries.

This is a glut of (mostly) good television I seriously struggle to keep up with on a weekly basis. Just how serious is it?

Consider this...

If I find myself home on a Friday night after a long week of work, I'll stay in, crack open a bottle of red, and catch up with Chelsea on Netflix and The View on Hulu (save the middle-aged woman jokes for later). Saturday mornings are usually for catching up on ABC's How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal (my new Melrose Place). On Sunday, I watch SNL from the night before. By Sunday night, it's an all-new Westworld and Insecure on HBO (or Girls, depending on the time of year -- and no, I don't watch Game of Thrones, so please get over it). Monday through Thursday is a free-for-all. If I'm not trying to catch up on The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I'm trying to finish the previous season of FXX's You're The Worst. If I'm not trying to catch up on AMC's The Walking Dead, I'm trying to binge on the last three episodes of the everlasting Modern Family. As for the brand spankin' new broadcast network shows that I'm sampling, there's NBC's The Good Place, which I'm digging, and This is Us, which is great. Fox's Scream Queens is making it tough for me to keep up with this second round. I am trying to savor Season 3 of the fantastic, adorable, and absolutely delightful Please Like Me (formerly on Pivot) without plowing through all 10 episodes while enjoying Season 3 of TV Land's Younger. (Miriam Shor needs Emmy attention, STAT.) I started downloading SyFy's Channel Zero: Candle Cove to see what all the fuss is about among my fellow horror fanboys. I am still in awe of the last season of ABC's American Crime. I really want to get into Showtime's The Affair. I really tried to get sucked into FX's Fargo. I really want to become a fan of The Americans. I called Master of None the best TV show of 2015 (and I can't wait for Aziz's new season). I'm already considering Donald Glover's Atlanta the next Master of None. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I relate to the two main characters in Hulu's Difficult People a little too much. The third season of Transparent is still sitting in my Amazon Prime queue. The fourth season of Orange is the New Black and the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are still sitting in my Netflix queue. The remaining Season 2 episodes of Lifetime's UnReal have found refuge on a USB drive I have put in a safe place. And let me not forget the entire second season of USA's Mr. Robot, the entire third season of A&E's Bates Motel, and the entire fourth season of BBC America's Orphan Black that have been sitting on my hard drive, waiting for me to open them and click play.


There have been a few casualties over the past few years due to all of this competition for my attention. I fell off The Vampire Diaries during its fifth season. I never finished the first season of the delicious Quantico. I never started the sixth season of American Horror Story. Empire fell off my radar. I never found out what happened to Carrie after three seasons of Homeland. And final three episodes of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson never made it past my eyes, despite its sweep at the Emmys earlier this fall.

And then there are the classic shows that I never watched during their original runs and am currently considering bingeing: Gilmore Girls (especially now that it's being revived), The West Wing, and The Shield -- all available at my fingertips. And then there are the classic favorites I like to revisit for nostalgia purposes every so often when I can't handle new TV and feel like saying hello to old friends. (DVDs of The Golden Girls, Will & Grace, and Felicity are kept on standby in my bedroom.)

As you can see, I'm in crisis mode. And with promising new shows continuing to premiere during these last few weeks of the year, it seems like there's no relief in sight. Also, having now worked in entertainment marketing for the past three years (at my day job), I get a chance to see what's coming down the pipeline. And friends, there are lots of cool-sounding projects that will undoubtedly make a splash in an already crowded pool of small-screen titles that have already wooed millions of viewers. Drew Barrymore, Woody Allen, the Marvel TV Universe, and the holy trinity of Ryan Murphy-Susan Sarandon-Jessica Lange are poised to deliver the goods.

Networks that weren't known for original programming now boast several original series. Networks you probably have never heard of (Crackle, SeeSo, go90) are pumping out original series. Even that behemoth known as YouTube has it own original series (just take a drive down Sunset Boulevard; you can't miss the billboards). Yahoo, AT&T, DirectTV...they too are in the game.

For TV junkies like yours truly, it is absolutely overwhelming. We're constantly at risk of overdosing on all of this alluring content. And for someone whose profession partially requires watching all of these shows -- for inspiration, for research, for reference, and of course, for pure entertainment -- it is absolutely frustrating.

And I do everything in my power to consume it all. I try to designate one Sunday per month to binge like there's no tomorrow. But it's not enough. I simply cannot keep up. Life gets in the way, as it always does. Right now, I am tempted to stop writing, close my laptop, and focus on the TV shows I need to catch up on. And if I do reserve several hours to finding out what's been happening with my favorite fictitious characters, there will always be others to check up on. It never ends. It never will end. Just like cockroaches; when there's one, you know there's at least a dozen more to keep track of. Enough is enough.

I need help. And I know I'm not the only one. I know that millions of Americans are suffering through the same (first-world) problem. Those days when I preoccupied myself with five or six shows a week now seem quaint.

Yours truly under pressure,

@TheFirstEcho

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 sounding overdramatic, I haven't felt this way since 9/11.

7:30am - Christmas music it is. Sorry, Thanksgiving, but I need it right now. I know you'll understand. Spotify, lay it all on me.

8:05am - Half of America needs to take a collective mental health day.


9:10am - These assholes (pictured above) look like they've bullied a helpless victim or two in high school. They also look like they're no strangers to sexual assault. Committing it, that is. And yes, I'm judging books by their covers.

9:22am - There's a difference of 241,000 votes. Two hundred forty-one thousand.

9:23am - Please, someone refer Hillary to the best therapist there is. She needs it.

9:33am - Shit, I got a jury summons in the mail last night. Shit.

9:45am - I don't care if I'm late for work.

10:12am - Fuck it, I'm stopping at Carl's Jr. for a breakfast sandwich.

10:35am - We're now living in a dystopian satire. Think: Back to the Future Part II's Biff-centric alternate universe.

11:02am - I'm thinking Annie Lennox and Al Green's "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" will do the trick of alleviating the grief:


11:52am - What do I want for lunch? How can I eat more of my feelings?

12:38pm - I just need to remind myself to keep living my life.

2:41pm - I don't think I can read another thinkpiece, as brilliant as they are, about why these election results are an American tragedy.

2:43pm - I think this weekend calls for a therapeutic session of Golden Girls episodes. Hell, why not start tonight?

3:00pm - I must try to suppress the rage that's simmering. I can't feel hopeless.

3:50pm - Okay, I'll watch Hillary's concession speech, as hard as it is to do.

3:55pm - I'm actually getting a little choked up. 

4:27pm - I gotta see what the ladies of The View said about the election results.

4:44pm - Has there ever been a president who will be hated this much?

5:20pm - I refuse to address him by saying his name after the word "President." But I have to keep living my life. I will get out of this depression. Those standing on the right side of history will continue to work towards progress. Life will go on.

5:22pm - When and what is the next stage of grief?

5:25pm - I need this week to be over.

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 or someone you care about is planning to wear one of the following, do them a favor and intervene. The world and I will thank you for it.

1. A Spartan from 300 - This...is...a costume based on a popular movie from 9 years ago! Congrats on hitting the gym every day and getting those abs to pop, but get over it. There are other inventive ways to prove how much protein you've been packing away since summer ended.


2. A Cop - There's a warrant issued for your arrest. The charges: subjecting Halloween partygoers to your lazy and unimaginative costume. Go ahead, slap those handcuffs on yourself, and throw away the key.



3. Maverick from Top Gun - Wow, you've been recycling what is basically a glorified onesie for several years now. You're a shapeless tool wearing a color that does nothing for your complexion. And wearing those aviator shades at night will do nothing to help your poor vision after downing severals shots of tequila and Jaeger next to the voluptuous French maid (or muscular ninja) you've been eyeing since you entered the bar/party.


4. Sexy Priest - Go straight to church and confess your sins for wearing this horrifically basic costume that screams, "I made no effort this year. I have no imagination."


5. Clark Kent / Superman - This is what happens when you assume chicks dig a guy in glasses with well-developed chests. But what this really is: you wearing a cheap suit with an unbuttoned white shirt revealing the tee you've slept in every night since college.


6. Captain Jack Sparrow (or any pirate) - Wanting to be like Johnny Depp is so 2003. And after all the tabloidy drama he's been through recently, no one wants to be him anymore. Do yourself a solid, retire this look, and save the guyliner for something hotter.


7. A Nerd - This costume is an insult to all genuine nerds out there (and general outcasts in geekdom), and it's a cultural appropriation that usually gets overlooked. It's as if you repeatedly watched Revenge of the Nerds -- a dated reference if there ever was one -- one too many times. And clearly you're trying to be ironic because your well-chiseled torso says the only books you've been hitting are the ones you use to lift as weights.


8. A Baby - Give me a break. You're a grown-ass man. Even though you may act like a man-child throughout the rest of the year, it doesn't give you license to dress like one on Halloween.


9. Football/Baseball/Basketball Player - You deserve to be tackled or pummeled if you're going to just throw on a team jersey and call it a day.


10. Dracula - Last but certainly not least, we have the Granddaddy of Bloodsuckers. Sure, you may argue that this is a classic, a timeless go-to costume, but chances are, you're going to run into at least five more guys wearing the same thing (and they'll probably look better than you). Get a clue.

And finally...



A BONUS BASIC: David Wooderson from Dazed & Confused - To those dudes who idolize Matthew McConaughey, who can't stop referring to a movie that came out 23 years ago, and who will risk donning a tight tee and even tighter pants to show how awesomely douchey they are...NO.

@TheFirstEcho

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.

@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.

Giving my best Aaron Eckhart and Jack Nicholson, respectively.

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, prizes are handed out to the top three teams, awarded for their creativity and ambition -- bonus points can be earned within each genre.

Since I had signed up without forming a team, I was this year's designated Posterpalooza Orphan. Therefore I was placed with a bunch of creative peeps from Echo Park and Highland Park who welcomed me with open arms. It was awesome.

Here are some behind-the-scenes pics showcasing what went down over the course of the day.

Recreating Rabbit Hole.
The People vs. Larry Flynt 
Trainwreck

Needless to say, I'm definitely signing up for next year's competition.

@TheFirstEcho

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 resurfaces and takes the bait.

Thank you for your time. Hope you enjoy.



Chapter 1

When the bloody blade of a machete is protruding from your chest, there are two things that quickly cross your mind.

The first one is pure, unadulterated disbelief. The shock of being turned into a human shish-kebab comes instantly. You think to yourself, How the hell did this happen? Is this some kind of trick? One moment you’re gathering firewood in the middle of the woods, because you were the only one who volunteered for the task, and the next, you’re the helpless victim of some maniacal, masked killer who’s been stalking you ever since you stepped outside your friend’s cabin to face the deep, dark woods all by yourself. Never in a million years did you think that you would be on the receiving end of some deformed, psychotic hillbilly’s rage. After all, what are the odds? (Apparently, taking a trip to the site of a twenty-year-old bloodbath increases those odds – greatly – but more on that later.)

The second thing that runs through your mind is utter disappointment. A machete that has been driven through your torso means that you’ll never get to enjoy the rest of the weekend getaway you and your friends had been planning for months. You’ll never get to make out with someone while under the influence of four tequila shots. Scratch that; you’ll never get to explore the possibility of making out with someone while under the influence of several tequila shots. You’ll never get to finish that trashy mystery novel that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months (but you’re pretty sure it was the promiscuous, money-hungry mistress who did it because, let’s face it, it’s always the money-hungry mistress). And most importantly, you’ll never get to graduate from college, which means you’ll never get to feel the excitement of moving out of your childhood home, taking the plunge into an unstable job market, and finding ways to pay off student loans that will haunt you until middle age.

Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I became the first victim of an urban legend that appeared to be very, very true.

I, Heather Farnsworth, lover of slasher movies and connoisseur of all things horror, someone who considers herself extremely well-versed in scenarios like these, became the hapless young girl who gets butchered shortly after the movie’s opening credits, the beginning of a body count that would rise until the designated heroine defeated the near-indestructible villain. I couldn’t believe my luck.

When I left the cabin to grab some firewood, I grabbed a flashlight for the brief walk to the shed behind the house. I also grabbed my sweatshirt because it was unseasonably chilly for May. Sure, I was tipsy, but my judgment was still intact. Those shots of tequila were taking their time taking over my bloodstream. My plan at the time was to go back into the cabin with some firewood and get a cute boy to sit next to me by the roaring fire where I would work up enough liquid courage to unabashedly flirt with him. This flirting would then lead to some snuggling. (When you tell boys you’re cold, they are obligated to do everything they can to warm you up.) This snuggling would then lead to a simple kiss on the cheek, thanking him for such chivalry. This simple kiss would then lead to a more involved kiss on the mouth. And by “more involved,” I clearly mean “some tongue action.” 

The cute boy in question was Adam Kozlowski. I always thought of him as an intellectual loner, but he was clearly social and capable enough to come on this weekend getaway to the woods with eight other people. See, I’m a sucker for a cute guy in glasses, and Adam had these thick, black-rimmed spectacles that perfectly framed his big, brown puppy dog eyes. He didn’t believe in contact lenses because he couldn’t stand sticking a finger in his eyes. (He shared this tidbit with me when we partnered up for a sociology class project last semester.) And he didn’t wear them ironically. He wasn’t one of those douchebags who picked up a pair of lens-free frames from Urban Outfitters as an accessory simply because “the nerdy look” was in fashion. Adam had an actual prescription for his 20/80 vision. He also had a thing for Ray Bradbury novels; he had a paperback in hand whenever I saw him walking around campus. What made him more attractive was the fact that he didn’t realize just how attractive he was, and when a guy is clueless about how hot he looks, that just makes him hotter. He never did that peacock strut most guys at school usually do when they try to bring attention to themselves. Adam didn’t have veiny, pumped-up Zac Efron arms or a washboard stomach that he flashed while wiping his forehead with the bottom of his T-shirt, another narcissistic move most guys on campus tried whenever the weather warmed up. (We get it, you workout.) Adam was not a schlub though. I caught him a couple of times jogging past the student union, so I knew he was somewhat health-conscious and took care of himself in a reasonable manner that didn’t require a Crossfit membership. He wasn’t a label whore either. I never caught him wearing any shirts emblazoned with some obnoxious brand logo or pun-laden phrases with some kind of stupid, visual punch line. His wardrobe was non-descript, timeless, unassuming.

I admit: sometimes I fantasized about ripping those clothes off him.

I always imagined that he would be a good kisser, too. Attentive. Sensual. But now I will never find out. I will never know how his lips would feel brushed up against mine. I would never get to smell his neck as he ran his fingers through my hair. I would never find out if his scent was a mix of sandalwood, coffee, and musty paperback novels, a mix I concocted in my head because of the amount of time he spent at The Nook, a local café that doubled as used bookshop (he worked there part-time). I would never get to tell him how good he looks in that gray, slim-fit Henley shirt I’ve seen him wear on occasions.

All because some psycho bastard rammed a highly unsanitary-looking machete blade through my chest.

I never had any time to put up a fight. It happened so suddenly. And that sucks. It sucks hard. Had I known some creepy, hulking figure was sneaking up behind me I would have run like the wind, screaming my head off. There was no proverbial snapping of a twig or rustling foliage to alert me of an intruder’s presence. I didn’t even get to shout out into the darkness, “Okay guys, who’s out there? If this is some kind of joke, it isn’t funny!” I just stood there with my basket of firewood, and then BAM, I’m skewered meat. I immediately dropped my basket, clumps of wooden logs falling to ground.

No one was going to warm themselves by a roaring fire anytime soon.

Here is where I ask myself, “Why me?” Why did I have to be the first one to fall prey to some deformed, backwoods hillbilly? I know every trick in the slasher movie handbook. I even own a copy of How To Survive A Horror Movie – it would make a great coffee table book for the nicely furnished living room I was going to have in the apartment I would have rented after college. After all, I always saw myself as the perfect Final Girl, the last survivor of a bloody massacre in any given scary movie. Think Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) in Scream, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Laurie Strode (the inimitable Jamie Lee Curtis) in the granddaddy of all slasher flicks, Halloween. I was never a cheerleader. My grades were a priority. My boobs weren’t particularly bouncy (and inch below average, by pervert standards). And I never had a boyfriend.

That’s right, world. Yours truly died a virgin.

Talk about tragic, right?

I thought I’d lose my virginity by the time I was 20. Not too young to be reckless, but not too old to be embarrassing. I thought it would be with a guy like Adam Kozlowski, someone gentle and understanding. Maybe a guy who was in the same virgin boat as I was. (We’d both fumble our way through it together.) But the situation just never presented itself. And to be honest, sex wasn’t on my mind as much as it was among the girls who lived in my dorm during my freshman year. True, I fantasized about ripping Adam’s clothes off his body like some kind of overacting, hypersexual soap opera diva. But I didn’t make it out to be some mission I needed to accomplish after graduating from high school. And even if there were girls from my class who did lose it during high school, I never heard them obsess about it afterwards. Sure, sex wasn’t this big mystery for them anymore, but unlike the boys, you never got the impression that they wanted it every minute of every day of every week.

I enjoyed other things in life…like tearing through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series in one summer, bingeing on Game of Thrones (my Daenerys costume killed at last year’s Halloween ball), and attending the bi-annual Friday the 13th marathon at the Kensington Theater, an old moviehouse known for its midnight screenings of cult films and old-school concession stand with student-friendly prices. In other words, in addition to my schoolwork and other stuff that “mattered,” I focused my attention on geeky shit. I didn’t worry myself with a countdown to the moment some boy would take my Big V. I wasn’t going to contribute to any sexual statistics. It would not happen in one of those clichéd, collegiate scenarios in which I’d attend a kegger, get wasted, and hook up with some equally wasted guy on his stained futon under a Star Wars poster in a room illuminated by strings of Christmas lights and neon beer signs.

I like to think my life was far above the shenanigans displayed in most 90s teen movies. There were no pledges to hook up with someone by the end of spring break. (I spent the second week of March writing Walking Dead fanfic that I later submitted to a nerd mag that published similarly themed short stories.) I wasn’t in need of a makeover nor was I the object of some “guy bet.” I didn’t have to take off my glasses and shake my hair out of a ponytail to catch the eye of the star quarterback. And I certainly didn’t attend any wild house parties that featured a colorful array of stock characters with a Top 40-friendly soundtrack.


And now, here I was, a dead body with a gaping wound. When I fell to the ground, the already dark woods went completely black. When I came to, I thought the entire incident was a dream, some kind of bizarre hallucination, but I was now staring at my own lifeless body. It was a weird shift in perspective. So this is what an out-of-body experience is like. It was like looking into a strange mirror, only I didn’t have control of my reflection. I was just a crumpled heap of clothes. My sweatshirt was ruined. My ass didn’t look as huge as I thought it was. Bending down to get a closer look at my face, I saw the shocked expression on my face, which was now frozen and losing more color by the second. I then realized that I was pretty cute for a chick twenty pounds overweight. Too bad I couldn’t come back from my current state and carry on with my weekend with this new outlook. It would have been a much-needed boost of confidence.

A brief wave of sadness washed over me, but it was soon replaced with frustration brought on by a sense of overwhelming powerlessness. Maybe if I willed myself to get up, I could hop back in my body and stumble back to the cabin to warn the others. Maybe I wasn’t really dead. After all, where was the proverbial white light? Wasn’t this supposed to be the moment where I was led to the pearly gates of Heaven? I waited for what seemed like a solid ten minutes, and nothing happened. All I heard was the wind in the trees, a few crickets, and a silence that was as heavy as it was unsettling. My killer was nowhere in sight.

Perhaps I wasn’t greeted by a saintly figure in a white suit, recruited and dispatched here to check me into Heaven, because I didn’t really believe in that gloriously carefree utopia up in the clouds.

My relationship with religion is a funny thing. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic, but over the years, my view became more agnostic. Years and years of Catholic school instilled in me a vast knowledge of pain and suffering endured by groups of people in a time and place that supposedly existed eons before anything else in history. There were lots of melancholy songs sung by choirs at lots of Sunday Masses attended, and my classmates were taught to obey the Law of God – or else. But that fear never worked on me. I didn’t have to study the Holy Bible to know that being good to others was a basic rule every human being should follow in order to live a beautiful life.

Reincarnation was always a concept that fascinated me. I believed in the idea of the soul being rebooted, just like any beloved movie franchise from the 80s or 90s. Same basic essence, sensibility, and core instincts, but guided by a new director with a new cast of characters.

So where was my rebirth? Why was I stuck here in these woods with my former shell of a self? How long would this – for lack of a better word – purgatory last? If this was the waiting room for Heaven or whatever New Life I was about to enter, then I wanted to make a complaint to the Powers That Be. Was there a customer service representative I could speak to?

“Hi, I’d like to suggest creating some kind of clear signage and more comfortable accommodations for those of us waiting to move on from this plane of existence. K, thanks.”

Is this what that dead chick in The Lovely Bones went through after she was murdered? I read the book and saw that disappointing film adaptation starring Mark Wahlberg. I wish Peter Jackson were here to direct my own personal experience with the afterlife. It could use some beautiful visuals and dynamic cinematography right about now.

“Hello?” I shouted into the darkness.

Nothing.

“Can anyone hear me?”

Somewhere nearby an owl hooted.

“Thanks, Mr. Owl.”

If animals could hear me, maybe I could get them to cooperate and deliver a message to my friends!

As if, I thought to myself. Last time I checked, I wasn’t trapped in a Disney movie. And it didn’t seem like I possessed any supernatural abilities. When I bent down to pick up a rock, my hand passed through it, just like all of those movies in which a dead person has to adjust to his or her ghostly form. I couldn’t grab any physical objects.

I was a hologram.

“This is just great,” I said to myself. “I’m a ghost with nowhere to go.”

 @TheFirstEcho

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 drips with demagoguery.

Normally I don't get too political here on the interwebs, especially on social media. Usually I'm the guy who's easily tickled by a just-released pop track or movie trailer and likes to express my strong opinion on the state of cinema. Right now I could play Switzerland, take the neutral route, and encourage people to just vote -- no matter where you stand -- because everyone has the power to shape the future of our country and blah, blah, blah. But after careful consideration, after months and months of hearing such hateful rhetoric, after witnessing the daily vitriol that plays out on news feeds, and after realizing that getting older makes me less tolerant for all kinds of bullshit and ignorance...I emphatically say, "Fuck that." I am getting political. (Wow, I'm adulting hard right now.)

You could say I've reached a breaking point.

That said, if you continue to support Donald Trump, I'm about to force your hand into clicking that Unfriend button on Facebook. And I could care less, because we probably shouldn't have been "friends" in the first place.


If you continue to support Donald Trump, you are, simply put, a disgusting human being. And I don't think you're disgusting simply because you're a member of an opposing political party. I find you disgusting because of your lack of decency, common sense, and overall compassion.

In a way, I feel sorry for you as well. I'm sorry that you're so easily swayed by scare tactics and overblown, unsubstantiated statements that spew out of the mouth of an egomaniacal reality TV figure with misogynistic tendencies. I'm sorry that you can't educate yourself and open your eyes to the strings that keep pulling you towards a dangerous ideology that threatens the fabric of American life. I'm sorry that you're trapped in your shithole of a town and can't find anyone else to love you but your second cousin, which doesn't count because she's only your second cousin, amiright?

I'm sorry that you don't even know the definition of a "demagogue."

Because I try to see things from all sides, I will take a brief moment to acknowledge your anger and rage at the government. I get why you're rooting for a shady millionaire with no experience in public service. To you, he's a great alternative to the usual, untrustworthy stiffs that inhabit the highest office in the land. He's a radical choice, possibly someone who will get shit done.

But guess what? All signs point to the contrary. And you keep putting up your blinders, shutting out the frightful statistics, studies, and stories that indicate how wrong of a candidate Trump is. You're the ostrich with its head planted firmly in the ground. You're the petulant child who covers his ears with his hands yelling "No, no, no!"

Frankly, you're the reason why a lot of bad things happen in this country.

And Donald, you're egging these folks on. It's an unbelievable ability to have, you know, considering how far up your own ass your head is.

Mr. Trump, you're the new definition of hubris. (I'm surprised Wikipedia and Dictionary.com haven't uploaded your headshot to their respective pages for the word.) You too are guilty of putting up blinders, and it's most likely because of the sheer amount of pride you possess. In your mind you can do no wrong, and denial has become your BFF. Your false sense of self is abominable. I pity the psychiatrist who will one day be tasked with diagnosing you with whatever mental ailment befalls you. Actually, scratch that. I will celebrate the psychiatrist who will finally unearth the source of your douchebaggery, unmasking you as a person responsible for leaving a shit stain across this great nation of ours. And I say "great" because it is a great nation. There's no need to make it "great again."

In fact, by repeating your slogan ad nauseum, you're emphasizing all things negative about America. Not only are you a well-known fat-shamer, body-shamer, and class-shamer, you're also a country-shamer. You're implying that America is a terrible place to live. And it's been scientifically proven that shaming doesn't improve anything, especially when no clear-cut resolutions are offered by the shamer. It only makes things worse. (I for one would not like to see Back to the Future Part II's alternate universe become a reality.)

You should've looked that up before picking a phrase to fit on those caps and posters.

But thanks again for being you. Because those of us who are voting for your opponent can only grow stronger while you dig a deeper hole for yourself.

#ImWithHer,
@TheFirstEcho

For some really brilliant insight as to why our current political climate is what it is, read Andrew Sullivan's New York Magazine piece titled "America Has Never Been So Ripe for Tyranny" here.