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