Saturday, 12 June 2021

‘Army of the Dead’ overruns Las Vegas; FOX TV preview




‘ARMY OF THE DEAD’ RATED R

Available in both movie theaters and the Netflix streaming service, “Army of the Dead” sounds like the work of filmmaker George A. Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”), but that would be a neat trick since he passed away nearly four years ago.

Taking up the mantle of mimicking Romero’s body of work, Zack Snyder, who did a remake of the master’s “Dawn of the Dead” in 2004, takes an aggressive approach to the genre in “Army of the Dead,” where zombie heads are like targets in a carnival shooting gallery.

The setting is Las Vegas, not in the way you may remember it from your last visit. It’s a walled-off city where the iconic welcome sign has been trashed and replaced by a notice that constitutional law does not apply.

No Bill of Rights protects the zombies. The president has announced that Sin City will soon be annihilated Hiroshima-style. But, first casino tycoon Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) wants a team of mercenaries to pull off a heist of $200 million in his casino’s vault.

For the job, he recruits fearsome Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), once a decorated soldier who rescued a high-ranking official from zombies but now a fry cook, to head up a team, with military sidekicks Maria Cruz (Ana de la Reguera) and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick).

Part of the team consists of nervous German safecracker Dieter (Matthias Schweighofer) and wise-cracking, cigar-chomping helicopter pilot Marianne (Tig Notaro), who’s great for some comic relief.

There’s also the coyote Lilly (Nora Arnezeder), signed up to help the crew sneak into the undead zone, and Tanaka’s insider Martin (Garret Dillahunt), a man with a secret plan who is distrusted by all the other mercenaries.

At two-and-a-half hours long, “Army of the Dead” needs some serious editing to trim the periods that drag a bit or even to shorten the seemingly endless sequences of shooting zombies in the head.

However, why quibble with the running time, when all we really need is to be entertained with a combination zombie apocalypse movie and heist thriller? For mindless fun, “Army of the Dead” makes the most out of the Vegas setting and zombie playbook.

FOX FALL SEASON PREVIEW

An annual ritual for the broadcast television networks is known as the “Upfronts,” a presentation of upcoming series programming to the advertising industry which finances what ultimately shows up as entertainment on whatever device you choose.

This year, FOX reached out to the nation’s critics to participate virtually, first in a press conference call with network executives and then in the one-hour online Upfront, both hosted by Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment.

While the media industry is focused on big streaming services and a turn away from broadcasting, Collier made the case that FOX remains relevant for its programs to be exclusively ad-supported, claiming that no one can “corner the market on creativity.”

The unveiling of the primetime slate for the 2021-2022 season during the Upfront revealed the network is adding four new dramas, two new comedies, four new unscripted series and one new animated comedy to its lineup.

Starting this fall, “The Big Leap” and “Our Kind of People” are two new dramas, and “Alter Ego” is a new unscripted series. The midseason is loaded with new programs that were announced at the Upfront.

Compared loosely to the “Glee” musical comedy-drama series, “The Big Leap” drama is a modern tale of second chances, which revolves around a group of diverse, down-on-their-luck characters participating in a reality dance show that builds to a live production of “Swan Lake.”

On the heels of his latest show failure and with the help of his choreographer (Mallory Jansen), Scott Foley’s Nick Blackburn signs on to produce a brand-new dance contest series filming in Motor City.

Inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative, critically acclaimed book, “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class,” the titular new series takes place in the world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, where the rich and powerful black elite come to play.

“Our Kind of People” follows strong-willed, single mom Angela Vaughn (Yaya DeCosta) as she sets out to reclaim her family’s name but soon discovers a dark secret about her own mother’s past that will shake up the community.

As for a new unscripted fall series, “Alter Ego” is an all-new original singing competition where second chances are reignited when singers from all walks of life become the stars they always wanted to be, but only as alternative personalities.

By early in the new year, we’ll have more to say about a slew of midseason new shows, including the promising comedy “Welcome to Flatch,” where a documentary crew stumbles on a small Midwestern town populated with many eccentric personalities.

It may come as a surprise to no one that chef-cum-television personality Gordon Ramsay will be back with his umpteenth cooking competition, where “Next Level Chef” stages a unique culinary gauntlet over three floors of different kitchens.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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