SHOOTING STARS: ‘Shaq Vs.’ invites locals to witness magic, boxing challenges

It’s the boxing capital of the world. It’s also the magic capital of the world.

Which explains why “Shaq Vs.” — Shaquille O’Neal’s ABC reality series, in which the NBA center challenges other masters at their own games — returns to Las Vegas this week.

Locals are invited to attend the tapings, scheduled Tuesday and Friday nights.

First up on Tuesday night: O’Neal takes on Las Vegas’ very own Penn & Teller, trying to top them by performing a magic trick.

Then, on Friday night, Shaq steps into a Caesars Palace boxing ring to battle Sugar Shane Mosley.

A third challenge, with Shaq attempt to out-ingest competitive eating champ Joey Chestnut, is scheduled for Saturday morning, but the location hadn’t been finalized by deadline.

In its second season, “Shaq Vs.” expands its scope beyond sports, as reflected in the Penn & Teller segment, according to executive producer Will Staeger, senior vice president at Dick Clark Productions.

“We’re increasing the variety of the show,” in part to expand the show’s appeal to nonsports fans, Staeger explains. Because O’Neal’s “up for challenging anybody,” this season’s nonsports competitions — from a Rachael Ray cook-off to a dance crew competition with tweenthrob Justin Bieber — should “appeal to a broader stretch of viewers” when the show returns to ABC Aug. 3.

In addition, Penn Jillette — Penn & Teller’s taller, talkative half — “is going to be the first person” featured on the show “who’s almost as tall as Shaq,” Staeger points out. (Penn reportedly stands 6-foot-6; Shaq’s 7-foot-1.)

As for the boxing segment, it’s “the only repeat challenge” in the show’s history, according to the executive producer. (Last year, O’Neal battled retired “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas.) And Friday’s bout, outside at Caesars Palace’s Roman Plaza, will capture some of the “Roman gladiator feel” of legendary Caesars matches.

Besides, Staeger adds, “Dick Clark Productions tapes a lot of productions” in Las Vegas, he notes, from “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” to the annual Academy of Country Music Awards. So it made sense to return, because “Vegas is really friendly to us as a production center.”

Tuesday’s Penn & Teller challenge will take place — where else? — in the duo’s eponymous Rio showroom home, the Penn & Teller Theater. Doors open at 10:40 p.m. for an 11 p.m. taping. All ages are welcome to attend. To reserve free tickets in advance, e-mail SHAQvsPENN& with one name in your party, plus the total number of tickets requested. Tickets may also be available on Tuesday on a first-come, first-served basis; a will-call window for reserved ticket-holders will be open from 8 to 10:40 p.m. outside the Penn & Teller Theater.

Friday’s 9 p.m. boxing match will take place at Caesars’ Roman Plaza; doors open at 7:30 p.m. (Will call for reserved ticket-holders will be open from 5 to 7:30 p.m.) As always on fight nights, a dress code (cocktail/evening attire) will be in place for audience members, who must be 18 or older; anyone under 21 must be accompanied by an adult 21 or older. (All audience members will be subject to searches and ID checks.) To request free tickets, e-mail

In either case, remember to leave cameras and cell phones at home; no recording devices will be allowed.

After all, “we’re taping a competitive event,” Staeger says. “There is a winner.”

But, he adds, it’s never Shaq. And that’s part of the show’s appeal: watching someone else cut the basketball giant down to size.

Zombie romp: Given its life-on-the-edge reputation, Las Vegas has always been a popular (and symbolic) location for projects set in post-apocalyptic times, such as “The Stand” or “Resident Evil: Extinction.”

The latter re-created the Southern Nevada desert in Mexico’s Baja California, but that’s hardly the case for “First Platoon.” A zombie comedy from writer-director Chris Gabriel and Las Vegas-based First Earth Films, “First Platoon” is scheduled to begin production this week at locations ranging from Goodsprings to Nelson.

Alan Tudyk (“Firefly,” “3:10 to Yuma”) stars as Rock Brannigan, leader of a ragtag zombie-hunting squad patrolling the post-apocalyptic Southwest; Malcolm McDowell portrays the enigmatic Rex Necro, one of several strange characters confronting the zombie hunters. Horror vet Sid Haig (Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”), John Kassir (“Race to Witch Mountain”) and Arron Shriver (“The Book of Eli”) co-star.

“Millionaire” calling: The syndicated game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” brings its contestant search back to Las Vegas next Monday, July 12, at the South Point.

Partnering with Netflix, “Millionaire” producers will test prospective contestants in two different areas of expertise: general knowledge and movie trivia. (The latter is for the show’s “Million Dollar Movie Week.”) Those who pass the test(s) will be invited back for brief interviews with “Millionaire” representatives.

Auditions will be held in the South Point’s Napa Room from 7 to 11 a.m. The audition line will form in the Napa Room; no one will be allowed in line before 6 a.m.

Pre-registration isn’t required, but attendance does not guarantee admittance — and participants will be auditioned on a first-come, first-served basis. The auditions are open to U.S. residents 18 or older; check out the show’s other eligibility requirements at

Meet and greet: It’s 48 Hour Film Project is still much of the month away; it’s scheduled for July 23-25 in Las Vegas.

But it’s almost time for the project’s first Meet-and-Greet gathering, scheduled at 7 p.m. July 14 at Putters Bar & Grill, 6945 S. Rainbow Blvd., where prospective participants can mingle, form filmmaking teams, ask questions or find out more about the annual competition, in which participants create short films over a weekend.

For more information, check out vegas/.

Down Under wonder: Australian comedy writer, director and performer Lawrence Leung is scheduled to begin an eight-day Vegas visit Tuesday for “Unbelievable,” a documentary series that follows Leung “in his mission to expose, enlighten and prove that the world is not often as it seems.” (At least that’s how show officials explained the show to the Nevada Film Office.) The “Unbelievable” crew is expected to follow Melbourne-based Leung “as he seeks the truth and tests irrational beliefs” for his comedy documentary series, which will include “interviews with both prominent people and ordinary citizens,” featuring “a unique approach which is direct and unconventional.”

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