Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/14/21

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The Underground Railroad (CREDIT: Amazon Prime Video/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Army of the Dead (May 14 in Select Theaters, May 21 on Netflix)
Oxygen (May 12 on Netflix) – Directed by Alexandre Aja, but no piranhas.
Profile (Theaters)
Spiral (Theaters) – Chris Rock joins the Book of Saw.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters and HBO Max) – Might check out to see what Angelina Jolie is up to.
The Woman in the Window (May 14 on Netflix) – Joe Wright directs Amy Adams.

The Underground Railroad (May 14 on Amazon)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards (May 16 on MTV)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted (May 17 on MTV)
-2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions (May 17-28, check local listings) – 19-game winner Jason Zuffranieri looks like the one to beat.

-Aly & AJ, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – This came out last week.
-St. Vincent, Daddy’s Home
-The Black Keys, Delta Kream – Dan and Pat cover hill country blues.

‘Profile’ Brings Timur Bekmambetov’s Screen Life to the World of Jihadi Recruitment

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Profile (CREDIT: BEZELEVS and Focus Features)

Starring: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Morgan Watkins, Amir Rahimzadeh, Emma Carter

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Language and Images of Violent ISIS Activity

Release Date: May 14, 2021 (Theaters)

I’m a sucker for a good gimmick, and Timur Bekmambetov has hit upon a pretty dang excellent one with his series of “Screen Life” films. With the likes of Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, and Searching, he’s produced some weirdly irresistible flicks that are presented entirely within the confines of a computer screen. Now he’s stepped into the Screen Life Director’s Chair himself for Profile, based on the nonfiction book In The Skin of a Jihadist, which documents journalist Anna Erelle’s efforts to contact an ISIS recruiter via Facebook. I’ve watched these movies on the big screen and on the TV screen, but not once have I ever watched them in their entirety on a computer. They certainly don’t lose any effectiveness they might have had by playing out just a few inches away from my face. No matter what distance I watch them from, they’re thoroughly intimate and all-encompassing, and Profile is no different.

Profile‘s stand-in for Erelle is Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane), a constantly stressed-out London-based reporter with an assignment that promises a rewarding payday but at the expense of her emotional stability. Under the guise of “Melody,” a 20-year-old convert to Islam, she soon attracts the attraction of Bilel (Shazad Latif), an ISIS leader in the market for recruiting young European women to Syria to join the fight for the Islamic State. Both Amy and Bilel are making their cases through layers of dishonesty, as she concocts justifications for her investigates instincts and he underplays his organization’s propensity for violence and human trafficking. But the best undercover work is driven by honest emotions, and Amy and Bilel do appear to forge a genuine connection. Bilel also has roots in London, and they’re both disillusioned by a country that failed to take care of their families. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, and Profile makes it inescapably clear how they can be preyed upon.

I’ve been singing the praises of Screen Life from the beginning, and this might just be its best use yet. We’re entirely stuck within the point of view of Amy, someone who’s losing any outside perspective that could keep her from losing herself. She gradually merges with the Melody persona, and for an hour and a half, you just might as well. Our online lives are not our entire lives, and it is important to be regularly reminded of that. Profile‘s entire raison d’être may be that everything is always connected, but weirdly enough, it might also be one of the most effective tools to convince us to step away every once in a while. Indeed, this is a movie that has been made by people who have beheld modern society and wondered, “What have we wrought?”

Profile is Recommended If You Like: The Screen Life genre, Undercover work, Freeze frame detective skills

Grade: 4 out of 5 Winking Cat GIFs