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The 2009 release of
Johnny Got His Gun:
the first DVD sanctioned for North America with a comprehensive, highly relevant collection of extra features.

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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.

Sing Like an American Idol, Women's Edition
Everything You Need to Sing the Hits!

(Discounted Paperback (with CD) from Amazon)
"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"
(3 Disc Set: Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Discs)

. "The Fourth Kind"

If there's an award for well-produced hokum, I vote for this somewhat original presentation of that old bugaboo to arouse the masses, alien abduction. Taking a cue from the artificial reality styles of "Blair Witch Project" and, later, "Cloverfield," the technique begins with lovely Milla Jovovich stressed out, addressing the camera in a high state of pseudo-academic excitation, declaring that her role as Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler is based on the real person and a case study that made down-to-earth sceptics question what they witnessed with their own eyes.

Of course, she advises, it's up to the viewer to believe or disbelieve what they're about to see and, while this will come as no shock in the anticipatory moments of a movie about encounters with aliens (of which the fourth is abduction), it's clear that it's a ploy to induce you into an accepting state of mind.

The rest of such brain alerts will come from very loud, scratchy, nearly unintelligible aural sources in support of the bizarre behaviors brought on by otherworldly phenomena.

Abbey is a psychotherapist, which clears up the question over whether a small town like Nome, Alaska, would have one. Not only does is it able to boast having a shrink, but business for the doc is booming with patients complaining about an owl that's been appearing at their window in pre-dawn hours after being shocked awake by a horrendous dream about a powerful being coming for them. Dr. Abbey puts each patient under hypnosis in an attempt to have them relive the experience so that they may identify this evil, nocturnal visitor.

All patients who undergo this treatment reach a point in their attempt to "see" their tormentor when they begin squirming and struggling as though in a death grip with something horrifying but unseeable. They are left in varying states of mental disorder.

Somewhere along in here, in split-screen correspondence to these performed re-creations of the actual event, writer-director Olatunde Osunsanmi appears as an investigative psychologist--in pseudo archival black-and-white footage--interviewing the real Dr. Tyler. From then, the split-screen device is used to compare the performed drama against the historical record to cleverly support the contention of reality. Don't they almost always show the real person the story is about during the final credits of a biopic? The only difference here is that it's an ongoing technique, intercut with the re-creation.

The "real" Dr. Tyler is a gaunt, colorless woman who seems on the edge of breakdown, or barely recovered from one, as she relates experiences growing more and more grotesque, lurid and deadly.

On the Jovovich side, she brings in her mentor, Dr. Abel Campos (Elias Koteas, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") for her own therapy which, under his hypnosis, she attempts to similarly "see" her husband's killer. Later, Campos acts as a witness to her treatment of a patient until he sees something he can't comprehend nor accept.

As more of Abbey's patients die or go postal, the local sheriff (Will Patton, "24"), a thouroughgoing skeptic of the first kind, puts the blame on Abbey for what's happening in his formerly placid town and threatens to throw her in jail. But, he relents, and commits her to house arrest with her son, who holds her responsible somehow for his father's death, and sweet young daughter Ashley (Mia McKenna-Bruce) who is to be the sacrificial lamb of the family.

What I got out of this was more about Jovovich than anything else. By taking on a role calling for acting without the props of acrobatic skill or sexual attraction, she more or less carries it. Her Leeloo of "The Fifth Element" put me on notice to watch the career path of this Russian beauty. The zombie franchise "Resident Evil," in which she has reigned for years, and her general gameology [SIC] material, aren't where my tastes would normally go, but she has capitalized on her athleticism without being called upon for thespianic depth. But "The Fourth Kind" is another story. After getting a crack at a co-starring role in the romantic horrorfest with Steve Zahn, "A Perfect Getaway," here she's the center of a major production.

If it seems that "The Fourth Kind" is the next step in exploring her acting creds, she puts her earnestness to good use. With some strain showing, she stretches into a character that calls for credible emotional breakdown and intent involvement. What she does with it is pretty good, but it's going to be a while before she'll fill the acting ranks of a Naomi Watts, a Rachel McAdams or an Abbie Cornish. But I'd say she's learning her craft, and working more than ever because of it. And, even with the asexuality of her wardrobe here, and the lack of provocative physicality, blue-eyed Milla, with the perky lips, is so good on the eyes.

All technical departments are well covered, with exemplary cinematography by Brit Lorenzo Senatore ("Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead") and a chilling music score from Icelandic Atli Orvarsson.

I have to say I was unprepared for Osunsanmi's approach. But, while such originality usually wins me over, his artificial realism leaves me cold-- like I had a stroll on a Nome sidewalk, in winter, without a parka. Metaphorically speaking, these streets are piled with, like I said, hokum.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Milla Jovovich in a new kind of role:
Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler, Nome, Alaska psychotherapist and courageous alien counterforce.

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