The recent batch of ads for Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online seems to be something out of the parent company's film studio -- not a struggling online service. Putting the "Oh!" in version 9.0, the action-packed sequences feel different and that's just the point.

In an earlier AOL spot, a wife ribs her husband because he never received emails from his mother-in-law concerning a pending visit. What's implied is that AOL blocked it as unwanted spam, though anyone who has suffered through previous incarnations of the online service's software knows how weak AOL has battled on that front. All the mother-in-law had to do was address her email as mortgage refinancing or penile enlargement and it would have probably gone through.

As an AOL user for over a decade -- yes, over a decade -- it was frustrating to have to turn to free -- yes, free -- email services such as Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) or Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Hotmail for more effective spam controls.

The new AOL changes everything. Finally getting around to upgrading to 9.0, I was wondering why my mouse-clicking, spam-deleting finger wasn't tiring out as quickly as it used to. Sure enough, a Manage Mail option had a ton of unsolicited junk mail flagged and set aside. Excellent!

It's funny. Suffering a dip in subscribers for three straight quarters after years of heady growth, AOL appeared vulnerable. Just this month, its parent company ditched the AOL ticker symbol, wiped the America Online name off the corporate moniker, and announced a $9.95 discounted service to enter a pricing war with bargain-minded rival United Online (NASDAQ:UNTD).

It wasn't a white flag waving, but the moves seemed to indicate an entertainment giant ready to concede that its days of growth were tucked away in the past.

After kicking the 9.0 tires over the past few days, I think those fears are overblown. Earthlink (NASDAQ:ELNK) and AOL's rivals that rely less on dial-up users and more on the lucrative growth in broadband, be afraid. AOL gets it now. Like its new televised ads, it's all about action, not words.

Do you think America Online will grow its subscriber base again? Is 9.0 really that good? Will offering a bare-bones $9.95 discount service help -- or hurt? All this and more -- in the Time Warner discussion board. Only on