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Mission Impossible 3Mission Impossible III on DVD

After Mission Impossible II we weren't sure the series could get any worse. But to be fair, MI 3 is being received better than was the second entry.

That could be damning with faint praise, however, because MI3 isn't particularly good, either. Its biggest sin is that it's ultra predictable, with shades of the far superior True Lies through it and a secret super weapon whose potential and/or capabilities we never actually learn.

On the other hand, the villain, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is really good. He's the kind of evil slimeball we love to hate – so bad that he makes Ernst Stavro Blofeld look like an amateur. Well…

And there are interesting diabolical devices in the plot. The problem is that we usually figured out what was going to happen long before it happened (whether the movie transmitted the info or we're just really smart will have to wait for another discussion) and that took the suspense out of it, leaving us with a straightforward action flick whose action seemed mostly derivative.

The movie starts with a narrative hook that, while exciting, gives away what's going to happen and we spent the rest of the movie waiting for the scene to be repeated – which of course it is. Then we flash back to our hero, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), who has left active duty in favor of mentoring new agents. He's trying to settle down and lead a normal life, and he's engaged to an engaging lady (Michelle Monaghan, whose character – fortunately for the plot near the end of the movie – has a medical background). She, like Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, has no idea that her main squeeze is really a spy, even after Hunt is drawn back into active duty.

And there are more shades of True Lies – including a later action scene set on a huge bridge that's just too similar to the Florida Keys bridge scene.

Anyway, Hunt becomes a bit of a renegade when he and his team go off on an unauthorized mission to capture shadowy arms dealer Owen Davian (Hoffman). Not only is this guy worthy of being put on ice for this past sins, but he's involved in a new plot that revolves around "the Rabbit's Foot," the unspecified weapon of mass destruction that left us wanting more information.

Hunt and his crew grabs Davian in a pretty neat sequence set at the Vatican, but he's freed in a rather long action sequence, then Davian grabs Mrs. Hunt and threatens to kill her if Ethan doesn't retrieve the Rabbit's Foot for him within 48 hours.

The performances are all very good (too bad the script is so transparent). Tom Cruise doesn't get the credit as an actor that he deserves, unfortunately; his personal whackiness seems overshadowed by the apparent flakiness.

The action scenes are well staged, but the film has that weird, dark and grainy look also seen in the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg outings of Minority Report and War or the Worlds, a look we don't particularly care for since it doesn't really seem to give our home theater a particularly great workout.

At least our review copy was presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and so far as the picture's look would let us judge, the picture quality seems fine. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and it's good, though as usual we wish we had the choice of a dts track as well.

Paramount has given MI3 the special edition treatment, so there's plenty of other stuff to add some substance to the fluff of the screenplay. The two disc set comes with an audio commentary featuring star Cruise and director J.J. Abrams, a tribute montage "excellence in film" (do you think any MI3 clips are included?) a "making of" feature and some deleted scenes.

The second disc includes eight featurettes, covering such aspects as the action scenes, the look, the IMF organization itself, the music and more. There's also a photo gallery, another tribute montage, "theatrical campaign highlights" and more.

Mission Impossible III, from Paramount Home Entertainment
125 min. Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne
Produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner
Written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & J. J. Abrams, Directed by J. J. Abrams

Alfred HitchcockAlfred Hitchcock Presents, Season Two

From the package: "With dramatic flourish, Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock used these simple words to introduce all of his 39 timeless episodes of horror, mystery and intrigue in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season Two, now available in a 5-disc collection. Not only loved by millions of TV viewers around the world, this legendary season also received three Emmy awards as well as a Golden Globe for Television Achievement. Loaded with twists, turns, and things that go "bump" in the night, these classic half-hour tales of menace and mayhem feature such iconic stars as Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Rip Torn, Vic Morrow, and many more. It's time to tune in once more to the master storyteller as he delights viewers with some of the most deliciously wicked and chilling television ever aired!"

The second season of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" comes on a series of single sided, dual layered DVDs in a boxed set. Apparently, the previous season, which we didn't review, was on three dual sided discs and there were quality control problems. We didn't run into any hassles with this set, so perhaps the move paid off.

Those were the days of TV, eh? Where now a TV season is generally considered to be 22 to 26 episodes, this one ran 39! And there were fewer commercials then, too.

Anyway, on to a bit about a couple of the stories:

"Wet Saturday" (disc one) tells the tale of a father (Cedric Hardwick) who discovers his daughter has killed a boy she thought loved her. She and her dullard siblings conspire with dad to cover up the murder when a friend (John Williams) comes to visit, providing them with the perfect opportunity.

"One More Mile to Go" is a really good one! It opens with an argument between spouses, as seen through the front window of their house - we can't hear what they're saying but we see the result of the spat. A highly visual episode, with little dialogue you can actually hear in the first half, this is Hitchcock at his TV best.

That's just mentioning two of the 39! Naturally, they aren't all up to the top notch standard, but on the whole they're pretty good. And when you team Hitchcock with writers such as Stirling Silliphant and Evan Hunter, TV directors such as Robert Stevens and John Meredyth Lucas and performers such as Hardwick, William Shatner, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, you get a lot of meat in 39 half hour episodes.

The DVD's look good, though the overall package is pretty sparse. You don't get any extras other than some "Sneak Peeks" previews of other Universal TV shows. But the black and white full frame picture quality is good, as is the mono audio.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season 2, from Universal Home Entertainment

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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