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Is Tom Cruise's latest mission a no-go for movie buffs? His latest - "Mission: Impossible III"- debuted at number one at the opening weekend box office, but it earned a mere $48 million, less than expected. Reporting on the disappointing performance of the film, the Associated Press observed (Tuesday, May 9) that 7.2 million tickets were sold for the movie, versus 10.3 million for the original Mission: Impossible and 10.7 million for Mission: Impossible II. Still, it’s hard to know how many die-hard Cruise fans around the world will storm the theatres in the coming days and weeks, even though it doesn't look very likely since the second week's take was a mere $24.5 million.

Still, the box office numbers don’t really reflect the spectacle that actor Tom Cruise has generated of late, both as Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible III and even more so, in his real life. Read on to find out more!

In M:i:III, Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, a secret operative for the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) (someone has dubbed it the Impossible Mayhem and Machismo Force) who leads a double life-one as a relatively tame Highway Traffic Control Engineer, and the other as a deadly super-spy, who traverses the globe spreading mayhem with his team of deadly agents. Ethan the traffic controller is engaged to Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a sweet woman (oddly resembling Katie Holmes) who knows nothing of his other life. When he leaves for a business meeting in Houston, she has no idea he’s actually traveling to Berlin on a dangerous mission.

When Ethan crosses paths with the ruthless and sadistic arms dealer Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman at his creepiest), who will stop at nothing to reclaim the mysterious but deadly Rabbit’s Foot, Ethan inadvertently endangers the life of his innocent wife as a result of his duplicity.

Though short on plot, M:i:III is long on pyrotechnics and thrilling computer-generated effects. Tom Cruise running and running some more, jumping off skyscrapers, and blowing up buildings just cannot help but impress. All that matters is "how are we going to get in" and "how are we going to get out" and the magnificent twists and turns that follow. "M:i:III" is a fast-paced thriller that really manages to grab hold of you for 120 minutes and never lets go.

Ironically, like Ethan, Tom Cruise also leads a double life. One as a macho man who plays action heroes like Ethan Hunt in movies, and the other a private man with a loving girlfriend, actress Katie Holmes, 27, and a new baby. One might think that simple Tom, much like Traffic controller Ethan, might crave a normal life. But as ironic as it might seem, Tom is as pumped as Ethan ever was, creating the public relations equivalent of pyrotechnics everywhere he goes. What, one might ask, is up with that?

Take, for example, the media blitz leading up to the multiple premieres of M:i:III. In Paris and Mexico City, for example, Cruise thrilled the crowds by brazenly climbing the scaffolding,

The New York premiere took place during the Tribeca Film Festival. Said Cruise giddily, "Bob De Niro called me and said, 'Look, would you premiere your film here at the film festival?'" Cruise confided, "I was very honored to be here for Bobby. Now I call him 'Bobby.' It used to be 'Robert,' 'Mr. De Niro,' now it's 'Bobby.'"

After scrambling to attend various screenings of the movie during the day, Cruise, newly famous the world over for his completely unscripted eruptions of exuberance during his myriad promotional appearances, made his biggest statement during his mad dash to Harlem, M:i:III style. To get there, he travelled first in a speedboat, then in a tricked out sports car, and finally on a flashy motorcycle. When asked about the vehicular display, he said with his usual manic enthusiasm, "I was going to Harlem, man! You've got to bring it to go to Harlem! You know what I'm sayin'? You can't just show up in Harlem. You've got to go!"

When he finally arrived on the red carpet, Cruise was obviously pumped - with that famous rock-hard grin - as he and his army of bodyguards and publicists assaulted the red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theater. In one of several stunts, Cruise along with co-star Ving Rhames (Luther Strickell) climbed atop an SUV and awkwardly shook hands for the cameras.

As "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Jeff Garlin told magazine “Lowdown,” "I go to premieres in L.A. all the time, and I've never seen anything like this - this is unbelievable. It's Tribeca, and this is the No. 1 Indie film in America [with a $150 million price tag]."

When someone asked about the tension of hyping a movie with a new baby back in Beverly Hills, the diminutive 43-year-old star insisted: "I'm getting on a plane in about two minutes! That's way more important!"

Important? Or imperative, in order to cause yet a bigger sensation the next day, by bringing Katie Holmes, the 27-year-old blushing young mother to the Thursday night premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in LA. This time, Tom skipped the boat, the sports car, and the motorcycle to drive Katie to the premiere himself, in a $1.7 million Italian Bugatti Veyron sports car.

Holmes wore a flowing black dress and white pumps, and wasn’t afraid to show off her post-baby physique- whileTom had his picture taken on the red carpet, kissing his soon-to-be bride on the red carpet. "Her first night out," Tom told...well, everyone, as Katie smiled.

After posing for the fans, and also photographing the fans with his own cell phone, Tom got another bright idea. He decided to give away some of his own money! Tom gave away $25,000 not once, not twice but three times to different fans. "Should we do one more?" Tom asked the screaming crowd. "Did you know Tom just gave away $75,000 of his own money?" someone asked "M:i:III's" director J. J. Abrams. "I heard he wanted to give away some of yours, are you going to do that?" Reportedly, J.J. just laughed, "I got a couple dollars, I got $4" / Issue 56 - September 6558
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