Scanning High-Def

Mission: Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection (Paramount; Movies •••½, Blu-ray Picture •••½, Sound ••••, Original Extras •••, New Extras: None). It used to be that a movie made just 10 years ago would still have acceptable images and sound by today's standards. But seeing Mission: Impossible in high-def raises the possibility that films will now need a restoration every decade. The contrast of the transfer is fairly good & with deep black tuxedos and rich red lipstick & but skin tones are a bit brown, and the picture is generally quite soft. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is crisp with dialogue and music, but there's surprisingly little coming from the surround channels, especially for a big action film.

Extras include two Tom Cruise tribute montages and 30 minutes of intriguing featurettes on the stunts, the development of the films from the TV series, the truth about real agents, and a spy museum in Washington, D.C.

M:I-2, basically a 2000 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, is a huge technical improvement on disc over its predecessor. Colors are rich and warm, and the bright images have loads of detail. You can see the texture in the leather of a McGuffin-loaded briefcase. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is also impressive, with Lalo Schifrin's great theme tune echoing back and forth between channels.

Director John Woo's commentary isn't that thrilling, mostly telling us what's on the screen and what we're supposed to feel. Other extras include inter- views with Cruise, Woo, and screenwriter Robert Towne. They're the usual mutual back-patting drivel, but the accompanying footage of Cruise doing his own punishing stunts makes them worth watching.

With Mission: Impossible III, director/co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost) went for an overbright, super-saturated image & and though that technique is overused these days, it looks pretty fabulous on Blu-ray. Check out Maggie Q's ultra-sexy crimson gown as she steps from her orange Lamborghini in Vatican City. You also can't help noticing the dazzling white of Cruise's bleached teeth and the deep black of Michelle Monaghan's dress. And there's enough detail to read a phone number written on a background wall. The soundtrack is loud, with very aggressive use of the surround channels. Gunfire, choppers, and explosions immerse you in the excellent bridge battle, with lots of bass rumble to rattle your world.

Extras on III's double-disc set include a commentary by Abrams and Cruise. They seem to be having fun, but they don't reveal much beyond pointing out things they like. There are documentary segments on the mission team and the action sequences, but all the participants are way too cheerleadery. Much more fascinating is a section on PreViz & previsualizations done with 3-D digital animation that help the filmmakers work out camera angles, lenses, movements, and editing. You also get to go with Cruise on a 15-minute world tour to all the premieres, a sojourn that should put to rest all the studio and press pronouncements of his demise as a star. This guy is popular!

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