I sat through “Mission: Impossible III;” therefore, I have ever right to be cynical. The movie sequel, based on the ensemble television series with its memorable theme song, is nothing more than an assemblage of set pieces. Cruise, starring as Impossible Mission Force eager beaver Ethan Hunt, runs like a rabbit (in that phony and queer-looking ramrod straight crazy grin form), has trucks rolling over him or gets exploded into cars, and leaps from a tall building at a single bound. None of it is believable because it’s all about how terrific Tom is. Legendary Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn said that if you want a message, get Western Union. Hey, forget the message, all I want is a story.

At the start of this special effects ego festival, Cruise as Hunt is crowing about his new ladylove. Sort of like his real-life couch-jumping fiesta with Oprah. Of course, Hunt’s affianced is dumber than a box of hair because she believes him when he tells her he works for the Virginia Department Of Transportation. Meanwhile, a villain, played to the hilt by Philip Seymour Hoffman (when he gets to be on camera, which isn’t often), is after something called The Rabbit’s Foot. It’s not important that the audience knows what THAT is because, well… it’s really not explained, which is, of course, an insult to the audience. My guess is that it’s some kind of vial of nuclear liquid.

The villain gets angry with Ethan and kidnaps one of his IM Force trainees. This sends Ethan and his IM Force (including wasted talents like actors Ving Rhames and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) around the world to rescue the lass. But, during the film’s dreary two hour and six-minute running time, it’s all Cruise, most of the time. Frankly, watching this vanity production gets tiresome. It’s not completely boring because movie pyrotechnics have a certain cinematic poetry. But, overall, it is tedious. Director J. J. Abrams (famous for creating TV’s “Lost,” “Alias,” and “Felicity”) directs with an eye on his paycheck. Original camerawork is rarely part of the ensemble; it’s mostly: Set-up. Talk. Boom. Set-up. Talk. Boom.

And, of course, the talk is all about Ethan (Tom). Yes, Mr. Cruise, we get it. You’re huge. The star of the world. You’re fit as a fiddle and ready for love. But do people have to pay good money to see it?

Meanwhile, if summer blockbusters aren’t your thing – and it’s not written in stone that they have to be; although I am anticipating “The Da Vinci Code” and “Superman Returns,” Art School Confidential” and “Kinky Boots” are two interesting independent features you might want to check out. Neither is perfect, but both have some wit within the frame. “Art School Confidential” is from director Terry Zwigoff (“Ghost” and “Crumb”), who again works with screenwriter Daniel Clowes. The movie is half delicious satire and half failed murder mystery based on Clowes’ comic book story. Unfortunately, neither gentleman has Woody Allen’s talent or we’d have another “Crimes And Misdemeanors.”

Max Minghella (son of director Anthony – “The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”) ably, if lightly, plays a college art student who, in order to succeed, steals some paintings from a failed and miserable drunken hulk of an artist (a wonderful Jim Broadbent). Max’s primary art teacher is a sarcastic and ennui-ridden man who spends years perfecting his own art – myriad ways to paint a triangle. As gloriously played by John Malkovich, the guy is the center of the picture. He mocks and cajoles his students with rapier wit. The art school satire is spot-on. The competitiveness among these amateur artists is smartly stung. Max falls for a classroom nude model, Sophia Myles, but she seems to not even realize he exists. Meanwhile, a serial killer is skulking around the campus dispatching folks, but not with a paint brush.

Sadly, Zwigoff and Clowes have decided to have the parallel stories cross and it’s a messy intersection. Max’s hang-dog quality and virginal romantic aura clash with the murder subplot. If there’s humor to be found in a killing spree, it isn’t evident.

The British have a knack for working-class hero pictures like “The Full Monty” or “Brasses Off.” These are sweet, slight, but satisfying comedies. Now we’ve got “Kinky Boots.” In a quiet English village, a shoe factory faces closing. The founding father has died and his son sees the writing on the wall. Outsourcing is a bad thing. One night while in London, he rescues a drag queen from a bashing and admires her boots. Before you can say Milan Fashion Week, the drag queen is the outsider in the village and he’s designing fabulous boots in order to keep the workforce cobbling. Will the startled townspeople accept Her Ladyship? Will the son marry his long-time, albeit annoying, girlfriend or will he fall in love with one of the employees? Will the shoe critics in Milan love those kinky boots? It’s all light and airy and genuinely fetching. Tom Cruise: the eternal teenager; plus two indie sparks

By Michael Calleri ALT Online Movie Editor

I think I’ve finally figured out Tom Cruise. Peter Pan is alive and well, and he’s using Cruise’s name. There’s really no other explanation for what Tom is delivering: the manic personality, the gee-whiz hand-in-the-cookie-jar persona, the unlimited energy, and the boundless enthusiasm for his new gal pal – Ms. Katie Holmes. Even if she and Cruise never marry, Holmes will walk away with a reported (by MSNBC) $15-million in cold hard cash should the relationship end. And if neither has a major motion picture coming out, there’s probably no need to let the romance continue.

Cynical? You bet.