Philip Seymour Hoffman Steals 'M: I3'

Philip Seymour Hoffman Steals 'M: I3' | $15k to Be With Maroon 5, Rob Thomas | Gretchen Mol Triumphs; Golf and Chopped Liver

Philip Seymour Hoffman Steals 'M: I3'

There’s word from the top parts of the Paramount machine about "Mission: Impossible 3."

The good news is that the execs seem to like the picture, which is finished, “locked” as they say, ready to go on May 5. Less than 30 days out, only Paramount execs and test groups have even seen the action adventure thriller.

My sources say, “The film is all about Philip Seymour Hoffman. He really carries the picture.”

Uh, but what about Tom Cruise, the star? “Tom’s good, but Phil makes an incredible villain. He has the best lines. You won’t forget him.”

Hoffman comes into “M: I3” with an Academy Award. I’m told audiences in test screenings have cheered for him. But I’m also told the same audiences cheered for something else.

“There’s a scene where Tom gets beaten up pretty badly,” says a Paramount insider. “And the test audience clapped. It was kind of weird. You’d think Tom’s people wouldn’t have allowed it to stay in the film.”

Otherwise, “M: I3,” so say my insiders, is notable for coming in a few days early and under budget. They raved about director J.J. Abrams, whose “Lost” and “Alias” on TV have been runaway hits.

“It’s the best of the three movies,” says my top exec proudly.

But one moviemaker who’s got a film coming out this summer snipped, “It’s a movie about the music. If that’s right, the Lalo Schifrin score, then you’re all set.”

My Paramount insider counters: “We’ve got Kanye West.”

“M: I3” has two weeks to make its money, by the way. That’s when the third “X Men” hits theaters, and the race will be on.

$15K to Be With Maroon 5, Rob Thomas

The bidding got fast and furious at the 2nd annual Musicians on Call Concert and Auction. Two couples from out of town went to toe to toe until one of them walked away with a chance to be in the recording studio with Maroon 5 for $14,500.

To make up for losing, the other couple — nice folks from Florida — paid $15,000 to do the same thing with Rob Thomas.

A third couple, from New York, plunked down another $15,000 for an autographed Bruce Springsteen electric guitar, a signed reissued 1952 Telecaster.

The event, at Sotheby’s auction house, raised money for the newish charity which sends musicians to the bedsides of the very ill, incapacitated or those being treated for serious diseases.

The group has also created 88 CD pharmacies in the tri-state areas, sending out music libraries and disc players to be used by patients.

But the real highlight of the night for the few hundred on hand was a double-bill performance by Gavin DeGraw and Rob Thomas, who each did five “unplugged” numbers that were sensational.

DeGraw, now managed by his dad, has really grown substantially in his presentation. Readers of this column will recall Gavin just hitting the public eye about four years ago. His vocal range has increased tremendously (it wasn’t bad to begin with) and he has a more confident stance on stage.

He was so comfortable that he even wrote a song on stage, sitting at his keyboards, stopping to write down chord changes. It made for a charming twist. And oh yeah, the girls love him.

Rob Thomas came with his guitarist, the gifted Matt Beck, even though Thomas accompanied himself on a couple of numbers including “Lonely No More.”

Thomas played a few of his tremendously catchy hits like “Ever the Same (Fall on Me)” and added what he called “a cover of a cover of a cover” — his take on Ryan Adams’ version of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” Like all of Thomas’ cover choices — including his take on Madonna’s “Borderline,” which he plays in concert — it worked.

Thomas — who literally just arrived home from a long Canadian tour with wife Marisol — is now such an accomplished, sophisticated musician on his own or with a group that he’s transcended the rubric “rock star.” He’s also one of the very few performers of his generation to establish a simultaneously ingratiating and stimulating musical persona — and one that will last him an entire career.

Gretchen Mol Triumphs; Golf and Chopped Liver

The beauteous Gretchen Mol really got to see a strange side of Hollywood several years ago. Without much background, she got a whoosh of attention as the new "It" girl and wound up on the cover of Vanity Fair.

It was too much, too soon, and could have wrecked a weaker person. But Mol is no fool, and she got to work adding credentials to the hype. The result is an extraordinary performance in a film called “The Notorious Bettie Page.”

The true story of the infamous pin-up queen should win Gretchen the accolades she’s always deserved. Imagine, at 33, she’s an overnight sensation and an almost-never-was, all at the same time!

From here on out, though, it should all be gravy. Her Bettie Page is a little tour de force. Bravo!...

Someone sent me a hilariously inaccurate reading of the Billy Preston story — covered in this column extensively — from a blog called Black America web. My favorite part is the site’s assertion that Sam and Joyce Moore are a “white couple.” Sam Moore, whose hits include “Soul Man” and “Hold On I’m Coming,” has been a black man for just about all of his 70 years. Very funny. But this is the kind of disinformation that goes ‘round when blogs play “telephone” on the Web. For the real story, read our archives…

One of our old pals, Phil Quartararo, lovingly known in the music biz as Phil Q, gets honored on May 22 by The Testaverde Fund for Spinal Cord Injury. I mention this not only because we like Phil, or because the charity is important, but because the golf outing and dinner are being held at our old stomping grounds, The Woodmere Club on Long Island, where the chopped liver is to die for. My beloved late great aunt, Bea Davis, ran a card game there for many decades. She would approve of Phil Q getting toasted there…