Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: You did not.

RN: Beg your pardon?

CP: Race out and see the new Tom Cruise movie on opening day. Please tell me you weren’t there at 11:30 in the morning.

RN: No, it was a normal 7 p.m. screening. My continued employment was preventing me from going any earlier. Not that I would have. Probably not, anyway. Besides, it was more about the action-adventure possibilities of a fifth-in-a-series popcorn flick than the peculiarities — the many, somewhat endless peculiarities — of its star.

CP: “Peculiar” is to Tom Cruise as “mishap” is to the Titanic.

RN: Oh, he’s no Julia Roberts. Not to me, anyway. But I’m a “Mission: Impossible” fan, going all the way back to Ms. Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter. So sue me.

CP: Do you not recall how I ordered you to read “Going Clear” last year?

RN: Refresh my memory?

CP: It’s Lawrence Wright’s scary, in-depth account of the dark underbelly of Scientology, from founding to present day. That organization is spooky, censorious, vengeful, litigious and wack-a-doodle. No wonder it found such a strong following in Hollywood.

RN: Please, my summer reading list has little interest in cults. I’m still trying to get through that Ethel Merman biography. It’s kind of fabulous, by the way. But I digress.

CP: Comme toujours. Merman was odd-hilarious. Cruise, increasingly, strikes me as odd-sinister. The impossible mission on the new movie was finding a journalist anywhere who’d dare butt up against the ban on questions about the star’s personal life, the “Going Clear” documentary on HBO, or his position near the top of Scientology.

RN: I’ve skipped the last few Cruise flicks. The last one was 2012’s “Jack Reacher,” and what I remember most is a scene where Mr. Cruise walks into a crowded Pittsburgh bar and he’s the same height — or taller — than everyone else. Now what are the odds?

CP: It’s a miracle. But in a new sculpture of him to honor his devotion to (and bankrolling of) the L. Ron Hubbard sect, he’s 14 feet tall. And totally nude.

RN: That’s almost as weird as Cruise’s ill-fated marriage — his third — to Katie Couric. I mean, Katie Holmes.

CP: In an interview, Cruise insists that Scientology makes its adherents authorities on global ills, from war and peace to criminality and human happiness. Guess that expertise didn’t extend to making a marriage work out in the long term.

RN: Well, a busy movie star has to prioritize.

CP: There was an “ET” segment the other night that was overlooking a big Times Square crowd with Emperor Tom. The airhead journo actually told Cruise that “this crowd is like, presidential.” I winced so hard I thought my face would freeze up.

RN: I can’t decide which is more shocking: the 53-year-old Cruise’s enviably youthful appearance, or that you watch “Entertainment Tonight.”

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib