Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995

Scrooged makes it to 4K disc in time for Christmas – while Roll Ranger unsticks tape

By Jim Bray
November 16, 2023

A modern, well 1980's, take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol debuts on 4K disc this week, and it's a pretty good package of a pretty good movie.

And in a different vein, I've been trying an interesting new gadget that promises to help take the frustration out of finding the end on a roll of tape.

I'd never seen Scrooged before Paramount sent me the new 4K disc package, but I wanted to see it when I noticed it was directed by the late Richard Donner, who helmed one of my desert island discs, the original. 1978 Superman. That wasn't his only claim to fame, of course: Donner also directed The Omen, The Goonies, Ladyhawke, the first four in the Lethal Weapon series, and Mel Gibson's Maverick.

And that's just part of his legacy.

Of course, many people will undoubtedly want to see Scrooged because it stars Bill Murray, ex-Saturday Night Live dude and popular movie star since then, with such flicks as Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Stripes, and many, many others. I'm not really a Murray fan, but he is a good actor.

Anyway, Scrooged updates the classic tale – while simultaneously kind of ripping it off thanks to a TV production in which Murray is in charge. He's a TV executive, you see, and he's obsessed with ratings and not particularly interested in his employees, one of whom (Bobcat Goldthwait) he fires at the beginning of the movie. Why, he's so mean he won't even let his secretary and right hand, er, woman (Alfre Woodard) spend time at home with her family on Christmas Eve. If he works, so does she is the way he thinks.

Frank Cross (Murray) thinks the key to Christmas ratings isn't warm and fuzzy Yuletide cheer, but rather on-screen mayhem, and he uses that theme in his network's Christmas promos.  About the only thing he doesn't seem to have in common with Ebenezer Scrooge is that he doesn't throw "Bah, Humbugs" around. Of course, he doesn't need to: his actions speak louder than his words.

His network is, indeed, doing a production of Scrooge, a name by which at least some of the A Christmas Carol takes have used over the years, including my favourite one, the 1951 version with Alastair Sim (and a young Patrick MacNee – a.k.a. John Steed from The Avengers – in a small supporting role). This one promises to be a real extravaganza, though, with a star-studded cast of characters performing the script live from a variety of locations.

Naturally, Frank is about to receive the Christmas Carol treatment, kicked off when he's visited by the rotting corpse of his old boss, with John Forsythe in what's essentially the Jacob Marley role. He warns Frank of the error of his ways and informs him – to no one in the audience's surprise – that he can expect to be visited by three ghosts who'll show him how he got where he is and what he can expect going forward if he doesn't smarten up. 

In some ways it's a pretty nasty movie – well, Frank is really quite nasty, anyway, perhaps nastier than he needed to be. On the other hand, that makes his ultimate transformation into a warm and fuzzy – and excessively long monologuing – righteous dude that much more complete.

There are some pretty great moments here, hidden in the angst and anger, and the cast is first rate. Besides Murray, Goldthwait, Forsythe and Woodard, we get treated to some fine work by Karen Allen, as Frank's estranged love, as well as David Johansen and Carol Kane as two of the ghosts. There are several cool cameos as well, from such name as Buddy Hackett, Robert Mitchum, Jamie Farr, Lee Majors, John Houseman and Robert Goulet.  

Paramount has given Scrooged a nice 4K UHD treatment, with Dolby Vision HDR, that looks very film like, with a smattering of grain, incredible sharpness, and colours that nearly pop off the screen. Detail is wonderfully, well, detailed, whether it be actors' faces, backgrounds, shadows, you name it. Paramount's press materials said the film has been remastered, so that undoubtedly helped.

The audio isn't offered in Dolby Atmos, which wasn't around when the film was made anyway. Instead, we get a very nice DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack that is undoubtedly taken from the original release. And I daresay most of the home theatre audience won't care that there's no Atmos because most of them don't have Atmos capability anyway. I'm one of them.

The sound is quite impressive, though, whether dialogue, sound effects, music (Danny Elfman did the score) etc. All tracks are used well (though the film seems a tad "front centric") and will drive your drivers very nicely. 

Extras include nearly an hour of never released previous material as well as a commentary track by director Donner – recorded, I assume, while he was still alive. There's no Blu-ray included in the package, so the extras are on the 4K disc. Paramount says you get a voucher for a digital copy, though the copy they sent me didn't have it.

Donner's commentary may be the best of the extras; he's marvelous to listen to, funny and very informative. The rest of the stuff is more standard fare: six reasonably short featurettes looking at various aspects of the production.

"Scrooged" won't replace "Scrooge" as my favourite take on A Christmas Carol, but it certainly has its moments. I found Murray's monologue at the end (when he explains to everyone on set and watching at home how great it is to be great) far too long and it not only slowed things down, it nearly made me want to throw up.

As if he were an expert in being good – until about five minutes earlier.

That aside, it's a pretty neat flick.  

Roll Ranger claims to relieve tape angst.

Roll RangerSpeaking of Christmas, what better time to find a gadget that's designed to help you find the end of your roll of tape. I mean, I usually end up leaving a bit of a folded over tab on my tape rolls – especially packing/shipping tape – because the stuff sticks to itself and that makes it really hard to find the end.

But that makes that folded over tab useless for sticking to the package, so I usually end up cutting it again to get rid of it, and the new end sticks itself to the roll, repeating the process to the point of annoyance.

Enter Roll Ranger, which was apparently dreamed up in the USA but designed in Ukraine and manufactured in China. So, two strikes against it already, but I'll try to be fair.

I love the idea! I've spent more time than I care to mention trying to get the damn roll of tape to cooperate, so much so I've even coined a couple of new cuss words to accompany it. Often, I end up taking a pair of scissors or a knife out to cut a new end in the tape. This often ends in disaster, because as I unroll the tape it inevitably finds the real end and leaves me with a dinky little piece of tape in my hand, while the real end is still stuck to the rest of the roll.

Roll Ranger's ride to the rescue consists of a little blue plastic thingy that looks like a small windshield ice scraper. Except it has a little wire sensor and a light that illuminates when it finds that pesky, hidden tape line. And it works, mostly.

What you do is run the Ranger over your tape roll and when the sensor finds the end, the light comes on and you can use the scraper-like front to lift up the stuck tape. I had issues initially, so much so that I was at first not going to mention the Roll Ranger, but then I looked at some of the press materials the company provided and noted that the issue wasn't with the Roll Ranger, but with the idiot who was trying to use it.

Yep, I was running it over the tape in the opposite direction of what I should have been doing (I rarely read manuals and, to be honest, forgot that the Roll Ranger came with a little instruction pamphlet).

Once I figured that out – and after my wife had stopped laughing at me – I had much more success.

It isn't a product I'd use often – of course, your mileage may vary – but it does appear to work as advertised, once you figure it out (which, to be fair, doesn't take long once you're paying attention).

Roll Ranger is only $12.99 USD and, to sweeten the deal, for Black Friday and Cyber Monday it's available (On Amazon.com and at the Roll Ranger store) for only 10 greenbacks.

Copyright 2023 Jim Bray

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