Audio News & Reviews

Fully Immersed: Best New Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Blu-ray Discs: The Equalizer, A Quiet Place, Rampage, Ready Player One

Fully Immersed: Best New Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Blu-ray Discs: The Equalizer, A Quiet Place, Rampage, Ready Player One

By Greg Robinson

Fully Immersed, Volume 25

Heading into the dog days of August, my family has just returned home from our annual summer vacation – this time a road trip to lovely Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. While we were there, in between trips to the beach, we managed to squeeze in our first true summer movie – Mission Impossible: Fallout – at the local IMAX.  If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s a smart, twisty ride with some of the best on-screen action I’ve seen in years. And if you have an IMAX screen nearby, that is absolutely the way to see it. Walking out of the theater, my daughter asked when Fallout will be on disc so we can watch it again at home. Great question! November or December is a safe bet at this point, and hopefully Paramount will give it a Dolby Atmos track when it does debut. While we’re waiting though, here are a few immersive audio titles coming soon to a home theater near you:

  • The Avengers 4K – Dolby Atmos, Disney (4K UHD only)
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron 4K – Dolby Atmos, Disney (4K UHD only)
  • The Avengers: Infinity War 4K – Dolby Atmos, Disney (4K UHD only)
  • The Transporter 3 4K – Dolby Atmos, Lionsgate (4K UHD only)
  • National Lampoon’s Van Wilder 4K– Dolby Atmos, Lionsgate (4K UHD only)
  • Deadpool 2 4K – Dolby Atmos, Fox (4K UHD only)

I plan to cover at least a few of the above titles soon. Until then, here’s what I’ve listened to most recently…

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The Equalizer 4K
Sony | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on 4K UHD only

Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) directs Denzel Washington in this loose adaptation of the mid-80s CBS series of the same name. Washington plays Robert McCall, a quiet man of precise routine who spends his days working at a home improvement store, and his nights reading in his regular booth at the local 24-hour diner. Of course, there’s more to McCall than meets the eye. Like Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, McCall possesses a very special set of skills – skills which are a nightmare for Russian mobsters who beat up McCord’s favorite diner patron, a prostitute trying to escape the life she leads (Chloë Grace Moretz). The Equalizer fared pretty well at the box office and Sony managed to get Washington back for his first sequel, The Equalizer 2, which is in theaters now. Not surprisingly, Sony has taken this opportunity to re-release the first film on 4K Ultra HD complete with an impressive new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Like the best immersive audio titles, the devil is in the details and The Equalizer gets them right at every turn. Small atmospheric effects like the overhead rattles in a crowded train car and the diffuse P.A. voice paging an associate to Builder Services make perfect use of the new ceiling channels, adding to the sense of immersion. The action also benefits greatly from this new track; the big climax at the home store features exceptional range, precise directionality, a robust low end, and routine use of the overheads to layer in the action. The film is good, not great, but this Dolby Atmos soundtrack is highly recommended.

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A Quiet Place
Paramount | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on Blu-ray, 4K UHD

It’s rare when a film lives up to its hype, but A Quiet Place absolutely deserves all the great buzz and critical acclaim it has received. Fans who love but only know John Krasinski from TV’s “The Office” may be surprised to learn that he co-wrote and also directed A Quiet Place alongside his lovely on-screen/off-screen wife, the hugely talented Emily Blunt. Together they anchor this small but effective story of a family attempting to survive in a post-alien-invasion world, where any sound is apt to be followed by an almost certain death. Although classified as horror or science fiction, A Quiet Place is a character-driven story of family above all else and it is absolutely worth your time. It also contains a sequence that is, for my money, the best ten minutes of cinema I’ve seen in ten or more years. Paramount brings the film to disc and they’ve bestowed both the standard Blu-ray and the 4K Ultra HD with a fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack. You’d think that a film about people trying to remain as quiet as possible would have a hard time impressing anyone on the audio front, but A Quiet Place employs a brilliant sound design, making for a reference quality immersive audio soundtrack. With little else to listen to, small sounds take on a heightened focus here and the result makes for a unique cinema experience. From creaking floorboards to rustling leaves and the wind in the trees, it’s easy to close your eyes and be instantly transported to the farm house at the center of the film. The daughter in the film is deaf and her muffled experience of her surroundings is brilliantly executed here. The overhead channels are cleverly used throughout the film to supplement and expand the few sounds we do hear in the mains and surrounds. And that aforementioned ten minutes of greatness? I won’t spoil the fun and discuss the scene in detail but the overhead channels play a critical role in making this edge-of-your-seat sequence as effective as it is. Highly recommended.

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Rampage
Warner | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on Blu-ray, 4K UHD

When you’re faced with watching a film about a giant gorilla and a giant alligator wreaking havoc on the city, and you’ve got The Rock spouting lines such as, “Of course the wolf can fly,” you sort of know what you’re signing up for from the get-go. Loosely based on an old video game I vaguely remember playing during my middle school years, Rampage is a preposterously silly popcorn flick about an evil corporation’s science experiment gone wrong. This experiment – which begins in space, of course – yields a trio of creatures who grow and mutate into unstoppable forces hell bent on property destruction – and the worst nightmare for the insurance companies serving downtown Chicago. If you can get past the goofy dialogue and its cartoonish, scenery-chewing villains, Rampage is actually a fun way to spend an evening – especially if you’ve got a Dolby Atmos system at home. Warner brings the film to Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD, with both versions receiving the immersive audio treatment. Not surprisingly, Rampage employs aggressive use of the surround channels and subwoofer throughout, with cacophonous bursts of flying rubble, creature sounds, military planes and helicopters, and all manner of destruction in wide open spaces. That said, one of the film’s most impressive-sounding sequences is actually the opening scene on board the orbiting space station where a mutated, oversized rat gives us a taste of what’s to come. This smaller, more claustrophobic setting makes excellent use of the overhead channels, layering in alarms, sparking electrical fires, and the diffuse sound of voices on the radio communication with Earth. Fun stuff.

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Ready Player One
Warner | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on Blu-ray, 4K UHD

Ready Player One, an ode to the pop culture landmarks of author Ernest Cline’s childhood, is a book that quickly and easily tapped into the pleasure centers of this critic’s brain. Born just a few years before yours truly, Cline fills his wish-fulfillment adventure tale with countless grin-inducing references and loving nods to many of the same comic books, television series, films, and video games I loved as a kid. Reading the book, it was fun to imagine what a film version of this virtual reality might look like. Apparently Steven Spielberg felt the same way. With help from Cline, who helped write and adapt the film’s screenplay, Spielberg does a respectable job recreating the Oasis, the virtual landscape on which much of the film takes place. Unfortunately, although the film is chock full of impressive visuals and sports a few truly inspired sequences, the wow factor does eventually wear off and what’s left feels a bit hollow and somehow less than the sum of its parts. Said another way, while I enjoyed the film, I don’t see myself returning to it nearly as often as I do the book – but your mileage may vary. Warner brings Ready Player One to disc and both the standard Blu-ray and the 4K Ultra HD offering benefit from a superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Surround and overhead activity is omnipresent throughout the film but one sonic standout is the vehicle race early in the film. A dizzying and thrilling sequence from start to finish, the race to obtain Halliday’s first key fully leverages every speaker; time-traveling Deloreans, Batmobiles, and light cycles bash into one another and fly through the air, trains thunder past, wrecking balls swing and crash with resounding low-end oomph, all while Kong swings from building to building before crashing down to protect the finish line. This scene, more than any other in the film, beautifully captures the wonder, potential, and giddy fun of the Oasis – and its rendering in Dolby Atmos doesn’t disappoint.

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Big Picture Big Sound – Home Theater, HDTV, Movie Reviews

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