Big Picture Big Sound

Fully Immersed: Best New Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Blu-ray Discs: Baywatch, Alien: Covenant, King Arthur, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

By Greg Robinson

Fully Immersed, Volume 11

Here in New England, it's clear that September is upon us. The kids are back to school, the leaves are starting to turn color, and the prime time TV shows are all starting back up. More importantly, multiple hurricanes are reminding us all that Mother Nature is still the boss, with Irma fixing to kick down Florida's door this weekend. (Stay safe, Florida friends. If they're telling you to leave town, do it. Live to fight another day.)  With lots of folks facing the prospect of more indoor time over the coming weeks, here's what's just been released or is coming soon to disc featuring a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtrack:

  • Rough Night - Dolby Atmos, Sony
  • Red and Red 2 - Dolby Atmos, Lionsgate
  • Cabin in the Woods - Dolby Atmos, Lionsgate
  • Blade Runner 4K - Dolby Atmos, Warner
  • The Mummy (2017) - Dolby Atmos, Universal
  • E.T. 4K - Dolby Atmos, Universal
  • Zero Dark Thirty 4K - Dolby Atmos, Sony

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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Alien: Covenant
Fox | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on 4K UHD only

When Ridley Scott returned to his Alien universe in Prometheus, fan reactions were decidedly mixed. That is-it-or-isn't-it-a-prequel largely told its own story, posing grand questions not just about the beginnings of our favorite xenomorphs, but also about the origins of life itself. Covenant continues that story, albeit in a more traditional fashion. In many ways, Covenant returns to Alien's roots, featuring a ship full of colonists, a mysterious distress call, crew members being picked off one by one, and of course, a handy dandy airlock. One thing Covenant does get right is playing up the fact that none of the xenobeasties are creepier than Michael Fassbender; like Prometheus, he's the best thing on-screen and singlehandedly salvages this otherwise middling retread. Another plus: the phenomenal and dynamic Dolby Atmos soundtrack Fox has bestowed upon their 4K Ultra HD release. Subtle ship sounds and the cave-like acoustics of David's laboratory take great advantage of the overhead channels while the intense highs and lows of the numerous action sequences make this Atmos track a stunner at every turn.

 

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Baywatch
Paramount | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on Blu-ray, 4K UHD

I've probably seen every episode of "Friends" at least twice over the years and I remember many of them fondly, but one of my favorite scenes remains the time Joey introduced TV's "Baywatch" to Chandler.  "Wow, look at 'em run." And Joey's perfect response: "They do that a lot" complete with a big smile. Joey wasn't wrong. They do run a lot. And it's clear that The Rock and the creators of Paramount's big screen reboot know this. We can't get past the (ridiculous) title screen without a slow-motion running/diving rescue - but that's why we're here, isn't it? Corny jokes, over-the-top, contrived action, and plenty of eye candy for the whole family to enjoy. (Well, everyone over 17. This Baywatch is rated R if you can believe it.) Paramount gives the film a fun and highly active Dolby Atmos soundtrack and it's available on both the standard Blu-ray and the Ultra HD release. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout and music routinely thumps with a robust low end, filling all channels simultaneously at times. Ocean dives feature a  great sense of immersion with the overhead channels used effectively to convey a feeling of being underwater.

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Disney | Buy Now | Dolby Atmos available on 4K Ultra HD only

Looking to become "two-time galaxy savers," GotG Vol. 2 raises the stakes considerably for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his eclectric band of heroes, while also introducing us to Peter's estranged - and just plain strange - father, Ego (Kurt Russell). Although the film's humor feels a bit forced at times and overall I greatly preferred the original, one thing I cannot fault is the stellar Dolby Atmos soundtrack on this 4K Ultra HD release - Disney's first - and it wastes no time making an impression. The hilarious and brilliantly-executed opening credits sequence follows a dancing Baby Groot while a massive action sequence unfolds behind and around him. All the while, a giant beast's tentacles and Groot's fellow Guardians can be heard thumping, blasting, and flying around and above him. After this dynamic and high energy opener, we pivot to a quieter scene in a large hall, where the Guardians are being thanked for their bravery and service. Here the overhead channels are superbly and subtly leveraged to create convincing echoes and reverberation of voices in this vast, enclosed space. This disc is Disney's first to feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and it's a sonic home run. Highly recommended.

 

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

This is not your father's King Arthur.  Using the same speed-things-up-and-then-slow-them-way-down kinetic visual style he employed in Sherlock Holmes, coupled with the snappy, fast-talking dialogue and storytelling of Snatch, Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will definitely feel familiar for fans of his unique style. Welcome to Lock, Stock and Two Clanging Broad Swords. Ritchie's film quickly announces this is a more magical and fantastical take on the Arthur legend than we've seen before, as the very first scene drops us into a battle between the sword-carrying soldiers of King Uther and giant elephant monsters with glowing eyeballs. Like the rest of the film, it all looks very impressive but feels rather empty. It also sounds great thanks to Warner's Dolby Atmos soundtrack, available on both the standard Blu-ray and the Ultra HD release.  Those aforementioned elephants are (of course) swinging giant wrecking balls and every time they destroy a building, the sounds of flying rubble envelop the listener from all sides and above. And every time the evil sorcerer Mordred vaporizes a group of soldiers, every channel in the sound field is highly engaged to great effect.  It's just a shame the impressive visuals and creative sound mix aren't in service of a better film.

 

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