I have the same problem when watching television on my computer: most programs and most films created for television sound all right, but newer movies produced for theatre distribution don't. The maximum sound level is ridiculously low.
Now, I have a guess as to why. For a real explanation we'd need a sound engeneer, but my theory is that it all depends on the original sound system of the clip or film.
In many multichannel audio systems (5.1, 7.1) most of the dialogue is mainly heard through the center channel, while music and background come throught the other channels. If you simply remove the center channel (together with the rear channels) you'll get quite decent stereo from the normal two front channels. But for dialogue the level will be too low. For the dialogue to be heard without your turning up the volume radically you need the center channel -- and that doesn't mean a center speaker: the center channel must be encoded into the clip.
But, of course, my theory may be entirely wrong.