Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster Release Date: April 19, 2011 Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2010 Rating: R Running Time: 1:48:07 MSRP: $32.98 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 2.35:1 Standard and high definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: Cantonese 5.1, Mandarin 5.1, English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Cantonese 2.0, Mandarin 2.0, English 2.0 Stereo Subtitles English English The Feature: 4/5 Following up on the success of "Ip Man," which was the eighth highest grossing film in Hong Kong in 2008, "Ip Man 2" continues the story of the Wing Chun kung fu master best known as Bruce Lee's teacher. Not unlike the first film, the sequel deals in highly familiar kung fu movie tropes, but also includes some awe-inspiring fight sequences. And just like the first film, their emphasis on a particular style of kung fu makes the film especially intriguing, becoming an exciting showcase for an increasingly popular martial art form. Relocating to Hong Kong after the war, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is looking to start a kung fu school. However his business suffers from both a poor location - the rooftop of a local newspaper office - and a populace largely unfamiliar with his discipline of choice. Fortunately, there's plenty of cocksure ruffians around to provide a suitable demonstration of the power and efficiency of Wing Chun. Soon, Ip has a respectable class of young students and making ends meet for his growing family is no longer such a struggle. But his growing reputation, fueled by students eager to show off their skills, draws the attention of other kung fu masters in the city, lead by the formidable Master Hong (Sammo Hung). Hong and his fellow instructors insist Ip prove himself and the legitimacy of his style in a "masters only" ceremonial tournament, in which he must defend against any and all attackers. Though Ip ultimately passes the test, greater challenges await as the reputation of all Chinese martial arts are threatened by a corrupt British officer and a deadly pugilist named Twister (Darren Shahlavi), who will do anything to put the Chinese in their place. "Ip Man 2's" third-act showdown pitting Western boxing vs. Chinese martial arts is familiar territory, a scenario most recently depicted in Jet Li's "Fearless" (which was also a dramatized biopic of a real-life kung fu master). The movie also continues the longstanding tradition of caricaturing the British, which begs the question of where Hong Kong filmmakers find such zealous over-actors for the roles. Of course, cliché and broad strokes are often par for the course with martial arts movies, though compared to some "Ip Man 2" feels fairly restrained, and is paced well despite its predictability. The action choreography, on the other hand, is fresh and exciting, thanks to veteran choreographer Sammo Hung. Though not quite as grounded in reality as his work in "The Prodigal Son," Hung puts the details of the Wing Chun style on full display for both entertainment and edification. By the end, viewers should have no trouble identifying Wing Chun's major features, which emphasize center line strikes to the body, low kicks, and simultaneous offense and defense. Though the punches thrown in the final battle feel largely (and unavoidably) perfunctory, hard core and casual viewers alike should be thrilled by the earlier set pieces set in a fish market and restaurant. Viewers should likewise be pleased by Yen's second outing as Ip, as he balances a compelling inner calm with a physical prowess that represents the very heart of the Asian martial arts. Though the film reportedly takes some liberties with the details of Ip's life, it seems to stay true to the overarching philosophy that ruled it and ultimately influenced his most famous pupil, Bruce Lee. Video Quality: 4/5 The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The cinematography is noticeably stylized with deep, saturated colors, strong contrast and inky blacks. Flesh tones are often a bit too warm as a result, making the actors faces almost glow. Though I noticed these characteristics when I saw the film theatrically, things didn't look as severe as they do on the home video release. Detail is quite good, however, with close ups revealing impressive textures. Things also hold up in the film's wider shots, suggesting minimal use of digital processing tools. Grain can be a bit heavy at times, but noise doesn't seem to be an issue and the gritty quality suits the older urban settings. Audio Quality: 4/5 The release includes three lossless audio tracks in Manadarin, Cantonese and English. I chose the Cantonese track as it's the least dubbed of the options (some actors are native Mandarin speakers and have their Cantonese dialogue looped). Vocals in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are crisp and clear. Surround effects are used strategically for the fight sequences and sound nicely balanced, though not exactly subtle. True low frequency effects are minimal, but the track exhibits great depth and fullness, exhibited by the orchestral score's frequent use of drums as well as the numerous kicks and punches that land with resonant "thuds" on Ip's opponents. Special Features: 3.5/5 The majority of extras are located on Disc Two, a DVD. There's a slight problem with the disc authoring on both the DVD and BD as there's no cue in place to return the user to the menu system after viewing a special feature item. Instead, the next video piece follows, making for an (I assume) unintentional "play all" trigger. As for the extras themselves, there's a solid - if largely promotional - breadth of material, from behind-the-scenes footage to extensive interviews with the cast and crew. Disc One Teaser Trailer (1:12, HD, LPCM Stereo) Theatrical Trailer (2:16, HD, LPCM Stereo) International Trailer (2:43, Upconverted HD and Matted Widescreen, LCPM Stereo) Making of (17:37, Upconverted HD and Matted Widescreen, LPCM Stereo) uses portions of the interviews found on Disc Two along with behind-the-scenes footage to provide a straightforward and promotional plot summary and character analysis. Previews precede the main menu load up and include "Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen" (2:18, HD, LPCM Stereo), "The Man from Nowhere" (1:46, HD, LPCM Stereo), and "Ip Man" (1:46, HD, LPCM Stereo) Disc Two Behind the Sets (SD) features Production Designer Kenneth Mak describing the work put into various sets. The Community (2:54) looks at Ip Man's home and school. Fish Market (2:18) looks at the set built from scratch on an empty lot in Shanghai. Chinese Restaurant (2:26) looks at the environment for the masters tournament. Big / Small Arena (2:18) looks at the boxing rings used in the initial exhibition match and the final showdown. Shooting Diary (3:05, SD) is a montage of behind the scenes footage set to the film's major orchestral theme. Deleted Scenes (9:07, SD) includes a long take of Master Hong returning home, Ip Man visiting an old friend, and the early moments of Twister's exhibition match. Interviews (SD) follows a fairly standard set of questions for each subject, centered around the various characters, working with major members of the cast, and preparing for the action sequences. The longer sequences can get a little dry as it's all talking head footage, and there's a bit too much plot summary from everyone, but those really hungry for background information should find something of value in the almost two hours of interview material. Director Wilson Yip (31:04) Donnie Yen (3:38) Sammo Hung (6:43) Huang Xiao Ming (16:58) Darren Shahlavi (14:13) Ziong Dai Lin (5:56) Simon Yam (4:51) Fan Sui Wong (3:29) To Yue Hong (13:30) Kent Cheng (5:36) Ashton Chen (5:51) Perre Ngo (6:03) Recap The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 4/5 Special Features: 3.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 Well Go USA turns in a fine presentation of the continuing story of Bruce Lee's Wing Chun martial arts teacher. The special features are largely promotional in nature, but offer a decent glimpse behind the scenes.