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Ip Man: Ultimate Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 24, 2010 by  



Fantastic!  The best martial arts film I have seen in the last 15 years and if you haven’t seen it on Blu-ray, “Ip Man: Ultimate Edition” is definitely worth it! Highly recommended!

Image  © 2009 Showbox Media Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Ip Man

DURATION: 106 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), Cantonese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0, Optional English subtitles

COMPANY: Showbox/Cine Asia

RATED: Suitable only for people 15 years and over (Contains moderate martial arts violence and bloody injury)

RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2009

Directed by Wilson Yip

Screenplay by Edmond Wong

Executive Producer/Producer: Bak-Ming Wong

Music by Kenji Kawai

Cinematography by Sing-Pui O

Edited by Kai-Fai Cheung

Art Direction by Kenneth Mak

Stunts by Sammon Hung Kam-Bo, Tony Leung Siu Hung

Starring:

Donnie Yen as Ip Man

Simon Yam as Zhou Qing Quan

Siu-Wong Fan as Jin Shan Zhao

Ka Tung Lam as Li Zhao

Yu Xing as Master Zealot Lin

You-Nam Wong as Shao Dan Yuan

Chen Zhi Hui as Master Liao

Lynn Hung as Zhang Yong Cheng

Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as Miura

Shibuya Tenma as Sato

Yu-Hang To as Hu Wei

The long awaited biography of Bruce Lee’s teacher and mentor. Starring Donnie Yen (Hero, Empress and Warriors) and Action Directed by the legendary Sammo Hung.

Set in Foshan, China, during the Sino Japanese War, Ip Man vividly brings to life the brutality of the infamous Japanese occupation, where once proud men are forced to fight to the death for a precious bag of rice. Defined by courage and humility, one man rises to the fore, Grandmaster Ip Man (Donnie Yen), a Wing Chun impresario, whose matchless fighting skill is revered all over China. Upon refusing to teach his beloved fighting art to the invading Japanese soldiers, he is forced to fight for the honour of his country in a series of battles that will culminate in a kill or be killed showdown with Japan’s greatest fighter. With sumptuous production values, a career defining performance from Kung Fu Superstar, Donnie Yen, and inspired close quarter fight sequences by action legend, Sammo Hung, Ip Man is an unforgettable event movie experience that will define the benchmark in action cinema for years to come.

Yip Man, considered as the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun and also known as the man who taught Bruce Lee is a man who is highly revered by martial arts students and admirers today.

Although Wing Chun is taught worldwide, many are not familiar with the man who helped make the martial popular.  And thus, a 2008 movie loosely based on the martial arts master has been created.  And to make sure this film would work, what better than to work with the best in the industry.

Directing “Ip Man” is Wilson Yip (known for his dramatic films such as “Juliet in Love”, “Bullets Over Summer” and action films such as “Skyline Cruisers” and “S.P.L.: Kill Zone”) and a screenplay by Edmond Wong (“Dragon Tiger Gate”, “All’s Well Ends Well 2010”).   The film would feature martial arts mega star Donnie Yen (“Hero”, “Iron Monkey”, “Once Upon a Time in China II”), Simon Yam (“Young and Dangerous” films, “The Legend of Speed”, “Fulltime Killer”) and also features Sammo Hung as stunts coordinator.

“Ip Man” would receive critical acclaim, positive reviews and would dominate the box office for a month and would become the highest grossing film starring Donnie Yen.  And despite the film’s popularity, it has only been released in the UK and Hong Kong on DVD and Blu-ray.  Having waited over a year for an American Blu-ray release of the film and seeing no movement made to release it in 2010, I opted to purchase and review the UK Showbox region-free version on Blu-ray.

“Ip Man” is a film that takes place in the Foshan area in China.  Many martial arts instructors have started up their own schools but for the newcomer, Master Liao (played by Chen Zhihui), in order to get the recognition for his school, he wants to take on the best teacher/fighter in the area and that person is Ip Man (played by Donnie Yen).

Ip Man is highly skilled in the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun and although he doesn’t teach any students, many want to become his student.  But with Ip Man’s wife Chueng Wing-sing (played by Lynn Hung) not so thrilled about him spending time away from her and their son Ip Chun, Ip Man knows he’s under a tight leash.  So, whenever his wife does give him the time to use his martial arts, he accepts with great fervor.

Ip Man easily beats Master Liao but because the doors were locked and the battle was kept in private, in order to save Liao’s face as a new teacher, Ip Man keeps it to himself (despite not knowing a young man was watching from the window and has quickly told his friends about the battle).  Meanwhile, despite not having a school of students, Ip Man’s friend Chow Ching-chuen (played by Simon Yam) wants to work with Ip Man by being partners of a cotton mill and Ip Man, doing well for himself, decides to help his friend out in investing in the business.

All seems good in Foshan but life for the martial arts teachers in the area begin to change when an aggressive martial artist named Jin Shanzhao (played by Fan Siu-Wong) arrives in Foshan and wants to take on the best teachers in Foshan and hopes to win all the students and thus, become the #1 fighter/teacher of Foshan.  And for Shanzhao, it looks as if he is closer to his goal as he beats every teacher in Foshan.  But when he was told that he hasn’t beaten the best…Ip Man, this sets up a duel between Shanzao and Ip Man.

As the first arc of “Ip Man” focuses on the martial arts and showing us how awesome a fighter Ip Man is and how highly skilled he is in the martial arts of Wing Chun, the second arc of “Ip Man” turns serious as everyone in Foshan and China lose everything during the occupation of the Japanese who invaded the country in 1937.

Now everyone, including the rich Ip Man and his family are now trying to live with what little they have.  Forced out of their home by the Japanese (who established their headquarters), Ip Man knows that his martial arts does him no good at this time.  He must make money and take care of his family.

Meanwhile, General Miura holds fighting tournaments to show off Japanese martial arts as being superior to Chinese martial arts and those who can demonstrate their skills will win a bag of rice, but if they lose, they will lose their life.  To mae things worse for those living in Foshan, the aggressive martial artists Shanzhao and his group have terrorized their own people by force in order to get money.

With so much injustice happening in Foshan, how will Ip Man deal with it?

VIDEO:

“Ip Man” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  As mentioned, this is a region-free Blu-ray disc and I had no problems playing the Blu-ray and watching the film.  There were a few things that I have noticed and that was slight blurring, edge enhancement and the the colors seemed a bit muted.   Not by DNR but the film was not as vibrant.  As I looked online to see how the Universal Blu-ray release was in Hong Kong, I realized that the picture quality of the Universal release has more colors and looks great.

Not to say the Showbox version is terrible because it’s not.  It’s actually good but when you see the Universal Blu-ray picture quality, the latter is much better.  But of course, the fact that this Blu-ray release much, much cheaper than the Universal release, I wouldn’t be surprised if people are more inclined to purchase the Showbox version.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ip Man” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0.  The lossless audio is awesome!  The battle sequences can be heard through the surround channels with such clarity, from the battle of Ip Man and Shanzhao and hearing tables and vases crash, to weapons clanging, punches landing on the opponent, this is a martial arts film that benefits from lossless.

The film is presented with English subtitles.  Once selected, you can’ t just hit the subtitles button to turn them off while watching the film.  You can only turn them off in the main menu.  For the most part, English subtitles are very good, easily readable and I didn’t detect any subtitling errors.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ip Man” comes with plenty of special features but this is where things become complicated for those of us in the U.S.

The movie is region-free and can play on Region A (North American) Blu-ray players easily but the special features are not all region-free.  So, depending on your Blu-ray player, it all comes down to if it can play PAL video.  In my case, 25% of the special features (mainly trailers) worked while the 75% did not.  UPDATE (July 2010):  I recently tested “Ip Man: Ultimate Edition” on a PS3 Blu-ray player and all previous special features that were unable to play, worked on the PS3.  Again, special features from UK Blu-ray discs will vary on REGION A Blu-ray players.

“Ip Man” comes with the following special features:

  • Trailer gallery
  • Interview Gallery featuring Wilson Yip, Donnie Yen, Lam Ka-fung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Ip chun, Fan Sui-wong, Xiong Dai-lin, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam
  • Making of Gallery (x3 Featurettes)
  • Location/Set Design Gallery (x3 Featurettes)
  • Gala Premeire
  • Deleted Scenes – A total of five deleted scenes
  • World Exclusive: From IP Man to Bruce Lee: Tracing the Legacy

“Ip Man” is a fantastic martial arts film and I will say right now that the last time I have felt this excited for a martial arts film was over 15 years ago and that was Jet Li’s film “Fist of Legend” (which is also a film about Chinese using martial arts to take on the invading Japanese soldiers).

Donnie Yen was fantastic in the role of Ip Man.  He was calm, reserved but when needed, he was able to fight with such fluidity, fervor and style.  I was a bit worried as I was enjoying the film but the first arc was showcasing so much martial arts and I figured, what else can they do with the story when you have the antagonist being defeated by Ip Man.  But once the storyline changes with the occupation of Japanese and the lives of Ip Man, his family and his friends being displaced and all trying to survive, gave us a whole new storyline that was now, much more dramatic, emotional and sad.

The film doesn’t focus too much on the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the occupation of the area but we are given the sense of how the lives of the people of Foshan, the lively town bursting with laughter, shops and martial artists was no more.  The colors of the film went from colorful to nearly a less saturated and less vibrant look and it matched the dreariness that people have felt towards the Japanese in the film.

But what is more amazing is the tale of Ip man and how heroic he was for the people of Foshan.  Granted, I’m sure that the film was dramatized and I know the film is loosely based on the life of Ip Man but it is a film that is full of emotion, martial arts passion, fighting and even tragedy that you can’t help but be amazed of the twists that the characters encounter at every turn.

As for this Blu-ray release, the fact that you can purchase a lot of these Asian films (ala non-region) on Blu-ray from Showbox for a great price through Amazon UK is fantastic.  I hope the company knows that there are many people importing the Blu-ray releases because unfortunately, there has not been a tremendous drive of Asian cinema Blu-rays in America at this time.  In fact, even a few release in the US has had its share of a few problems (ie. no English subtitles for the special features) but mostly lack of any distribution.  What a shame but I also look at this as a win for Showbox if they can provide people worldwide with more non-region access to Asian cinema on BD.

Overall, “Ip Man: Ultimate Edition” may not be the best in terms of PQ compared to its Universal counterpart and the PAL special features put a damper on things for those of us who have no ability to play PAL special features but the Showbox release still looks very good on Blu-ray, lossless audio is great, the price is so affordable (less than $12-US) and if you have a player that can play the special features, there are plenty of them included on this Blu-ray release (note: There is about an extra 144 minutes of content included in the special features alone).

If you want to see one of the best martial arts films to come out in the last 15 years, “Ip Man: Ultimate Edition” is definitely recommended!

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