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The Grandmaster Blu-ray Review

The Grandmaster Blu-ray

For the love of cinema, enough of the Ip Man films!

In acclaimed director Wong Kar-wai’s latest film “The Grandmaster,” the story chronicles the life of renowned Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man. We (the audience) learn about his training, the martial arts group competitions he competed in, his marriage to Cheung Wing-sing and the devastating hardships he and his family endured in the second Sino-Japanese War. Other key subplots in this script revolve around martial artist Gong Yutian, his untrustworthy disciple Ma San, and Gong’s daughter Gong Er (who has her own journey in this film).

Despite the fact that there has been an inordinate amount of Ip Man films as of late, director Wong Kar-wai has opted to turn his lense on the legendary martial artist/teacher of Bruce Lee. While his life story is certainly eventful and inspiring, the screenplay for “The Grandmaster” leaves much to be desired. Rather than focusing entirely on Ip Man, writers Wong Kar-wai, Zou Jingzhi, and Xu Haofeng opt to to tell multiple stories at once which leaves the film feeling jumbled and unfocused. It doesn’t help that there are sizable stretches of the film where Ip Man has little screentime.

The visionary director also has a tendency to really dwell on certain scenes which go on for far too long. For instance, take the opening rain battle with Ip Man and the train station showdown between Gong Er and Ma San. Both sequences are incredibly breathtaking from a visual standpoint thanks to Kar-wai and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, but both scenes also wear out their welcome due to an excessive use of slow motion. Granted, I understand Wong Kar-wai is trying to make the fight scenes poetic and ballet like, but it becomes tiring after awhile.

The most impressive part of the film to me isn’t the story, the cast, or the direction, but rather the period recreation. The sets, production design, and especially the costumes were really first rate as they drew you into the time period. It’s certainly not hard to see why William Chang received an Oscar nomination for his costume work.

Note: If you are a fan of this film, I should point out that this Weinstein Company release is a bit controversial amongst film buffs. The original runtime of the film is 130 minutes wheras this cut runs 22 minutes shorter at 108 minutes.


Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The colors are crisp, but a number of the close-ups shots reveal some of the flaws of the hi-def transfer.

Audio Tracks: Mandarin Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English Dolby Digital 5.1.  How do they sound? The Mandarin track is virtually flawless while the English dub should be skipped.

* The Weinstein Company trailers.
* “The Grandmaster: From Ip Man To Bruce Lee”- A 23 minute special that contains film clips, interviews with cast and crew members (including Wong Kar-wai), and dicussions about the film and Ip Man. Interviews with everyone from Gina Carano to Keanu Reeves are interviewed here.
* “A Conversation With Shannon Lee, Daughter Of Bruce Lee”- Shannon talks about her father’s life and his training with Ip Man.
* “The Grandmaster Behind The Scenes”-  A 7 part extra that contains segments titled “Wong Kar-wai’s Journey Into Martial Arts,” “Focus On Fighting Styles,” “Recreating Imperial China,” “Tony Leung,” “Zhang Ziyi,” “Director Wong Kar-wai,” and “What Makes A Martial Artist.”
* “The Grandmaster According to RZA”- Rapper and martial arts enthusiast RZA talks abnout Wong Kar-wai’s film.

Overall Thoughts: “The Grandmaster” is only worth seeking out if you are a fan of Wong Kar-wai and or Ip Man.

March 7, 2014 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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