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DID YOU READ

“Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster,” Reviewed

“Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster,” Reviewed (photo)

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A version of this review originally ran as part of our coverage of Fantastic Fest 2010.

A kung fu master is asked by one of his students, “Master, could you fight ten men at once?” The master considers the question, then replies. “It is better,” he says, “not to fight.” Good advice anywhere but in a kung fu spectacular like “Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster.” Better not to fight? In a martial arts film? Yeah right.

Thank God Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a total hypocrite. He may preach nonviolence, but in practice, Ip’s ready to throw down at any time for almost any reason. A kid comes to his school curious about his skills, he fights him. The same kid brings more friends to test Ip, he fights them. The same kid gets into a scuffle with a rival school, Ip fights the entire school. There’s significantly more than ten of them, too.

Ip’s hypocrisy is to the movie’s credit. Who wants to see a kung fu movie about a guy who refuses to fight? Not me, especially not when that movie stars Donnie Yen, a great martial artist and naturally gifted actor. Ip Man doesn’t just beat the crap out of people, he beats the crap out of people in style. Every move is done with grace and a personal flourish. He makes it all look so easy, and his enthusiasm is infectious. While he’s fighting, Yen’s much more likely to crack a smile than break a sweat.

His character sounds like a super hero — bitten by a radioactive ip or something — but no, he’s a historical figure best known for popularizing Wing Chun kung fu in China and for teaching Bruce Lee how to fight. “Ip Man 2” is a sequel to 2008’s “Ip Man,” though you don’t need to have seen the original to understand what’s going on (I hadn’t and I could anyway).

Ip comes to Hong Kong looking to establish a new Wing Chun school but butts up against the cabal of established kung fu clubs, who don’t look kindly on any competition. That conflict leads directly to the film’s best sequence, where Ip fights all the local masters in rapid succession atop a wobbly table. If he can beat them all without falling off, he’ll earn the right to operate as a licensed martial arts instructor. This bravura setpiece culminates in an instant classic movie fight between Yen and Sammo Hung (also the film’s action director) playing Master Hung, man’s man and leader of the cabal. Their brawl’s one of those kung fu movie holy grails where every element gels into perfect kinetic bliss: great choreography, good camerawork, clear editing, and real emotional stakes thanks to two great actors playing two compelling characters.

That table fight about an hour into the picture is where “Ip Man 2” hits its visceral and emotional peak. To that point, it’s been a story about mortality, the value of education and, yes, beating the crap out of people. From that point on, the focus then shifts to a much less satisfying “Rocky IV” riff, with a couple of truly racist Brits playing the role of Ivan Drago and the evil Soviets. I enjoy watching pompous white dudes get their comeuppance as much as the next guy but the maniacally evil British boxer Twister (Darren Shahlavi) and his compatriots are cartoonish buffoons. Ip’s battle with them has none of the pathos of his genuinely emotional war with Hung.

Still, Yen’s in top form and the fights and stunts throughout are stellar. And, despite what Ip claims is his personal philosophy, there’s an awful lot of them.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…