For certain Houston kids of the ’80s, few things were more joyous than Saturday morning cartoons, then a switch that afternoon to Kung Fu Theater on UHF channels.
Dubbed “chopsocky” flicks, these martial arts movies boasted over-the-top storylines, special effects, and dialogue, and copious amounts of violence—in short, a paradise for boisterous fans, especially those acting scenes out in front of their TV.
Now, fans of all ages can relive that kung fu glory as Asia Society Texas presents Kung Fu Film Nights a showcase of Hong Kong martial arts films — all screened outdoors. This showcase centers less on the campy flicks made famous for lines such as “your kung fu is pretty good,” and instead focuses on seminal, groundbreaking, and historically significant titles.
The high-flying fun gets started at 8 pm Friday, April 8 and continues on select Fridays through June. Guests are invited to bring their chairs and blankets to spread out on the Asia Society center’s lawn. Free refreshments come courtesy of Asahi Beer (apropos), while food, other drinks, and snacks will be on sale.
Tickets run $5 for Asia Society members; $10 for non-members. Here is the lineup, description, and schedule.
Enter the Dragon: Friday, April 8
Fittingly, the series kicks off on April 8 with martial arts’ biggest icon, Bruce Lee, and his 1973 action-packed release that catapulted the legendary actor from regional hero to international superstar.
Though fans need no reminder, Enter the Dragon pits Lee in a brutal tournament on a remote island fortress, as he attempts to bring the drug lord responsible for his sister’s death to justice. Dragon is especially memorable for its memorable, mirrored maze fight scenes.
The Grandmaster: May 13
Tony Leung stars in the action epic inspired by the life of legendary kung fu master Ip Man. Grandmaster features stunning locales of northeast China’s snow-swept landscapes and the region’s subtropical south, as well as riveting performances and action sequences. The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China’s last dynasty.
Once Upon a Time in China: May 27at 8:30 pm
This blockbuster helped cement this enormously talented Jet Li as the arguably the greatest martial-arts superstar of his generation. Set in 19th-century China, this film finds martial-arts teacher and doctor Wong Fei hung and his band of disciples facing off with enemy forces—foreign and local—who are threatening Chinese sovereignty, just as British and American imperialists encroach upon the country.
Once Upon a Time is heralded for its blend of comedy, romance, melodrama, and of course, martial arts mastery.
Police Story: June 17 at 8:30 pm
Jackie Chan spins, flips, kicks, and flies his way into international superstardom with his inventive martial arts prowess and equally acerbic comic timing. Chan directs and stars — and does his own breakneck stunts — in the rock-’em-sock-’em story of a Hong Kong police inspector trying to protect a star witness from a nefarious drug lord.
Expect Chan’s trademark goofball, slapstick hijinks and seemingly impossible choreography, especially in a shopping mall melee scene. Released in 1985, Police Story would become a widely copied standard in Hong Kong and Hollywood.
Asia Society’s Kung Fu Film Nights runs select Fridays through June at Asia Society Texas, 1370 Southmore Blvd. For tickets and more information, visit the official series website. $5 to $10.