6 Movies Like The Secret Kingdom (2023)

Staff & contributors

Riceboy Sleeps looks like a fairy tale. Taken in 16mm and colored to pastel-grain perfection, it’s a captivating picture that moves like a happy memory. And occasionally, the action matches the air. Mother So-young (Choi Seung-yoon) and son Dong-hyun (Ethan Hwang) share a fierce, us-against-the-world bond as they strive to make it in a Canadian suburb without a lick of help. 

The film is beautiful that way, but it also importantly doesn't spare us from the harsh-edged realities of immigrant life. There are assimilation attempts, cultural divides, and on Dong-hyun’s part, a perpetual longing to know about an unknowable past. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but it’s also a tear-jerker, as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. 

Coupled with writing and performances that are resonant but restrained (they never verge on melodrama), Riceboy Sleeps makes for a powerful debut and a truly unforgettable watch.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aiden Finn, Anthony Shim, Bryce Hodgson, Choi Jong-ryul, Eric Keenleyside, Ethan Hwang, Hunter Dillon, John Cassini, Kendra Anderson, Lee Yong-nyeo, Ryan Robbins, Sean Poague, Vanessa Przada

Director: Anthony Shim

, 1985

In the movie Brazil, our hero Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a dystopian world that relies on the cold productivity grind of machines. He’s in a constant battle between the high-level dominating powers that be and the low-level beatdown scums of society. Saving him from complete misery is a recurring dream he has of a beautiful woman. There, nothing else matters but love, which fills his draining soul and makes his life seem worthwhile. 

The way director Terry Gilliam handles a serious matter in such a comedic way is fantastic, and the amount of thought and effort he puts into creating every single bit of existence in this film is mind-boggling. With Brazil, he succeeds in establishing his own style, making a mark for himself in an age when plenty of auteurs compete for mere recognition.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Ann Way, Barbara Hicks, Bill Wallis, Bob Hoskins, Brian Miller, Bryan Pringle, Charles McKeown, David Gant, Derek Deadman, Derrick O'Connor, Don Henderson, Gorden Kaye, Harold Innocent, Howard Lew Lewis, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Jack Purvis, James Coyle, Jim Broadbent, John Flanagan, John Grillo, John Pierce Jones, Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Kathryn Pogson, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Myrtle Devenish, Nigel Planer, Oscar Quitak, Patrick Connor, Peter Vaughan, Ralph Nossek, Ray Cooper, Robert De Niro, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Sheila Reid, Simon Jones, Terence Bayler, Terry Gilliam

Director: Terry Gilliam

Rating: R

Those unfamiliar with James Hamilton would be forgiven for asking “Why him?” Why does he get a documentary? What makes this photographer so special? But a few minutes in, those questions are immediately replaced with the more appropriate, “Well, why not him?” Hamilton’s work spans decades, and they capture in rich detail a New York that’s long gone, as well as an alternative form of journalism that used to thrive back then (in print no less!), but can now only be found few and far between. It’s enough to see his work, sectioned here in order of their appearance in iconic publications like Harper’s Bazaar, The Village Voice, and New York Observer. Still, they’re complemented by moving images and illuminating interviews beautifully shot in 35mm. Uncropped is reminiscent of other documentaries that also capture New York in its heyday, a distinguished roster that includes films like All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, Paris is Burning, and The Automat. But Uncropped, like Hamilton, has a distinctive edge that marks it as an instant classic. By the end, you can’t help but think, what a rich life Hamilton’s lived, and how lucky we are to see through his vivid, imaginative lens.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alexandra Jacobs, James Hamilton, Joe Conason, Mark Jacobson, Sylvia Plachy, Thulani Davis, Thurston Moore, Wes Anderson

Director: D.W. Young

Rating: NR

Ambitious and sincere, Where the Tracks End is a sweet coming of age centered on a tender community and mutual aid in the face of worker exploitation. Alternating between the young son of a traveling worker adjusting to a new town and an inspector tasked with informing small schools of an initiative that will force their doors closed, the film loses the chance to be impactful with either. This love letter to teaching and the importance of education is admirable as it holds together the community element of the script. Although the impact goes off-track due to its lack of commitment to one solid narrative, the heart behind it (and the children's innocent will to live a better life) shines through every so often.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adriana Barraza, Blanca Guerra, Clementina Guadarrama, Fátima Molina, Gabriela Cartol, Guillermo Villegas, Jero Medina, Leonardo Alonso, Tete Espinoza

Director: Ernesto Contreras

This B-movie sci-fi-action-thriller from co-writer-director Robert Rodriguez starts out like a hammy pastiche of (the already overdone) Taken, but its interminable succession of galaxy-brain twists reveals other obvious influences — among them Inception, Memento, and Shutter Island. Fine ingredients, but the recipe is all wrong, as a gravelly-voiced, seemingly barely awake Ben Affleck sleepwalks his way through the cringy dialogue. Alongside William Fichtner in shady supervillain mode, Affleck is joined in that endeavor by Alice Braga as the psychic who is (seemingly) helping his Detective Rourke track down his (again, seemingly!) kidnapped daughter, though what Braga mostly does is hold the audience’s hand and explain the plot’s increasingly convoluted sci-fi elements to us. At one point, she tells Rourke that “pain keeps the mind awake” — and, while the excruciating script doesn’t seem to have that effect on Affleck (judging from his lethargic performance), it’s hard not to find yourself a little enlivened by Hypnotic’s sheer absurdity.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alice Braga, Ben Affleck, Bobby Hernandez, Bonnie Discepolo, Carrick O'Quinn, Corina Calderon, Dayo Okeniyi, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, Hala Finley, J. D. Pardo, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeff Fahey, Kelly Frye, Kelly Phelan, Lawrence Varnado, Nikki Dixon, Ryan Ryusaki, Sonia Izzolena, William Fichtner, Zane Holtz

Director: Robert Rodriguez

About My Father is clearly intended to be a cringe comedy a la Meet the Parents (it even features Robert De Niro as another grumpy dad), but it stretches the concept of “funny” so thin that the memory of that scene in which a cat pees on the contents of a smashed urn will feel like dizzying comic heights in comparison. The premise — an Italian-American man struggles to win the acceptance of his WASPish in-laws — might have made sense 100 years ago, but today, it strikes as farfetched. Even without that weak foundation, much of About My Father has a shaky grasp on what makes a movie work. The screenplay feels like the product of crudely stitching together several over-manufactured set-pieces, with the result being an almost total lack of fluidity and characters who often contradict themselves.

The film starts out on its worst foot: star–co-writer Sebastian Maniscalco lays the voiceover on thick, while Sebastian’s brash Sicilian father Salvo (De Niro) is so unceasingly negative that it turns a presence that should be great into one that’s only grating. Though it does find something of a footing as a saccharine family drama in its back half, it’s much too little, too late.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adan James Carrillo, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Bibb, Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco

Director: Laura Terruso