The best DVDs of 2015

Here are our top ten DVDs of the year, voted for by Readings staff. Displayed in no particular order.


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Small Is Beautiful

Small Is Beautiful is a special documentary. Filmed in Portland, Oregon, Australian filmmaker Jeremy Beasley documents the tiny house movement, a grassroots response to the housing affordability crisis that currently affects so many people across the developed world. Beasley follows four people, each at various stages of building and living in their homes with little or no prior building experience. A charmingly shot film with a hell of a lot of heart.


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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Iranian Ana Lily Amirpour’s drolly comic, black-and-white debut feature frequently mimics the dreamlike rhythms of silent films. Following a vampire in a chador who stalks an Iranian town called ‘Bad City’, the film has a touch of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive alongside a suite of influences (spaghetti westerns, horror, teenage rom-coms, graphic novels and the Iranian New Wave) and a sensationally eclectic score. A fresh, feminist re-imagining of a well-worn genre.


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Force Majeure

Ruben Östlund’s tale of a couple’s disintegrating relationship in the wake of an avalanche is a triumph. By no means a traditional disaster movie, Force Majeure exposes the tensions in a seemingly happy marriage over the course of a week’s skiing holiday, investigating how a single incident can cause the life of an entire family to unravel. A technical master, Östlund is also an astonishing satirist with a sly and probing streak of dark humour. His film offers a clever, biting commentary on modern life.


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Ex-Machina

Alex Garland (author of The Beach) makes his directorial debut with Ex-Machina, an exceptional film with eerie, ambitious ideas about artificial intelligence, packaged as a three-way drama between two humans (Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac) and a highly developed machine (Alicia Vikander). Skilfully executed, Ex-Machina incorporates both sci-fi philosophy and something more personal, providing a cynical commentary on gender roles and how identities are constructed socially as much as biologically.


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Advanced Style

Struck by the incredibly dressed older women he saw on the streets of New York, photographer Ari Seth Cohen started taking portraits of them. These inspired a blog, a book, and then a documentary, Advanced Style, which profiles seven women, aged 62 to 95, making bold fashion statements. Their eclectic style and spirit have profoundly affected their approach to ageing – they are joyful characters to spend time with, and the film is a delight.


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Better Call Saul: Season 1

This noir Breaking Bad spin-off (from creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould) follows Albuquerque lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) six years before he begins representing chemist-turned-meth-dealer Walter White. In Better Call Saul: Season 1, Goodman is a seedy, small-time attorney known as Jimmy McGill, an underdog who champions his low-income clientele and treads a fuzzy line between morality and misconduct. This prequel is essential viewing for Breaking Bad fans, but equally a mordantly witty stand-alone study of a compelling character.


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Finding Vivian Maier

Narratively absorbing, visually striking and emotionally affecting, Finding Vivian Maier shines a long overdue spotlight on a brilliant photographer. Vivian Maier was a nanny with a secret: now considered one of the 20th century’s greatest street photographers, Maier’s photographs were only discovered in storage lockers decades after her death. The film works to reveal these never-before-seen photographs, alongside fascinating interviews with those who thought they knew her, in an effort to learn more about this utterly reclusive artist.


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Wolf Hall

The BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall is a riveting portrait of conflicted Tudor antihero Thomas Cromwell. This robust six-part thriller doesn’t skimp on Mantel’s world-spanning political and religious intrigue, but by anchoring the story on Cromwell (Mark Rylance) the sweeping material is manageable and moving. While sumptuous in look and design, and meticulous in detail, Wolf Hall is not humourless or romantic – this series captures the human story and brutality of the times. Sensitive, intelligent television.


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The Legacy: Season 2

Produced by Denmark’s public service broadcaster DK (also responsible for Borgen, The Bridge and The Killing) The Legacy: Season 2 is exemplary, addictive TV drama. It follows four grown-up siblings with three different fathers as they quarrel over the division of their mother’s estate. The Legacy slipped under the radar after the BBC lost the UK rights to pay-channel Sky Arts, but this is a beautifully plotted, written and rendered exploration of greed and rivalry, and deserves a mass following.


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Leviathan

Leviathan is a grimly engrossing Russian social drama that inextricably and masterfully weaves the personal and the political. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s masterpiece is a tragic tale of one man’s struggle against a corrupt system of power, and can be read as a scathing and disturbing critique of what life is like for the average battler in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. With mesmerising cinematography to complement the narrative, and psychological depth, Leviathan is a powerfully challenging and important film.

Force Majeure (DVD)

Force Majeure (DVD)

Ruben Ostlund, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Vincent Wettergren, Clara Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju

$29.95Buy now

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