Film critic Roger Ebert once said, "We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds, not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it."
HBO Now, a new standalone service from Home Box Office, will offer its users just that: a window into the world that many have not seen before today.
Starting today the service, which costs $14.99 (about £10, AU$20) per month and has a free one-month trial, rolls out to Apple iTunes users with an Apple TV or devices running iOS like the iPhone 6 and iPad. HBO Now will eventually come to other services, we assume, as HBO Go, a streaming service offered by HBO that requires an active cable subscription, is available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Xbox One, PS4, Roku and myriad other set-top devices.
Aside from seasons of Game of Thrones and Girls like you might expect, HBO Now offers dozens of movies, a plethora of its best series going back to The Sopranos and several … ahem ... "after dark" skin flicks.
We've highlighted the best of the best content below, as well as some pertinent info for what could be the biggest and brightest innovation the network has ever released.
HBO Now price
HBO Now's pricing is pretty straightforward. The service is available to US customers for $14.99 per month paid via the iTunes Store. New subscribers are given an option for a one-month free trial vis-a-vis your iTunes account.
Taking HBO up on the offer isn't without a catch: You're automatically enrolled into the program, which means you'll need to physically unsubscribe at the end of the free month-long trial to stop your card from getting charged.
Despite that one shortcoming, there's a lot to like here. Unlike its sister service HBO Go, there's no cable subscription required, nor are you locked into a contract.
At launch, HBO Now is limited to the US, unfortunately, but we've reached out to HBO to see if it has any plans to release the service in the UK in the near future.
How do I get it?
Subscribing to the service is cake … if you own an Apple device. iOS users can just head to the App Store and download the HBO Now app. From there you'll be prompted to create a new account and start your one month free trial. Apple TV users can mirror these steps on their devices.
However! If you're a resident of New York City and subscribe to Cablevision, there's actually a third way to get HBO Now by adding it to your basic cable package.
At this point, everything is new content. When HBO releases its next monthly batch of new content, we'll update this section with the latest programming coming to the service.
Best shows on HBO Now
Great original programming is HBO's bread and butter. While nearly every show deserves a call out, I feel the following are the best shows on the service.
Game of Thrones - Like Winter, you probably knew this one was coming. George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice saga has enraptured us season after season with its brutal telling of lords and ladies fighting, conniving and … uh, kissing, to win a horribly uncomfortable looking chair. There are currently four seasons on HBO Now, with a fifth season available starting April 12.
The Wire - Shows about cops and robbers were a dime a dozen in the late '90s and early 2000s. It seems like every week there was a new crime drama that either took place in the courthouse or out on the streets where gritty, foul-mouthed badges upheld the law with a sidearm and implacable morals. The Wire is a lot like the old shows, sure, but it improves upon them by giving you truly deep characters on both sides of the law that you wanted to succeed, and some you just can't wait to see bite a bullet. There are five seasons currently available on HBO Now.
Silicon Valley - I know what you're thinking, "Nick, how can you recommend Silicon Valley when the show goes out of its way to mention TechCrunch and Engadget, and purposefully leaves out good ol' TechRadar?" Well, that's a good question. But we all make mistakes, and one day the awesome show about the people who run this crazy region will recognize true technology journalism when it sees it. You may as well start watching this excellent show right now, however, as that day could take awhile. There is currently one season on HBO Now with a new season set to debut April 12.
Best movies on HBO Now
In addition to TV shows, HBO Now offers a bevy of full-length films to choose from. These are some of the best.
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Weird, quirky and quintessential Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel is easily one of the best films of last year. Following the adventures of a dutiful bell clerk on his rise to the top, TGBH will make you laugh one minute and cry your eyes out the next as Anderson weaves a beautiful yarn in exotic and too-often-dangerous lands.
Pacific Rim - After The Grand Budapest Hotel fills that soft spot in your heart, you can move on to the more important things in life, like watching a giant Gundam-style robot fight a 250-foot kaiju to save humanity from the brink of destruction. Flat, two-dimensional and full of more CGI than most video games, Pacific Rim is everything we love about monster movies.
Her - As a technology lover myself, I really get director Spike Jonze's Her. While Joaquin Phoenix's character may take that love to a new (and somewhat creepy) level, the grappling questions of "What is love?" and "What does 'human' mean?" not only pervade, but elevate the movie to one of the must-watch films of the past five years.
12 Years a Slave - "They're not going to show that," you think to yourself. "There's no way they can show someone getting beaten within an inch of their lives." Guess what? They can and they do. 12 Years a Slave is the brutal, true story of one man who was born free but is taken into the slave trade to endure some of the worst cruelty humanity has ever known. It won three Academy Awards, a Golden Globe and it's available on HBO Now.