Review: Pirates of the Carribean 5 – Dead Men Tell No Tales

Confession time: I used to be a major fan of this franchise. Like, I did RP with the characters major fan kind of deal. Over time my love faded, but I kept up with it. I saw the 4th film (though it’s so forgettable that it may as well not exist) but got excited again when the trailers came out for this in part at least because it had Will in the previews.

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His scene is as a long as this review

[Spoiler alert: Will is on screen for maybe all of six minutes, and Elizabeth two and the post-credit scene which would suggest that they’d come back for six, but either way – if this was your draw (as it was mine) it ain’t worth it.]

That said, I didn’t go into the film with high expectations. Between the lackluster 4th and the rumors about Depp being nigh impossible to work with on this film there weren’t reasons to do so.

It still disappointed.

This movie made the biggest sin any franchise movie could make: you could take out the lead of the franchise and have the exact same (if not arguably better) film.

Jack has gone from being seemingly stupid but rather cunning to just plain stupid. At no point in this film does he help anything in any way that isn’t pure deus-ex-machina. Had this jack been the protagonist of the first film, I wouldn’t be sitting here now. In fact, not only does Jack not need to be in this film, but neither does Barbossa nor Salazar. They’re all just here because the movie needs a framework.

The story itself is rather simple: Henry Turner, son of Will is looking for a way to break the curse binding Will to the Dutchman. Carina Smyth is trying to solve the mystery of a map left to her by the father she never knew because she has nothing better to do, I guess? As it so happens, she has the map that Henry needs. Jack just happens to be involved because…he has a boat?

Barbossa is there because Plot Reasons which I won’t spoil, but again, does he need to be there? Not really. He’s working with an actual witch (which can be surmised as the reason that Jack is so down on his luck) and seems to be in cahoots with the British for Reasons (no seriously, he pays off a Brit to go see said witch). There’s also a token British presence in the film, presumably because they wanted some escape sequences. It’s literally so token that I don’t think we ever actually learn the name of the Lord Beckett fill-in and they get taken out in the latter part of the film completely without ceremony or consequence.

Salazar is equally pointless. A young (Uncanny Valley CGI) Sparrow got Salzar to sail his boat into the Devil’s Triangle. Somehow, that made Salazar and his men into ghosts and gave his ship magical powers (for Reasons). Somehow, the compass that Jack had trapped him there (again, for Reasons). So he gets free and he wants out to kill Jack because. It makes for okay enough motivation, I guess but he’s just not an interesting villain. But because he has such dominion over the sea (which is again unexplained) it puts Barbossa into a spot where we he has to find Sparrow and lo the gang is all together again. Is it cool seeing him again? I guess. Did he need to be here? Ehhh. But without him, you wouldn’t have Jack the monkey, the EiTC guys who became pirates at the end of At World’s End and another route for plot dump (c.f. said witch who only exists for this purpose and makes you wish for Tia Dalma). But at the end ,it honestly feels like they’re here just because they need to give the A story a sense of conflict.

Overall, when I was watching while I wasn’t having a ton of fun, I was enjoying myself enough. But when I got out of the movie and started thinking on what I had just seen, I realized how little there actually was. It’s enough to all but killed my interest in the franchise, at least as of now. If Will and Elizabeth are actually back (as in back back, not cameos again) maybe I’ll see it. But for now? This is a pretty safe Skip It. If you need to see it, don’t pay more than bargain matinee price for it. It’s not worth more than that.

Persona 5 – Party and Confidant Rankings

Persona 5 is awesome. And if you talk to any Persona player, they’re all going to have their takes on who the best party is, and who the best confidants are. This is my take.

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Your Party

Like most JRPGS you have more characters than you have spaces for them. In general, your party should consist of you (mandatory), your healer of choice, a physical bruiser, and a fourth member of your choice. In earlier dungeons (as you gain members) your fourth member should often be your newest teammate because there will coincidentally be several Shadows that happen to be weak to their element. In Mementos and later dungeons, use who you see fit and remember that (though the game doesn’t make this explicitly clear) you can change out members any time in the stats menu when you’re out of battle, or in battle if you sufficiently level up your relationship with Hifumi (more on that later). Futaba will only be mentioned in Confidants, because as your Navi she never directly fights.

Without further ado!

Morgana – Your introduction to the Metaverse and your prototypical White Mage/Healer. He has a huge SP pool and gains access to all the HP and resurrection spells your party will need. While Wind is a comparatively weak element in terms of strength and few monsters are weak to it, few resist or drain it meaning that you can almost always do at least SOME damage with him if he isn’t needed to heal and physical shots are out. What cements him as my choice for Healer, however, are his skills that for a relatively modest HP fee give you a physical attack with a high chance to get a Critical strike. These are invaluable for getting a Hold Up in times where you can’t hit a weakness (often earlier in the game) or the Shadow simply has none. He is a bit of a glass cannon though, so if there are a lot of electric based Shadows around, you may want to swap him out for a back-up. Grade: A

Ryuji – One of the two physical powerhouses in the game, and he has the highest HP pool of any character. Always try to keep him leveled up because sometimes a party of you (magic), your healer, and your two heavy hitters is a good way to go. My main issue is that Lightening based attacks can sometimes inflict Shock. Shock can transfer to your party which can be a pain. Grade: B

Ann – Sorry, Persona. Despite your love of gratuitous fanservice, you forgot to make her useful enough to keep her in your party once your options open up. Her element of Fire isn’t that useful in most dungeons – just make sure your Protagonist has a Persona with a fire spell on him and that will take care of most Fire needs – and later on weapons are a better source of inflicting status impairments on Shadows. There are also better back-up healers. She’s purely a situational party member for me, especially once Makoto joins up. Grade: C-

Yusuke – Your other physical powerhouse. He’s not quite as strong as Ryuji, and his HP pool is a little smaller, but he makes up for it in a) style and b) because the status effect of his Ice attacks (Freeze) is an invitation for a free Technical shot if you can connect a physical blow on the same Shadow on the next turn. I also like his physical attack options a bit more than Ryuji’s. It’s a coin-flip, but he’s my personal go-to. Grade: B+

Makoto – A solid back-up healer (with useful status impairment healing skills to boot) and more importantly, access to Nuclear skills which can be very difficult to come by. She tends to be my main backup healer when I don’t use Morgana.  Grade: B

Haru – The Psi attacks almost never go out of style as a lot of enemies are weak to it, so be sure to either keep Haru in your party or make sure your Protagonist has some on him. She also has some good status heals, though she isn’t as strong a back-up healer as Makoto. She doesn’t seem to be as much of a damage dealer as Makoto though if using regular attacks (a necessary SP conserving move) so she’s still often on my bench.    Grade: C

Akechi – By the time you gain access to his Bless and Curse skills, you’ve already probably picked up Persona(s) with access to the skills, and realistically, you’re still best off developing them from yourself for Reasons. Also, it’d been nicer to have them a hell of a lot sooner too. Grade: C

Your Confidants

Who you hang out with is up to you, but some definitely have more advantages than others. Here’s who I think is worth leveling up. As I mentioned, Futaba will be on here, but your other party members won’t. For the most part, your main party members all offer the same bonuses. I’m going to try to finish my game maximizing Ryuji because I’m so close to wrapping that up, but there are just too many other better choices out there to focus on your (supposed to be closest) friends. I’m not including the four confidants that you level up automatically through the story because you don’t have to make it a point to hang out with them.

Must Level – These are the ones that (to me) provided the most benefit to my party. As an added bonus, I found that tended to have some of the best Confidant arcs around (well, except for Mishimia anyway)

Hifumi Togo – I wish I had started out her story sooner! Her abilities give you special moves in battle including the ability to escape from battle instantly (even when surrounded) to changing your party members while in a fight. Needless to say, your life becomes a LOT easier once you level up with her. Get on it as soon as you can.

Futaba Sakura – She becomes available fairly late in the game, but it’s very worth while as her abilities will save your ass when an enemy strikes first on more than one occasion. Her ability to cast buffs and/or heal you in battle comes in pretty handy as well.

Yuuki Mishimia – Absolutely start working on this as soon as you can. He boosts XP gains and can also make it so your party members on the bench can gain XP even when not in battle. This is vital for keeping your party close in level, which is always a smart move in JRPGs.

Tae Takemi – The more you level, the more access to health and SP boosters and accessories you get. Level her up higher and you get them at a discount. You NEED those SP replenishing bandages and this is how you get them.

Sadayo Kawakami – She’s important to level because she buys you time in school to work on other things (reading books to boost social skills, make infiltration tools, etc), does your laundry while letting you go out and do other things, and if you max her out, lets you go out in the evening, even AFTER being in the metaverse which is a huge time saver which all the time you can get is precious!

Maybe Level – These are the ones that can provide SOME benefit to you based on your play style, but shouldn’t be as high priority as those above.

Ichiko Ohya – If you get spotted a lot by Shadows she’ll help by help bringing their awareness down. It’s not the most useful, but if you start getting desperate and are frantically looking for a Safe room so you can get out of dodge which means you’re escaping a lot of battles (which also brings awareness up), this can be of help.

Sojiro Sakura – Although the Kindness bonuses for hanging out with him are nice, the truth of the matter is that the SP bandages can really offset the need his curries. If you dedicate yourself to leveling him up in the early game before you get those bandages, though, he could be helpful. It’s just hard to recommend prioritizing him.

Ryuji/Ann/Yusuke/Makoto/Haru – All have bonuses for leveling them. Most of them are the same. Pick one or two and focus on them because you won’t have time to level them all. I’m going to try and max out Ryuji and Ann in this play through and maybe focus on the others in a New Game+

Don’t BotherThese are ones who just don’t provide enough benefits to justify the time sink involved. The only real benefit is for the persona fusion boost that you also get when level up with them.

Munehisa Iwai – You can’t unlock him until you reach Guts Level 4. You can’t get Guts Level 4 until fairly deep into the game unless you neglect all your other status (which I don’t recommend). The biggest issue is that by the time you unlock him, you’re probably using a higher quality gun than what you have unlocked the ability to modify which means you’ll nearly need to max him out to be of any use. Combine that with the fact that gun effectiveness seems to go down as the game goes on (at least in my Easy/Normal mix playthrough) that I wouldn’t even recommend focusing on gun upgrades as much as I would your melee weapon – if you’re just trying to down an enemy, a shot from a low-level gun will still do the trick if they’re weak!

Shinya Oda – You can’t unlock him until about 3/4 of the way through the game, and you did see what I just said about the effectiveness of guns, right? Unlocking him does add some neat animations and the chance to get some free shots in, but when you’re only taking off 20 points off a Shadow that has 500+ it doesn’t really seem worth it.

Chihaya Hifune – She’s expensive to unlock and her readings feel pricey for what you get. Unlocking Kawakami’s skills means you can get your social stat boost simply by using that time to work on them. You can use a Wiki to preview future abilities of your Shadows or your Confidants. Gifts, taking them to a hangout they like, or having a Persona of their arcana will help boost your affinity with a Confidant instead. I regret putting time into her.

Toranosuke Yoshida – I don’t think I ever even formed a bond with him. I feel like this is a Confidant that would best be served for completionist players trying to form bonds with otherwise hard to get Shadows. More casual players though, can safely pass on him.

Justine & Caroline – Again, another Confidant for completionists. I don’t doubt this is necessary for super high level fusions, but for more casual players…not so much.

Phew! That’s a lot 🙂 What about you? Who do you like/dislike/ignore? Lemme know!

May 2017 Update

So…yeah. Hm. I guess I lied in that January update didn’t I? It wasn’t intentional, it just kinda happened.

Again.

I honestly didn’t start reading again until basically the beginning of April when a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods showed up on my door. It took me a long time (like…a month….really) but I finished it. And I loved it. I also took a break in the middle to devour the most recent Alex Verus book (see my capsule review page for my thoughts). I’m now almost done with Rivers of London and I have Owl and the Electric Samurai on my Kindle queued up ready to go. I also have The Crown’s Fate on pre-order and I’m looking forward to them all. I’ve finally accepted that I’m probably not going to get back to devouring books any time soon, and I’ve made peace with that. I rather read 10 books that I really really want to read instead of 70-100 books where I really I maybe genuinely truly enjoy maybe 25% of find the rest forgettable.

Anyway, as before, keep an eye on my Good Reads because I am trying to post there.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read American Gods, do so. If you like Urban Fantasy and haven’t read Alex Verus or Owl, get on that too. Otherwise, I’ve also updated my Eye Con review with more recent news (spoiler alert: attend with caution. They’re track record on pisspoor refund handling is too solid to be ignored) and yeah. That’s about that.

I’m almost 55 hours into a Persona 5 playthrough, so I’ll probably post a review whenever I get around to finishing it and that’s about all I got!

Have a good one, peeps!

Top 7 of 2016

I’ve come to accept certain things about 2016: that Death decided to be a huge bitch, that politics are going to be depressing for the next four years, and that I’m not going to finish my 2016 Goodreads Challenge. That being said, my burnout doesn’t mean I didn’t read some fantastic books, so I still want to share my favorites with you. As per the norm for me, I’m taking my top 10%. Since I’m at 69 books, I’m going to go ahead and round that up to 7.

My usual critera for selecting books apply: one book per author, must have been reviewed in 2016 (and for this I’m using my Goodreads page since I still did some posting there, even if I didn’t necessarily do a proper review of it) and must have been rated a Buy It from me. I’ll link to reviews where available.

 

7. 23447887

A great piece of historical fantasy set in a world where the Prohibition was against magic, not alcohol. It’s adult. It’s moody. It doesn’t preach. The characters are interesting, the romantic dance is a joy to watch, and the ending is fitting of the paths that Kelly was having these characters walk. Read my full review.

6. 29236298

Last year I made the predecessor Illuminae my top pick in part for the unique storytelling. While I still love it, this book didn’t quite blow me away as much as that one did.This one does have a much slower start, the ending you have to set aside ALL of your disbelief to buy and Kady and AIDAN feel a little shoe-horned in. That said, I’m still really looking forward to seeing the next book and it’s a no-brainer recommendation to fans of YA and popcorn sci-fi.

5. 26109041

Though not officially released in the U.S. yet, this book is easy enough to obtain on Amazon and I highly recommend you seek it out. I’m not a fan of zombies, but I love what she did with the genre. Add in a loner protagonist who isn’t an asshole, some great side characters, and some absolutely lovely details in the printed version of this book and I think this would be a hit for any fan of Urban Fantasy. Read my full review on Goodreads

4. 25036395

Talk about a book that came out of left field for me: the premise of the protagonist being The Only One who can save them all had me rolling my eyes, but then Durst surprised me: our heroine isn’t a Chosen One. Like. At all. She doesn’t have a ton of power, she doesn’t have some kind of birth right claim, she literally just works her tail off and through sheer force of will and an ability to think outside the box manages to save the day. Throw in some really well developed side characters, a fantastic magic system, a book where sex is treated as a healthy part of human relationships and you have a book that is all around fantastic. I can’t wait for the sequel I just hope it gets published. Ready my review on Goodreads.

3.

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YA done right. The kind of YA that I’d recommend to those who wouldn’t even normally read YA. This book takes a very clever magic system, a fun pseudo-Russian setting, and some great rounded characters to create a book that manages to avoid most of the traps that YA writers normally fall into. I adored this book, and if you like secondary world fantasy, I think you will too. Read my review

2. 25695756

I had a super hard time deciding between this, or the original book Rook on this list. Both are awesome. Both I have a ton of love of for. The sequel won out, however, because rare is the author who has a 4 year wait between books and have that second book really pan out and be fully worth the wait.

This one was.

It’s a story of female friendship, of clever paranormal creatures, and some fantastically dry British-style wit (he’s American by way of Australia, but still). I don’t know if there is a book three, I hope there will be a book three, and I will wait (im)patiently for it, even if it takes another four years to appear. Read my review on Goodreads.

1. 30258320

Okay, yes, this is a 2017 book, but I’m putting this at the number one spot because I feel like this book couldn’t be more timely. One of the overriding messages of this book is how the complacency of the people allows corruption and evil to infiltrate their lives and become an accepted part of every day life. This book is dark. There are almost no real heroes. It is grim. And it is fantastic. If you haven’t already pre-ordered this book, do so, now. You can thank me later. Read my review on Goodreads.

The End (For Now)

So this is something I’ve been wrestling with for a while now, but I’ve since decided that I’m at peace with it:

It’s time to call it quits with this blog.

Yeah, I had a post up just last Friday…and that was a book I finished like a week and a half ago? Swapping to posting once a week help me build up some lead time, which I’ve now completely squandered away and that honestly helped me make this decision.

So what’s going on?

Burnout and work.

I’ve recently touched on how I was hitting burnout as of late, but what I think has pushed me over the edge is a very real, and now very permanent, increase in my workload. While it is within the realm of what I can handle, I don’t have the downtime I used to have. And while I know many read to get rid of stress, I find myself not wanting to read as much when I am stressed – and when I do read, I need to be something I can fall head over heels in love with which is hard to do with the aforementioned burnout.

I’m not going to stop reading, nor do I think I’ll ever stop reading fantasy, but I am just going to pull way, way back. I just want to finish something or not without feeling guilty that I’ve got nothing to post. I want to be more at peace with the thought that it may take me another week or two before I want to pick up a book. I want to be able to just throw a star rating on Goodreads and call it a day.

So yeah. Time to call it a day.

Maybe I’ll post the occasional review if something moves me, or maybe I’ll just squee on twitter (@gilded_lady hint, hint) instead.

And maybe, just maybe, if I manage to get through this fun of mine, I’ll start this up again in earnest. But for now, so long and thanks for all the fish 🙂

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Summary:

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater will embrace the richly drawn, Norse-influenced alternate world of the United States of Asgard, where cell phones, rock bands, and evangelical preachers coexist with dragon slaying, rune casting, and sword training in schools. Where the president runs the country alongside a council of Valkyries, gods walk the red carpet with Hollywood starlets, and the U.S. military has a special battalion dedicated to eradicating Rocky Mountain trolls.

Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of war, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.

Review:

First things first: this is a trilogy where each book has its own protagonist and an interweaving story. The first part is fairly obvious. The second, not so much. This story appears to be set in the same world, only half-way through the book do you realize the story was taking place before only to suddenly catch up to the start of the first book before going on and dealing with the after-effects. It’s just kind of strange and perhaps could have been handled a bit clearer.

That out of the way, a lot of what was enjoyable from the first book remains here: the world is still a fantastic bland of modern America and Nordic traditions, the characters remain likable, and the story does get poignant enough in parts that it actually made me cry. There’s a nice romance too between Signy and Ned the Spiritless.

So why then am I not quite satisfied?

It’s the ending. Like the first book, this too is about the Gods meddling with the lives of mortals, but where was the first book it really felt like outside influence, this felt much more direct which isn’t supposed to be what they can do and when the story wraps up, it just kind of feels like “Okay?” It does apparently tie into the third book, but it’s not necessarily a compelling hook that makes you go “I want to know what happens next!”

So while I happy to have read the book, I still leave feeling underwhelmed and debating if I even want to bother with the third, which does make me kind of sad.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: Now