It’s important to remember the aspect of context when looking at the third installment of Disney’s swashbuckling franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.

The first two films (The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest) were little more than animations of the swarthy waxen characters in the semi-macabre Disney theme park ride. Pillaging, rum-guzzling and sword-fighting took center stage and left the meager outline of a plot in place of a compelling and cohesive storyline. Instead, shimmering special effects and the kooky deviant Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) provided the golden ticket to blockbuster success.

But since this is Disney-spawned fantasy and adventure, the high seas romance, dashing heroes and gross-out villains are all part of the cinematic game. Still, audiences were forced to wade through a lot of cinematic bloat to get to each film’s final treasure (which merely served as the studio’s final nod, wink, and shove towards the next film). Unsurprisingly, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, functions as little more than a big-budget extension of its predecessors. Filmed in tandem with last year’s Dead Man’s Chest, with the same team of writers and director Gore Verbinski, the new film is nearly three hours long and undermines itself by trying to outdo each love triangle, plot twist and ghoulish sea creature.

At the outset of this muddled three-quel, Captain Jack Sparrow has been captured in Davy Jones’ Locker and the East India Company has outlawed piracy and taken control of the seas. To save the seas from tyranny, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) must save Sparrow and unite the Nine Lords of the Brethren Court in one final showdown against the British.

As before, Bloom and Knightley are overshadowed by the madcap antics of Depp. But a little Sparrow goes a long way, and when the captain competes with a gallery of Sparrow clones during a mind-altering, surrealist scene, the result is comic overkill. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast falls into clichéd characterizations and the film’s romance, rivalry and deceptions are given little human realism or empathy. Ultimately, this film, like its predecessors, is a summer blockbuster that will overwhelm the senses but rarely stir the heart or the mind. Kathy Justice

Food is a culturally validating way for women to be creative and affectionate, and it’s easy to believe that a graham cracker crust filled with melted chocolate and blackberries could be a kitchen-centric declaration of love. In the new film WAITRESS, Jenna, a melancholy server at Joe’s Pie Diner, contemplates her oppressive marriage after discovering she’s pregnant. Strangely, this dreary situation blossoms into a fairy tale, as the pie-making princess (Keri Russell) discovers a fairy godfather in the person of crotchety old Joe himself (Andy Griffith).

Jenna’s husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto) doesn’t smack her around (much) but fatigues and demoralizes her with his continual demands for obedience and affection. Recklessly, she begins an affair with her obstetrician, Dr. Pometter (played with skittish charm by Nathan Fillion). He continually asks his patient if she has “any questions or concerns,” when her life is overflowing with them. Her pies, creatively concocted and titled, contain within their crusts the passion for which she has little other outlet.

A Sundance favorite, Waitress bears the heavy burden of the death of its writer-director, Adrienne Shelly, who also delicately plays shy Dawn, one of Jenna’s pals. Shelly was murdered last November and the film is shadowed by the almost unbearable poignancy of her tragic death. She wrote the script while pregnant, and it is frank about the ambivalence many women feel about becoming a mother. The film contains a keen sense of the dynamics of abusive relationships, and the characters in Waitress simply yearn for a little kindness in their lives. Shelly understood, unlike many a film in the romantic comedy mode, that joy isn’t necessarily found in the face of a lover. Society idealizes pregnancy, but here it’s a defining moment when what really matters in life finally becomes clear.­ Laura Boyes