In this week’s new releases, the women of "300: Rise of an Empire" steal the spotlight, but with a lackluster storyline, the film receives one star. Animated children's film "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" lacks charm, leaving critic Michael O'Sullivan wondering, "Who is this movie for?"

The female characters, such as Eva Green’s Artemisia, provide some of the few bright spots in “300: Rise of an Empire.”" (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

300: Rise of an Empire” (R) “’Rise of an Empire’ is no fun at all — even those famous six-pack abs from ‘300’ seem to be missing a can or two in this desperate attempt to up an already dubious ante. Despite a visibly sincere effort, [Sullivan] Stapleton is a non-starter as the brave Athenian trying to unite the city-states of Greece in defending their experiment in democracy. His supporting players are little more than an anonymous tableau of shirtless, grunting dude-itude.” -- Ann Hornaday

Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (PG) “Despite an updated CGI animation style, the movie has all the superficial attributes of the 1959-64 series but none of the charm. Both revolve around a boy named Sherman; his canine master, Peabody; a time machine; and bad puns. Yet by visual standards alone, the characters, rendered in eye-popping 3-D, resemble nothing so much as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats.” -- Michael O’Sullivan

The Lunchbox” (PG) “What begins as a nagging sense of dissatisfaction eventually reveals the deeper, sorrowful reality of a woman’s life in India, as Ila’s hopes for her future became increasingly thwarted and constrained. ‘The Lunchbox’ probably shouldn’t be called a romantic comedy — there’s too much regret and longing at the core of its protagonists to qualify for that…” -- Ann Hornaday

Kids for Cash” (PG-13) “The most heart-wrenching portions of the movie involve the mothers of the incarcerated kids, who feel enormous guilt. In a moving sequence, one of the women, whose son killed himself, confronts Ciavarella outside the courthouse after his guilty verdict.” -- Stephanie Merry

1/2 “Bethlehem” (Unrated) “Although ‘Omar’ and ‘Bethlehem’ are far from the same film, each trades in a sense of hopelessness that feels both inevitable and irreparable. If filmmakers from two sides of the conflict are essentially saying the same thing, how many more movies will it take before people just stop watching and give up?” -- Michael O’Sullivan

Stranger by the Lake” (Unrated) “Remember when ‘Basic Instinct’ was such a shock to the senses, with its explicit sex and indifferent violence? How quaint. The French film “Stranger by the Lake” is an erotic thriller (heavy emphasis on the erotic) that makes that 1992 mystery look like ‘Nancy Drew.’” -- Stephanie Merry

The Prime Ministers” (Unrated) “The historical narrative of ‘The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers’ may be an intimate and personal one, but it offers many insights into the religious and geopolitical causes of today’s continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s a gift to be able to pick the brain of someone who remembers so far back.” -- Michael O’Sullivan

The Bag Man” (R) “Ultimately, most of what happens in ‘The Bag Man’ is a setup, courtesy of Dragna, but that doesn’t let Grovic off the hook for a story that feels like it’s being related inside ironic air quotes. Even the film’s justification for Jack’s reliance on phone booths and motel landlines — the result of his cellphone being shot out of his hand before the film even starts — feels forced.” – Michael O’Sullivan