LA BAMBA -- In a life that lasted just 17 years, Ritchie Valens lived the American dream. A Mexican-American from California, Valens exploded out of poverty with a driving rock sound that resulted in three hit records before the dream became a nightmare in the most famous plane crash in music history, which took the lives of Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, 'The Big Bopper.'
The story of Valens is irresistible both for its uplifting and melancholy message. And the movie 'La Bamba,' written and directed by Luis Valdez ('Zoot Suit') and starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens and Esai Morales as his half-brother, takes advantage of both opportunities. This is a movie about music and it is the Valens sound, a unique blending of Latin rhythm and rock beat, that prevents 'La Bamba' from being just another example of Hollywood hero worship. Rated PG-13. ROBOCOP -- Dutch director Paul Verhoeven proves a half-man, half-robot cop is better than 100 percent of either. Robocop, put together from the pieces of a policeman killed by sadistic crooks in 'Old Detroit' of the near-future, spends the entire film getting even for the human cop's execution, with the help of the dead cop's ex-partner, played by Nancy Allen. Robocop, played by Peter Weller, is the kind of mechanical sentry-with-a-soul you can admire, but while there's enough blood and guts to satisfy the most avid cop-film fan, this version is played for as many laughs as gasps. 'Robocop' has the same slapstick look at violence that made 'Mad Max' so quirky and appealing. Also starring Daniel O'Herlihy and Ronny Cox. Rated R.