Minute Man: "I'm thinking of changing my name."
Deadly Girl: "Changing to what?"
Minute Man: "To... Small."
Deadly Girl: "Small Man?"
Minute Man: "No. Just... Small."
Deadly Girl: "Well, that's pretty stupid."
Minute Man: "It's better than Mr. Smart."
Deadly Girl: "Better than Captain Cuntface, too."

Micro-budget superhero comedy-mockumentary, released in 2000. It was directed by Craig Mazin and written by James Gunn. It starred Rob Lowe as the charismatic but weaselly Weevil; Thomas Haden Church as the vain, laser-powered leader, the Strobe; Paget Brewster as Ms. Indestructible, reluctant hero and wife of the Strobe; Jordan Ladd as the team's newest member, Nightbird, who has mostly-unspecified bird-like powers; Jamie Kennedy as the blue-skinned ex-villain Amok; James Gunn as Minute Man ("Minute" as in "small", and he's really getting tired of having to explain that); Judy Greer as the demon-summoning goth Deadly Girl; Mike Schwartz as the dim and secret-identity-obsessed U.S. Bill; Jim Zulevic as the hyper-intelligent but mostly-useless Mr. Smart; Kelly Coffield as the super-chipper Power Chick; Sean Gunn as the green-skinned shapeshifting weirdo Alien Orphan, and John Doe as one of the Eight's bodies. Melissa Joan Hart also makes a short cameo as Sunlight Grrrl.

The Specials are a team of superheroes. Actually, they're only the sixth or seventh most powerful team on the planet. They're a bit of a joke in the superhero community -- their slogan is "The Specials aren't meant for everybody -- they're meant for the oddball, the rebel, the outcast, the geek," and their headquarters is located inside the suburban home of the Strobe and Ms. Indestructible. But things are starting to look up for the Specials -- they're about to get their first-ever action figures. Of course, nothing's that easy, and sex, egomania, and a truly horrible line of toys lead to the break-up of the team. Can the team get back together in time for the next crisis?

Okay, you're either going to love the hell out of this movie, or you're going to want to hunt the filmmakers down and throttle them with their own intestines. No one in this movie fights any supervillains or even uses their superpowers. The costumes are cheap -- most of the characters wear street clothes embroidered with the Specials' logo. The lighting is flat and extraordinarily non-dramatic. In other words, "The Specials" makes "Mystery Men" look like "Batman Forever". On the other hand, the film is quite amusing throughout and occasionally even hits the "laugh out loud" mark. The focus is entirely on the characters as people first -- it actually takes a little time to get used to this approach after watching dozens of superhero movies where the characters are defined by their powers, their gadgets, and their rubber costumes.

I'm not going to recommend this for everyone. This is the cinematic equivalent of a small-press independent comic that gets passed over by all the fanboys picking up the latest glossy issue of "Hot Comic Property X". If you like superhero movies where the characters at least act like heroes, give this a pass. If you like weirdo fringe comix, this is probably worth a rental.

Stop your messing around
Better think of your future
Time you straightened right out
Creating problems in town

— A Message to You, Rudy

Overview:

Background:


The Specials were a British punk/ska band originally founded in Coventry under the name Coventry Automatics in 1977. They pioneered ska in Britain by fusing its dance origin with punk energy. Like most of their punk contemporaries, they used their music to discuss political and social issues but the ska rhythm made their music more upbeat and truely danceable.

The founding members were:

Jerry Dammers attempted for over a year to get record companies to sign them up but failed to generate any interest in their demo tape. Finally, The Coventry Automatics' break came when they opened for The Clash during their 'On Parole' tour in June 1978. Their popularity caused the band to change their name to "The Specials" to avoid confusion with another group. Dammers, remembering the lukewarm reception they'd previously received, decided to start his own record label, 2-Tone, in 1979 instead of signing on with the firms offering them a deal. The 2-Tone name was adopted for primarily three reasons:

  1. The Specials were racially mixed and wanted their label name to reflect their political views.
  2. Ska bands tended to wear black and white suits with flat, porkpie hats and loafers.
  3. The label's logo consisted of a black and white checkered pattern.

The first release of the 2-Tone label, The Specials' single, "Gangsters", reached the UK top ten, indicating that ska had entered the mainstream. Soon after, multiple ska bands entered the scene with 2-Tone, remembering their struggles, supporting many of them, including Madness and The Beat.

Can't fight corruption with con tricks
They use the law to commit crime
And I dread, dread to think what the future will bring
When we're living in gangster time

— Gangsters

At the end of 1979, The Specials released its eponymous album with Elvis Costello. The album entered the charts at #7 and spawned a number of top 5 hits including A Message to You, Rudy, Nite Klub, Too Much Too Young, and Rat Race. Even though (or perhaps because) Too Much Too Young was banned by the BBC, it still reached #1.

Around this time, at the height of the ska craze, in early 1980, the BBC produced a documentary on them and 2-Tone released a live album as well as tours with The Specials, Madness, and Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Within a year, though, it was clear ska was losing its popularity and The Specials tried to reinvent themselves, delving into lounge and musak, as they found their popularity (and 2-Tone's money) waning. They released their second album, More Specials, which still received excellent reviews and sales due to the strength of the lyrics and social commentary.

This town, is coming like a ghost town
All the clubs have been closed down
This place, is coming like a ghost town
Bands won't play no more
too much fighting on the dance floor

— Ghost Town

In June 1981, The Specials released "Ghost Town" which struck a chord due to race riots in Brixton and Liverpool at the time of its release. While the single did extremely well and reached #1, it was close to the end of The Specials' run.

Terry Hall, Lynval Staples, and Neville Golding left in September to form Fun Boy Three, causing the band to lose both its vocalists and forcing them to decide to change their name back to the once-temporary "The Specials AKA". The band released a third album, In the Studio, in 1984 but apart from two or three tracks (notably Racist Friend), the album was both a critical and commercial failure, causing them to officially disband.

While The Specials had a psuedo-reformation in the mid-90s due to a ska resurgence, the albums were considered mediocre and didn't involve most of the original Specials members.

Discography:

Movies Featuring The Specials' Music:


Sources: http://www.thespecials.com/ , All Music Guide, Intenet Movie Database

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