Thunderstruck: Bullz-Eye tests the Triumph Thunderbird

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The image is timeless, and nearly cliché at this point, but personifies cool. Marlon Brando is looking off into the distance, clad in a classic biker jacket and astride a motorcycle in the movie “The Wild One.” The bike makes the image; large and foreboding, it’s the bike of rebellion and teen spirit. That bike was a Triumph Thunderbird.

We took the latest version out for a test to see what about this bike made Brando so cool. You may think you only have one or two options for a cruiser with attitude, but overlooking a Thunderbird would be a big mistake.

Just like in that iconic image, the Thunderbird slinks in the background. Also black, the bike we tested always intrigued people for what it wasn’t. It fires on all the classic cruiser cues, chrome, loud, big, etc., but doesn’t have a V-twin, and emits a rumble that is different.

It’s this mystery that draws people in, and is the best part of the bike. Some parts of the bike look derivative, but the details set the bike apart on its own accord instead of a copy of something else.

The Thunderbird is motivated by a liquid-cooled 1597cc parallel twin motor. The motor puts out 87hp and 108 lb feet of torque, and every pony is felt even though this is a heavy bike at 746 lb, but a cruiser isn’t about numbers, it’s about the experience.

Usually, when you liquid cool a motor, character is lost -- that communication through vibration and clatter goes away to the whir of cooling fans. The Thunderbird, though, retains old school charm with new school technology. The motor barks and spits upon throttling off, and pierces the air with a low frequency rumble upon acceleration, but doesn’t burn your legs with the heat of a thousand suns. The motor quantifies the perfect balance between the demands of today with the attitude of yesterday.

Additionally, the bike comes with adjustable rear suspension, and disk brakes all around, but this bike was made for long, empty highway patches, not carving the corners. Plus, the brakes are exceptionally strong, although I would’ve liked for more feedback from the handle.

The Thunderbird also comes equipped with a digital readout of fuel, a tachometer, and a digital display of other parameters on the bike all in a single cluster. ABS is also standard, and Triumph has a bevy of options available to build the bike to your tastes. With all this in mind, the Thunderbird is a good value compared to other cruisers at $13,499.

Where other bikes are fine with a “me too” approach to cruisers, Triumph brings a unique offering with its own history. It’s the original Wild One, and to overlook Triumph’s mid-tier cruiser offering would be a mistake.

Photos: Armando Lorenzana

Bike provided by: Motoworks Chicago

  

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Blu Tuesday: Arnie Goes to Mars and More

It’s probably a good thing that the Summer Olympics are going on right now, because this week’s new releases don’t offer a whole lot to get excited about. While horror fans will find a few titles worth digging into, the only real Blu-ray of note is the reissue of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic, “Total Recall” – unless you love Marilyn Monroe, in which case Fox’s seven-movie “Forever Marilyn” box set is an absolute must-have.

“Total Recall”

With a new version of “Total Recall” arriving in theaters this weekend, it was inevitable that Lionsgate would reissue Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original on Blu-ray in conjunction with its release. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, and the first thing that crossed my mind upon revisiting the film was that I couldn’t believe my parents actually let me watch this at such a young age. Though not nearly as violent as Verhoeven’s other sci-fi cult classics “RoboCop” and “Starship Troopers,” “Total Recall” has its share of graphic gore, not to mention the grotesque (but brilliant) special effects by Rob Bottin. For as beloved as the movie is in certain circles, however, it hasn’t held up particularly well, with many of the futuristic props and production design coming off even cheesier and more dated than before. Of course, that’s the danger of the sci-fi genre, but it doesn’t change the fact that “Total Recall” is still a fun slice of escapist entertainment that, depending on which side of the “Was it real or a dream?” argument you fall on, is also a lot smarter than it looks.

Blu-ray Highlight: The audio commentary by director Paul Verhoeven and star Arnold Schwarzenegger is a great listen if you never got around to checking it out on previous releases, but the disc’s all-new interview with Verhoeven is a much more interesting retrospective on the film’s production process, with the director offering details on the script and its troublesome third act, working with Arnold, the visual effects and more.

“Detention”

Joseph Kahn’s bizarre genre mash-up is one those movies that will likely earn a small cult following who swear that it’s a misunderstood masterpiece, but they’d be wrong. Those same people might even say that it deserves to be admired for its originality, and while that’s true to a certain extent, the entire plot is dependent on paying homage to a medley of films including “Scream,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Back to the Future,” “Heathers, “Donnie Darko,” and every Gregg Araki movie ever made. Though it shows some real promise early on (the opening sequence, in particular, is a hilarious meta-satire of teen slasher films), “Detention” gradually gets worse as the story begins to lose focus amid its scattershot collection of ideas – some good, some bad, and some just poorly executed. The movie is all over the place, and despite Kahn’s attempts to make sense of everything by introducing time travel to the equation, he only ends up creating an even bigger mess. There are some brief moments of comic brilliance scattered throughout, but why waste your time when you could just watch the far superior “Cabin in the Woods” instead?

Blu-ray Highlight: Regardless of how you feel about the movie, the picture-in-picture commentary track “Cheat Mode: The Unbelievably Mind Melting Making of ‘Detention’” is the kind of extra that I’d like to see on more Blu-ray releases. Unlike Universal’s similar U-Control feature, “Cheat Mode” runs the entire length of the film and includes interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, photos and much more.

“4321″

I don’t know what it is about the British and their obsession with crime films, but credit to “4.3.2.1” for at least trying to do something different with the genre. Unfortunately, Noel Clarke’s follow-up to his directorial debut, “Adulthood,” is a simple case of a good idea ruined by terrible execution. Presenting the film as a series of interconnecting stories is a difficult undertaking on its own, but organizing it in such a confusing manner (with each part of the tale told in its entirety, one after the other) causes a disconnect with the audience early on, as it’s difficult not to feel completely lost. Granted, by the time all four stories have unraveled, everything starts to make sense, but apart from the “ah-ha” moment that it provides, it’s wholly unnecessary. Most of the acting is solid, and the movie features some fun cameos from the likes of Kevin Smith and Mandy Patinkin (the former of which is the highlight of the whole film), but “4.3.2.1” gambles so much on its gimmicky plot device that Clarke has no one other than himself to blame when it doesn’t work out.

Blu-ray Highlight: The only included extra is a pretty standard making-of featurette comprised of interviews with writer/co-director Noel Clarke and the cast. It’s hardly must-see material, but fans of the movie won’t be completely disappointed either.

  

Product Review: Verb Sculpting Clay

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as hair paste or sculpting clay. Your choices were Dep or Royal Crown Sculpting Cream.

Royal Crown Sculpting Cream came in this tiny circular canister with a metal lid. Inside, the cream resided, and looked more like a lubrication product for heavy machinery than a hair product. And once you applied it, it felt like lubrication product for heavy machinery. Your hair was basically plastered down to your head and it looked like you were always sweaty (like Don Cheadle) and needed to be smoking a Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarette.

And once it was applied, you wouldn’t dare run your hand through it, because it would be fully coated and moist by the time you got to the back of your head. Your look”(think wet, matted-down dog) remained the same throughout the day and left some really questionable ooze on your pillow.

A good paste is something that still eludes the majority of companies on the market today. Most of the pastes still don’t have the holding power that makes a paste, a paste.

A paste that comes out of a tube is straight up substandard — don’t even waste your time. It will coat your hair, but won’t allow any styling, and generally, your hair lays down flat after an hour or less after application. If you’re in a club or bar and you sweat even slightly, your hair will lay flat, like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Kramer switch to low flow showerheads.

But the paste from Verb is the real deal, the genuine article if you will. With Brylcreem, another old school product, the old slogan was, “A little dab will do ya.” And it would mat you down, but you wouldn’t be able to style or sculpt your hair.

The product from Verb not only allows for the ability to legitimately style your hair, but it doesn’t leave residue or become crusty. The thing that was really cool was the fact that you could re-style your hair throughout the day. Additionally, you (or your special lady) can run your fingers through it and it doesn’t feel sharp, crusty or unwilling to move.

How does Verb accomplish this? Perhaps the paste’s ingredients, which is “free of sulfates, parabens and even gluten.”

Another nice feature is that you don’t have to fully coat your head to spike your hair or sculpt any way you choose. I literally used enough to cover the tip of my index finger and that was enough to keep my look (think Blue Steel) all day. Which also means that you don’t have to buy the product constantly; one circular container would last you several months. And at just $12 per container, it is an absolute steal.

Check out the Verb Sculpting Clay in addition to other products from Verb.

  

Great Times with Crown Royal and Big Machine at the 2012 NASCAR Brickyard 400

Our weekend with Crown Royal culminated with us heading over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2012 NASCAR Brickyard 400 sponsored by Crown Royal and Big Machine Records. Our group arrived at the track around 8 AM so we could enjoy and appreciate the full day of festivities. We were fortunate to have the Crown Royal suite as our home base as we took in so much of what the grounds of this world class track had to offer. There were plenty of bands and exhibits, including Sunny Sweeny, Greg Bates and the Mavericks. A few of the pre race happenings that I really enjoyed were meeting and listening to country star and Big Machine recording artist Justin Moore perform at the Brickfest stage near the speedway, and then, before the race, our media passes allowed Bullz-Eye to get right in the front of a stage on the track to see another Big Machine Records group, The Band Perry, perform and they were incredible. I felt like the entertainment level was sky high before the race even began! We knew this was going to be an experience from the info provided by Crown Royal, but until race day, it was hard to comprehend.

As race time approached, the weather warmed up to about 86 degrees and the 125,000 in attendance were ready for some racing. After the Band Perry concert ended, we headed back up to the Crown Royal seating where the ESPN team, including former UNC star and Cleveland cavalier Brad Daugherty, were filing their pre-race analysis. This race will mark the sixth time Crown Royal has awarded race naming rights to an adult fan. This year, the program focused on all of the unsung heroes who make a difference in their communities, from firefighters and police officers, to first responders and local volunteers. Five heroes were chosen as finalists and adult fans visited the Crown Royal Facebook page to cast their votes for the person they felt was most deserving of the honor. Fireman Curtiss Shave was the winner this year and we had the opportunity to get to spend some time with Curtiss, and in our opinion, Crown Royal made a great choice. The official race title that was used throughout the national television broadcast and incorporated into race memorabilia, as well as the race winner’s trophy, was the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by Big MachineRecords.com. Various events and celebrations took place leading up to and throughout race weekend to honor Shaver, during which Crown Royal consistently reminded everyone to please drink responsibly. Race time!

The race was televised on ESPN, so millions watched as Jimmie Johnson took control early and cruised his way to victory. Jimmie secured the trophy in Victory Lane after the race, but not before I had a chance to take a picture with that hardware! Jimmie wasn’t the only winner on Sunday, as Crown Royal and Big Machine Records donated thousands of dollars to charities such as Operation Patriot and Honoring Heroes. This was my first time attending a NASCAR race and I can truly understand the passion of their fans and admire their love of country and celebrating a sport that keeps getting better.

  

Breaking Bad 5.03: Hazard Pay

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Monday following a new episode of “Breaking Bad.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects and events that have occurred up to and including the episode discussed are fair game. 

Walter White or Heisenberg?

The transformation is nearly complete. The artist formerly known as Walter White is almost pure Heisenberg, although the sympathetic family man we (along with his family and friends) once knew and loved is still in there, popping up now and again to, say, be fascinated by machinery and tell an anecdote about the summer he spent working in a box factory. Then poof, he’s gone as soon as he appeared, and we find that the only reason he was hearkening back to days gone by was to explain why such a location will not be a suitable for his meth lab.

This juxtaposition of (what’s left of) Walter White and his super villain alter ego Heisenberg is one of the major themes of the final season, but it played an especially large role in “Hazard Pay.” At any given moment, the viewer can and should be questioning just which “aspect” of the man is speaking and acting. Sometimes it can be hard to tell, and sometimes, as in the above example, you can be positive it’s Walter White, only to discover it was just the opposite.

“Hazard Pay” was chock full of such moments. Was that a man casually enjoying “Scarface” with his son, or a “real” ultra-violent drug kingpin idolizing a fictional one? Was the guy sitting on the couch with Brock awkward because of remorse or was he silently confirming that poisoning that very child was simply doing what needed to be done? Can it be both?

In those instances, maybe. But the best and most important Whitenberg contrast came during his (their?) post-cook beer with Jesse, while discussing love and honesty in relationships. At first it was a quietly beautiful moment of genuine discourse: the friend and father figure offering advice to his business partner while acknowledging that the choice was ultimately his own and treating him as an equal, perhaps for the first time. But by the time the commercial break rolled around I found it was something else entirely: Heisenberg subtly manipulating Jesse to ditch Andrea and Brock—the only loose ends remaining from the Gustavo Fring saga.

Jesse realizes this too, although it takes him a bit longer. After the money squabbles have run their course, Walt asks Jesse if he’s OK. Given their earlier conversation, Jesse believes Walt’s asking how he chose to deal with the Andrea situation, and says he’s broken it off with her, although he will continue to support she and Brock financially. Walt brushes this away, because in his mind, of course Jesse broke it off, that’s what he had intended, so that’s what’s occurred. Just a few days earlier, Jesse was honestly considering marrying this woman.

Instead, Walt is referring to the money. Seemingly out of the blue, he brings up Victor, the man whose throat Gus slit  just to send a message. Only he’s thinking that might not have been the whole story. Maybe Victor, who decided to begin the cook himself when Walt and Jesse wouldn’t, “flew too close to the sun, and got his throat cut.” It’s hard to know just what Walt’s really talking about, but I’ve got a guess: maybe Walt feels Mike is flying too close to him, the sun, and that sometime soon he’s going to get his throat cut, and Walt will take over the business end too. In this analogy, Walt is the sun, and the universe quite literally revolves around him.

Killing Gus has given the ever-prideful Walt a surge of confidence. He feels as though he’s untouchable and that everyone answers to him. When Mike asks if they should take a vote on the tented-house plan, he responds “Why?” as in, “Why? I made the decision and that’s all there is to it.” Mike’s noticed this and tries to set him straight with, “Just because you killed Jesse James doesn’t make you Jesse James.” Clearly, Walt’s not so sure that’s the case.

Skyler’s Breakdown

As she said, Skyler is afraid of her husband. Her murderous, drug-cooking, sociopath husband, and rightfully so. Indeed, Walter has abused her sexually, and now he’s moved back into the house without so much as asking her opinion on the matter. All she got to do was stand in horror and mumble questions about whether he thinks that’s the right decision. Just a few more notches in the Walt thinking he’s the invincible boss count. Why should there be a vote on where to cook? He’s decided. Why should there be a discussion about whether he should move back in? He’s decided.

Walt’s unannounced return is the last straw for Skyler. She’s visibly shaken, but can’t discuss these things with Walt, so it all comes out on Marie instead. When Marie demands to know the cause of her sister’s breakdown, Walt makes himself the victim, the cuckold, the honest, sympathetic man who’s still trying to put things back together despite his wife’s infidelity. That’s Heisenberg talking, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s Heisenberg who stops to chomp on an apple before checking up on Skyler. Then, when she finally emerges from her room to find him playing the good guy with their son and watching Tony Montana go up in smoke, it’s all her fears realized. Heisenberg is sitting there with their daughter in his lap and their son at his side, perfect father that he is, and asks Skyler to join them. After all, they’ve got popcorn. He’s doing his best Walt impression, but that’s the bad guy. She knows it, he knows it, and ultimately, we know it. It’s getting harder and harder to root for Walt, for those of us who still are (to some degree) anyway, and I’m wondering how much longer we can keep this up.

A few extra bits:

-It’s more than a bit ironic that it’s Walter’s genius idea to cook in houses being fumigated for pests. This is the same man (sort of) who once refused to cook because of a single fly in an otherwise immaculate laboratory.

-Walter notes that “everyone dies at the end” of “Scarface.” In that film, there’s a big shootout as the result of one arrogant drug kingpin’s rising too power way too fast. Probably just a coincidence Walt was buying that M60 in the first scene of the season, right?

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

 

  

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