Pizza Review AL: Screamin Sicillian

  
So anyone who knows me knows pizza is my thing. Now when I’m too lazy to make a pizza (which is usually the case) or too cheap to order out, I take advantage of the third option; A pizza lover’s dirty secret, the frozen pizza. 

My go to frozen pizza is usually Sam’s brand from Walmart with the occasional frescetta, digiorno, or Red Baron. If I was 100% honest, Tostino’s $1.25 personal pizza happens more often than it should.

This new brand caught my eye the other day and I heard some good things so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Packaging was certainly appealing, verbage was clever, box even came with a fun wearable Italian mustache (pictured below).

Tried one called Mambo Itiliano that features “rough chopped pepperoni, Italian meatballs, Wisconsin whole milk mozzarella, and robust tomato sauce.” With most frozen pizzas, a little enhancement is in order. They often get a little sprinkling of extra cheese or pepperonis due to the lack of toppings. This was not at all needed for this pizza. Cheese was perfect in abundance, pepperoni was cut thick, meatballs were a nice addition but could have been spicier, and the sauce complimented the toppings. Artisan style crust was advertised as being baked in an “Italian hearth oven.” Crust didn’t stand out to me but it was thicker than expected and made the crust to toppings ratio just right. The pizza looked smaller but easily filled us up (my wife, Jennifer and I). Great toppings was the best part of this pizza. Wonderful, tasty and very hearty!

I rate it 7 out of 8 slices.

Please like and comment below to let me know your fav frozen pizza brands and if you’ve tried the Screamin Sicillian!

Screamin Sicillian also offers the following pizzas.

  
    
    

   

Spiritu AL

WSM
WEDNESDAY NIGHT WORSHIP
 
So last night, our youth group got together to worship like we do every Wednesday night. But last night was different. You know those nights where you can just feel the presence of God in the worship and see the look of engagement in the eyes of your teens during a lesson… It was not one of those nights.
 
Last night was bad. I mean just downright discouraging. It was just one of those nights where nearly everything was working against us. We recently painted in our youth room thanks to my good friend, Russell Crook, the members of my teen leadership team (2nd Squad) and the donors from our flocking campaign. A very good thing right? Except that I didn’t budget enough time to put the youth room back together before worship and I was struggling to put everything in its place when the teens were showing up. Well after we ate together and wasted time together, worship begins to start.
 
We always start with announcements and that went pretty well. But then worship comes and things start to go bad. Admittedly, I’m not a great worship leader at all, but I can usually make do. For some reason though, I couldn’t stop starting every song too high. My voice was straining and it made our worship less than moving. There was also a song I wanted to teach (“Build Your Kingdom Here”) that we learned at Winterfest but the sound system started shorting out. Apparently in my haste to set everything up I messed something up with the wiring. Well shoot, so I play the song on my phone and we try to sing it, but I lead it too high again and it doesn’t go really well.
 
Well i’m pretty frustrated at this point and the teens are pretty disengaged. Several aren’t singing and some are just distracting others by talking. I try leading a couple more songs (still too high) and pray Barrett Thompson, my adult volunteer at the media booth can figure something out with the sound. We’re in the middle of a DVD series made by Francis Chan titled “BASIC”. We get to the DVD and it works for a little, and then the receiver burns out. It’s toast. I have no lesson prepared, the singing hasn’t been good, and I need to keep the teens in the classroom for at least 20 more minutes before I can let them loose. What to do.
 
Now at this point in the story… Things are looking pretty grim. And some of you might be expecting for me to hit you with an amazing story about how I led everyone in a prayer, spoke from my heart and it turned out to be an amazing night. I wish I could tell you that. I wish I could tell you I felt God’s presence in the room as I let the teens speak about how God has changed their life and everyone was uplifted or that a service project came to mind and we all went and did something that encouraged someone… but I couldn’t think of a single thing. All that we ended up doing was sang a couple more songs, said a prayer, and wrapped things up. Really amazing huh?
 
This isn’t the type of stories we usually like hearing about, or talking about; but the truth is that worship services like this happen and we tend to sweep them under the rug and try our best to engineer a more worshipful service for next time. I completely understand that response. I don’t want our students discouraged, I don’t want to let others know that last night’s worship was a dud. I don’t want anyone to feel like the efforts we make to connect to God sometimes just don’t work. But I think if we were all honest about our walk, we’d admit that there have been several times that we made efforts to draw close to God and seemed to grasp at nothing. Maybe we’ve read chapters or entire books of the Bible and not felt once like God’s Word taught us anything. Or maybe we sang that song everyone loves but for us, it’s getting old, maybe even annoying. Perhaps you went off to camp or a retreat and actually returned asking more questions about your faith and felt more challenged in your walk than you usually do out in the world.
 
If you’ve ever felt this way. Join the club! Discouragement is all around us. Forces are at work to dismantle everything in your life connected to the kingdom, to the church. This isn’t new. Nor is this easy. It is very much apart of living faithfully. We are pretty good at being buddy buddy with God when we feel like we can see Him. But what about all those times when we feel like we can’t find God? Randy Harris writes in his book “Soul Work” (specifically to ministers but I’d say it applies to all Christians… who are all ministers) that the only way to keep our integrity as Christians is not being afraid to say to each other, “I’m not sure, I’ve had better days than today with my faith, but I’m going to walk in integrity even when i don’t see so well.” He writes that true surrender “…is about you walking with God even in darkness.”
 
Hebrews 11:1 gives a definition of faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
 
Many times we can’t see God in a given moment. Last night was one of those times… but sometimes a future perspective can help. Thinking back to last night’s worship service, there were several things that happened that seemingly happen every week that are very good things. Friendships were strengthened, relationships were developing, we sang out to God (to a God who doesn’t put much value in the pitch of a worship song), we gathered together to be together and to be with God, someone brought a friend who had never been there before, we received the motivation to finally buy a much needed new receiver, we laughed together, I was presented with a great idea for a Spring youth activity that included spending a night making “hobo meals” and sleeping in a cardboard box, we ate food together in community, we all mass texted our media minister (Darren Faulk) happy birthday, and we are better off for having met together. Thank God for every opportunity we have to meet together!
 
In summary, it’s normal to experience times when we feel like darkness is all around us, it’s joyous when we feel like we are surrounded by light, it’s faith to praise God in either situation.

Film Festiv AL: 2016 Top Ten

“You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” – Steve Martin

I’m a sucker for a good blockbuster. The sneaking in of movie candy (Buncha Crunch), the room going dark, the obligatory “turn off your cell phone, or else” clip, the movie trailers (all of which I already saw a month ago online), and this year is chalk full of cinematic adventures that I can’t wait to experience. Here is my personal top 10 must-see movie list for 2016. Disclaimer: *Alan can not be held financially or morally responsible for any money or virtue seemingly wasted on movies that look awesome but turn out to be awful.*

#10… God’s Not Dead 2 (April 1st)

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That’s right ladies and gentleman, turns out God is still not dead! Harold Cronk, who directed the original “God’s Not Dead” is returning to direct the sequel. Now being a youth minister, I obviously have a bias for any movie that is wholesome, clean and contains good morals. Even though these faith films aren’t summer blockbusters or getting nominated for an Oscar, but they are getting better! I actually got to see this movie already at a youth ministry convention and it is at least on par with the original, if not better. Spoiler alert… Nick Fury does not appear at the end of the credits. Sorry.

Another movie that didn’t quite make the list is “Young Messiah” that comes out March 11th and is all about Jesus’ childhood (what a great idea for a film!) and even stars Sean Bean. Could be good!

#9… Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5th)

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Ok, so I’m not stupid, really. I know this movie is going to be awful. It will be marvelously terrible. However, the twist on the classic Jane Austen tale is so appealing to me. I grew up seeing those movies thanks to my mom and sisters (mostly mom though… hi mom!) and the romance and politeness and manners and British class drama was soooooo sickening. In 2009 there was a rumor (or maybe a dream I had) that there was going to be a movie called “Pride and Predator” which was about Predator coming to this Jane Austen era and methodically hunting down the mannered protagonists. This was pure gold in my mind! I was saddened when the movie never came out but my glee has been reignited with the release of this movie. It’s reminiscent of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, which was more enjoyable than I thought it would be but tried to be a serious historical commentary sometimes and a fun vampire slaying popcorn flick. The later is the only way to go with this type of movie. Hopeful but we’ll see.

#8… Star Trek: Beyond (July 22nd)

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If we’re pitting Star Trek versus Star Wars, it’s Star Wars for me everytime. I grew up watching the majority of the Voyager series and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Next Generation reruns. That being said, I really enjoyed the new direction with the two recent Star Trek movies (Star Trek and Into Darkness) and I’m excited to see where they’ll go with this next one. Justin Lin has directed a bunch of “Fast and Furious” movies and is directing this movie. Which means space drag racing right?!?! Millenium Falcon vs. the USSSSSS Enterprise. Racing for pink slips. I’m in! Sounds very… engaging. 😉

#7… Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24th)

independence-day-resurgence-poster

Will this movie be as good as the original? Not a chance. Will it be entertaining and nostalgic? Absolutely! Big draw is Goldblum is coming back to act in this movie. It is very unfortunate Will Smith isn’t coming back but I would argue I enjoyed Goldblum more in the original. Also glad to see Bill Pullman returning as former President Whitmore. Roland Emmerich is returning as director as well. I’m betting the fat lady will sing and this movie will be great in a mind-numbing entertainment kind of way.

#6… Assassin’s Creed

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Assassin’s Creed has about 72 different video that have been released and they are all pretty similar. I think I played like the first 3. Really fun but also really repetitive. In any case, the first one was always my favorite because of the introduction to this epic story. Short version is this present day fella gets brought into a company that unlocks these genetic memories of an ancestor of his that was part of an elite order of assassins. As these genetic memories are unlocked he gains the skills of this master assassin and finds out this elite order is still around. Michael Fassbender is easily in my top 5 favorite actors and he has the perfect build, physicality and acting chops to make this really really interesting. Video game movies usually don’t turn out well (Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, Tomb Raider) we’ll have multiple chances this year to find out if we can change that. (The Angry Birds Movie, Warcraft, Ratchet and Clank)

#5… 2oolander (February 12th)

2oolander

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller made comedic magic in 2001 and I can’t wait to see this sequel. Will it live up to the original? Will it still make me laugh? I believe it just might. With Will Ferrell making a return and the introduction of Kristen Wiig and some other celebrity cameos, there’s just enough hope to make me believe this movie will be just as funny. Did Derek truly become an “ambi-turner”? Will the center for ants ever open to educate our 6 legged friends? What “look” will Derek revolutionize the fashion world with next? The only way to know for sure is to see this movie.

#4… Untitled Bourne Sequel (July 29th)

THE-BOURNE-WHATEVER-Poster

It’s official!! They’ve announced a 5th installment to the Bourne franchise that will be starring Matt Damon! For fans of the series this is awesome news as the last installment, “The Bourne Legacy”, was somewhat less than stellar. With Paul Greengrass directing (director of the 2nd and 3rd installments), hopefully this is a return to form for the franchise. It will be interesting to see where they take the plot as they are expanding the story beyond the books.

#3… Marvel Movies — Doctor Strange (November 4th), Captain America: Civil War (May 6th)

doctor_strange_movie_poster_by_jo7a-d9lw6si

With the plethora of superhero movies coming out this year, it just made sense to separate them into a Marvel and DC category. “Doctor Strange” is a comic book character I know absolutely nothing about. It is exciting to see magic being explored and brought into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and no one can be mad about the casting of the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch.

Civil War

“Civil War” feels very much more like Avengers 3 than Captain America 3. There are so many super peeps in this movie. I am intrigued by the storyline; Seeing sides being taken whether superheroes should be regulated by the government or not. The MCU has purposefully been setting up for this movie and I know this movie will do nothing other than get me psyched for “Avengers: Infinity Wars – Part 1”. The first Captain America movie was terribly underwhelming for me and then “Winter Soldier” came around and blew me away. Hopefully they keep this upward trend. Excited to see the introduction of Black Panther as well.

#2… DC Movies — Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25th), Suicide Squad (August 5th)

Batman-V-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice-Movie-Poster

BVS (Batman V Superman) is the ultimate match up. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather see the Hulk and Superman go at it but these superheroes are arguably the most iconic and the most well-known superheroes of all time (with the exception of Jesus <3). To see these two go against one another should be a feast for the eyes. I was concerned, with many others, at the release of the most recent BVS trailer where it seemed like they revealed way too much. It also made me worried the movie titled “Batman V Superman” will be too much about the reconciliation of differences and not enough “V”ing… versusing? Fighting. Psyched for Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman (spoilers) and am interested to see Wonder Woman and hopefully a non-lame Aquaman and Flash.

suicide squad

Suicide Squad recently dropped a new trailer to the song by Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and it was marvelous. I was very unsure about this movie with the 1st trailer that dropped, but this one has me hooked. At this point I might actually be more excited for Suicide Squad than BVS. Craziness! Casting seems spot on and the premise of the villains forced into working together as heroes just affords so many great opportunities. I was especially surprised in this last trailer how much I enjoyed Jai Courtney’s character, Boomerang… who sounds super lame but might actually be kinda fun. In short, go on Youtube to watch the trailer right now and tell me it doesn’t look like a whole lotta fun.

#1… Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16th)

Rogue-One-A-Star-Wars-Story-Movie-Poster

Star Wars is back baby! I’m so glad Episode 7 did as well as it did. I agreed with everyone commenting that it leans heavily on the familiar beats of the originals but I get why. Trying to get this new generation hooked while simultaneously letting the fans of the originals know there is no more prequel funny business but that we are truly home, it needed to feel familiar. Now that they have proven it a success, I’m really looking forward to the dark turns to come in Episode 8. But this about Rogue One. If you are confused about what Rogue One is, it’s a Star Wars spin-off movie that takes place before Episode 4 (A New Hope) and follows the rag-tag team of rebels who managed to steal the plans to the Death Star. Director is Gareth Edwards who most recently directed the Godzilla movie and it stars (amongst others) Felicity Jones, the incredible Mads Mikkelsen and one of my favorite comedic actors, Alan Tudyk (Steve the Pirate). The scope of Star Wars movie have always been so grand and epic that it will hopefully be refreshing to see something on a slightly smaller and more personal scale in this universe.

 

It was so tough (@andysignore) to narrow this list down to just 10. There were so many I left out. In fact I might do a top 5 2016 movies you haven’t heard of blog later on this week. 

Do you agree with my list? Did I leave any out? Comment below and thanks for wasting time with Spesh Al!

Inception Al

Alan and Jenn
“This will begin to make things right.”

My name is Alan Middleton and I’m starting a blog.

If you are anything like me, blogs aren’t your thing. In fact, if you are anything like me you aren’t reading this blog. Instead you are currently ordering a pizza, playing a video game, buying tickets to the latest regurgitation of film at the theater, or maybe just spending time in the great outdoors. While all of these choices sound fantastic (Seriously, I hear “Creed” is really good and pizza would really hit the spot right about now.) I think I’ll keep typing. Why? Why write a blog when pizza is out there ready to be eaten and movies will not watch themselves?

I’ve never been one of those guys who kept a journal. I never have considered myself particularly articulate or creative in a literary sense. In fact, I’ve more often than not harbored a disdain for those who believed their thoughts important enough to be written out and shared with the peoples of the interwebs. However, I can’t deny that a creative outlet can be enormously beneficial, especially for someone in my profession.

Let me get to the point. I’m a married youth minister in my late twenties who is guilty of undisciplined mediocrity. I’m often frustrated when I look at my own life and think it’s uneventful. When I ask myself, “If they made a movie out of my life… would anyone want to watch it?” I often find myself in doubt. Now that’s not to say I believe anyone’s life should be devoted to themselves in some sort of hedonistic pursuit of being as happy as possible or desiring the envy/approval of others. Above all else I’m a devoted Christian and believe service to God and others is the greatest good one’s life can achieve. However, I also believe God’s ability to use us in powerful ways is only limited by our own free will. For example if I’m unsatisfied by a lack of adventure in my life, I should be questioning how much trust I’ve truly placed in God. A radical trust in God will take you on the greatest life-long adventure any young man or woman could ask for. (John 10:10, 2 Cor. 11:23-30, get your Bible out)

C.S. Lewis once said about God, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good.”

I think Lewis makes a very important point here. The real reason we don’t throw ourselves into adventures, into incredible situations is because we want to play it safe. We fear the “what ifs”. More and more i’m learning to appreciate the importance of getting off the couch, turning off Netflix and trying something new. Even if it fails immediately it is 99% (a very official statistic) more rewarding than watching recorded fictitious events on a screen. Jennifer (my beautiful wife) and I always try to force ourselves to go on adventures and try new things. Anything from riding on a train to trying new and unique restaurants to reading devotional books. This is something we have to force each other to do because there is always something more comfortable we could be doing.

Now, I love movies. Movies inspire me and take me to places I could never go. Talking about movies, quoting movies, watching Youtube videos of other people talking about movies are all enjoyable past times to me. All I’m saying is that getting lost in pointless commentary pales in comparison to living an abundant life where you take chances, help others, hold yourself to higher standards and be better than yesterday. I rarely feel like going to the gym. I rarely feel worse after I’ve gone to the gym. So why don’t I go more often? Why don’t I try to live this abundant life?

I say all of this to say, I’m trying something new. I’m not going to be great at it right away or possibly ever. But it’s good for me and hopefully it might be good for you as well. My plan for this blog is to write about youth ministry, church, faith, pizza, books, exercise, and of course… movies. If that’s not your cup of tea, I get it. Don’t waste your time here. But please do find other sources that inspire you to think and be better.  As a wise Morgan Freeman once said…

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