Reel Toronto: Pixels
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Reel Toronto: Pixels

Adam Sandler brings his latest opus to town to blow things up, arcade style.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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Let’s get this straight off the bat: Pixels is not the worst movie ever shot in this city. Sure, it only impressed 17 per cent of critics when it came out earlier this year but it’s hardly in the same league as single-digit atrocities like Cheaper by the Dozen 2.

Oh, it’s not a good movie, don’t get us wrong! But by the standards of Sandler’s cinematic diminishing returns and the average high-concept Hollywood blockbuster, it’s merely not as terrible as you imagine, probably.

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So, Pixels opens with a flashback to 1982 because the narrative would be nigh incomprehensible if we were not given in depth explorations of its central characters and their origins.

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This bucolic, small-town scene was shot in Cobourg, where we cut through this park

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…and onto King Street…

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…with this empty property transformed into a video arcade.

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Sandler’s Mini-Me and his friends make their way to a big convention…

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…with some Can-con provided by Dan Aykroyd. Thanks to its distinctive escalators (that’s right, to us they are!) the location is recognizable as the Sheraton Centre.

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Wheee, now we’re in the “present” where Sandler’s tech repairman is lunching with his friend, who’s only become POTUS, don’t you know. If Kevin James-as-president is too much suspension of disbelief for you to handle, Pixels is not the movie for you.

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This lovely drinkery is actually the Esplanade’s Tilted Kilt…

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…and we can see the actual exterior (As you can see from the bar’s name, The Potomac Grill, we’re supposed to be in Washington, D.C.)…

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…and the Novotel across the street (complete with not-very-D.C. flags) when they venture outside.

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Back in the bar, the president appears on TV, making a fool of himself. The school scene was apparently shot at Princess Margaret Junior School.

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Apparently big fans of the Esplanade’s themed bars…

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…we later visit Scotland Yard

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…when we’re supposed to be in Jolly Old London. Note the presence of Sean Bean, famous for his long stream of heroic, cinematic deaths. In this movie he lives, which is its own kind of punishment.

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Also note that when you have vodka in this movie, you must have Crystal Head Vodka which, not at all coincidentally, is co-owned by Mr. Aykroyd. If you’re going to have product placement, might as well be for your friends.

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Speaking of London, this scene, wherein the heroes battle Centipede, is supposed to take place in Hyde Park.

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Actually, it was shot in Rouge Park near Steeles Avenue and Reesor Road.

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When the big boss centipede escapes from the park, he bursts out onto Delisle Avenue

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…eventually exploding out of this midtown condo.

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The president also gets out and about, making a cake on Queen Street East, at Bobette and Belle.

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After a visit to the White House, Sandler runs into Josh Gad here…

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…on York Boulevard, in Hamilton.

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Did we mention that Peter Dinklage is in this movie? Because he totally is!

Anyway, as you surely know, Sandler and his unlikely band of misfits are drafted to save us all from these aliens who are, naturally, attacking us in the form of old video game characters.

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Preparing for their assault on Pac Man, they gather here…

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…in Hamilton’s James Street Armoury.

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It’s also seen from the outside, with a New York skyline pasted in.

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Then the big finale kicks in and Pac Man gets chased across the entirety of downtown. Brace yourselves!

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We start off by Adelaide and York

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Then, in no particular order, we find our large yellow friend (did you know his original name was “Puck Man?”) cornered here on Yonge Street…

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…outside 1 King West…

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…not to mention by the Hotel Victoria (and a subway entrance!)…

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…and, mmmm, this delicious Pumpernickel’s, on Adelaide.

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…across Bay, with Old City Hall in the back…

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…somehow way down at Corus Quay

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…and by First Canadian Place…

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Amusingly, as you may recall, the shooting of these scenes created a rift in the space-time continuum, or at least our parking by-laws.

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Finally, we get out of the financial district and Gad leads Pac Man on a merry chase…

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…up Bay, north of Bloor (oooh, Pusateri’s!).

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And by this apparently-non-existent Dave & Buster’s, which is actually a Starbucks.

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The chase finally culminates in this parking garage, from which the heroic Sandler emerges, back onto York Street

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…about where we started.

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Wow, that was some movie! That’s what you’re thinking, right? But no, there’s more! There’s an even bigger attack back in Washington, D.C. which, like, is also totally Toronto.

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Most of the action is centred around University Avenue and Queen Street.

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You can see the Canada Life building, decapitated by CGI…

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…and even Queen’s Park, down the street there…

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…not to mention the Four Seasons opera house…

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…and the exterior fence around Osgoode Hall.

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Another segment of the battle takes place at U of T

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…or Huron Street.

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Then the finale of finales, the coup de grace, is delivered a few blocks east…

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…in front of the provincial government buildings at 900 Bay Street.

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Then there’s a ridiculous sequence with Donkey Kong we’ll just skip over because of course we end at a heroic party.

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This was shot at the ballroom at the Radisson Park Inn, near the airport.

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Brian Cox is the first actor to play Hannibal Lecter, a great Shakespearean actor who fought Wolverine and Jason Bourne, killed it in a Spike Jonze movie, delivered a stunning monologue in a Spike Lee movie, and produced a series of great videos where he teaches you how to pronounce the name of single malt scotches. He’s also in this.

So, that’s Pixels. Even if you haven’t seen it, flipping through these pictures really quickly while making “pew! pew!” laser noises and fart jokes will roughly give you the idea. But hey, if Pixels merely goes down as the second-biggest movie Adam Sandler movie ever made here, we’ll just content ourselves with that.

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