Total Recall: Hollywood Takes on the News

With Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues hitting theaters this week, we take a closer look at some of cinmea's most memorable newshounds.

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After nearly a decade of begging and what seems like another 10 years of its full-on promotional campaign, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues finally arrives in theaters this weekend, offering fans of improv-heavy, absurdist comedy an early Christmas gift with another 119 minutes of idiot newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his posse of equally dim-witted friends. In honor of Ron's return, we decided to take a look back at some other movies revolving around journalists -- and while none of them include chocolate squirrels or baby sharks, they're all well worth watching in their own right. Stay classy, 'cause it's time for Total Recall!

Absence of Malice


Media-bashing has become so trendy that you'd almost never know that being part of the Fourth Estate was once regarded as an honorable profession -- a public service, even. Of course, that isn't to say reporters haven't always been dogged by questions of ethics -- and few directors were better at framing a thorny ethical debate than Sydney Pollack, which made him the perfect person to guide the cameras for Absence of Malice, starring Paul Newman as the son of a Mafia boss who is outed as the subject of a murder investigation by an ambitious (and somewhat scruple-deficient) reporter played by Sally Field. Though a large number of critics felt Pollack and screenwriter Kurt Luedtke failed to present a truly compelling picture -- and some, like Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews, dismissed it as a "well-meaning liberal message story" -- others praised its strong performances and overall intelligence. As James Rocchi wrote, "the ultimate conclusion of the film will leave you thoughtful and even perhaps a touch sad -- rare for any film, and even more rare for a thriller."

All the President's Men


Generations of journalists were spawned by the intrepid investigative reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post writers whose dogged pursuit of the Watergate scandal helped fell Richard Nixon's corrupt administration. Two years after we didn't have Dick to kick around anymore, screenwriter William Goldman and director Alan J. Pakula collaborated to produce All the President's Men, a dramatization of Woodward and Bernstein's book about the case -- and thanks in part to an ace ensemble that included Robert Redford as Woodward, Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, and a roster of supporting players rounded out by Jason Robards, Jack Warden, and Hal Holbrook, it ended up becoming a huge (and Academy Award-winning) hit. "A finer political film you will not find," declared Cinema Sight's Wesley Lovell. "It should be declared a national treasure."

Broadcast News


Funny, smart, and impeccably cast, Broadcast News might be the prototypical James L. Brooks movie: razor-sharp in terms of its personal insights as well as its broader social statements regarding the massive changes afoot in the television news landscape during the 1980s, it prompted gut-busting laughs while sneaking in thought-provoking (not to mention startlingly prescient) messages, all delivered by a packed roster of brilliantly talented actors that included William Hurt, Holly Hunter, Joan Cusack, and Albert Brooks. "Broadcast News has a lot of interesting things to say about television," pointed out Roger Ebert, "But the thing it does best is look into a certain kind of personality and a certain kind of relationship."

Citizen Kane


Before the internet came along and turned everything into a circus, a sufficiently motivated person could bootstrap his way into media-magnate riches. Why, just look at Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, which uses the life of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst as the inspiration for a finely florid saga about wealth, corruption, insanity, and the quest for lost innocence. Unlike a lot of movies on this list, Kane doesn't have much to do with the news, but since it's widely regarded as the finest film ever made, we figured we'd make an exception. As Richard Brody of the New Yorker told it, it's "An ecstasy of light and shadow, of clashing textures and graphic forms, such as hadn't been seen since the silent era."

Good Night and Good Luck


For his second directorial effort, George Clooney took a surprising turn, dramatizing the efforts of legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow to thwart Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch hunt. Inspired by the increasingly vituperative political atmosphere of the early aughts, Clooney laid more than his career capital on the line for Good Night, and Good Luck -- not only did he forsake his usual salary, collecting a dollar apiece for his directorial, screenwriting, and starring roles, but he also went so far as to mortgage his home as collateral. (Well, one of his homes, anyway. But still.) This black-and-white plea for journalistic ethics was a film out of time in the 24-hour cable news era, even with a stellar cast that included Clooney, David Strathairn, Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, and Frank Langella -- but it still had enough Luck to rack up six Academy Award nominations and an impressive $54 million worldwide gross, not to mention raves from critics like the Daily Mirror's David Edwards, who wrote, "George Clooney is emerging as one of America's bravest, boldest filmmakers. And with this highly-charged political thriller, he's also emerging as one of its very best."

Groundhog Day


For a modest little comedy that failed to break $100 million at the box office during its theatrical run, Groundhog Day has done pretty well for itself in the 15 years since its release: It's been added to the United States Film Registry, ranked in the top 40 of the AFI and Bravo "100 Funniest Movies" lists, the top 10 of AFI's fantasy list, and lauded by Roger Ebert in his "Great Movies" series. Starring a perfectly caustic Bill Murray as a miserable newscaster who falls into a time loop that forces him to relive Groundhog Day -- and, of course, learn something about himself in the process, although not before using his newfound awareness of the future in all sorts of brilliantly funny ways -- the movie was a sizable box office hit whose pop culture cachet has only grown over the last 20 years, to the point that the annual tradition might now be more closely associated with Murray than Punxsutawney Phil. And for good reason: it remains one of his funniest, most finely tuned performances. In the words of TIME's Richard Corliss, he "makes the movie a comic time warp that anyone should be happy to get stuck in."

His Girl Friday


Who has time for the news when there's witty banter to be bantered? Let's ask His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as a pair of wisecracking reporters (and ex-spouses) whose complicated relationship is put to the test by a hot story -- right on the eve of Russell's impending wedding. Future filmmakers attempted to use director Howard Hawks' effervescent template as a blueprint for remakes, to no avail; there's simply no substitute for the real thing. As Joshua Rothkopf wrote for Time Out New York, "One is tempted to throw away any semblance of persuasion and simply demand that you go see this movie."