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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 15:36 GMT
Dreamworks' landmark movies
By Chris Leggett
BBC News website entertainment reporter

David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg
Dreamworks founders Geffen, Katzenberg, and Spielberg
Hollywood studio Dreamworks SKG was established 11 years ago to combine the powerful talents of director Steven Spielberg, record mogul David Geffen and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

On Monday, Paramount Pictures agreed to purchase its fledgling rival for $1.6bn (914m). Here are six of the most significant films from Dreamworks' brief but showy history.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)

Tom Hanks. Matt Damon and Edward Burns in Saving Private Ryan

The first film released by Dreamworks was 1997 thriller The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, followed by Steven Spielberg's slavery drama Amistad.

But the company came to prominence with World War II film Saving Private Ryan.

Directed by Spielberg, it starred Tom Hanks as the leader of a group of US soldiers sent to France as part of the Allies' Normandy invasion and given the mission of rescuing the eponymous Private Ryan.

The film's 20-minute opening sequence, depicting entire battalions of soldiers being killed by German fire in the landings, won the film critical acclaim.

Co-produced with Paramount, it was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning five, including best director.

GLADIATOR (2000)

Russell Crowe in Gladiator

Most pundits had written off the "swords and sandals" epic before Dreamworks reinvigorated the genre with Gladiator, which was promoted with the tagline: "What we do in life echoes in eternity."

Little-known actor Russell Crowe was launched to worldwide fame as the betrayed general Maximus, who returns to Rome as a gladiator to avenge the murders of his family.

The film mixed complex action scenes with CGI animation, including battles with tigers and the recreation of ancient Rome.

Its makers even used technology to include actor Oliver Reed in some scenes, after he died during the filming.

Co-produced with Universal, Gladiator was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning five, including best picture and best actor for Crowe.

Credited with reviving a genre, it led to productions such as Troy and Alexander, but none have matched Gladiator's success.

SHREK (2001)

Shrek

Dreamworks struck gold with computer-animated comedy Shrek, which took $267m (150m) at the North American box office alone.

Austin Powers star Mike Myers voiced the reclusive ogre of the title, with Eddie Murphy playing the part of his wise-cracking donkey sidekick.

Part fairy-tale spoof, part-children's entertainment, Shrek enjoyed great crossover appeal.

It became the first animated film to compete in the Cannes film festival since 1953.

Shrek won a best animated feature Oscar, but missed out in the best screenplay category.

Follow-up Shrek 2 proved a major hit in 2004, becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time in the US.

But weak sales of its DVD pushed Dreamworks Animation into the red in August.

SEABISCUIT (2003)

Seabiscuit

Like 1999's American Beauty, horse racing drama Seabiscuit was a surprise critical and box office hit for Dreamworks.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's book, it featured the real-life horse who captured the American imagination during the 1930s Great Depression.

Starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges, it retold the story of the undersized race horse which became a winner.

Once written off through injury, Seabiscuit went on to re-write the record books and inspire a country in the doldrums.

The film took $120m (67m) at the US box office.

Co-produced by Universal, it was nominated for seven Oscars but won nothing as Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept the board.

THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004)

Nicole Kidman

The remake of the 1975 satire about seemingly perfect robot wives in smalltown USA was proof that not everything Dreamworks creates turns to box office gold.

Starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler and Glenn Close, it opened in the US amid press reports suggesting the film was in trouble.

Kidman did not attend the Los Angeles premiere of the co-production with Paramount.

The critics were not impressed by the offering, despite Bowfinger director Frank Oz being at the helm and the all-star cast.

The Hollywood Reporter called it "lame" and "misbegotten" while Rolling Stone magazine said: "The sting is gone."

The film took a modest $59m (33m) in the US and around 4m in the UK, and Dreamworks took a financial blow.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005)

Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li in Memoirs of a Geisha

The adaptation of the best-selling Arthur Golden's novel, due out in the UK next month, is being tipped as a possible Academy Award contender.

Starring Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li, it is the first major US film to feature an almost entirely Asian cast.

A co-production with Colombia Pictures, it has attracted controversy for the decision to cast Chinese actresses in leading roles as Japanese women.

But critics say it is insensitive because of Japan's atrocities during their occupation of China in the 1930s.

Some Japanese viewers have complained about the use of Chinese women over actresses from Japan.

Variety's reviewer called it "a consummate piece of traditional studio craftsmanship", although the Hollywood Reporter was unimpressed, saying the dialogue was "highly unlikely".

SEE ALSO
Paramount buys rival Dreamworks
12 Dec 05 |  Business
Wallace's US figures cost studio
11 Nov 05 |  Business
Dreamworks calls off merger talks
28 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Dreamworks shares surge on debut
28 Oct 04 |  Business

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