Many years ago, a friend described to me how she'd been gambling on the Internet. It turns out that rather than indulging in online poker or other casino-style games, she'd instead been playing an unusual type of stock market. You know, betting on which stocks would improve in value over time.

She confided with a sly grin that she'd been doing a lot of in-depth research designed to inform her stock purchases. Turns out, this "research" consisted almost solely of sitting at home, watching movies and reading celebrity tabloids featuring hunky young male actors. Why? Folks around the world were (and may still be, for all I know) wagering over which new, young film and TV personalities would become superstars - and exactly how long it would take for them to do so.

Competition was fierce (if not a tad silly), and much like corporate stocks, values for all manner of rising stars changed on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, depending on how well their latest picture had done at the box office, which popular daytime talk show they'd been on, whether any embarrassing scandals were rumored to be in their future, which high-profile role they'd just been offered, etc.

My friend had essentially bet the farm on Barry Pepper, for she was convinced he was on track to be a Hollywood A-Lister, with guaranteed salaries in the $5 million-plus range, and the ability to "open" a blockbuster film on his name alone waiting right around the corner.

You remember Barry Pepper, right?

The fresh-faced-yet-rugged Canadian who looks a little bit like a cross between Matthew McConaughey and Marjoe Gortner? The guy who recently starred as Robert F. Kennedy in the TV event "The Kennedys," (for which he won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie)? The guy who played prison guard "Dean Stanton" (gotta love that name) in the acclaimed big-screen version of Stephen King's "The Green Mile?"

Well, at the time, he'd just been featured as sniper Pvt. Daniel Jackson in director Steven Spielberg's modern masterpiece of melodramatic war sagas, "Saving Private Ryan." My friend was absolutely certain this role, coupled with Pepper's good looks and simmering onscreen presence, would catapult him to the highest echelons of showbiz. Well, two years after "Ryan," Pepper starred alongside John Travolta in the universally (and I do mean throughout the entire universe, as opposed to just on this planet) reviled Scientology crap-tastrophe "Battlefield Earth."

For that role, Pepper won the non-coveted Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor in the year 2000. (And by the way, winning an award of that magnitude in the actual year 2000 is approximately 2,000 times more awesome than doing so in any other year.) Pepper still gets plum roles from time to time, such as in the Coen Bros. remake of the John Wayne classic "True Grit," but he's likely no longer anywhere near the top of the stock exchange.

Still, it made perfect sense to bank on Pepper's star ascending based on "Saving Private Ryan" alone. That epic (and epically realistic) depiction of the Normandy Invasion of World War II was nominated for an amazing 11 Academy Awards, and wound up the highest-grossing domestic film of 1998 worldwide. It also serves as a snapshot of promising young (or at least young-ish) U.S. screen actors of the time. Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Paul Giamatti, Vin Diesel and "Rick Castle" himself, Nathan Fillion, are all featured in the film as servicemen alongside their elder thespians Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Ted Danson and (the just recently departed) Dennis Farina.

This grim and at times emotionally overwhelming tale of a group of soldiers charged (just 72 hours after D-Day) with finding a lone soldier missing in the war-torn French countryside is surely one of Spielberg's finest and most heartfelt works. In fact, it may be his last truly great live action film to date. SCAD's Cinema Circle closes out its "Summer of Spielberg" salute to this populist auteur with a one-show-only Trustees Theater screening at 7 p.m. July 27. Admission is $8, and it's recommended for mature audiences due to scenes of graphic violence and intense adult situations.

On July 31, the Psychotronic Film Society unearths another "lost" gem with an impressive ensemble cast of its own: Director Alan Rudolph's extremely Robert Altman-esque thriller "Remember My Name" (Altman himself produced the 1978 drama), which was nominated for Best Feature at the Chicago International Film Fest and for which star Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin's daughter) took home Best Actress at the Paris Film Fest.

Criminally unknown due to its extreme lack of availability (it's never been released on DVD anywhere in the world), it's the story of a deranged woman (Chaplin) who returns to seek revenge on her ex-husband, after serving 12 years in prison for murder. It also stars the great Anthony Perkins ("Psycho"), Alfre Woodard ("Desperate Housewives") in her film debut and a very young Jeff Goldblum ("Independence Day"). The PFS screens a rare widescreen print in honor of Chaplin's 69th birthday. $6 admission, 8 p.m. showtime.

Keep watching the skies.

Jim Reed directs the Psychotronic Film Society of Savannah. Read more at

What: "Saving Private Ryan"

When: 7 p.m. July 27

Where: Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St.

Cost: $8, mature audiences only


What: "Remember My Name"

When: 8 p.m. July 31

Where: The Sentient Bean, 13 E. Park Ave.

Cost: $6