Screen talk: Jessica Alba to meet the Fockers

Jessica Alba doesn't do ugly. The actress is in negotiations to join the Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro comedy 'Little Fockers'.

She'd play the role of an "attractive" pharmaceutical rep whose looks wreak havoc on male characters in the story. Paul Weitz is directing the third installment in the series of films backed by Universal and made by De Niro's Tribeca Productions. Shooting is set to begin in the next few months, with a 2010 release date in mind for Universal. The third installment is expected to pick up where 2004's 'Meet the Fockers' left off, with Stiller's Gaylord Focker and Teri Polo's Pamela Byrnes having a child (or children – reports abound that they could be having twins). John Hamburg penned the latest version of the script.

A starry début

A dark comedy penned and to be directed by the newcomer Jonathan Sobol and named 'A Beginner's Guide to Endings' is attracting star power. Dennis Hopper, Scott Caan, Tricia Helfer and J K Simmons are all up for the picture which revolves around three brothers who, upon learning they only have a few days left to live, set off to reverse a lifetime of mistakes. Hopper and Simmons play the brothers' father and uncle, while Caan is one of the brothers. Helfer is Caan's girlfriend. Shooting is due to start the last week of October in Niagara Falls. Sobol hails from the region, and word has it 'Endings' is something of a homage to his hometown.

Back on track

The beloved children's character Thomas the Tank Engine is looking to roll out on the big screen again. Screenwriter Josh Klausner ('Shrek the Third') has been ticketed to write a script for a feature based on the tiny-train world of'Thomas and Friends' for HiT Movies, a newly-launched unit of HiT Entertainment, which also owns the Barney and Bob the Builder franchises, and aims to bring those family-oriented properties to cinemas. Thomas and his railway friends on the island of Sodor have spawned television shows in both the UK and the US, and a 2000 feature, 'Thomas and the Magic Railroad'. Alec Baldwin narrated many of the stories in the US version and played Mr Conductor in the feature, but is not involved in the newest incarnation.

Secretariat hopes to take biscuit

Making hit films about racehorses is as tricky as picking a winner in the national. But after the success of 'Sea Biscuit', Hollywood is keen to punt again. Dylan Walsh, John Malkovich and Scott Glenn are saddling up for 'Secretariat', the story of the horse that won the 1973 Triple Crown stateside. Diane Lane stars as the horse's owner Penny Tweedy, the housewife who broke though a gender barrier to coax Secretariat to greatness. Walsh plays Lane's husband, a successful lawyer who is accustomed to his wife being at his beck and call while Malkovich plays a charismatic trainer who underestimates the power of Secretariat. Glenn is a southern-bred aristocrat who loses the horse in a coin toss. Randall Wallace is directing from a script by Mike Rich.

Highlander aims for Summit again

Director Justin Lin, fresh from 'Fast & Furious', is in line to helm the planned reboot of 'Highlander', according to Hollywood gossip. The Summit project, first announced in the spring of 2008, offers a new take on the story of immortals who battle for supremacy while living seemingly normal lives in the contemporary world. The first outing, back in 1986 with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, became a cult hit but failed to ignite the box office in the US. Summit, who brought audiences 'Twilight', is backing the attempts to bring 'Highlander' back to the big screen with plans to make it an action tentpole release. Seems Lin and producer Neal Moritz are the people to deliver on that promise.

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