It's time once again to reach into the back seat and open the valves on the nitrous oxide tanks. Universal Pictures has chosen filmmaker Justin Lin to direct a third "Fast and the Furious" film, telling him to put the pedal to the metal and begin shooting in the fall. Lin, best known for the 2002 independent feature and Sundance hit "Better Luck Tomorrow," had been attached to a remake of the Korean cult film "Oldboy" but will put that project in neutral. The street-racing sequel transplants the franchise to Japan, where the underground world of racing customized rides will yield the story of Shaun Boswell, an American skilled in the world of illegal street racing. Targeted by local authorities, Boswell escapes to Japan and discovers drift racing — a lightning-fast, gravity-defying pursuit set on intense courses full of hairpin turns and switchbacks. When he loses his first race to a Japanese crime lord, Boswell must figure out a way to pay off his debt to the Japanese mafia. There are no actors currently attached, and series stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel will not be returning. The movie will screech into theaters on June 16, 2006. ...

"I'm doing something in the fall called 'The Assassination of Jesse James,' " said a newly bleached-blond Brad Pitt. The film will be overseen by Andrew Dominik, whose "Chopper" (2000) brought attention to future "Hulk" Eric Bana. Pitt will be playing the infamous fastest gun in the West, who is hunted by a jealous member of his outlaw gang. Joking that most people only know the myth of James from old episodes of "The Brady Bunch," the A-list star said he took the role more for the script than the chance to strap on a gun belt and chaps. "I didn't really have those fantasies [growing up], but I liked the story a lot," Pitt said. "I'm going for something new. No one's been there yet." Pitt said while his interpretation of the legendary criminal will be unlike anything previously seen, the new hairdo won't be part of the portrayal. ...

"It's one of the only things I'd ever want to do again," Michael Keaton smiled, acknowledging rumors of a "Beetlejuice" sequel. "I loved it; it's maybe my all-time favorite [performance of mine]. There was talk of it for a while ... and I was the one doing the talking, I was like, 'Hey, man, I'd be into that if someone wants to make it.' " Keaton said he'd happily reunite with original director Tim Burton, but that the potential follow-up could move on without the busy "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" director. "I'd love him to be involved, but I don't know that he can be. I don't think he wants to direct it, I think he's got a whole bunch of things lined up. ... He and I did have a conversation a couple of times about doing it, but I don't know when he'd be available to do it. I just love 'Beetlejuice'; it was one of those areas where you just say, 'OK, give me the ball, because I'm going to shoot — a lot.' " ...

Now that director Brett Ratner will be taking over the "X-Men" franchise, he begrudgingly admits that it'll put his other upcoming projects on the back burner. He still insists, however, that they'll eventually see the light of a movie theater projector. "I'll be doing 'Rush Hour 3' right after," he promised. "It's just a scheduling thing." As for "Josiah's Canon," the heist movie that will have modern-day bank robbers stealing back funds deposited by Jews prior to the Holocaust, Ratner said, "I was supposed to do that for Fox, and then they offered me ['X-Men 3']. It's still just on my list of things I want to make into a feature. I love it, and I think they're going to hold it for me, especially because I'm in business with them." ...

Continuing to flaunt a reputation for being one of the most versatile actors in the business, Liam Neeson will follow-up his role in the superhero blockbuster "Batman Begins" with a turn as one of our nation's most respected historical figures. The Northern Ireland-born actor will don the iconic stovepipe hat and beard of Abraham Lincoln for a biopic to be directed by Steven Spielberg. "I've started a wealth of research on it," he said. "Fascinating man, very fascinating, that whole period. And the Civil War too, it's quite extraordinary." Neeson said he's uncovered a wealth of captivating but little-known details about our 16th president, but he'll be keeping most of it to himself since Spielberg already has his own distinct vision for the film. ...

When a six-time Oscar nominee tells you her next movie is something worth getting excited about, perhaps it would be wise to listen. Well, Shirley MacLaine, already looking forward to the release of this fall's "In Her Shoes," recently pronounced it to be "A very good movie." And the fact that it co-stars Cameron Diaz doesn't hurt, either. "It's very interesting," the 71-year-old star said. "It's a drama, ['8 Mile' helmer] Curtis Hanson directed; it's me, Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Two women, younger women, have really screwed-up lives; they don't know that they have a grandmother — it's been held from them by their father. They find their grandmother, and their grandmother helps them get their lives straight." ...

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