Sure, some would suggest that Jessica Alba really can't return to form since there never was a form to begin with. But there definitely was a time when Alba was an "It" girl -- the type to grace numerous magazine covers and star in big, flashy films like Sin City and The Fantastic Four. But then her star began to fade as she clumsily starred in one cruddy flick after another (Into the Blue, Good Luck Chuck, The Eye, Awake, The Love Guru), and with other, more sensational young actresses attempting to make their mark in Hollywood, Alba sort of fell by the wayside.

But now the gal has positioned herself with a few pretty interesting upcoming projects, including two produced by Robert Rodriguez (Machete, The Insiders), one that's based on a very good novel (An Invisible Sign of My Own) and one that finds the actress taking things farther than she's ever gone before (The Killer Inside Me). While I'm sure the girl will manage to land roles beyond these four projects, they will still serve as proving ground for Alba. Is she a "real" actress? Can she turn out an awards-caliber performance? Can she still sell lots of movie tickets? Is she worthy of our attention?

Before you answer those questions, head after the jump to find out more about her new films.

An Invisible Sign of My Own -- This is first up since there's probably a good chance it will premiere at Sundance in January. Based on the quirky and clever novel by Amy Bender, Alba plays Mona -- a 20-year-old loner who used math as a child to help deal with her father's illness, and as a grown-up teaches math to kids and uses it to help them get through there own issues. J.K. Simmons and Chris Messina also star. The project marks the debut narrative feature for director Marilyn Agrelo, who first landed on the scene with her surprising (and heart-warming) documentary Mad Hot Ballroom.

The Killer Inside Me -- Another film that will most likely premiere in Sundance or Berlin this winter is Michael Winterbottom's much talked-about drama based on Jim Thompson's novel (described as "one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written") about a West Texas deputy (Casey Affleck) who is slowly revealed to be a sociopath and killer. A rough-cut trailer was recently yanked offline, but it was available long enough to stir that buzzed-about pot. One scene (probably the most popular) featured Affleck slapping Alba's ass repeatedly until the gal actually begins to enjoy it.



Machete -- Based on the faux trailer from Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez wrote and will co-direct this flick about an ex-Federale (Danny Trejo) who launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss. Alba plays the character Sartana alongside an eclectic cast that includes Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal, Rose McGowan, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin and Michelle Rodriguez. This will arrive in theaters on April 16.

The Insiders
-- Though not completely official yet, Alba has reportedly picked up the rights to a series of graphic novels by Jean-Claude Bartoll and Renaud Garreta about a female Columbian version of James Bond who goes undercover for the CIA as the bodyguard for the leader of a mafia-like organization, according to an old synopsis over at The Playlist. Also, Pajiba reports that JCVD director Mabrouk el Mechri will direct the film, with Robert Rodriguez producing.

Sounds like a killer line-up to me, and while Alba will certainly sandwich in a dopey looking comedy here and there (like the upcoming Valentine's Day), these four films could transform her entire career.

What do you think?