A near-future cyberpunk movie by Japanese Director Mamoru Oshii, perhaps most famous for his animated work Ghost in the Shell.

The story follows a woman named Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak), who plays violent online virtual reality games for money. Ash is the kind of cool, stoic female lead that will immediately remind viewers of Ghost in the Shell's Major Motoko Kusanagi. Mamoru Oshii has been quoted as saying that this is because those characteristics make up his ideal woman.

Like in The Matrix, skilled players can perform super-human feats in the computer-generated reality. The similarities between the two films pretty much end there, however.

The movie was shot entirely in Poland, using Polish actors, in Polish, with Japanese subtitles. Those of you who read Japanese and/or speak Polish should be right at home. For the rest of you, there are only the excellent visuals and the fully orchestral soundtrack by Kenji Kawai. The game worlds are surreal, contrasted by the dreary shots of the real world to which Ash must come home to every night. A lot of the movie looks like it was given a brownwash, which gives it a haunting quality. Oh, and by the way, the tanks and helicopters are real.

The story (surprise, surprise) borrows from the legend of King Arthur, so it wouldn't hurt to brush up a little on the Arthurian Cycle if you want to catch all the references.

Shift magazine, vol. 51 (http://www.shift.jp.org)
IMDB (http://us.imdb.com/Title?0267287)
Official site Japanese only (www.avalon-net.com (trailers are in the "library" section))