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War movies salute our fallen

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Memorial Day weekend has many traditions, some of which television's movie channels observe.It's no surprise to find military-themed films when America pauses to honor those who served ... and those who are serving now. As in years past, the standout attractions are easy to find, and they include some notable ones of recent vintage this time.

"Taking Chance" (Sunday and Monday, May 30 and 31, HBO): Kevin Bacon rarely has enjoyed the type of acclaim he rightfully received (including Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards) for this made-for-cable 2009 drama. The true story of a military escort accompanying the body of a fallen Marine home, it obviously involves enormous emotion, but Bacon's smartly understated performance does much to make this the rare sort of film you know you'll never forget.

"The Dirty Dozen" (Sunday, Turner Classic Movies): When you think war movie, it's likely that one of the first you consider is this Robert Aldrich-directed 1967 saga of a virtual suicide mission during World War II. As much as the story is about the assignment itself -- to raid a chateau housing many German officers -- it's as much, if not more, a sterling representation of the time-tested concept of a tough leader whipping an unlikely team into shape.

"Patton" (Monday, Encore): The 1970 biography remains most famous for the award it did and didn't receive, since George C. Scott -- with all the defiance of maverick military general George S. Patton himself -- refused the best actor Academy Award he was voted for his vivid portrayal of the World War II commander whose uncompromising manner enraged the brass.

"Mister Roberts" (Sunday, TCM): A great screen version of the hit stage play, this 1955 comedy-drama -- with the directing shared by two Hollywood titans, John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy -- has Henry Fonda re-creating his Broadway role as a respected Navy lieutenant aboard a World War II vessel. In a cast that also boasts screen legends James Cagney and William Powell, the clear show stealer is Jack Lemmon, an Oscar winner as Ensign Pulver ... who became the prototype for virtually every other wheeler-dealer military character that's come since.

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