to illustrate my earlier points:
here are two examples of hand assembling bracketed shots to achieve greater dynamic range while maintaining a "realistic" look.
here are two examples where Photomatix was used and where a more "illustrative" look was the intent.
all four images required significant retouching after assembling to maintain the integrity that i personally feel a photo should have (density, contrast, saturation, tonal qualities, and tonal gradations).
i certainly understand if a particular aesthetic doesn't appeal to an individual. my particular position is that if a "look" is appropriate for the subject matter then i accept it as part of the photographic experience. i will be critical of using a certain "look" simply for the sake of using it, without thought or regard as to how it informs the viewer.
arguments dismissing certain techniques as "cheating" or "wrong" or not "photographic" are just silly to me and represent such a narrow view of photography as a whole that i tend to find it just plain useless.
anyway...my 2 cents.