Web Development (PHP,CSS,HTML) questions on current best methods

Just trying to update my Web knowledge(C++ Dev), as repairing a friends business website (just basic mysql db and php backends, just piss poor code made by a so called development house).

Anyone have any suggestions on a good framework for php (currently can't decide between laravel and phalcon, both have there benefits and weaknesses i know, but interested in personal experience with migrating it to an already built site)?
Also what's the situation with CGI? seems out of fashion for web development, what do most people now use to interface with other languages (mod_perl for perl i guess? but what do you use when you need more flexability/lower level access)?