If a laptop is your only option, the Macbook Pro will serve you about as good as anything else, short of the portable desktops that call themselves laptops(Half hour battery life juggernaughts that have tons of noise and issues).
I haven't had a chance ot run a model through recently to test your requirements listed above. Of course to be honest, if yo are rendering the above scenes, and specifically animations, and especially with Mental Ray, you should be using a render farm, which I would imagine your school might provide. While you will benefit from the dual core procesor, the scenes you are describing will take forever in animations no matter what laptop you use unless you utilize a render farm. Otherwise doing the standard 3D shortcuts to reduce number of faces etc. are going to be needed, of course how much of this you can do will depend in part on your target with the render. Games especially you should be able to reduce scene compleity a great amount.